The hard-partying village of Ocean Beach on Fire Island, a 31 mile-long barrier island off the coast of New York's Long Island, is dubbed "The Land of No." There are rules and regulations for just about everything in Ocean Beach ranging from eating in public to disrobing on the beach to barbecuing after sunset. An eight-bed (1 bunkbed, 4 singles, 1 full, and 1 queen) Ocean Beach share house "mistressed" for the last four summers by my friend Sophie Donelson and her husband Greg garnered a few resounding "yeses" when scrutinized by an erstwhile sharemate/green home auditor.
• This is a summer rental. The seasonal tenants have little or no control over most of the major household purchases — appliances large and small, furnishings, etc. The owner of the house is in complete control of those things.
• The house is occupied late May through early September .... good news because any signs of winterization are nonexistent. The electric baseboard heaters are rarely used and, for the most part, windows stay open in an effort to keep heat out of the house.
Although the washer/dryer combo in the house sees plenty of action, housemates prefer to dry beach towels and clothing the old fashioned way: hanging 'em out to dry in the sun (+3).
Hotel-curated mini bottles of shampoos, conditioners, and body washes rule in the outdoor shower. Finds includes natural 'po by Kiss My Face for the Standard New York. Double points here: everything — both hotel room and economy sized — is earth-safe since the shower water heads straight to the ground beneath the shower. (+3).
The outdoor shower, naturally, is the most popular of the house's three showers. It could benefit from a low-flow showerhead (-2).
Natural, plant-based sun/body care products from excellent botanical-based Greek beauty line Korres sits beside a bottle of chem-based (and flammable) bug spray (0).
Large communal dinners, daytime drinking, and dirt are de rigueur in Ocean Beach. Eco-friendly products from Nature's Source help with the clean-up (+1).
With up to 12 people staying in the house at one time, piles of dirty dishes accumulate quickly. There's always a full load using eco-friendly dishwasher tablets from method running (+1).
The propane grill is another much-used household item. They may not please BBQ purists, but propane/gas grills are dramatically cleaner-burning than charcoal, especially briquette, BBQs (+2).
All the furnishings in the house are ragtag flea market finds and lived-in outcasts from the owner. Nothing new and shiny here. This faux cowhide chair is one of my favorites (+2).
With no cars on the island, save for emergency and maintenance vehicles, the main form of transportation to get to and from town: a rusty bicycle (+3).
Full sidewalk-side recycling is collected by souped-up golf cart-driving driving sanitation workers once a week. (+2).
With an annual operating cost of $508 bucks, this electric-powered water heater is sadly, average. Solar powered, tankless, or new ENERGY STAR models would be both easier on the wallet and the environment. Solar would be an especially fine idea considering the part-time, summer status of the house (-5 points).
Ziplock bags are washed and dried for reuse (+1).
Total points = +11
This busy summer share house scored well. Big minus points for a complete lack of energy-efficient appliances but extra credit went to the housemates' efforts to air dry towels, bath with earth-safe products in the outdoor shower, and tackle messes with natural cleaners. The message here: even if a home is only used part-time by a cast of revolving characters (who, mind you, have relaxing on the brain), keeping it green is a cinch with foresight and organization.
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