Predictions for a Green 2008 –

Written by Andrew Morrison

new year's ball
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With the year drawing to a close, I find myself reflecting on the year as a whole and thinking about the year to come. This last year was very hard for me as a builder and has been extremely difficult for many of us professionals. I built five houses in 2007 and found myself up against similar walls in each one. My clients loved the concept of green construction and they loved the benefits, but they often did not want to pay for the things that make the home green.

I found myself in the position of salesman and builder more often than I would have liked. That said, I am grateful for having been busy in a year when many builders went out of business due to the slump in the housing market and the general economy woes. So, what am I looking for next year? Here are my predictions for a green 2008!

1. Rising interest in green products.
This may be obvious, but I think it may be the most crucial trend on our horizon. The increased demand for green products will ultimately increase production and lower costs for the most popular items. This will make my job easier as my “salesman hat” can stay in the truck and I can focus on building beautiful homes. The clients will surely appreciate the lower prices and will not find themselves in a position of buying something that will help their health or long term financial situation at the expense of their kitchen counter tops or other short term purchase.

2. Awareness.
Similar to number one, the awareness of the general public about things green will increase. As it increases, more demand will once again be placed on manufacturers and government officials to respond. Private industry will be the force behind Green growth, not government. I do not expect our government to wake up fast enough to make a change in 2008. That is sad, but it does not mean that the changes won’t come. As I state in number one above, the demand for new and less expensive products will drive our private industry to respond and deliver. That is, after all, how our economy works best: demand and then supply.

3. Minimal product breakthrough.
I would like to say this will be the year that the automobile industry creates a vehicle with a major increase in gas mileage or a new fuel source, but I don’t see it happening. Once again, our government here in the States has passed legislation to increase vehicle gas mileage by a very small amount over the next 10 years or so. By the time we hit their deadline, it will be too late and the change won’t be big enough. Private industry, once again, will have to work on their own to make the big change happen. Other green products and technologies exist that can use some improvement, and others may be on the way, but I am not hopeful that there will be a big breakthrough in this market either. Perhaps I am pessimistic, but I don’t see the charge to the races that I think we need for that kind of change. There is a jump to the bandwagon, but the wagon can only move so fast with that much dead weight! We need people on the wagon willing to make the changes, not just those who think it is a good idea for “that person over there, but not me.”

4. Personal change inspired by rising fuel and energy costs.
Money is a big motivation for most people. I remember when I was in high school and I tried to change my school’s policy about Styrofoam in the lunch room. I was told that they would stop using Styrofoam when it became more expensive than their other options: paper or washable items. They were not concerned with the environment as much as they were with their budget. I believe this mentality is strong in the States and most likely elsewhere in the World. When home owners feel the sting of their utility bill, they may be ready to make a change that will help them lower it. When driving the SUV gets too expensive, they may be more willing to down size to a fuel efficient ride. Cost will drive change. I have heard that things may have to get worse before they get better. I am not sure how much worse things can get while still being able to respond and step towards “better”, but I see the truth in the statement. I look for the upward swing to start in 2008.

5. A slow return of our economy.
I hope this is true for green construction. With the housing industry in a huge slump, many ‘would be green buyers’ are not buying green. Instead, they buy an older house that is cheap and can be moved into right away. With an increased economy, the housing market can shed some of the extra weight it carries in housing stock and produce a more desirable market for new, green construction. In addition, an increased economy can support housing upgrades that improve the efficiency of the existing homes as described below.

6. Green remodeling.
Most folks are not in a position to buy a new house with the current state of the economy. If things do not increase like I predict in number 5, we will see a lot of green remodeling. People will work with what they have, their existing house, and find ways to improve the quality of their living situation. Products designed for remodeling use will see a strong surge in 2008.

7. Talk, talk, talk.
There will be lots of talk, and more talk than action. That seems to be the pattern of things here in the States. Don’t get me wrong, there will be action, but there will be more talk than action overall. I say this as a call to action for you all. Don’t let me be right on this one. Your actions change the World, one person at a time. Take action, and then talk about it. Don’t talk about it and neglect to move.

8. Caring.
I hope and believe that more people will start to care about the state of the planet. I hope and believe that more action will be taken on a personal level. From one person at a time, the World really can change. It starts with you and it starts with me. When you think to yourself: “does this action I am considering taking really make a difference?”, the answer is yes. As Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the World.”

My predictions may seem small, but I think that true change will have to come from the small efforts of individuals and the private sector. Like I say above, it is up to each of us to make the change we want to see. My personal goal for 2008 is to have all of my power needs filled by solar power by the end of the year, if not sooner. My heating and cooling bills are already at zero, now it is time for the rest of my power requirements to be handled by solar power. I am excited about this goal and have every intention of meeting it. What are your goals for 2008? I challenge you to write them down, share them with people you know and even post them here. Sometimes simply speaking a goal is enough to inspire action. For me, once I say something aloud, I feel more inspired to complete it. How about you?

20 Responses

  1. There may be some hope for vehicles, thanks, unintuitively, to Formula One racing. They’ve got environmental targets which, while easy for travel cars, are a tricky task for racing, and thus the technology for environmental friendliness is being pushed there. Most promising tech I’ve heard about possibly coming out of this – flywheels for regenerative braking. It’s similar to electrical regenerative braking, only it’s mechanical energy->(brake)->mechanical storage->(accelerate)->mechanical energy. With the simpler conversions, waste is vastly reduced versus current regenerative braking technology (I’ve heard over 90% efficiency). Also the flywheel tech doesn’t require any hazardous chemicals, is much lighter than an electric motor, won’t wear out as quickly, and even provides superior torque.

    It’s also worth considering flywheels as a feature in a small scale wind-generator system – the high efficiency in converting turbine rotation to flywheel rotation, and the surprisingly low friction (ie. good storage) of a good flywheel system, combine to make it especially good in conjunction with wind turbines – not least because if you turn your wind power into flywheel rotation, you can smooth out the output rather than having on-and-off unreliable power. Again like a battery bank, only more efficient. (Not sure whether it’d be any good to tie in to a solar grid – my guess is that it’s probably worse than batteries if you’re using photovoltaic panels, but would be great if you combine it with the more efficient solar sterling engines.)

  2. I think you are more right than we would like to be hearing. I have been writing a series of articles about how people can help their local governments get back to being public servants that assist the public, rather than public employees who direct the public. People generally tend to feel overwhelmed and (sometimes) fearful of effecting change at the local level. Usually because of an implied potential for retaliation on a personal level for “rocking the boat” so to speak.

    I am a strong supporter of load-bearing strawbale uses, composting waste management, and leaving a light footprint on my space. It is all about making choices, and we as a public most often have concluded that we do not have choices to make. That has a lot to do with how we evaluate our opportunities (as opposed to perceived obstacles).

    Our local governments will change when people support their ability to change. If we want reason, objectivity and equitable treatment on the local level, we need to dispense those very same virtues when we work with local government agencies of all kinds. And remain persistent, regardless of how much we need to reeducate employees at all levels (including elected officials) into understanding the benefits and wisdom of returning to the position of public servants who hold the public trust, not the public trough, on our behalf.

    I’ve been working in this field for over 24 years, and it does work—surprising my clients and others, too. But it does take perserverance, accuracy, consistency, and an objective dedication to the premise that serving the public is an honorable and rewarding experience.

    You are providing wonderful support for those of us who are out here working to make change within our own small spaces. The more we do this individually, the greater effect we will have on change in the larger arena.

    The first personal step everyone can take is to refuse, whenever possible, to purchase anything that does not support the move to a greener, and healthier, living environment. The more we ask, the greater the message up the line to where decisions are made.

    The second personal step everyone can take is to stay focused on where we want things to be, not how bad they are now. Doing this will help us and, by our example, others to rethink the choices we make — and the rationalizations we use — when deciding to take actions.

    Just those two things will initiate tremendous changes. And since I’m not from the government, you CAN trust me on this!

    Happy New Year and blessings to all!

  3. We would appreciate more information from RavenBlack about the use of flywheel rotation tech for small scale wind power generation, including references where my husband, a machinist, can look into more literal operation of such a system. We live off the grid and cannot, at this time, afford a modern solar system. But we do have decent winds available in varying degrees and directions. Thanks for making those comments.

  4. Andrew, things are changing, Here in Australia the old Government was thrown out mainly because of Global warming and lies, they made the mistake of believing people did not believe in GW. Currently our dams are at under 20%, only now are they installing re-cycled water to ‘top up’ the shortfall, water could ‘run out’ later this year. temperatures in some capitals hit 46 degrees , almost half the boiling point of water, here we have the edges of a cyclone system after months without rain. farmers are going to the wall (lets not talk about the suicides).
    People are now scared here, that is why things are changing.

  5. Just wished to share my gratitude for having a resource like your’s Andrew. Keep on reaching and helping others like me to do the same. There is another very good resource in the Solar News. It put out by the
    “Solar Living Institute” in Hopland California.
    Their site is They have been teaching sustainible living practices for years and are contributing greatly to change. It is a wonderful place to visit. Please check them out.

  6. Happy New Year Andrew, and everyone. I would like to thank you for your current blog and all the others thought the year. I feel your frustration regarding the slow move of gov. to adopt green technology and people to adopt every day practices. I work and live in a rural area of Canada (about 120miles north of the geographic center of North America?) anyone… anyone… ah, Rugby North Dakota I work in the field of conservation supporting landowners that wish to make land management decisions that have less of a negative impact on the environment. i.e. watering livestock away from water sources, preventing soil erosion etc. but it is very frustrating to see continued manipulation of the environment to try and increase profits (draining wetlands and removing bush to increase arable acres). Unlike the US, the Canadian Government does not support farmers with direct payments, and the only perceived option is to increase cultivated acres to increase income this however continues to devastate the biodiversity of the landscape and increases area under the influence of pesticides and inorganic fertilizers. The low level of awareness to the issues really bothers me, people here idle there vehicles while shopping, we do a poor job of recycling and municipal governments still routinely burn garbage including recyclables (plastics) it really gets me down and I appreciate “Jan’s” comments about focusing on the positives.
    This morning I woke to -20 degrees Celsius, and continued my efforts to learn about how I am going to build a greener future for myself, my family and help bring awareness to my community. I am fighting very cheap hydro-electricity and a general resistance to change, not to mention a lack of green construction practitioners.. Here we burn more straw than anywhere, and there are a very few straw bale buildings but a very few people are becoming exposed and this will only grow. I agree with Andrew, it is hard to cough up the extra capital to build green and it literally keeps me up at night wondering how I will convince my wife, my neighbors and the lending institutions that it is the only way! But Andrew is on the right path, writing blogs and trying to expand the amount information available to people is the best tool we have.. I sincerely applaud your efforts Andrew and really hope you keep up the great work you do.. I extend the invitation for you to come up here and help a small band of Manitobans increase the awareness of the benefits of green building. Andrew Morrison for President!

  7. Thanks for such a great and heartfelt message to start the New Year with. This is giving me a bit of hope for 2008! Hope you enjoy many of your favorite beers!

  8. Hello Andrew,
    I just wanted to let you know that I think your doing a great job getting the word out. I am building a straw bale home in southern California and have been getting a wonderful response from the public. Our project got the attention of the discovery channel and will be featured in the next few months as soon as we are done. It is my mission to spread the straw gospel and to get green on everyones mind. I would love to talk with you further about education program for my project and networking with your deal. I am already listed in your resource page. I have gotten a few responses and plan to have people lining up when the see our home on the discovery channel. Also I am building some great connections with northern and southern California straw farmers. I have access to thousands of bales in rice or wheat. I want to be neck deep in the green and straw movement. Our home is a 15 year dream come true. We have a lousy green movement down here ,but it is growing. I look forward to meeting you in the future and hope I can help in anyway your cause. Keep up the great work, 2008 is the year for green.

  9. I would like to start the new year with an optimistic expression: I believe that we will see the light and will awaken to help nature regenerate itself. Just look at the massive awakening on the subject in the last 10 years. Where was the level of human consciousness on these topics? We have a long way to go, but we are on the right track!

    I also have a question: Who knows the state of building codes, say in LA County, with respect to straw-bale building? My wife and I are buying this small & very old house and need to update & add rooms, but want to go green.

    Much Love

  10. Thanks to all of you who have given me words of support. I hope to increase the exposure of straw bale construction to the world in 2008! Again, simple steps by each of us will make a difference.

    I do not have personal experience with LA codes. If there is some one out there who can answer this question, please do. Thanks.

  11. Thanks to Ryan Canart for your response; couldn’t have said it better myself. You put it all into “hopeful and possible” words, in spite of any obstacles in our path. Bravo to the new year and to you all!

    I really have come to love this website. NOW if I can just get those hindrances and road blocks out of the way… 🙂 smile!

  12. Andrew, I have been looking and learning from your web site for two years now. I have also bought products from you and have to give you a high five for the work you have put into the web site. It seems to improves each month. I have to agree with most every thing you predicted for 2008. With that said, I am starting on my third straw bale in two years and will do my part in making sure the people in my area (Calif. and Arizona)become educated about what Green can do for them and our planet. I send many people to your site and appreciate your dedication and honest opinnions. As an advertiser on you site I am proud to be part of
    Keep up the good work!

  13. “Be the change you want to see in the World.”

    Couldn’t agree with you (and Ghandi 😉 more…

    To that extent I have part of ‘my change’ in place — and it addresses your points made in #3 & #4 — the auto industry. I have finally purchased an electric vehicle (no small feat in this country). It’s a Twike, and it hails from Switzerland/Germany.

    Ghandi’s words resonate with me as I live and work on-campus at the University of Illinois, so hundreds (if not thousands) of our future leaders are exposed to it by merely driving it every day to work and parking it conspicuously. It is in-fact one of the reasons I bought it — a lot of green things do not stick out enough to be noticed…

    Of course my dream is to setup a Strawbale Passivehaus-compliant Twike factory here in the US (and by ‘factory’ I of course mean ‘home/factory’ 😉

  14. Andrew, I feel like all of the talk will eventually pay off. When information is shared people can help to lessen their impact and bring about a positive change. Change on a large scale has traditionally taken a long time, but today information is only as far as our computer. If we can use this information and move together forward in unity.

  15. One of our initiatives will be a homebuilt windmill, which we hope to tie into the grid, which will be our “battery bank”. Right now, getting up-to-speed on my ability to weld and machine metal. Some ideas on modest-cost controls.
    We think solar (PV) is still too expensive for us — I think it’s now between $5 and $10 per watt of capacity. I hope to do my mill for about $1/watt — we’ll see if I’m too optimistic!

  16. Andrew and all,

    this post is a bit old but in our hurried world i am just getting around to reading it.

    I love your post and i save them to a special folder so i can go and read them on a quite early morning as this.

    I have been concerned with the enviroment for many years and I have tried to make a small difference in my own ways.

    I try not to by products served in stryofoam and i have been happy to see that more and more of the big food places are not using it any more. I try to grow a garden every year and honestly i am not that great of a gardener but i try and I think that counts, for every year i can grow food at home keeps one more truck off the highway sending up poison in to the atmosphere.

    I love the strawbale concept and have purchased three of your videos and want to convince my family and friends that it is a wonderful and tryly workable thing, but I dont think i can get them to agree until i can show them.

    I have a goal of making a small set of building on my land to use as a summer kitchen and guest house. I agree with the idea you have stated start small make a small building. It would not only get some attention of the people in the area but it would give me the needed experience to do the big build i have been planning and dreaming of for years and years.

    I think that change is happening slowly but surely as a person who has been aware of this for years I have watched the change, but i am afraid I am some of the Dead weight.

    I myself have not done enought to help heal the world.

    I recycle my aluminum, and i compost every thing that i can, I have been using the special light bulbs in my home since they first came out. I went and bought enough for my whole house, decreacing a lot of expense on my power bill right away.

    I have been trying to turn off computers, printers, chargers ect when not in use and this to has added to the power bill savings.

    I watched the video “Watt ours” and relized at what cost this power comes, and would like to get totally off grid and use solar and wind to do this.

    Again I am just talking ,the cost prevents me from doing as much as i would like, but I do what little i can, I have been using a solar charger to recharge my rechargeable batteries and a small solar panel to keep a trickle to my camper battery to keep it alive during the winter.

    In the spring, summer and fall I ride a electric scooter in to town and when i do my running around, people laugh when they notice this grandma on her scooter with her bike helmet, but they do notice especially the kids.

    I save about 50$ a month in gas just riding my scooter and I hear and smell things i had forgotten were out there. As i ride past a hay field and hear the birds in the brush on the edge of the field and smell the alphalfa as it grows.

    I am hoping I to can stop talking about being green and do more to be green.

    Doing anything you can helps so never forget taking the extra time it takes to take the cans to be recycled or seperating the trash to make sure you only put in the land fill what you cant use or recycle really helps.

    using sustainable building like your site shows makes so much sense we have straw every year as a by product of our grain production, using it this way saves countless trees and the more trees we save the more they can help us put back oxygen in to the atmosphere. plus not buring it reduces the poison we put in the atmosphere as well.

    There are many benifits of using this method,especially if you can incorporate solar and wind into it, the money spent up front comes back to you, but convincing my husband and the banks seems to take a bit more effort.

    Well enough of my ranting, I really just want to thank you for you efforts “keep up the good fight”.



  17. Does anyone out there have experience with commerical buildings and straw bale construction. We are starting a school in our local community and would like to build it green with a living roof, photovoltaic solar panels, low flow or composting toilets and straw bale walls – would be 12 thousand square feet. Is this insane or feesable? Any experience out there? Also architects – is it imperative I hire one with straw bale experience or an architect that has always wanted a straw bale project. I’m told many things can go wrong and make the building difficult to cool in the summer like building orientation (must be true south not magnetic south) and window placement etc etc? Also a contractor – how do I find one with straw bale experience.

    We want to build green and are spending countless hours doing research……

  18. Maggie,
    I strongly recommend hiring a contractor and architect well versed in SB construction and design for a project of this scale, which, by the way, is very feasible. At very least, hire a consultant to help you with the process. Where are you building?

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