A former editor at Dwell, Amara recently left the glamorous life of a magazine staffer to pursue her freelance writing dream. She has written for Sunset, Wallpaper*, the Architect’s Newspaper, VIA, and Apartment Therapy.
As more and more Americans are quickly discovering, the land beneath our feet is not quite as solid as we thought. Houses slip down hillsides, trees float down rivers, and whole cities disappear under swirling water.
Every hour, enough sunlight hits the earth to power the entire planet for a year. But since they’re pricey—and, let’s face it, generally unattractive—solar cells are still woefully underutilized and most sunlight lays fallow.
It’s not unusual for New Yorkers to have problems with their neighbors; after all, many a co-op brawl has started over a little late-night noise. But it is rare for the downtown crowd to have a beef with a pack of rowdy beavers—which is exactly the situation in which architect Lynn Gaffney and her husband, financial portfolio manager Bill Backus, found themselves recently at their weekend home in the tiny town of Sharon, Connecticut (population: 2,968). The beavers, who reside in the swamp behind Backus and Gaffney’s house, generally keep a low profile, but every so often let loose with a torrent of logs and sticks that block all the nearby drainage pipes, making a watery mess of local roads and forcing residents to haul away the detritus.
A bird flying over Houston, Texas, sees only a sprawling canopy of trees. It seems the perfect nesting place for creatures both avian and human alike; unfortunately, the green ends at the tree line. All of those leafy branches shade a city that appears to care little for sustainable design, with cars that chug gas by the low-mileage gallon and oversized houses that dominate the persistently expanding cityscape.
In the great American quest for more stuff, big-box stores are nirvana, laden with cheaply priced items by the ton, from diamond earrings to toilet paper. So isn’t it a good thing that many of them now tout sustainability? It is, of course, a little more complicated than that.