Before decamping to Cancun for a week, my friends Amy and Dave asked me if I could cat sit their little ones, Merle and Mona. What was the first thing that ran through my head a solid three weeks before being handed the keys to their one-and-a-half bedroom Brooklyn apartment? While the cat owners are away, the green home auditor will play.
Last month, I performed an informal green home audit at chez Mom and Dad. My parents scored well — my expectations were on the low side, to be honest — thanks to a pellet stove, evidence of vigilant recycling, and more.
This time around, the circumstances of my audit were different as I'm dealing with a rented apartment instead of a four-bedroom home that's been lived in by the same owners for 30-plus years. Plus, Amy and Dave are children of the late 70s and early 80s while my parents came of age in the 50s and 60s. Not that green homekeeping is necessarily a generational thing, but young urbanites living in a large, progressive city have an inherent advantage over an older couple living in a sprawling home in the 'burbs. But my parents, as homeowners, do have an edge over Amy and Dave: They have the ability to choose appliances of their liking, perform renovations, and are more in control of the overall energy consumption of their home.
Below is my green home audit with photographic evidence. The total score follows.
1. Although Amy and Dave are out of town for a week, several small appliances around their apartment remained plugged in and continued to guzzle energy. Read more about how to combat "vampire power" here (-3 points).
2. Three of several air-purifying houseplants (+2 points).
3. The door to the back balcony was super drafty and could have been easily remedied by a draft stopper (or a call to the landlord) (-4).
4. Organic catnip for Merle and Mona (+2 points).
5. The organic catnip was a great green choice. The conventional litter? Not so much. I get the feeling that Merle and Mona are somewhat attached to their Fresh Step, but perhaps Amy and Dave could test run an eco-friendly alternative (-4).
6. The other week, I admired reclaimed wood salt and pepper shakers from Domestic Aesthetic. I also admire these vintage finds. Again, another small but sustainable touch in the apartment (+2).
7. Eco-friendly dish and hand soaps in the kitchen (+2).
8. Having a car in New York City is more of a pain than a convenience. Amy and Dave rely on public transportation, a Zip Car (often a Prius) for out-of-town expeditions, their own four feet, and in the summer months, bikes, to get around (+5).
9. Craft-tastic handmade wall art made with old photographs and magazines (+1).
Total score = +3 points
Amy and Dave scored in the positive thanks to the no-car factor and an abundance of vintage and handcrafted tchotchkes around the apartment. However, in terms of energy consumption, they could have fared better. In addition to unnecessarily plugged-in appliances, there were a couple of draft "hotspots" that could be easily remedied with draftstoppers, weather stripping, etc. The kitty litter situation was also a negative as were a lack of CFL light bulbs. US Green Home offers a proper home energy audit checklist that I think they might find handy.