A Real Eco-Friendly House Avoids Meaningless 'Environmental Bling'

environmental blingDo you live in a "slow house"? John Brown, founder of the Slow Home Movement (complementing the fast-moving Slow Food Movement), says there's a lot of greenwashing claims made for "eco-homes" that in reality are neither well-made, nor optimized for efficiency. They may be trying to be "slow," but in reality, they're fast.

"Environmental bling," he told the Miami Herald, includes "low-flow toilets, solar panels and bamboo flooring" -- not that there's anything wrong with these things, but they're add-ons that can disguise a home's environmental compromises."Fast homes" are like fast food, Brown says: showy but ultimately un-fulfilling.

Key questions to ask: Is your house oriented to the sun so it can actually take advantage of solar panels? Is it bigger than you need, often the Achilles Heel of eco-houses? Too far from work and school to enable sustainable commuting?

On his Slow Home Movement website, Brown offers a test to rate your home on how slow, or green, it might be. Here are five of the 10 points raised, each of which increases your score:
  1. The house is in a walkable neighborhood that minimizes car use.
  2. The house is modestly sized, has good "flow" between rooms, and a strong connection to the outdoors.
  3. The kitchen is compact, with an efficient layout.
  4. The home has an appropriate number of well-organized and modestly-sized bathrooms.
  5. All indoor and outdoor living spaces have good daylight and are easy to furnish.
If you score 0-6 on the 10-question test, and 10% of all residences fit into that category, then you have a "fast house." The good news is that 31% of American homes are "moderately slow," and could be made true slow homes with minor remodeling.

American home design is improving, and Brown says 12% of residences are now "slow."
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