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Rural Renaissance Renewing the Quest for the Good Life

Rural Renaissance Renewing the Quest for the Good Life

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Published by Pedro Cabral

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Published by: Pedro Cabral on Jul 17, 2011
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With the understanding that everything is interconnected,we strive to select build-
ing materials,products,technologies and services that fall under an umbrella of
energy conservation and socially and environmentally responsible manufacturing or
design,and,to the extent possible,bioregionalism (purchasing products or services
as close to home as possible).Although initial costs are often higher this way,we
view our decisions cumulatively and long-term,much as we do our mortgage,which
allows us to defray the economic cost over a longer term.And,as most people do,
we live within financial limitations,moving forward with projects as they become
financially viable.


How to

Green Design Principles for Sustainability

by William McDonough

We’ve used William McDonough’s Hannover Principles for Sustainability to help guide our

projects, Written for the 2000 World’s Fair, the Principles establish design parameters for sus-

tainability, providing an ecology primer for designers and anyone else concerned with the

intelligent use of natural resources. The Hannover Principles are considered a living docu-

ment committed to transformation and growth in the understanding of our interdepend-

ence with nature, in order that they may adapt as our knowledge of the world evolves.

1.Insist on rights of humanity and nature to coexist in a healthy, supportive, diverse and

sustainable condition.

2.Recognize interdependence. The elements of human design interact with and depend

upon the natural world, with broad and diverse implications at every scale. Expand

design considerations to recognize even distant effects.

3.Respect relationships between spirit and matter. Consider all aspects of human settle-

ment, including community, dwelling, industry and trade, in terms of existing and

evolving connections between spiritual and material consciousness.

4.Accept responsibility for the consequences of design decisions upon human well-being,

the viability of natural systems and their right to coexist.


Our day-to-day operating decisions incorporate the adage:reduce,reuse,recy-
cle.We added two more ofour own — restore and redesign — while also
considering William McDonough’s Hannover Principles (see sidebar,The Hannover
Principles).Reflecting this philosophy,we chose to remodel an existing farmhouse
rather than build a new house.In a similar vein,we’re transforming an old granary
into a greenhouse,rather than burning it down and building a new structure.
Buying the early 20th century farmhouse also helped us reduce our exposure to
problems associated with the chemicals found in the materials often used in today’s
modern homes,such as chipboards,plywood,pesticide-impregnated timbers,vinyl
flooring and plastic finishes.Other than the asbestos shingles around the farm-
house (best left alone),we’ve used our renovations as an opportunity to carefully
remove many ofthe possible health dangers,such as the lead paint that was around
the windows,and most ofthe carpet throughout the house.

5.Create safe objects of long-term value. Do not burden future generations with require-

ments for maintenance of vigilant administration of potential danger due to the careless

creation of products, processes or standards.

6.Eliminate the concept of waste. Evaluate and optimize the full lifecycle of products and

processes, to approach the state of natural systems, in which there is no waste.

7.Rely on natural energy flows. Human designs should, like the living world, derive their

creative forces from perpetual solar income. Incorporate the energy efficiently and

safely for responsible use.

8.Understand the limitations of design. No human creation lasts forever and design does not

solve all problems. Those who create and plan should practice humility in the face of nature.

Treat nature as a model and mentor, not an inconvenience to be evaded or controlled.

9.Seek constant improvement by the sharing of knowledge. Encourage direct and open

communication between colleagues, patrons, manufacturers and users to link long-

term sustainable considerations with ethical responsibility, and reestablish the integral

relationship between natural processes and human activity.

Source: UVA Architecture Publications; © 1992 William McDonough Architects. Used with permission.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),indoor air pol-
lution can sometimes be ten times worse than Los Angeles on a smog alert,no
matter where we live.Around 1915,synthetic chemicals first started to show up;at
present,there are over four million synthetic chemicals on record.It’s not surprising
that pollutants that impact human cells have been shown to accumulate in our bod-
ies.Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemically unstable,and readily turn
into gas or combine with other chemicals which can then be inhaled.According to
the EPA and other sources,doctors are beginning to recognize multiple chemical
sensitivities and environmental illnesses.Allergic reactions are our body’s way to
signal exposure to toxic substances,some ofwhich we used to welcome (remember
“new car smell”?).

Rather than gambling with our lives and those ofour family,friends and bed &
breakfast guests,we’ve opted for safer choices.We wanted to feel vibrant and
healthy,so we are working to make our house as healthy and safe as possible.The
additional expense ofecologically safe products or materials is nothing when com-
pared to spending years in and out ofhospitals later in life from cancer or other
diseases resulting from bioaccumulated toxins or poisons.The following products
or services had a place in our journey toward living more sustainably and by green
design.At times it’s been a challenge to make informed decisions when limited
information and labeling is available,and many ofthe companies offering ecologi-
cally sound alternatives are small-time operators,so perseverance and patience is
sometimes needed.

Building and Construction Materials


Say “no volatile organic compounds,”or “no VOC,”and the paint store salespeople
will often come back with:“you mean,low VOC.”When shopping for our no-VOC
paint,which we’ve now used throughout our house,we ended up asking for “hospital
paint”to get what we wanted.Most major paint companies carry a no-VOC prod-
uct line,but the names change frequently and sales staffseem to lack knowledge
about this type ofpaint.American Formulating and Manufacturing (AFM) no-VOC
Safecoat paint and Bioshield
are paint companies that offer ecological options.American Formulating and
Manufacturing (AFM) also offers stains,sealers,cleaners and other safe products
for building and maintenance.



Bathroom fixtures have yet to go green,but closing the recycling loop has never been
more beautiful,stylish and functional with floor tiles made from almost 60 percent
recycled automobile windshield glass and other post-consumer waste glass.Our
tiles in our guest bathrooms and our first floor bath are made by Terra-Green
Technologies ,and can be specially ordered through
nearly any floor covering store.Terra-Green offers Terra Traffic tiles for flooring and
Terra Classic tiles for walls.Eco Friendly Flooring
offers many sustainable flooring products,including recycled glass tiles,linoleum,
reclaimed and Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood,bamboo and cork.

Wood Floor Sealers (Poly-BP)

For our renovated kitchen floor and the main floor and hallway at the Inn
Serendipity Woods cabin,we selected AFM Safecoat Durostain,a no-VOC stain
and sealer,and followed it with AFM’s Lock-In Wood Sealer.For a beautiful,


Indoor pollutants
often found in the





durable finish,we added the application oftwo coats ofgloss and one coat ofsatin
(best to mask scratches) Safecoat Polyureseal BP to protect the stained wood.
There are many options for safer,healthier homes,from non-toxic caulks to
insulation made from shredded newspaper or roofshingles made from recycled
materials.Even Gypsum wallboard,the mainstay ofhome improvement,is available
in a type made from 18 percent recycled gypsum and 100 percent recycled paper

The options are constantly changing,which can make locating a manufacturer
more difficult.Complicating this further is the fact that contractors tend to be creatures
ofhabit and use materials or products that they’ve grown accustomed to using and trust.
Co-op America’s Green Pages is a great place for tracking down
healthier and greener alternatives,as are Gaiam Real Goods or www.gaiam.com> and Healthy Home .

In the Home

For around the house maintenance,cleaning,and laundry,we choose among an
increasing array ofnon-toxic and environmentally safe cleaners and detergents,100
percent recycled toilet paper and natural unbleached cotton linens,as well as fabrics
made with organically grown fiber.Seventh Generation (www.seventhgeneration.com)
offers a wide range ofthese household products that we’ve been using for years.
In the spirit ofreusing furnishings,we used Citristrip ,a
citrus-based,non-toxic furniture refinisher,on the cabin property’s ash dining room
table and chairs,as well as on our antique lawyer’s bookcase on the farm.
Independently operated stores specializing in ecology-safe products,as well as larger
commercial enterprises (such as Whole Foods Market,Wild Oats,or Trader Joe’s),
offer a wide selection ofcleaning brands,often in more economical concentrated
forms,that are chlorine and phosphate-free,unscented,biodegradable,and non-ani-
mal tested.Our oak coffee table came from Smith & Hawken,among the first to
support Forest Stewardship Council-certified (FSC) sustainable wood use




Co-op America's Green Pages

Website: www.greenpages.org

The number of green businesses bringing socially and environmentally

responsible goods and services to the marketplace is growing rapidly. Find

wonderful products, values and savings - everything you need to put your

economic power to work for change.

Sustainable Sources

Website: www.greenbuilder.com

Features everything from an on-line green building professionals direc-

tory to their sustainable building sourcebook, this website is a great place

to search for green building resources and contractors.

Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability, Harper

Business, 1993.

Angela Hobbs, The Sick House Survival Guide: Simple Steps to Healthier Homes,

New Society Publishers, 2003.

Editors of E: The Environmental Magazine, Green Living: An E Magazine

Planetary Resource Guide, Plume, In Press.

John Schaeffer, Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook: The Complete Guide to

Renewable Energy Technologies and Sustainable Living, Real Goods, 2001.

Daniel D. Chiras, The Natural House: A Complete Guide to Healthy, Energy-effi-

cient Environmental Homes, Chelsea Green, 2000.

David Pearson,The New Natural House Book: Creating a Healthy, Harmonious

and Ecologically Sound Home, Fireside, 1998.

Nell Newman, with Joseph D'Agnese, The Newman's Own Guide to a Good

Life: Simple Measures that Benefit You and the Place You Live, Villard, 2003.

William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the

Way We Make Things, North Point Press, 2002.

Worldwatch Institute

Website: www.worldwatch.org

A non-profit research powerhouse, offering information and practical

resources to assist in the transition to a more environmentally sustainable

and socially just society.

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