This Sustainable Lifestyle Pyramid diagram serves as an outline of how property owners can make the utmost use of their piece of ground. It encompasses desired lifestyle, energy efficiency, environmental awareness, ecological care, and long-term sustainability.
At the base of the Sustainable Lifestyle Pyramid are the two cornerstones of a property intended to be a homestead: House and Landscape. People live in their homes, obviously. Their property should complement that home, provide sustainability options, and serve as a destination that matches their lifestyles.
Next to the cornerstones are the critically important factors of Siting and Location. Location is a major factor for the landscape because it involves where the property is situated. Is it in an urban or rural location? Siting studies the piece of land for solar, wind, soil, drainage, and other factors to determine the best place to put the house. Obviously, lot lines and ordinances are considerations, too.
Where someone chooses to purchase their piece of property determines what they will be able to do with it, which is why Education is part of the foundation as well. Potential, and existing, homeowners need to learn about the possibilities for a place where they will spend a majority of their lives when they’re not at work, and maybe their property will also be the place where they work. If quiet, peaceful sleep is important, for instance, it will be important to look for property away from busy, major interstate highways. Likewise, if being close to work or social activities is an important variable, a country estate may not be the most viable choice. Having a home-based business could mean access to high-speed Internet connections and other amenities, such as parking space for customers, which then become determining factors in location and siting.
Lifestyle becomes a consideration at the basic level because a property owner who wants to raise chickens may encounter problems with municipal ordinances. Having fruit-bearing trees on the property can provide a sustainable source of food while adding to the aesthetic beauty of the land. Lifestyle considerations include such factors as whether the owner likes to entertain or simply have a peaceful retreat, whether they want a showcase in the neighborhood or it’s more essential to have gardens where they can work on raising hybrid flowers or a productive vegetable crop.
At the next level up from the foundation of the Sustainable Lifestyle Pyramid are two factors influencing the sustainability of the house and two factors impacting the landscape.
Energy efficiency involves looking at options such as earth sheltering, the heating source in northern climates, windows, shading, passive solar applications, and numerous other choices. Houses need to breathe; yet the building needs to be as thoroughly insulated as possible to prevent heat loss in winter and cooling loss in summer. Making the right choices at the beginning of the process likely means a more significant outlay at first, but the long-term benefits for a sustainable, low-maintenance, high-efficiency lifestyle far outweigh the initial investment.
On the property side of the pyramid, water capture and land use involve wise use of natural resources available through proper landscaping. When rain falls, it needs to go somewhere. Most modern landscapes channel the water away from the home, across the lawn, and into the storm sewer or drainage ditch … where it is lost to the homeowner. Water can be diverted to cisterns, ponds, or swales where it can be used as nonpotable water or for irrigation and a multitude of other applications, with proper landscaping.
Determining how the land is to be used can make the maximum use of every aspect of the property to sustain the homeowner’s desired lifestyle. Open, treeless areas can be good locations for solar panels or garden beds. Mature tree stands can provide scrap firewood for brick ovens, fireplaces, or masonry heaters. Often, it’s merely a process of thinking through the potential uses completely, and then determining which are most feasible to fit the lifestyle preferred by the property owner.
As we move further up the Sustainable Lifestyle Pyramid, we look at factors such as maintenance. If the owner wants to minimize the work involved in maintaining their home and land, options such as a steel roof are considered, as are prairie grasses and other alternatives to gravel mulches and lawns. To reduce reliance on energy from utility companies, increased insulation choices are complemented by wind, solar, and other passive alternative energy sources. On the landscape side, how the captured water is to be used become considerations, such as outdoor showers and drip irrigation systems. We also consider the different applications available to the property owner, such as fruit tree orchards, vineyards, vegetable gardens, domesticated animal habitats (chicken coops, dog runs, rabbit hutches, etc.), and a myriad of other options.
As the foundation fills in and the Sustainable Lifestyle Pyramid grows, efforts are directed at making sure the house and home complement the various aspects of the property and landscape. A perfect example would be cultivating an herb garden close to the kitchen preparation area. The landscape should also complement the house, such as providing shade on the house in the morning or afternoon to reduce energy consumption on hot summer days.
When these elements come together, the property owner achieves the lifestyle that is desired and a destination that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. They also are able to sustain that lifestyle in a highly efficient, low maintenance, and cost effective manner for years.
That is the epitome of a sustainable lifestyle.