Visions of Sustainable Housing

Anyone who knows me knows that I've been dreaming of building my own "earthship" on a large acreage (enough for a woodlot, orchard and gardens)  for many years now. I think about this all the time and someday in the not-so-distant future it will become a reality. I love growing vegetables/gardening, and definitely love the idea of living in a home that can provide me with self-sustaining renewable supplies of food, energy and water.

Integrative Sustainable city

I also have dreams of a more integrative city. A city where green spaces collide with living spaces and buildings can "live" on their own. Buildings that can collect and store energy, collect and clean water, and even grow food for their occupants, not to mention help clean the air.

It doesn't matter whether you believe climate change is "hype" or that you are being "greenwashed" by manufacturers-- these types of building and designs make sense in many other ways. In a world where security is an issue and people are told to create "emergency preparedness kits" for their homes, it makes good sense to not have to rely on a grid that could be possibly unreliable.

Feed Cities Within the Cities

It makes good sense to have a way to feed cities within the cities. This ensures that in case of emergency there are still food sources available to the population. It's also much, much cheaper than buying produce and it tastes so much better because it hasn't ripened on a truck or sat in storage at some facility before being shipped. There are even services out there now in some cities that you can hire to come and tend your vegetable garden for you if you don't want to grow them yourself. They can be grown on roofs, sidewalks, and any space big enough to hold a pot.

It makes good sense to have energy available on a renewable individual basis without having to be attached to some massive grid. Again it's cheaper-- much, much, much cheaper. Installation costs can be returned on utility savings in short periods of time and if you are collecting enough energy, you never pay for utility costs again. You only have to worry about maintenance and replacing the systems every 15-25 years. Again-- in the case of emergency-- you still have power. Makes sense.

It makes good sense to have a way to clean and collect water. We all need water to live, and we use a LOT of it. There are many creative ways to reduce, collect, treat and clean water (it's called greywater recycling) that have been converted to home use and could be done on a much larger scale. Reed bed sewage treatment systems have very low operational costs compared to other types of waste treatment options because they use gravity for the main pumping. They also look better from the outside, because instead of a massive treatment facility spewing out sludge there is a space full of plants (creating more green space).

green roof

The city I imagine uses space wisely-- more efficiently and thoughtfully. It integrates and maximizes spaces like the roofs and walls of buildings in innovative ways. It diversifies the usages of the land-- combining retail space with business space, with residential space, with farm space, with industrial space, with recreational space, and making them all work together, reducing the need to travel for daily activities.

These types of initiatives are starting to happen all around us. The more we invest and use these types of systems-- the better they will become.

Ontario has started to implement Smart Growth policies in an attempt to redevelop the land to help prevent urban sprawl.

So let's start creating energy, creating useful space and creating clean air instead of using energy, destroying useful space and polluting the air. It just makes sense!

Rebecca Sargent is a sales representative with Century 21 Home Realty Inc. in Waterloo, Ontario. She is an accredited green agent with the National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB).

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