Going green is as easy as riding a bike.

Riding bicycles is not only a passion of mine. Over the years riding and racing bicycles has taught me many important lessons about life. One in particular is the importance of efficiency. Not only has the bicycle been named the most energy efficient vehicle of all times but they are also very fun to ride and race. Speaking of racing, for years I raced single speed mountain bikes. I learned very quickly that efficiency is the key element to enjoying long rides or a good race result. The power you will need to make it up the next hill or pass another racer is dependent on using your energy efficiently. Lighter or more high end parts on the bike can only do so much for a rider over the course of a long ride or in the race results.
The conservation of energy in your home is very similar. You can invest in all the high tech solutions but without an energy efficient building envelop your home will not be preforming at its best in the long run. High tech solutions to winning a race or just finishing a long ride may be a high end drive train or custom frame. Despite the fact that these items are wonderful to have (I would love a new XTR gruppo), many a rider on a high end bike has lost to the a rider that has more flow and used their energy more efficiently.

In most of the homes we live in today there are very cost effective improvements we could make to greatly increase efficiency and reduce our energy usage. These items, as I have been reminded many times in Green Building classes, are simple to address and in some cases may require nothing more than a can of spray foam, flashlight, piece of paper or some incense. These are solutions by experts in the field and in many ways it can be compared to a simple tune up of your car that increases your gas mileage or in the case of a bicycle, adding a small amount of chain lube or a seat height adjustment to allow you to take full advantage of power you are delivering to the pedals.

A recent article in the Seattle Times stated "Home energy use accounts for 21 percent of the nation's carbon footprint — roughly twice the carbon emissions of passenger cars, according to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. There are 100 million homes in America, and energy-saving measures like insulation, caulking, and heating and cooling system upgrades can reduce household energy consumption by 10 percent to 40 percent, according to a memo by the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board."

Talking about solar, wind and geothermal units sound sexy and cool (to some of us) but when you run the numbers it makes dollars and sense to change the conversation to energy efficiency in general. State and federal regulations are coming and jobs will be created and homes will use less energy period. In a fairy tale green world we could all have solar, geothermal and wind power but the truth is not everyone can afford to retrofit their homes with new major systems and many of which emerging technologies. It is not very green to tear down a home and replace it with a "Green Home" so it seems clear that the best way to reduce our carbon footprints is to increase efficiency within our current stock of homes and improve the quality of structures we build in the future.

Last week, the Asheville Citizen Times featured an article discussing an Energy Rater Training program currently taking place at Warren Wilson College. The article found here, describes the need for 36,000 new energy raters in the coming years to handle the changes that will affect building codes in the residential and commercial building sectors. In a time where we desperately need job creation, conservation of resources and a reduction of our cost of living this can only be viewed as good news. There has been tremendous growth within the efficiency sector of the green economy and there are a number of companies located in Asheville that mainly work with home owners and builders to address the efficiency of our current structures and ways of improving efficiency of new structures. It's happening right here in Asheville and as you can see, going green doesn't have to be complicated. In many ways it's as easy as riding a bike.
Justin Mitchell
Ecohouse / DWELL Realty