Thanks to the growth of the “eat local movement”, American farmer’s markets, in cities, college towns, and rural squares across the nation have been experiencing something of a prolonged renaissance. Critical urban spaces that had once languished in negligent oblivion or had been paved over for parking long ago, have reemerged as impromptu spaces for socialization, culture, and yes, food. Sales from these gatherings exceed 1 billion dollars annually as the number of these markets continues to trend upward at a brisk pace.
Much of this growth is the result of a seismic shift in consumer culture. Americans are increasingly seeking out foods that are produced in a way that yields fresher, healthier, and more sustainable products. The local food system offers real opportunities for seeing the real people, social relations, and physical conditions involved in the act of producing food. The more patrons are exposed to the realities of agribusiness and the food system, the more they are unsatisfied with existing norms and conditions. The process is as important as the product itself. And there is much to laud in these sentiments.The home building industry can learn much from these trends and sentiments.
The local food movement provides some interesting parallels to, and lessons for, the burgeoning green home movement. In many ways, the goals are very similar – an attention to the actual process of production in pursuit of a quality product, and careful management of environmental impacts. The modern green home fits neatly into that categorization. The parallels are too beneficial to leave unmentioned.
We eat local for health reasons. Green homes are purpose-built for indoor air quality and occupant comfort, with VOC-free materials and with the same health reasons in mind.
We eat local because we trust the quality products that specialty and boutique farmers provide. The best green homes are purpose-built for longevity and energy-efficient performance, typically by specialized eco-builders who are well-versed in their craft and engaged to each site and situation.
We eat local to promote sustainability and local economies. Building green typically involves minimizing the massive carbon cost of transportation. To that effect, a purpose-built green home utilizes local materials worked and fashioned by local craftsmen employed by local builders who know how to build a home in tune with their region’s unique climate conditions.
However, the act of building a home is arguably much more involved in scale, complexity, and impact than the act of say, growing a tomato. Environmentally speaking, home construction can have a huge, largely destructive, impact. And while foodies and other environmental activists are quick to point out the shortcomings of the agribusiness and food system process, few homeowners, builders, or architects are even aware of how the buildings they live in are potentially killing them and the environment.
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