TT: In your books, most homeowners keep their renovation costs relatively low by doing a lot of the work by themselves.
LT: Yes, but most of them aren’t professional [architects or builders]. They are teachers or electrical engineers or artists who don’t have a lot of money for remodeling. When they start working on their homes, however, they go in a unique direction.
I think that in many other countries, people are used to the idea of DIY or recycling materials to keep costs down. But many Taiwanese people assume that if they want to live in an environmentally-friendly home, you have to invest in a specialist to design the building. I want to emphasize in my books that you can do a lot on your own.
TT: If you are a renter and cannot make major changes to your home, what steps can you take to make your living space more green?
LT: It’s just a little thing, but you can start with raising houseplants. Even if you aren’t allowed to do a lot in your apartment, you can usually install shades. People always complain about the heat, but they can install blinds or curtains. It’s a small step, but it makes a difference as long as the curtains completely cover the window frame.
If you live in a rooftop apartment, which can get extremely hot, you can ask your landlord if you can plant vegetables up there. That’s another way of going green.
Another thing I want to start writing about is the fact that a lot of people want to build a home in the countryside when they retire. My argument is that there is so little space in Taiwan already, unlike in the US or Europe, where there is so much land that you can move anywhere. In Taiwan, we don’t have enough land to support every retired person who wants a country home. So why keep moving? If you have lived in a city for 30 years already, you can continue to live there even as you grow older.
If you didn’t have the time to make changes to the place where you live while you were busy working, you can gradually “green” your home after retirement. If you go green, and I go green, even if about 100 people go green, that would make a difference. If everyone who retired in Taipei figured out a way to stop using their air conditioners, the city would become less hot and humid. People shouldn’t run away from the city. Leave the country for farmers and animals, don’t damage their environment, too. Green the place where you live.
For more information, visit Lin’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/aling.life
This interview has been edited and condensed.