Sunday, December 13, 2009

What is a Natural Home?

I often like to look at the pictures in Natural Home magazine and fantasize about owning a home with a truly green construction. A rammed earth home with earth plaster walls, reclaimed wood and stone sourced from the field out in the middle of nowhere that is part of my acreage. Oh. Wait a minute, there's something wrong with that.

For most people these "ideal" homes are out of reach financially as these wonderfully green materials are usually more costly. They are not always available in all areas either, which can mean that they are no longer so green if they have to be shipped from a distance. But my more pressing concern is that the homes featured tend to be built in rural areas on acreages. I am astonished to find myself arguing for higher density, since I live in a community that was once a quiet little village and has been growing into a large town in the last couple of decades. The growth has not always been managed well and my town, and even more so in the neighbouring community, sprawl is the result. I miss the village atmosphere and for a good decade I resented the growth. If it becomes a small city in my lifetime it won't have any of the charm of older, established cities. If I'm not careful this will become a rant about Big Box Stores.

So it is these "green" homes built on rural acreages, which are simply not an ideal green situation at all, that are my currant irritant. It is not possible for all of us to surround ourselves with that much land. I'm not suggesting that those few who do should be deprived of it, but that it should not be held up as an ideal because it isn't one. It reminds me of the back to the land movement in the sixties. It isn't an idea to espouse because it isn't a possibility for everyone. There is no perfect "green", and I suppose that articles featuring these unusual houses might inspire other home owners to incorporate one or two feature in their own homes, but I would like to see the magazine focus a little more on the "greening" of average homes.

There is one small section that is called Can This Home be Greened? which does take a look at renovating or improving an older home but it is too small a feature. There is a big gap between the style-less homes featured in these articles and the less attainable homes more prominently featured in the rest of the magazine. Most shelter magazines only make good ecological and ethical design features an occasional focus. I'm going to be really radical here and say that it should be the only focus. It is time that those of us who love style, whether it be on our bodies or in our homes, demand only ethical and ecologically sound goods and materials. Consumers have the power and the magazines we read are one place to start making those demands.

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