This past weekend, The Los Angeles Times published an insightful, inspiring profile on a pioneer in the green home movement who I was previously unfamiliar with: Julia Russell of the Eco-Home Network.

In 1988, Russell opened her Eco-Home — a historic, 1,100 square-foot bungalow in the Los Feliz neighborhood of L.A. — to curiosity seekers interested in witnessing sustainable living up close and personal. Since then, more than 150,00 folks have toured Russell’s humble abode outfitted with solar panels, a composting system, backyard clotheslines, a graywater recycling system, and a water-conscious organic garden that provides the bulk of Russell’s food. This past June, Russell, 74, “retired” and gave a final public tour of her home, although the nonprofit Eco-Home Network will live on.

Read the whole article on Russell and her Eco-Home here. It’s a beautiful, fitting tribute to a woman who invested in eco-friendly home improvements long before it was fashionable. Back in the late '80s, I imagine backyard composting and rooftop solar arrays garnered more eye-rolls and WTFs than fist bumps and accolades. In turn, Russell was branded more of an eccentric than a revolutionary and her home was viewed as a novelty, not as the template for sustainable living. Russell admits that even her children asked: “Mom, why do you have to be so weird?”

Despite embarrassment from her children, Russell says of her journey, "I was finding that I was benefiting myself so much. I was healthier, happier. Far from being a sacrifice, it was a great enrichment in my life."

Do you have a friend, family member, or neighbor who, like Russell, has been practicing home energy- and water-conservation long before it was mainstream? I'd love to hear about them in the comments section.

Via [LA Times]

Screen grab via Tavis Smiley/PBS

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.