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 in 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.
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.
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?