We are all home makers. One way or another, each of us gives our house the human touch that makes it a home and an expression of ourselves. But making a home is not simply a matter of style and management. It is also a matter of ethics. Our priorities are expressed through our homes, and if keeping the planet habitable is priority for you, your home becomes an extension of those priorities.
The trouble with sustainable homemaking these days is that many people are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of advice and information as well as the scale of problems. They are paralyzed by the magnitude of bio-geo-socio-political global challenges and the intimidating lists of “55 easy ways to be green”. Additionally, folks here in the Bay need advice tailored to the humid tropics, especially since so many green products being featured in the magazines and blogs are import items.
Well, I’m here to say: you can make the world a better place by starting at home, here. Each of us putting “our own house in order” is a necessary mosaic of change that directly impacts our future as a species. Designing our homes for a habitable planet is a bottom-up-approach that doesn’t wait for top-down institutional solutions that may never come.
Because our homes and gardens truly impact the world for better or worse, I am going to create a 3 part series on the matter, tackling design, materials and construction considerations/garden recommendations tailored to the humid tropics. This is especially relevant to those in the dreaming stages of their home creation. Retrofitting an existing home actually requires extra creativity because the homeowner usually inherits the inadequacies of poor design and poor material selection. On the other hand, there is arguably nothing greener than something already made, so retrofits may need to focus on products that can amplify their sustainability, some of which may need to be imported.
A few of the recommendations are based on my personal experiences and plans for the next house we design – you won’t see those tips too many places and they are very tailored to our experience in Nayarit. Several of the principals will refer to past articles I have written, which can be reviewed online with the links provided. The series will be laid out in the order of
1) Design
2) Material selection
3) Garden Best Practices and Construction Logistics
We will begin with Design in the next article. The design of your personal domain, your little world. In the meantime, look at your blueprints again. Look around your home. But this time, think of it as part of a habitat and an ecosystem. Is it a source of toxins? Is it working with or against the elements? What will it become a hundred years from now? Discovery begins with questions. And change begins with you. You are a homemaker. Does your homemaking value your home planet?

Emily Majewski
Emily Majewski is Co-Founder of PHYTOSTONE, a small firm based in Nayarit dedicated to creating advanced natural materials for home and garden.