Shared mansions

Floorplan of a divided mansion

I love walking through fancy neighborhoods.

During those walks, I often think, what if that couple shared their oversized house with other people? Do two people really need seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms?

So I came up with a solution to a question that was not asked.

Large houses could be shared.

Dividing up a house into three separate dwellings would have so many benefits:

  1. The most significant benefit could be increased mental health and social wellness. Three empty-nest couples who were good friends could band together to create one of these multiple-family homes. For their entire shared time in that building, they would have built-in friends for dinner parties, happy hours, morning coffee or just borrowing some Grey Poupon.
  2. Shared dwellings have a smaller environmental footprint than single-family dwellings. For example, one driveway in snow country takes less energy to plow than three separate driveways.
  3. Choosing such a dwelling would make a statement among your peers about the value you place on community and sharing.


  1. Zoning for a multiple-family building in many fancy neighborhoods is not currently possible. That would require a major cultural shift. “Influencer marketing” could make this possible… a famous person who catches this vision could wield enough influence to change local laws.
  2. Selling individual homes within a larger building could take longer than traditional single-family dwellings. This would also require a significant cultural shift.
  3. Scheduling a party would necessitate communicating with your neighbors about when the hot tub and swimming pool would be booked. But there are apps for that.


  1. After zoning is in place, an accomplished architect could design appropriate buildings that would ensure privacy for all occupants and good access for all to mountain or ocean views.
  2. Existing buildings could be converted. Heavy sound insulation could be added between each home. Additional three-car garages could be added and creative driveway solutions to provide access to each. Below, I grabbed a big house floor plan (top) and created a three-family building (bottom). I did a quick mockup by adding two additional garages and divided the footprint into three homes. (It’s a crude mockup – obviously, the front porch would be converted to a closet. The rear porch would become a master bedroom, etc.) And each home would have its own kitchen, porch, bathrooms, laundry rooms, wine cellars, etc.
Large home floor plan
Floor plan of a large single-family home
Floor plan of a large single-family home converted into three separate family dwellings
Floor plan of a large single-family home converted into three separate family dwellings



I realize this is not a new idea. It’s happening in different ways all over the world. But I have not seen this in very many posh neighborhoods.


How to solve global warming

nightime skyline with office lights on

Global warming, whether you believe in it or not, is bad.

Or you can say we’re just in a big swing of climate change that will correct itself someday, somehow.

In either case, we can do a little bit here and there to make a difference about the increasing temperatures of our globe.

One small thing that wouldn’t be hard – turn off those lights in downtown offices.

A big plus to this happening is that the coal-fired power plants could run at less capacity at night.

It wouldn’t be that hard to accomplish…

All offices would have motion detector light switches that would turn the lights off between 7 pm and 5 am. If someone were actually working at night, they would just move and the lights would stay on for another hour.

The federal, state and local governments would pass this as a law, giving businesses a year’s advance notice.

Light switch creation and installation businesses would be funded by … well, I came up with the rest and will leave that idea up to you.

The photo was shot by Jörg Angeli and is used under a Creative Commons license.


Such a waste

label of discarded Starbucks Christmas coffee

Every May across the USA, students exit their dorms and apartments and return to their ancestral parental homes.

They leave behind a ton of stuff.

My daughter moved out of her college dorm room for the last time in May. As we were hauling her stuff down to the car, she pointed out the “grab anything you want” pile.

One student had thrown out their Christmas coffee beans. The package was almost full.

Another left a perfectly good Apple USB-C charger.

I grabbed the beans because even though they were not fresh, they would supplement my coffee mixture for a good number of mornings. And I knew I could use the charger somewhere.

We also bolstered our snack stash for the journey home.

That was just the tip of the iceberg.

We didn’t need a couch, and none of the clothing fit my style.

Multiply this by 5,300* and you can imagine the number of truckloads going to landfills – tons and tons of valuable stuff just wasted.

An environmentally-aware entrepreneur could prevent that waste by creating organizations to intercept discarded goods before they enter landfills.

* That is the approximate number of colleges and universities across the USA.


Shameful package design

two pill bottles - one empty and one full

Glucosamine is a health supplement that supposedly helps with range of motion and joint pain. So I’ve used it for years.

The problem is that it’s expensive. So I usually wait for BOGO deals (buy one, get one free).

I recently got that deal with two bottles of Osteo Bi-Flex.

After I got home, I discovered that both bottles were less than half full! So I combined them and still had room left in the bottle.


  1. The consumer thinks they’re getting more than they actually are.
  2. The product takes twice as much shelf space.
  3. The product takes twice as much space in a truck on its way to the store.
  4. The consumer pays for twice as much packaging.
  5. Twice as much plastic is being manufactured from crude oil.
  6. Twice as many bottles are likely thrown away or possibly recycled – and trucked to the dump or recycling center.

Come on, companies – wake up and stop wasting our resources!


Environmentalism – two steps forward and four back

bamboo forest

I love to do what I can to help our planet.

Recently, I’ve been hit with ads for bamboo toilet paper and paper towels on Instagram.

Another set of ads features an environmental advance hitting the world of laundry soap. You can buy soap for washing clothes that comes in sheets. Buying those prevents manufacturing and disposing of those giant plastic containers the soap comes in and shipping 80% of the product’s water to your local emporium.

But there are two serious problems with these products:

  1. Cost: they are way more expensive than most alternatives.
  2. Shipping: it’s a big environmental cost to ship those things one-by-one (or even two-by-two) to your door.

We bought a “make your own shampoo” kit from a small company recently. It came in a nice cardboard package with no plastic. It consisted of a small bar of soap that we broke up, melted over the stove, added water and shook vigorously.

The shampoo is nice – very silky, and it makes our hair nice and clean.

But it was shipped to the US distributor from New Zealand!

So the two principles of bad cost and worse shipping definitely applied.

I know that early adopters must help fund cultural change. But count me out, in these cases. When they finally hit the supermarkets, I’ll be 100% on-board.

For now, at least, we are buying cardboard boxes of powder laundry soap – you know, the way it used to be sold.


  1. I wrote these posts on bamboo toilet paper: one and two.
  2. That lovely photo of a bamboo forest in Kyoto, Japan, is courtesy of Adam Dillon on Unsplash and is used with permission.

Staying environmental in the face of Covid-19

shopping cart filled with groceries

The world has thrown being environmentally aware out the window as we’ve faced the Covid-19 crisis.*

There’s disposable everything… gloves and sanitary wipes get thrown by the side of cars. To-go packaging from restaurants is almost always plastic. (And they usually also throw in a bunch of plastic cutlery.)

If the grocery stores in your neighborhood are like those near me, they won’t let you bring your own reusable bags into the store.

There is one thing you can do.

Keep groceries in your cart as you bring it to your car or bike. Then put your goodies in your reusable bags to carry home.

Simple. Easy.

* Yes, I do know about the massive decrease in consumption of some consumer goods and lessened vehicle use, resulting in greatly reduced air pollution.


One cup at a time

ceramic and glass drinking vessels

You can save the planet – one cup at a time.

Well, I am overstating the impact of switching to a ceramic or glass drinking vessel, but you can save a lot of waste by asking for a “drink it here” vessel when you visit Starbucks for a sit-down drink next time.

Here are a few advantages:

  • You’ll prevent landfill accumulation.
  • You’ll save on manufacturing and transport costs for the cups, straws and lids.
  • You’ll enjoy the nicer feel of smooth ceramic or glass against your lips, compared to a thin plastic lid or a straw.
  • You’ll make me happy.

A simple way to make a difference – with paper towels

paper towel hanging from an automatic dispenser

It’s super simple to use less resources.

Many times when I visit the men’s room in my office building, I hear men get two or three paper towels from the automatic dispenser.

It’s very easy to dry your hands with just one towel. Use every corner of the towel and dry each part of your hands more than once.

And think of that savings multiplied by once or twice a day times however many days you work a year… that is a lot of paper.

The saving is more than just paper. There’s the total cost of consumption to consider.

And you will be saving your property management company money that they will not have to spend on more paper towels.


Bamboo, part 2

bamboo toilet paper package

Bamboo is a very sustainable plant. It’s super fast growing.

I wrote recently about bamboo toilet paper, and I did end up getting two packages from a company called Brandless.

The verdict = overall fail:

  1. The toilet paper was made in China. Shipping wood-based toilet paper from Arkansas has got to have a smaller environmental impact than shipping bamboo-based toilet paper from China.
  2. Shipping two packages to my door via UPS has a worse impact on the environment than adding some to my shopping cart at my local supermarket during the weekly grocery run. And I couldn’t find bamboo paper at any local stores.
  3. The paper is a little rough compared to the economy Kroger brand we normally buy.

Having said all that, I believe in Brandless. They are trying to be more organic and sustainable about most of the products they sell. And some of their prices aren’t bad. But I won’t be a frequent flyer, as shipping costs raise the costs to more than we normally spend.

Being good does have its costs. Sometimes I’m willing to pay the price and other times not.


The beauty of bamboo

seventh generation toilet paper package

I came across a brand called (ironically) Brandless. Their Facebook ad was effective enough that I clicked through.

The Brandless product that caught my attention the most? Toilet paper made from bamboo fiber!

Bamboo grows at a rate of up to 36 inches (91 centimeters) in 24 hours (source).

Think about it – a regular tree takes way longer to grow. If we converted all our forests dedicated to producing toilet paper into bamboo forests, we’d use up a lot fewer resources. Think: reforestation in a much shorter time period.

The amazing thing is that the price of this Brandless product is just $3 for 6 rolls. True, there may be just 12 sheets per roll, but it’s worth a try.

I haven’t signed on the dotted line yet – but I’m seriously considering giving this one a go.

Footnote: I took this photo of toilet paper at my local Whole Foods. Surprisingly, they do not sell bamboo toilet paper.