Fear of labels hurts the ‘green’ movement

Simplest traditional homes of our grandparents, great-grandparents were smarter than many of the homes that are built in today’s market

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Published: September 18,2011

Tags: agriculture, conservation, Going Green, vegetables

When I was young I had a fear of vegetables. In fact, I hated them — or at least I thought I did. My mother, being a good mother, would serve them to me every night only to have me slide the plate across the table or spread them out on the plate and say, “I’m done. Can I have dessert now?” She taught school for many years and was a pretty smart woman. One night she served me something called “casserole.” I asked what it was. “It’s casserole. You like it,” she said. Being young, I trusted Mom and would wolf down these casseroles without much protest.

I had a younger brother that this trick worked on, too. Being the antagonistic older brother that I was, one night I told my younger brother that he was actually eating squash casserole. He looked at me with a blank stare and then slid his plate across the table; he was done. The magic of the word “casserole” was gone.

What I really think is that we have a general fear of labels. Nobody likes to be typecast. I can understand that, but often times we have misconceptions of what these labels mean. This is true with vegetables, politics, and life. Often times we get stuck with a media or the opposition party extreme view of something and it does us all an injustice. I grew up in a house with a mother who had a love for none mainstream vegetable. Some circles might call her love of these vegetables to be somewhat extreme. In many ways my youth was distorted by this extreme love of rutabagas and brussels sprouts.

The word “green” got a really bad reputation in the 1970’s, and it is one that we are still fighting today. Close your eyes (at the end of this sentence) and imagine what a green building looks like. Chances are it is a house with solar panels on the roof, or a geodesic dome, a one that is half buried in the ground, or has something you can put your finger on as a “green building” that was designed in the 70s. These houses are like vegetables to first grader. They are ugly and extreme.

We are paying for that extreme view today. Green buildings don’t look any differently from their counterparts that are built just to code. Today’s high performing green office buildings are viewed as some of the most beautiful, sophisticated buildings on the planet. The higher performing green homes look as traditional as our great-grandparents’ houses did. They don’t have water heaters strapped to the roof and they aren’t geodesic domes. These are the rutabagas of the design world. They give great summer vegetables a bad name.

We need to understand that the simplest traditional homes of our grandparents and great-grandparents were smarter than some of the homes we have today — these homes and buildings performed. The window not only opened, but the people who lived there knew when to open them and what shutter to shut at what time of day to keep the house comfortable. They knew what it took to make their buildings and homes comfortable with what they had — the sun and the wind. They knew to make their porches deep. Whether they could put it on paper or not, they knew some pretty sophisticated physics to capture the best breeze and how to create shade at the right time of year to make their homes comfortable.

Many of us live and work in higher performing homes and work in better buildings and we don’t even know it. Many of us have better insulation and better air conditioners in buildings that were designed for the site that they are on. A great many of us still don’t. We don’t understand and appreciate that we are throwing money down the drain each and every day with some simple design choices that can be made. It is not just costing us money each month with our utility providers. There are healthier options. We spend 90% of our time indoors. We owe it to ourselves to demand better buildings.

We miss out on great summer vegetables every day because we are fearful that they will taste bitter like Brussels sprouts. We think that just because sweet potatoes kind of look like rutabagas that they will taste the same. We think that being respectful of things the natural resources we are given is “liberal” when it’s just the opposite.

So call things what you will. Call it being responsible. Call it being sustainable. Call it green. Call it smart, frugal, or just good business. Just pick one that you are comfortable with and run with it. It doesn’t really matter. After all, conservative and conservation are rooted in the same word. We need to get over this fear of judgment of labels and eat our vegetables. We will be healthier, more prosperous, and a better Mississippi.

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