This Spotlight is about Caroline (changed name), who did a project with me for Green Needham. We had a couple of work lunches at her house and she started telling me about what she and her husband had done, and I thought it was worth sharing. Caroline and her husband are young professionals with two preschoolers. So they’re um, kind of busy.
Their 1960s house, when they bought it, was the picture of an energy-slurper — no insulation, a clunky old gas boiler, bad windows. They thought of it as their “starter home” – one they would eventually replace with something bigger and grander.
Still, they wanted to not throw money out the window, so one of the first things they did was to replace the old boiler with a high-efficiency one – that just made economic sense. Then, they started to button the house up – one year, they put in triple pane windows, and another year, they had insulation blown in, and closed up the unused fireplace. That made things much cozier. They reprogrammed the sprinkler in their yard so it detects when rain is coming (and does not turn on). By 2016, their house was rated “top efficiency” for their neighborhood by the gas and electric company. Plus, they had replaced one of their cars with an electric vehicle, a spiffy, zoom-y Chevy Volt.
All of this, Caroline said to me, “just made sense”. But as they were doing this another transformation happened. Caroline and her husband realized they were really quite comfortable in their starter home. The mortgage and the utility bills are reasonable. The commute to work is short, making picking up and dropping kids of easy. This all makes it possible to live life more fully – including having spare some time to contribute to Green Needham. And they really didn’t need more space: “Small is beautiful” Caroline says.
Their next step is to plant more trees in the yard for shade so they can enjoy the squirrels and bunnies, and not to move to a bigger house.
This “Neighbor Spotlight” is one of a series about ordinary people in Needham doing extraordinary things to be a better neighbor to planet Earth. Please be inspired!
Babette Wils is a Needham resident and active Green Needham volunteer. Babette is stepping down from a career in international education consulting and stepping into a career as a food forest farmer. Read more from Babette at her BigFoot Gardens blog.