Sacrificing for Sustainable Living

This blog is not from a research report. It’s my sharing of an eye-opening experience I just had.  We regularly give a couple tours of home and site a week for people who want to experience total sustainable living.  Some are individuals, some couples, some organized groups, such as a garden club or the Sierra Club, and some are high school or university classes.  We recently had a husband-wife tour experience with a startling conclusion …

As I completed showing our home and site to the couple, and were standing in the atrium, near the front door, I asked if they had any final questions or comments. The wife said …


“You have stainless steel appliances!”


(Of course, I thought, “Why would we not have nice appliances?”)  Then the husband said that our home was not at all like what he’s seen on TV … and was expecting to see when he came for the tour.  I asked about what he’d been seeing on TV.


“They show these minimal houses

or some off-grid homes in the woods,

and talk about all the energy savings.


“But when they finish, I ask myself if I’d

ever want to live in one of those houses.


“There’s no way I’d ever want to do that!”


What blew me away was the mindset that both husband and wife carried with them as a result of watching those TV shows … which purport to be supporting sustainable living and off-grid living.  That’s a mindset that – for me, as well – would kill any desire I’d have to “live sustainably” unless I was so desperate that I had no other choice.

That mindset kills sustainability.

On the front page of our Garden Atrium web site,, is a video you may have already seen.  It includes many views of our Garden Atrium homes and site, and interview comments from both a Millennial recent university graduate (and prospective future homebuyer,) and a resident with an established professional practice who’s lived here for ten years.

While most homes resell every nine to eleven years, in the 19 years since the first Garden Atrium home was completed, none have re-sold.  Paraphrasing the words of some of the homeowners …


“Where else could we live in a home like this?”


And their reasons had nothing to do with saving money on their utility bills. I once asked one of the new homeowners if he liked his utility bill savings.  He said he actually didn’t think about it.  Paraphrasing …


“When I hit the button on my microwave, I don’t

wonder about where the energy is coming from. I

am only aware of it at the end of the month, when I

pay bills – and remember how much I used to pay.”


What I’ve increasingly come to call “sustainable living” has two domains. The first, of course, is to live in complete harmony with Earth.  And we have the technology to not only do that, but to do it for a lot less cost.

The second domain, virtually never addressed by environmentalists, is to live in ways that maximize our quality-of-life experience.  And that’s where considerations such as enjoying greater beauty, allergy-free health, living “in-community,” and pursuing important life goals are most relevant.  The #1 reason people gave for buying a Garden Atrium home was aesthetics, not solar power.

Here’s a link to a 4-minute video you might really enjoy, “To Buy or What to Buy; That is the Question.”



It was done recently as a university student’s class project, as a way of contrasting our home-buying life style options. When you’ve finished seeing it, ask yourself …


Which option would you select?


What should you need to sacrifice if you opt for “sustainable living”?


Absolutely nothing!

Comments are closed.