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The Winter of Our Content

1/27/2009 12:00:00 AM


It’s zero degrees here in Boulder today. But the sun is brilliant, and the foothills are majestic, all covered in snow. I’m dealing with an Inauguration Week hangover, vacillating between hope about our country’s fresh start and despair over rotten economic news that just keeps on coming. 

I really want to take Carol Venolia’s advice, from her “Design for Life” column in the current issue, and spend the rest of the winter in hibernation. But that’s impossible, so I’m looking on the bright side. And the good news is, there’s plenty of good news out there right now. My email inbox has been full of it. 

1. President Obama’s stimulus plan includes tens of billions of dollars to green up our electricity, putting 460,000 Americans to work on energy projects and doubling the amount of alternative energy produced over the next three years. The plan includes funds to 'weatherize' 2 million homes by improving insulation and leaky windows. Needless to say, we love this idea!

2. We’re trading in our status as a hyper-consumer culture and becoming a yard sale nationJames Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency, about the challenges posed by the coming permanent global oil crisis, climate change and other 'converging catastrophes of the 21st century,' wrote last week on Alternet: “Say goodbye to the ‘consumer society.’ We're done with that. No more fast money and no more credit. The next stop is ‘yard-sale nation,’ in which all the plastic crapola accumulated over the past fifty years is sorted out for residual value and, if still working, sold for a fraction of its original sticker price. This includes everything from Humvees to Hello Kitty charm bracelets.” As advocates of reuse and salvage, we’re smiling about this one.

3. Homebuyers want green homes. At the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas last week, the National Association of Home Builders revealed survey results showing that 92 percent of respondents would rather have an energy-efficient home with lower utility bills versus a cheaper home without them. And homeowners said they would spend an average of $6,000 more on a home that would save them $1,000 annually on energy costs. Hey, we’re down with that.

4. Homebuyers want smaller homes. In the July-September quarter of 2008, the average size of a house under construction fell 7.3 percent, to 2,438 square feet from 2,629 square feet in the previous quarter, according to the NAHB. Ninety percent of builders told the NAHB that they’re building smaller homes.

5. “Many think 2009 will go down as the year green goes mainstream and homebuyers become much more savvy about the need for eco-friendly options,” columnist Michele Lerner wrote earlier this month in the Residential Real Estate Examiner.

2009 looks to be our year. And that ought to keep us all warm for a while.

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