There are a lot of paths to choose from when it comes to green living. That's part of what I like about it. There's sort of an ethic or mindset that guides one's choices, but the options are almost endless. There is no single solution to creating a sustainable community, and I never tire of learning about how others are approaching the issue.
In the midst of the valley's sprawling communities , it is easy to forget that there are alternatives to the endless sea of single-family homes and the thousands of cars that have become necessities of modern life. As awareness grows, walkability has become a score on real estate listings to help those shopping for a good place to live.
No matter how efficient we make our homes, we can't move them out of auto-centric suburbia. For some, the answer is to relocate to human-centric downtown, where walkability is king. This solution has worked well for my friend Chris Brooks, director at Bombard Renewable Energy. Chris and I have known each other for years, but it had been a while since we caught up on things.
Chris and his family have lived in a solar-powered home for many years; after all, it's what he does. In fact, I think he does it better than anyone else in the state and is one of the most knowledgeable people I know when it comes to photovoltaic systems. He and his team have installed thousands of systems throughout Nevada, from residential rooftops to multimegawatt arrays like the one at Nellis Air Force Base. Chris also believes strongly in education and has taught many Nevada electricians how to properly and safely install solar-energy systems, helping to create good jobs .
Obviously, Chris walks his talk when it comes to clean energy. But he found himself driving way too much. So he rented his home and moved to The Odgen, a beautiful residential high-rise in the middle of downtown Las Vegas. His place is bright and spacious and has amazing views of the valley . Now, many of his favorite places are just a short walk away, rather than a 20-minute drive.
His walkability score is about as good as it gets, and many public transit options are nearby as well. We're not talking nearby as in a block or two. Walkscore.com lists several key transit options within a few hundred feet of the building. Chris still has his hybrid vehicle, but others might appreciate the fact that car-free living in Las Vegas is becoming an increasingly viable option.
His new digs are resource efficient as well. Obviously the landscaping is minimal, so water efficiency is maximized. Being in a high-rise building means there are insulating neighbors above, below and next door. His place uses a fraction of the energy compared to a typical suburban home. Chris mentioned that his summer electric bills peaked around $60. Not bad.
He wisely chose a unit with most of the windows facing south. This not only provides a nice view but also the benefit of passive solar orientation. He'll have the warmth of the sun during winter months, and in summer the sun's higher trajectory will minimize solar gain.
Chris has been working on some ideas to bring the benefits of solar energy to those who cannot install a system themselves. He sees the day when anyone, anywhere, will have the option to purchase 100 percent clean and affordable renewable energy while supporting our local economy as well. I like that vision and appreciate his efforts to make it happen. Thanks to Chris Brooks and many other leaders like him who are working to create a future we can all live with.
Green Living in downtown Las Vegas. Yeah, things are changing.
Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, a company committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. For more information and links to additional resources relating to this column, or to reach Steve, please visit www.greendream.biz.