A new web site about ADU’s: AccessoryDwellings.org
November 16, 2011, 4:39 pm by bottleman. Filed under: design, ecological footprints, energy, making a difference, simple living, tiny houses.

This blog gets a lot of visitors curious about the tiny house I made by converting my garage.

photo by flickr user Lance McCord, thanks!

That place (just a wee bit bigger than the one in the picture above) has three main virtues:

1. it’s smallness makes it very green, given that size is the primary determinant of a dwelling’s environmental footprint;
2. it’s nice, making it possible to live small without feeling like you are living in poverty; and
3. it’s very close to, but still quite separate from, the main house, meaning I can live a few feet from my mother-in-law and still think it’s a good thing. :)

In short, those are the virtues of the modern accessory dwelling unit, also known as a granny flat, backyard cottage, ADU, etc. Given that the nation will need to build millions of dwellings for aging 1- and 2-person households over the next 30 years, I think they are a really interesting option both socially and environmentally.

Now I’m one of the editors of a new site that’s all about accessory dwelling units — what they look like, how to build them, what regulations are, etc. It’s called AccessoryDwellings.org.

AccessoryDwellings.org banner, based on a graphic by PasteInPlace

Please come check it and consider becoming a contributor. Thanks!!

A thermostat that knows when you’re away (review of Verdant V8-BB-7S with occupancy sensor)
March 16, 2009, 10:22 am by bottleman. Filed under: diy, energy, kids, making a difference, reviews.

Resources used by housing and transportation dwarf those associated by other parts of our “lifestyle.” (Click here for geeky background data.) If you want to be green in deed as well as attitude, you’ve got to take on the way you get around, and the energy used by your house.

In the house, technology can obviate the impulse to nobly suffer to save energy (remember President Carter in his sweater?). Probably the first thing I installed in my family’s house when I moved in was a programmable thermostat.  It saves energy by lowering the thermostat when I’m not likely to be home or wanting heat, and raise it when I know I want it to come on. No more running across a freezing floor at 5:30 AM to turn the heat on.

Now comes a thermostat that takes this idea one step further …more

Drill baby drill!
September 4, 2008, 3:01 pm by bottleman. Filed under: energy, explosions.

As Bob Costas once said about another grand spectacle (the opening ceremonies of the Los Angeles Olympics), “sometimes words add nothing.”

Why efficiency isn’t so efficient
September 10, 2006, 10:44 pm by bottleman. Filed under: energy, monster houses.

While normally I don’t flog anybody’s work, it’s time to make an exception. Deep breath. Here goes:

Gee, what a super article in the new E magazine (see this reprint on Alternet) about monster houses! Could that guy possibly have been reading this blog, or even, I dare say, writing for it?

The article points out a strange fact: despite the fact that American houses have more energy efficient devices — light bulbs, windows, and so on — than ever, they’re also using more energy than ever. From space America positively radiates!

photo of usa at night from darksky.org

(If I squint, I think I can see my house.)

On the face of it, it doesn’t make sense. Doesn’t higher efficiency mean using less energy? …more

Beauty and the Beach: Cape Wind, Part I
August 31, 2006, 12:44 am by Jess. Filed under: energy, making a difference.

I’m from Cape Cod, and I’ve never liked it when the ocean is interrupted. I like my view of the ocean to be cut short only by the curve of the earth, not by some meddling chunk of land or anything like that. It’s easier to feel continuous with the ocean if I can see a continuous ocean.

Simulated view of turbines from Cotuit, the closest shore

The 130 giant wind turbines proposed for a site six miles off the shore, the power from which would supply 75% of the Cape and Islands’ electricity, would definitely interfere with my oceanic feeling. The fossil fuel-burning power plant in my hometown of Sandwich, which currently supplies almost half of the region’s electrical power, is certainly less conspicuous. I vaguely remember the plant’s smokestack coming into view on each trip to the A&P. I grew up with the belief that it had something to do with Santa Claus, but I never thought much about it.


Paper vs. plastic vs. something that ACTUALLY makes a difference: green power
August 25, 2006, 2:35 pm by bottleman. Filed under: energy, making a difference.

As every environmentalist knows, it can be fun to indulge in being superior. There’s that lofty, erudite feeling you have — my lifestyle is more pious than your lifestyle — when you see a fellow citizen doing the wrong thing (whatever that is).

link to green power provider

Here’s where I fall into the sin of eco-smugness: …more

Honkin’ huge, part I: homes and Hummers
April 16, 2006, 11:58 pm by bottleman. Filed under: energy, monster houses.

It’s almost too easy to bash SUV’s. Besides guzzling gas, their sheer size and shape gives them a bullying muscularity that, let’s face it, just rankles the sensibilities of tenderfoot liberals. Given two vehicles of equally poor mileage — say a 2006 Nissan Armada and a 1990 Volvo 240 wagon — the Armada is the one that’s going to end up with the activist’s “energy hog” ticket.

Most greens that grok the issue will own up that the Volvo should get a ticket too. But there’s very little brouhaha in the environmental community over that other bulked-up monster lurking around the driveway: the house.

Washington Post photo