I did not want to do this. I really didn’t. I wasn’t ready to buy a house — and I wasn’t ready to make it green. But then I fell in love.
The house is an 85-year-old gem. The kind of home people say has “good bones.” And she does. The two-story structure boasts original fixtures, gorgeous hardwood floors (oak, pine and maple) and a beautiful organic garden. The house had two owners prior to me (the first was born here and, judging from the portion of tombstone in the backyard, someone else died here). It holds love, care and light.
I decided to view the home on a lark. As you can see in the photo, it’s nothing special from the outside. But when you walk in, everything changes. I stood in the doorway and looked through the porch onto the garden and gave thanks for an incredible blooming tree. My friend Annie leaned into me and whispered, “You have to buy it.” Let me repeat — I was not ready! But then Annie asked, “When will you be?” She reminded me that this house had all the quiet, space and sunshine I said I wanted and was in my favorite neighborhood, within walking distance of the University where I teach and the sweet downtown where I spend much of my leisure time. (The walk to school is straight uphill and great for my glutes.) I let go of my fear. Three hours later I made an offer. About 23 hours after that, it was accepted.
I am a journalism professor, a working journalist who focuses on sustainability and someone folks have called “an eco-expert.” It’s true I know a thing or two about Mother Earth, but there’s always more to learn. (And I reserve that eco-expert title for icons such as Wangari Maathai.) I have experienced much of our natural world in the once-removed fashion of the urban apartment dweller. I’ve never mowed a lawn, my ex weather-stripped our apartment and my landlord installed my low-flow showerhead. I held seeds for the first time two years ago at an incredible urban farm in Kansas City. And while I have told millions of people about water conservation and energy reduction, I have never owned a dual-flush toilet or had an opportunity to really consider my insulation. (My ex took my toolbox — and I haven’t missed it.)
Now’s my chance to embrace well-worn clichés: walk my talk and put my money where my mouth is. You will bear witness to this green girl going green, experiencing the messy, humbling process of making my home more energy-efficient, less polluting and more beautiful.
I’ll share small and large changes that reap the greatest benefit (to your wallet and the planet), and let you in on the products I am using. Some of the companies have given me a break on costs (for which I am most grateful), but only on products I was going to buy anyway. (I had budgeted accordingly.) If they’re good enough for me, I hope you will consider them, too — or suggest better alternatives. If something doesn’t work for me, you will learn that, too.
If you have contemplated making your home more environmentally friendly, join me. Terrific federal energy efficiency tax credits in place for 2010 coupled with a groundswell of information about how we are impacting the world around us demonstrate there is no better time to get started. You can start small with weather-stripping around doors and windows or get more ambitious with insulation or energy-efficient furnaces. I will cover all of it. I may not do all of it myself, but, embracing the DIY-attitude of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, I will try.
The first items on my “to-do” list are getting rid of the brown recluse spiders that live in my basement and are known to make your flesh die (yes, die), insulating my ceiling (a major escape hatch for heat) and redoing my walls and floors.
I believe my home should be a reflection of all that I care about. I strive to create a healthy and rejuvenating refuge that integrates my passions and values and nurtures my mind, body and soul … a home, sweet, home.
P.S. Follow my journey on Twitter @simransethi.
Photo by Jessica Sain-Baird