I adore my parents -- Dad’s a superior court judge and Mom's a kindergarten teacher -- and all of their qualities and quirks. However, keeping a green household has never been one of their strong suites. Or so I thought. I took advantage of a snowbound holiday visit to my childhood home to see where my parents are and aren't picking up the slack when it comes to green housekeeping. I was pleasantly surprised by some finds like their vigilant recycling of plastic bags and found room for improvement in other areas such as household cleaners.  Below is my official green home audit with photographic evidence. The total score follows. 

1. Like every year, my parents opt for a real live noble fir Christmas tree (+ 2 points) instead of one made from toxic PVC. Sadly, the tree is festooned with strands of old-school Christmas tree lights instead of more energy-efficient LED ones (-2 points)



2. Creative reuse of an old album cover as wall art in the basement TV room (+2 points). 

 3. Track-lighting in the living room with CFL bulbs (+4 points) 

4. A non-ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher (-4 points)

5. An ENERGY STAR certified flat screen television (+4 points)

6. Evidence of some serious plastic bag recycling (+2 points). Evidence is sitting atop an energy-sucking microwave oven circa 1985 (-3 points). 

7. Full-to-the-brim recycling bin (+ 5 points). 

8. Scented candles galore but none of them are soy-based (-2 points)

9. Vintage oak stereo cabinet (+3 points). 

10. A rather toxic assortment of bathroom cleaners (-4 points)

11. Another noxious brew of products found in the laundry/utility room (-4 points)

12. My mom subscribes to at least two dozen magazines. This is just the basket of recent National Geographics. When finished with her magazines, she recycles them by dropping them off at a local women's shelter or the county jail (+2 points)

13. Several years ago, my parents swapped out a wood-burning fireplace for a pellet stove. Although it doesn't provide the same type of cozy heat as a traditional fireplace, pellet stoves are considered much more gentle on the earth according to The Green Daily: For one, pellet stoves don't emit air pollutants such as carbon monoxide like most wood-burning fireplaces. Secondly, they burn C02 neutral wood pellets made from compacted bark, sawdust, agricultural waste, and biomass fuels. They can be a bit more costly and do require electricity to operate, but in terms of air pollution and fuel, pellet stoves win the eco-race. (+5 points)

Total Score ( plus 2 bonus points cus they're my parents) = +12

Improvements could be made in appliance-land and with the selection of household cleaning products in the kitchen, laundry/utility room, and bathrooms. My parentals' recycling habits, vintage furnishings, and the pellet stove scored 'em big points. Overall, not too shabby. I'm excited to see what steps they make in the coming year. 

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

The green home audit
Unsuspecting homeowners (my parents) are visited by a green home auditor (me).