Encinitas Resident Conserves Every Drop To Combat Climate Change
This is the first in a two-part series on local homes designed to minimize environmental impact. Read the second part here.
It's been hot in San Diego. Record temperature hot.
Our utility grid is taxed, and water is in short supply. Scientists predict all of this will continue thanks to climate change.
Many people are doing what they can to reduce their impact on the environment, but some take it much further than others.
Take Dadla Ponizil. In the past 10 years, the Encinitas resident has transformed his home into a green building wonderland.
"My motivation is primarily to stop climate change," he said. "I'm very concerned."
But Ponizil, 56, doesn't let this concern weigh him down. He calls himself an Energizer Bunny, and he seems to move even faster as he excitedly shows off his home. It's clean, comfortable and tastefully decorated. The many, many green building innovations he's added aren't immediately obvious, but if you look closely you'll see them.
In the bathroom, next to the shower, a small switch is labeled "garden" and "drain."
"We have gray water from this shower," Ponizil said. "So when I put this button down, now the water in the shower is going to the backyard."
All shower water can be used on the garden as long as he and his wife use biocompatible soap. And each shower uses about 30 gallons of water, he said.
A pump also catches the tap water that runs while he's waiting for water to get warm. A solar water heater then warms that water and cycles it back through the faucet.
In the summer, Ponizil said, the utility bill for his 2,198-square-foot home is just $5 a month, which covers the connection fee.
Ponizil's walls are a cool green — and not because he likes that color.
"What you might think is paint is not paint," he said. "This is all-American clay. It's an earth clay. It adds thermal mass to the building. So thermal mass is like when you're in a cave, and it's really cold. It's because all the stone absorbs the heat. And even though it could be 90 degrees outside, in the cave it's really cold."
Ponizil and his wife, Judy, remodeled their home before he knew about green building, so there are other changes he wishes he'd made, like using cotton batt insulation in the attic. But in some ways he got lucky.
"You may think, oh, these guys were so smart to build on the north side of the property so we have south-facing windows," he said. "Well, I didn't know any of this when I did the remodel. I was totally ignorant of green building."
His house is surrounded by trees, and plants grow above the windows, bringing a lot of shade.
"We put this overhang lower, and then we grew this wonderful vine over it," Ponizil said, pointing to his bedroom window. "It has these really pretty white flowers that I don't know the name of, but they smell really good."
In one place, Ponizil added a metallic sheet called Aluminet to keep out more sun.
The house is also approved as a wildlife habitat. His garden is filled with trees bearing apples, lemons, apricots and macadamia nuts. And he gets his own honey from his beehive.
Ponizil works as a green building consultant.
"If it weren't for climate change, I'd probably be building guitars or something," he said.
He charges $15,000 to $30,000 to upgrade a building's insulation. It's worth it, he said, and not just because of utility bills.
"If we can reduce our building emissions, we can take away all of that heat trapping gas going to the atmosphere, which is going to slow climate change," he said. "If we insulated every building in this country, we'd probably stop climate change."
Ponizil seems like a relentlessly optimistic cheerleader for combating climate change, but he's also realistic.
"I wake up every morning thinking we're screwed, but then I'm not really happy with myself," he said.
As government leaders debate new laws to combat climate change, it might be tempting to feel little responsibility for your own carbon footprint. But Ponizil won't accept that excuse.
"I'm not ready to give up. And I don't think anybody would be happy taking the easy road and saying, 'Oh, the hell with it. We've just messed it up,'" he said. "I'm here to ask for help because I can't do this by myself. I'm getting old."