Making a Difference

Stephen and Rebekah Hren

Rebekah and Stephen Hren

Credit: Andrew Cutraro

Rebekah and Stephen Hren make living green look easy. In 2006 the Hrens (he's a restoration carpenter and she's a solar electrician) bought a 1932 bungalow in downtown Durham, N.C., and gave it a green overhaul. Aware that restoring existing buildings is more sustainable than building from scratch, they purposely chose a historic fixer-upper in an urban area, Rebekah says. 

After a year and a half of work, they had converted all heating, ­cooling, and electricity in the house to solar power. And last year they published a book about their experiences: The Carbon-Free Home: 36 Remodeling Projects to Help Kick the Fossil-Fuel Habit (Chelsea Green Publishing, $35).

"I think preservation and environmentalism naturally go together," Stephen explains. "If we want to have a decent culture and a decent life on the planet, we have to preserve our architecture and preserve our ­environment."

How to make your historic home more energy efficient

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