A few suggestions to green your life.
It’s easy to jump on the green bandwagon, but this is not something new and trendy that will make us cool today. Being green is a way of life that many of our parents and grandparents embraced while we thought they were being cheap. Remember how they always turned out the lights and reused those paper bags until they were falling apart? If you don’t then your Mom and Grandma were of the consumer mentality that became the norm in the second half of the 20th century. We are now having to re-adjust our thinking to remember our conservative roots. By conservative I’m not talking politics, but the need to be good stewards and conserve our resources.
Fortunately today’s awareness of the need for sustainability along with new technology makes it easier for us to live an even greener life than our conservation minded forebearers. Architecture students are taught as part of their regular curriculum to use sustainable materials, take advantage of renewable energy sources, natural lighting, good site planning, and not waste products. “Green” developers not only use green building methods, but work with engineers and consultants on their site plans to save trees and native plants which require less watering and pesticides while incorporating better methods of drainage that do not cause excessive run-off such as pervious hardscape and driveway materials and rain gardens.
So what can you do as the average person to be a little greener?
1. As your light bulbs burn out replace them with compact florescent bulbs, and for goodness sakes do as Mom did and turn out the lights, electronics, and fans when you leave a room. Take this one step further and plug electronics into energy strips so you can completely cut them off when not in use.
2. Turn your thermostat (preferably a programable thermostat) a couple of degrees lower in the winter and higher in the summer. When the temp is comfortable outside open up your living space. This not only improves the air quality of your home, but lowers your utility bills.
3. Use energy star appliances and electronics, and remember, you don’t need a TV in every room!
4. Plan your day so you don’t have to make multiple trips by car and when possible carpool, walk or bicycle.
5. Consider investing in solar hot water heaters, solar panels, roof mounted wind turbines, geothermal technology, and other renewable energy sources if you are a homeowner. State and Federal tax credits and incentive are often offered.
6. If building a home talk to your contractor to see how knowledgeable he or she is about sustainable practices and if he or she is willing to go the extra mile to build “green”. Green building may cost more up front, but the long term payback can be substantial, from lower utility bills to fewer health problems and allergies caused by toxic substances in the home.
7. Educate your self to the LEED certification process. Even if you don’t build a LEED Certified home you can go a long ways towards building a cleaner more energy efficient home if you understand the basics.
8. When landscaping use native plants. Natives are more adapted to our environment (duh!) and need less water and pesticides to thrive. Also, use pervious products for driveways and patios. Rain gardens can be beneficial in areas where poor drainage is an issue.
9. If restoring a home recycle as many of the original materials in the home as possible while increasing energy efficiency by using current green technologies.
10. When buying furniture consider used furniture and antiques. Think about it, you’re recycling! If buying new furniture consider that made of sustainable materials such as recycled and sustainably grown products. Watch out for toxic glues and outgassing in newer products.
11. Participate in your local recycling programs. If municiple or private curbside recycling is not availalbe in your community find your closest recycling center.
12. Try to buy foods and products that are produced locally or at least regionally. Support you local businesses!
13. Take your own reusable bags to the store when shopping. Speaking of shopping, think before you buy. Do you really need new “stuff”?
14. Get your hands in the dirt and grow some food.
These are just a few practices that can go a long way towards a greener life. Remember that life is not fulfilling because of what we have, but what we do. Our actions can have a significant impact on our children’s and grandchildren’s future.