The House We Live In: A Series on Building the Sustainable Home in Tucson, Arizona
The last couple of weeks, I have started noticing beers from one of my favorite breweries—Colorado’s Odell—on the shelves in cans, not just the bottles I was used to seeing. Let me say this at the outset: I like good beer. I like visiting breweries and craft beer bars. I can tell a saison from an IPA from a Hefeweizen. But I’m no expert.
So: cans. I asked the owner of our local, friendly independent liquor store if the Odell cans were new and he said they were, and that Odell had been one of the last holdouts in Colorado in switching to cans. It turns out using cans instead is better for the planet in a whole bunch of ways—lighter, therefore more of it can be transported using the same amount of fuel. More recyclable. Less energy to produce. And if you’re enough of a beer snob to taste the difference, you’d probably be pouring it in a glass anyway, where the contrast largely fades away.
This is exactly the type of swap I’m aiming to accomplish with my house–small changes that make good sense on multiple levels, and aren’t terribly concerned with tradition. Although I am putting in some big-ticket green features, I’m also trying to make choices among existing “conventional” alternatives that are more sustainable, even in ways that aren’t always obvious. The metal roof was an example of this (although we have actually edited that out as part of value engineering). There are plenty of reasons to get metal roofs that have nothing to do with sustainability—they last a ridiculously long time, for instance. But they also have the best runoff coefficient of any roofing material for collecting rainwater.
Same with the panels with which we’re planning to cover the windows. They’re popular here for security, and for aesthetics, but they’re also going to help with getting optimal shading and exposure to keep the house a more comfortable temperature naturally.
And of course there are solar panels. Good for the planet (despite quibbles about what they’re made of) because, especially here in the desert, the sun is such a fabulous renewable energy source, but they’re also a form of economic security, as the risk of running out of oil and other non-renewable energy sources looms ever larger. They pay for themselves at some point, even if energy costs remain stable.
I really enjoy watching groups of humans make decisions that just make sense. Bottles are traditional but the more people have discovered that cans are, in many ways, superior, the more they’ve just gone ahead and used them, rather than being stuck in the way we’ve always done it. Cheers to you, microbrewers. My new EnergyStar fridge will always be stocked with your cans.
Amy Knight is the fiction editor for Terrain.org. In this weekly series, she chronicles the process of designing and building an eco-friendly house in Tucson, Arizona. The series will explore both how it’s done and what it means, from the perspective of someone who wants to do the right thing but knows almost nothing about sustainable building. Look for new posts every Monday. You can email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment here. Visit her website, or follow her on twitter @amypknight.
Photo of beer glass against sunset by Asiabasia, courtesy Shutterstock.