As a soon-to-be graduate student in environmental management, I was eager to read “Sustainability” by Stuart W. Rose, Ph.D. for a better sense of the challenges involved in developing sustainable communities, from sourcing recycled materials to planning a home that uses as little energy as possible. While many people see these challenges as good for the environment, they often fail to see how they can also be beneficial for the homeowner: lower utility bills, improved indoor air quality, and increased happiness.

A real sustainable home, as Dr. Rose found, takes things into account like, passive solar design, indoor air quality, limiting environmental damage and our emotional well being. It also means changing the way homeowners value a home: utility bills, better health, etc. With this in mind, he decided to build a small cluster of sustainable homes in Poquoson, VA. This book follows the author from his initial thoughts on sustainable building through his efforts to make the dream become a reality.

Sound boring? It wasn’t. I was shocked at some of the behavior! Especially things like the town councilmen (elected by the people to work for the people) who made decisions about concepts they didn’t understand but couldn’t be bothered to take the time to research!

Also of considerable interest, Dr. Rose explains that emotional and spiritual happiness is the final piece of the sustainability puzzle. While most people think of the physical aspects of the environmental movement — renewable energy, electric cars, organic food — we tend to forget that happiness, fulfillment and love are just as important to living a successful sustainable life.

Overall, the book is easy to follow and presents some very interesting possibilities for the future of sustainable housing and the types of communities they can foster. Considering that I am someone who believes in the future of sustainability so much that I am willing to put myself into considerable debt to complete my master’s degree in this field(!), this book reinforced both the challenges and the triumphs that have already occurred and has energized me for my future as a part of this movement.

What do you think of sustainable homes — The way to your healthy future or, a great idea — but not for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

by Louise Hill