from TreeHugger.com 2006 archives
by Lloyd Alter, Toronto
I admit it. I have a second home- I bought a geodesic dome many years ago, 20 foot diameter, sitting by the lake pictured to the right two and a half hours north of Toronto. Then it was quite acceptable for Bucky Fuller-loving architects to pile into VW beetles and drive off to domes surrounded by huggable trees. Now, TreeHuggers complain every time we show a cottage or cabin, saying that such a thing cannot be justified in terms of the resources and the carbon footprint. John Tierney of the New York Times ( copy here) did a disgraceful Al Gore/ Laurie David bash last week that criticized their ownership of second (and in Al's case, third) homes that we ignored at the time as being as part of a current stupid campaign to discredit him, but getting past the bashing, it is clear that the idea that second homes are sinful has resonated. I tried to do the math to see if we save enough electricity not having any air conditioners or appliances for a month to cover the fuel burned getting up there and it doesn't. Since I now have to justify it, I will try and make a case that second homes are not necessarily evil.
1) People take vacations and go somewhere. We go to our cottage, a much shorter drive than we might otherwise, and we tend to stay put. My little four-banger Miata uses 15 litres (four gallons) of anybody-but-esso each way, which we suspect is less than many people use on a daily commute to work. Occasionally I take the train.
2) second homes do not have to be big. Ours is not, it is not heated, it is not insulated, it is for summer use only. When the outdoors is your living room you do not need a lot of space.
3) where else would we learn about composting toilets?
4) Logging is dead. Farming is dead. The only jobs in the local economy are in tourism and cottage support. We buy our vegetables from the gardener down the road and our groceries from the local family owned store, and we furnished the place from the exchange at the dump- one learns to live local and support your neighbours.
5) With the internet and good phone service, we work from there almost all summer. Some in our family never leave.
6) We use a fraction of the electricity that we do in the City (nothing to run) and water (we have to pump it and deal with it, there is no sewer to throw it into)
7) We recycle like mad- we are only allowed two bags of garbage a week at the dump so nothing goes in the bag that can go into the no-limit recycling bins.
8) Out of self interest, we become obsessed with water quality, the health of our local loons, the invasive grass or mussell that we have to stop. We want to protect our environment. Everyone who has a place up here is concerned about global warming (increased forest fire risk), climate disruption (big storms= more road repairs and taxes) and habitat preservation (see cute loons above)
So I am off to the cottage for a week to do my bit to reduce the peak load on our electrical grid, to save water and live with less, and I am not going to feel guilty about it.