A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this building show is squarely targeted at the most environmentally minded viewers; it's so firm in its stance against "toxic" construction practices that it may have you second-guessing that fresh coat of paint you've been thinking about. But guilt over your home's structure aside, there's not really any iffy content to object to, and you'll probably learn a lot about the environmental impact of waste and material misuse -- as well as get some ideas for making your home/remodeling projects "greener."
What's the story?
In BUILDING GREEN, host Kevin Contreras introduces viewers to environmentally friendly construction alternatives that can have a big impact not just on homeowners' quality of life, but also on the health and sustainability of the planet. This series takes viewers on tours of Contreras' own dream home, a state-of-the-art straw bale, super-efficient structure in Santa Barbara, California. As Contreras catalogs every moment of the building process, he explains the logic behind using atypical practices like blue jean insulation, bamboo flooring, and even bio-diesel fuel in the heavy equipment that prepares the construction site. In addition to touting the health and efficiency benefits of these options, he also refers to the overall effect that thoughtful planning has on the earth: Working with nature helps maintain the symbiosis at the home site and keep unnecessary building waste and hazardous materials out of landfills.
Is it any good?
While the series underscores the relative affordability of making green choices, it's here that the rose-colored vision is considerably less clear. Contreras gives cost tallies and comparisons when they're favorable to the project, like mentioning that the total cost of the straw bales for his 4,000-square-foot home was a surprisingly low $2,600. But he can be vague about actual figures for other items (like the intricate web of heating tubes laid within the foundation), often saying that while the initial cost of such changes may be more than standard alternatives, they'll save money in the long run. Probably true, but wouldn't it be nice to know how long and how much money that is?
If you're considering a building or remodeling project, Building Green will give you plenty of food for thought as you decide what's in the best interests of your family -- and the environment. It provides an intriguing look at how relatively small changes can affect our personal health and the planet's sustainability, and, at the very least, it may inspire you to rethink your own energy consumption and recycling practices. Just be forewarned that the show's hardcore stance against standard building practices may make you feel guilty that your house is insulated with fiberglass (rather than straw from a neighboring farm) or heated by forced air that also pumps pollutants throughout the rooms. If you tune in with environmentally minded kids, they're not likely to let you forget these shortcomings, either.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about environmentalism. What makes someone an environmentalist? What is the media's role in spreading environmental messages? What point(s) is this series trying to make? What do you think producers want the show to accomplish? Families can also discuss our own role in ensuring the planet's healthy future. Do you think the world population on the whole is compelled to make changes? How can we each make small changes in our own lives that will help? Do TV programs like this one inspire you to change your ways? Why or why not?
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