Peace is in the Details

By designing our homes as sustainable “havens,” we can create a ripple effect.
Dec 15, 2016 11:00 AM ET

Few people of any political disposition would disagree with the idea that self-sufficiency, moderation and reduced waste are desirable benchmarks. Fortunately, when we talk about home design and construction, we can lean heavily on the facts of building science—not emotion—to achieve those goals.

It’s no secret that we’re living through some chaotic, rancorous times. More than ever, we need places of stability and safety where we can shut the door, and push from our minds the anger, name calling and bad news we hear on television and in the streets. Our homes, more than ever, have become our sanctuaries from the unhinged, reality-TV world we are presented with “out there.”

Perhaps that’s why this annual issue, specifically for homeowners who are looking to change their lifestyle for the better, both physically and morally, is so popular. Why not live smaller, use less energy, breathe cleaner air and harness the power of the sun? The alternative is to continue to defend archaic fossil fuel industries, hack pipelines through tribal lands, wander late at night through the hollow halls of our oversized empty nests, and wonder why our kid moved into a tiny house a thousand miles away.

We don’t have to fuel our own destruction. Even if we do feel powerless to change world events, we can start at home, living more responsibly and sustainably. The technology of green living has never been more accessible or affordable.

This issue is designed as a free source for homeowners, or would-be owners, interested in becoming more independent. By applying the tips, products and principles here to your shelter, you can shrink your ecological “footprint” and divest yourself from the most harmful aspects of modern life. At the same time, you’ll create a home that’s healthier for your lungs, more durable, and more resilient in the face of weather extremes such as high heat or drought.

If you’re daunted by the prospect of where to start in “going green,” you might take a page from the formulaic TV show, “Tiny House Nation.” One of the hardest exercises the would-be owners must complete is separating actual needs from expectations. Look at your current living situation. Which aspects of your dwelling do you like and dislike the most? What comforts are the absolute “must haves,” and which are simply outdated traditions? For example, most people almost never use a formal dining room.

Maybe what you really want in your home is super simple: a hot shower, a dishwasher and a comfortable bed. The shorter your list, the greater your freedom—both in terms of design and literally. It’s easier to build, maintain and power a smaller, greener home.

We hope you will use The Homeowner’s Handbook as a guidebook and inspiration. Let’s start a quiet revolution that puts the power back in the hands (and the homes) of homesteaders—and gives peace a chance.