Living

Published on November 4th, 2009 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

7

Simran’s Eco-Friendly Home Makeover Comes to Oprah.com

[social_buttons]Buying your first home is both nerve-wracking and exhilarating. Imagine the heightening of both of those emotions if you choose to 1) buy an older house full of character, and 2) jump right into green updates and renovations upon purchase. You’ll then have a good sense of what journalist, professor, and good friend of sustainablog Simran Sethi is going through right now… she recently purchased an 84-year-old home in her adopted home town of Lawrence, KS. Unlike the rest of us, though, Simran’s inviting the world in to watch the process of greening her new house: on Monday, she posted the first entry on a new blog at Oprah.com.

Home renovation isn’t a task for the feint of heart, and Simran readily admits that her own hands-on experience is limited:

I have experienced much of our natural world in the once-removed fashion of the urban apartment dweller. I have never mowed a lawn, my ex weather-stripped our apartment and my landlord installed my low-flow showerhead. I held seeds for the first time two years ago at an incredible urban farm in Kansas City. And while I have told millions of people about water conservation and energy reduction, I have never owned a dual-flush toilet or had an opportunity to really consider my insulation. Now is my chance to embrace the well-worn clichés: walk my talk and put my money where my mouth is.

Among the first steps: insulating the ceiling, refinishing walls and floors, and dealing with a spider infestation in the basement. She’ll be sharing the whole process, providing tips on which changes provide the biggest benefits (in terms of eco-efficiency and cost savings), and naming names on the products she uses to accomplish those tasks. She’ll also be getting her hands dirty…

If you’re in the process of renovating, keep an eye on her blog… I have no doubt it’ll be useful. We’ll also be keeping an eye out for that first photo with paint in her hair…

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/skidrd/ / CC BY 2.0 (and that’s not Simran… just a taste of what she’s in for…)



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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at



  • http://www.yahoo.com Bobby B.

    First, if you have ever watched “The Exterminators” on The Discovery Channel, Vexcon out of Bossier City, Louisiana, may be a good choice to eradicate the brown recluse spiders. Louisiana is full of critters and pests, so they should have the necessary experience to do the job. Who knows, Simran’s home may be featured on their show.

    Second, hopefully Simran will get her home updated before any part of HR2454 becomes law. To remind you of some of its language regarding dwellings:

    Sec. 201 – Pages 214 & 215 under the title “(3) VIOLATIONS.”, which reads, “(3) VIOLATIONS.—It shall be a violation of this section for an owner or builder of a building to knowingly occupy, permit occupancy of, or convey the building if the building is subject to the requirements of—…

    and

    Sec. 210 – Pages 220 to 224 under the title “(f) FEDERAL ENFORCEMENT.”, which reads in part:

    “(f) FEDERAL ENFORCEMENT.—Where a State fails and local governments in that State also fail to enforce the applicable State or national energy efficiency building codes, the Secretary shall enforce such codes, as follows: (1) The Secretary shall establish, by rule, within 2 years after the date of enactment of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, an energy efficiency building code enforcement capability. (2) Such enforcement capability shall be designed to achieve 90 percent compliance with such code in any State within 1 year after the date of the Secretary’s determination that such State is out of compliance with this section. (3) The Secretary may set and collect reasonable inspection fees to cover the costs of inspections required for such enforcement. Revenue from fees collected shall be available to the Secretary to carry out the requirements of this section upon appropriation.
    “(g) ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURES.—(1) The Secretary shall assess a civil penalty for violations of this section, pursuant to subsection (d)(3), in accordance with the procedures described in section 333(d) of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6303). The United States district courts shall also have jurisdiction to restrain any violation of this section or rules adopted there under, in accordance with the procedures described in section 334 of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6304). (2) Each day of unlawful occupancy shall be considered a separate violation. (3) In the event a building constructed out of compliance with the applicable code has been conveyed by a knowing builder or knowing seller to an unknowing purchaser, the builder or seller shall be the violator.

    I just adore the soft use of terms like “fees”, “civil penalty”, “unlawful occupancy” and “violator”. Since the codes are not established by the bill in its current form, it is anyone’s guess whether Simran’s home or anyone elses will pass the muster should this attack on private property become law.

  • http://www.yahoo.com Bobby B.

    Whoops! Made a typo! Both of my references to HR2454 come from Sec. 201; not 210.

  • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    Hey, Bob–

    I dug into that section a bit (on establishing a national building code). It does establish efficiency targets and baseline codes in the beginning of that section. From what I can see, though, section 201 doesn’t even apply in this case: section 202 deals with retrofits; from what I can see, section 201 applies to new buildings.

    On the broader issue of government mandates, though, I think this approach meets the intended role of government: it sets limits based on the “general welfare,” but leaves it up to the market as to how those targets will be met. Lots of opportunity here for smart entrepreneurs…

  • http://www.yahoo.com Bobby B.

    There is no doubt that the legislation will create opportunities for entrepreneurs. Legislation that seeks to hamstring enterprise almost always yields creative solutions.

    You may want to dig a little deeper regarding the “new buildings” only mandates. From what I have read, ALL dwellings will be subject to inspection and enforcement.

  • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    But I’d disagree that this seeks to hamstring enterprise… if it made lots of specific technical demands, than yes… government never does well picking specific technologies. But by setting targets and then allowing the private sector to figure out how best to meet them, it harnesses the market to figure out how to best meet these goals… as it did with the cap-and-trade approach to sulfur dioxide.

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    Our green assessments are not only for home and business but your lifestyle as well. Your level of greenness will be measured so you can make a decision on the changes you need to make to become even healthier and environmentally stronger for the world we live.

    Many times giving back doesn’t come back to you immediately. Our assessments will have a direct affect on you and those you are responsible for and your environment locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. That is a wonderful thing. You are taking care of two causes at once. You wanted to leave a legacy. Now is your opportunity. You can help yourself, teach others, and leave a mark.

  • http://www.yahoo.com Bobby B.

    @Jeff – LSU published the following attachment and Slides 10 & 11 summarize a disturbing tale:

    http://www.lca.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=2009_ALC&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=3407

    @GoGreenExpert – So, the legacy I leave will be directly tied to the amount of resources that I am forced to surrender to the green gestapo to support causes in which I do not believe? Isn’t that the very definition of totalitarianism?

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