As a green building supply owner (Greenovations), and something of a local green guru, a lot of people ask me for sustainable prescriptions regarding various areas of the consumer choices they make. Typically people look for that silver bullet approach, but there is no likeliness of success with such an approach. I approach my building decisions holistically, just as I employ a holistic approach to my eating choices, health care management, and even investment choices. My green compromise of the last few days is a case in point.
My wife and I are about to begin a master bathroom remodel. One of the key design decision of the project has been choosing the right tile for the shower. We have been willing to pay a premium for our favorite high quality, hand-made and sustainably made tile, even with a high shipping cost to get that tile – $270 from California to Maine for 90 sf. On a personal level I am always willing to take the painful financial hit to do what I think is right or I won’t do it. (Usually, green doesn’t cost more, contrary to myth, but no matter how it is made, all hand-made tiles cost a lot.)
My high standards unfortunately had to drop a little due to an unexpected problem at my house. Two weeks ago sub-zero weather caused pipes above my drive under garage to freeze. Once the pipes were thawed the three breaks manifested themselves by flooding the sheet rock and insulation in the garage ceiling. This is the result of poor craftmanship by the builder of the home (I am a second owner) that I was aware of six months after we purchased. At the time I spent a few grand to upgrade my attic insulation but did not have the additional $2000I needed to fill the space between the garage ceiling and first floor subfloor.
Fortunately, by doing clean up work and some of the pipe insulating after having them fixed and leaving the sheet rock for myself to replace, my insurance gave me nearly enough money (after the $1k deductible) to properly insulate the space with dense packed paper cellulose instead of the useless fiberglass that was there. In the end, that $2000 upgrade only cost me $600 out-of-pocket and whatever it will cost me in time to install new sheet rock, instead of the $2000 it would have cost on my own.
The crux of this story is that after making that decision I still had to fork up $600 I had planned to use for the bathroom renovation. Something in the budget has to give. And the choice I have made is to go with a less expensive, conventionally made tile with a low freight cost to cover the gap. (The cost of freight had a heavy influence on this decision $270 for $1k in tile.) So, I confess, I am not going with “green” tiling in the shower. But did I commit a “green sin”? Not at all. As I began this post, I look at these things holistically. You have to unless you have buckets of money. That $600 that would have gone to tiling went to something else that was very green: a drive under garage ceiling properly insulated with a terrific material made out of locally made, recycled newsprint – CelPak from National Fiber. This choice will pay itself pack multiple times with reduced energy costs and certainty that I won’t damage more sheet-rock, more fiberglass for the land fill, more wood. The net result, in my opinion, will be an even more sustainable home for this choice. But I sure wish I could afford those tiles. Installing what I sell at my business would be better for the business, too.
Note: Sustainable elements in our bathroom will include 85% recycled BeachStone counter top; custom-made, FSC certified vanity cabinet; Plyboo bamboo plywood on a half wall and American Clay Earth Plaster instead of paint on the walls. Toilets and fixtures will be re-used. A Panasonic Whisper Green fan will replace the current, and severely faulty ventilation fan.