Luxurious Sustainability?

Why sustainability can be a luxury as well as a necessity – plus, three ways to live with Luxurious Sustainability

Most people associate sustainability with sacrifice. You must sacrifice the convenience of easily disposable products; you must foreswear plastics altogether; you must learn to embrace the ambient temperature as it is; you must abhor fossil fuels; and you must never, I repeat, never live in the suburbs. With so many sacrifices to be made, most of us make the choice that arguably makes the most sense for the least hassle – sacrifice sustainability.

The same sentiment prevails when it comes to a sustainable house and living environment. Sustainability is a luxury, and a rather expensive one at that – so most people opt to ignore it as just another nice pipe dream.

Yes, all those things touted by environmentalists are important. However, sustainable were never meant to be met overnight. There are numerous first steps that can be taken without taking a plunge into hardcore environmental activism or breaking the bank. If we begin to read “luxury” as placing an importance on durability, quality, pride in buying less but better, the link to sustainability becomes obvious and natural.

3 Ways to Live Sustainably AND Luxuriously

The Backyard Pool

Long associated with both status and wasteful excess, the backyard pool has been in the crosshairs of environmental activists for decades – with good reason. They consume absurd amounts of precious potable water resources, they are expensive to maintain, expensive to heat during the winter, and the chlorine in the pool is known to damage hair as well interact with organic compounds to form toxic chlorocarbons such as chloroform. The most obvious course of action would be to foreswear chlorinated pools. But for savvy environmental enthusiasts who want to have their cake and eat it too, there are always sustainable options. Chlorine-free pools, which rely on copper ions or ozone injection, are available for a relatively affordable price. Additionally, a concept rapidly gaining currency in the United States is the natural pool which relies entirely on creating a functioning ecosystem to maintain an acceptable level of cleanliness – effectively creating a living, healthy oasis rather than a chlorinated dead zone. Pool owners can further green there investment by choosing to install variable speed pumps,as opposed to single or two-speed pumps. Variable speed pumps  deliver the optimal flow needed at the lowest power possible, reducing power consumption between 30%-90%. Non-variable speed pumps operate at a single setting, maximum power, and will easily run up a plus-sized bill of over a thousand dollars per year for a typical backyard pool. When it comes to pools, one size does not fit all.

Interior Finishes

While marble and tropical hardwood floors may be the standard of opulence and status when it comes to interior finishes, there are plenty of ways to live like a prince without utterly disregarding the environment. For starters, both bamboo and simple, nicely polished concrete flooring can be had for a fraction of the price of status materials. Both are aesthetically pleasing, sustainable solutions that can work in place of traditional hardwood flooring or as a statement in modernism. In fact, some of the world’s most opulent, avant-garde villas are floored with polished concrete. Eco-friendly homebuyers who absolutely must have real wood floors can invest in Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified wood, which is sustainably harvested, for a slightly higher premium – about $4 to $12 per square foot.

Climate Control

Nowhere is it more clear that being sustainable is about being economical than when it comes to climate control. Many see sustainable options, such as solar panels, as a luxury. Indeed they do command a heftier front-end investment, but they minimize cumulative costs in the long-run, thus proving to be quite practical as well as environmentally friendly. While glamorous green technologies, such as photovoltaic solar panels, tend to capture the publics’ imagination, we often forget that there are a plethora of sustainable and affordable alternatives to the status-quo – such as building insulation, smart monitoring systems, and geothermal heat pumps. Solar hot water systems can be utilized to heat pools (natural or not) in any climate and water for daily use, cutting total household energy consumption by more than 10%. Other sustainable climate control strategies include whole-house envelope design, intelligent shading devices, use of stack effect or passive ventilation strategies, and simple ceiling fans. A quick consultation with an architect or ecobuilder, such as Native, will bring you up to speed on the variety of sustainable strategies and techniques available to the shrewd homebuyer.

While many people associate sustainability with luxury, for a family concerned with health, economics, and living a balanced lifestyle, sustainability is a necessity.