Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sinful Second Homes

Tierney weighs in on second homes.

No matter how many fluorescent light bulbs you install in your second home’s basement, you could save a lot more energy by eliminating the whole place. Even if you dutifully shut down each home when you leave it — turning off the electricity, draining the pipes and turning off the heat, etc. — you’re still expending extra energy commuting between your homes. A trip to a weekend house can easily burn more gasoline than a commuter uses all week.

Yet somehow, in all the years I’ve been reading lists of energy-saving tips, I’ve never noticed, “Sell second home.” A cynic might attribute this oversight to a high correlation between fervent environmentalism and second-home ownership — Robert Redford and his place at Sundance, the Kennedys and their compound on the Cape, Laurie David and her home on Martha’s Vineyard, John Kerry’s seaside and mountainside manses.

Granted, some environmentalists deal publicly with their carbon footprints. Gore and David say they offset their energy usage by sponsoring reductions in greenhouse gases through alternative forms of power and energy conservation (like building wind farms and paying farmers to turn methane into electricity). But are “carbon offsets” sufficient compensation? Not to activists like Charles Komanoff, an economic consultant to environmental groups.

I’m not such a purist myself — I’d let the average person salve his conscience with a carbon indulgence. But I’d hold environmentalist preachers like Gore to higher standards, especially when they’re engaging in unnecessary energy use.
I agree. Large homes and second homes use a lot of energy regardless of how efficient or green they are.

I think part of the green movement should be to try and get people to live in smaller houses and not to buy second homes. A second home is not lived in most of the time and is therefore wasteful with the energy it took to build it. Better to vacation and use a hotel or timeshare that is used all of the time. Less wood, metal and other resources would be needed as fewer houses would be built and more land could be set aside for nature.

If Gore and other environmentalist could make this sacrifice and sell their second homes, their message would be so much stronger.

via New York Times

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