Are Only the Rich Getting Greener?

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

As I travel across the country and talk to building professionals, I find there is a lag in the central part of the country compared to the coasts or metropolitan areas when it comes to embracing green/sustainability and building science.  This may not be surprising.  Many of the issues around green/sustainability are consumer awareness driven especially in the absence of subsidies or state-mandated programs.

Last year, the Department of Energy published statistics on the adoption rate of the Energy Star program across the country.  What they discovered was that the adoption rate was in direct proportion to the education level of the consumer.  People with higher education levels generally have more income, are buying new homes with more options and functionality, and choose more energy efficient products.   

In the parts of the country where residents are less likely to pursue post secondary education, adoption of programs like these is slower.  The questions I get in the rural areas of the country tend to be the same questions posed to me by people in more urban areas the previous year.

This is unfortunate.  I have talked about this previously with regard to nanotechnology and leveling the playing field for habitat equality. The people asking the least amount of questions are the people who need green technologies the most.  People on lower or fixed incomes need to control energy costs more than people with disposable incomes.  But, in reality the rich and educated are getting greener faster.

The building community needs to seek ways to provide these technologies to low- or moderate-income housing in lower income parts of the country where sustainability is critical because of the increased need to control energy costs.  

Is reduction of energy consumption important to people who are just getting by? Absolutely!  Is there a lag in the interest?  Yes, we do see it. Clearly, there is more interest in metropolitan areas than in rural America.

The message needs to be driven home in all parts of the country and at all income levels.

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation. 

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