Utne Blogs > Environment

Green Materials Do Not An Eco-Dwelling Make

by Rachel Levitt


Tags: Environment, green living, green building, McMansions, High Country News, Boulder County Business Report,

McMansionWhat exactly makes a building green? Writing for Colorado’s High Country News, Monique Cole takes on the concept of building "green" McMansions after reading about a businessman who built a 6,500-square-foot home near Boulder. The mansion, which uses extensive solar power and ecological building materials, was named "the greenest home in North America" by the Boulder County Business Report. But do these choices actually make the building “the greenest”? No: Even though the materials and power sources are eco-friendly, it still takes gas for the movers, builders, landscapers, and utility workers to get to the property, some 10 miles outside Boulder (not to mention the extra fuel it takes for its owners to get to and from work and commerce). The kicker, Cole points out, is that this house’s square footage is three times that of the median American household. "Everyone’s looking for the silver bullets that will allow us to carry on our consumptive lifestyles just as we always have. But to be truly green, some sacrifices have to be made, such as giving up the home theater or that fourth bay in the garage."

Image courtesy of Allan Ferguson, licensed under Creative Commons. 

jessica _1
9/16/2008 11:59:45 AM

The way I look at it is this: Every step toward greener living is good. A mansion with eco-friendly materials is better than a mansion with all conventional materials. A smaller home with eco-friendly materials is better than a large home. I wouldn't agree with a home of this size being named "the greenest home in North America" by any means, but I also don't think it pays for environmentalists to also be elitists and to insist that everyone lives in a straw bale home that's under 1,000 square feet. True, that would be best environmentally speaking, but not everyone is ever going to be that commited and the reality is that everyone is not willing to sacrifice for the environment. People will still insist on living luxuriously, but if those of us willing to make big changes do it, while those who insist on a McMansion at least use responsibly created materials and produce some of their own energy, we as communities and a nation will see big differences.


randall spaan
9/15/2008 7:58:55 PM

So in this brave new world of determining what is truly green or what is "not green enough" who gets to be the arbiter of allowable house size? Or the arbiter of how many miles one can build a house from essential services? Hey, folks, welcome to the People's Republic of Green!