Recycling has been in vogue elsewhere before Portlandia. Growing up in Hong Kong I remember shopkeepers wrapping their products with newspapers in neat packages tied with seagrass. The expertly tied seagrass loops act as carrying handles. One can carry quite a few these packages on a single shopping trip. My family used newspapers as a “table cloth” for the dining table, especially when eating crabs. We ate dinner and kept up with current events at the same time. As a child, I couldn’t wait for my father to finish his Tsingtao beer so I could return the tall, green glass bottles to shops for deposits. Grey water collection was a must. One learned quickly the value of water after waiting in line for hours to fill the two buckets per family. Water(Chinese: 水; pinyin: shuǐ) in Cantonese slang means money. No one ever brushed their teeth with “money” flowing freely down the drain. I mean no one.
Seattle was my first taste of west coast living, after having lived up and down the east coast in small towns and big cities. Never have I been so excited about my throwaways; I get 3 bins to sort things out!
And I love those orange or grey barrels swollen underneath the downspouts, making a statement for the homeowners. Shopping at Value Village gained a new meaning when one of my landscape design instructors showed off to the whole class the jeans she got at the store. Recycled clothes are very fashionable. And green.
The longer I live in Seattle, the less comfortable I feel when I travel elsewhere to visit friends and family. I miss my recycling bin and compost piles. I cringe when others throw away perfectly good egg shells, orange peels, and coffee grounds in their garbage! I am proud to be a Master Composter from the Seattle Tilth.
Two years ago I went on the Green Home Tour sponsored by NW Eco Building Guild. I visited homes built with recycled or reclaimed materials to reduce waste, some with green roofs and living walls to slow storm water runoff and filter pollutants. I marveled at homes with systems to collect grey water to flush toilets or cisterns to collect rainwater, which is potable once filtered. And I was very impressed with homes that were extremely energy efficient. Inspired by the tour I joined the guild afterwards so I can learn more. Along the way, I met Ted Clifton, Jr. of TC Legend Homes who built in Ballard the first net-zero-energy house in Seattle. The Ballard house is owned by Eric Thomas and Alexandra Salmon and was on the 2012 Green Home Tour. I also met George Ostrow of Velocipede Architects, who holds Green Fridays in his office, during which he shares his knowledge and consults on green building for free. On one of those Fridays I told George that I wanted to have a super energy efficient home with cisterns to catch rain water, a grey water collection system, solar arrays couple with solar hot water, radiant heat and blah, blah, blah…Sure.
This April, just before the 2012 Green Home tour, I bought a house in the Hillman District of Green Lake. A small house on a small lot within walking distance to things I love, especially Whole Foods on Roosevelt and the new PCC Natural Market that will open October 2013! I was on my way to having a green home.