Buying a Home — Green Disaster?

Posted on September 4, 2008 by Allie

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The following is a guest post from Mark, who’s an old college buddy, and one of my favorite bloggers.
My husband and I are in the process of buying our first home. As I write this, I’m looking at the giant check we need to complete the purchase and sale agreement this weekend. I think it’s the biggest check I’ve ever seen, but it’s only five percent of the purchase price, so even bigger checks will be in my immediate future. It’s an exciting time, but I can’t stop feeling a little guilty about the whole process. I need to convince myself that buying this house can be an environmentally sound decision.
First, moving seems like such a waste. We’ve moved a lot in the last few years (California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts) and each time I cringe at all the boxes. In our cross-country moves, we managed to share truck space, so at least we weren’t sending a semi truck across the nation just for ourselves. And we did the move from New Jersey to Massachusetts ourselves, in a fairly small rental truck. We filled the truck, so that didn’t feel too wasteful. I think there was a stack of moving boxes in the recycling every week for two months.

I’ve found a couple of lists of suggestions for making your move more green. Some of them are immediately obvious, and others I hadn’t considered before. The Eco Worrier suggests offering perishables to your neighbors to keep from wasting them.  My impending move is a short enough distance that I’ll just bring my perishables with me, but I remember frowning when I poured most of a gallon of milk down the drain when we left California. Tim Johnson at About.com suggests renting reusable packing crates instead of using cardboard boxes.
Currently, we live in a small apartment. It’s about 800 square feet. I complain about not having enough space, but I’m glad that we’re living in a small space. Our new house is nearly 2300 square feet, which is a lot more space than we need right now. It’s hard to justify the size to myself, but I’ve got a list of reasons to convince myself it’s not as bad as it sounds:

1. Hopefully, we’ll be staying in this house for a very long time. We plan to have children, and this house will definitely be able to meet any space needs my family could have in the future.

2. The house was built in 1900, so its impact has been spread out between multiple generations of families.

3. The house is within walking distance of a train station, so my husband’s commute will be entirely on public transportation now, instead of needing to drive to public transportation.

One thing I’m really looking forward to is that our new town uses single stream recycling, and there’s a weekly pickup. Our current city only does a recycling pickup on alternate weeks, so I’ll be glad that my pile of recycling will be taken more often, especially since going from 800 square feet to 2300 square feet means there will be a lot of boxes from IKEA in my future.

Now I just need to worry about my walls. I think there are enough ugly wallpaper borders in my new house to fill a whole new landfill. Maybe the previous owners were the heirs to a wallpaper border fortune? That’s the only explanation I can imagine!

Mark blogs about life, love, and the war against wallpaper borders at Chronicle of a Gay Marriage.

Photo by L. Marie, through the Creative Commons Attribution License

No Comments +

  1. I’ve moved a million times. Because I moved so often I kept the boxes and just reused them until the fell apart.

    It’s been four years since I moved (a long for me) and I see the prospect of moving again on the horizon (though not for a couple more years). Because I knew I’d be moving again when I bought the mobile home (which is 600 square feet, smaller than your small apartment) I kept the boxes. They’re in storage along with my big furniture which doesn’t fit in the trailer.

    September 4th, 2008 at 1:25 pm
    Comment by Howling Hill
  2. I’m in the process of moving this week, and I can feel my carbon footprint expanding like nobody’s business. Keeping a green lifestyle is easy when your actions are regular, but when your life gets upheaved, sometimes you just can’t make it to the recycling center.

    September 4th, 2008 at 3:28 pm
    Comment by Noelle
  3. I’m a serial mover (not necessarily by choice). I keep a lot of boxes in my attic and reuse them over and over. My aunt also bought some huge storage bins that she used to move, and I’ve borrowed them more than once.

    September 4th, 2008 at 4:28 pm
    Comment by The Modern Gal
  4. All of our boxes from our move were secondhand (craigslist, local papers, the local uhaul store has free ones too) and they are now stacked in our garage, still half assembled, waiting for our next move. Good luck!

    September 4th, 2008 at 4:51 pm
    Comment by david
  5. I tried to find a place where we could rent reusable crates after suggesting it, but the closest I could find to Boston was in Texas. Oops! We ended up buying used cardboard boxes for a local company. I was a little worried about the condition they’d be in, but I shouldn’t have been. The boxes look great. If there weren’t tape and notes already on the boxes, I’d never believe someone had used them before.

    But if someone in New England is looking to start a new green business, renting reusable boxes seems like an uncovered niche!

    September 4th, 2008 at 5:42 pm
    Comment by Mark
  6. Another reason to get the reusable crates is that the spaces within the walls of cardboard boxes are great for little critters to stow away in. I used to pick up cardboard boxes from the local grocery store — which was a great way to reuse what they would throw away anyway — but the reusable crates are so easy, sturdy, and you just have to take them back to the moving company after you’re done. So great.

    September 5th, 2008 at 3:04 am
    Comment by Laura
  7. Being in a good school system is one selling point for a home, now I’m thinking about being in a place that has recycling is a selling point. My condo group doesn’t have recycling and I must drive to a facility miles away instead.

    September 7th, 2008 at 3:03 pm
    Comment by Mary
  8. My wife and I are in the process of moving, too. We’ve been scouring our neighborhood on the night before trash day to find boxes in our neighbors’ recycling bins. We look a little ridiculous wandering the streets of DC with giant stacks of cardboard, but it definitely beats the environmental (and financial) impact of buying boxes new. We’ve also been saving newspapers for packing in lieu of peanuts or tissue paper. Good luck with your move!

    September 8th, 2008 at 4:28 pm
    Comment by Kimberly
  9. [...] b­lo­ggi­ng o­n Alli­e’s Answers shares lo­ts o­f h­o­­u­se­-b­u­ying and mo­­ving r­e­so­… fo­r tho­se­ who­ want to­ do­ b­o­th, ye­t try [...]

    September 15th, 2008 at 5:10 pm
    Pingback by Green Blog Tour | Gfeen.com

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If It Doesn’t Smell, Don’t Wash It

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According to Real Simple, if every American made an effort to launder less — cutting out just one load of laundry a week per household — we’d save enough water to fill seven million swimming pools each year.

So if it looks clean, and it smells clean, call it clean and wear it again. Consider hanging worn clothes out on your clothesline to freshen them up between wearings.


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