12 STEPS TO GREEN
Is the thought of a total green home renovation overwhelming? Are your current new dream home plans on hold?
In the meantime, consider helping the environment and creating a safer, more affordable home-sweet-home with a few simple updates. Here are 12 ideas to help you start making your home a little more green...
LOW VOC PAINT
Get a Paint Job: A new coat of paint can re-energize a home's décor and make it healthier, too. Traditional paints emit harmful volatile organic compounds (often called VOCs). Instead of exposing your family to these detrimental fumes, opt for new "low" to "no VOC" options on the market today. Literally freshen up your rooms with this simple makeover.
Not Your Grandmother's Rug: Like paint, some carpeting, pads and glues can release harmful VOCs, too. Look for new, healthy lines to install in your home. You may also consider modular carpet tiles, such as those made by FLORTM, that can be used to create highly customized designs. Plus, when a glass of red wine is spilled, you can take advantage of the company's recycling program and trade one or two old tiles for perfectly interchangeable new ones.
CFL LIGHT BULBS
Let There Be Light: Consider changing the light bulbs in your most frequently used fixtures to highly efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. According to Energy Star, these marvels of modern invention use approximately 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.
Editor's Note: Please know that these revolutionary CFL bulbs do contain a tiny bit of mercury (enough to cover the top of a ballpoint pen, or about 100 times less than that found in an older thermometer) so, when one burns out - which isn't often - it should be disposed of properly and, ideally, recycled. See Energy Star for all instructions.
ENERGY STAR® Upgrade: Cut down on your energy consumption by upgrading to new Energy Star-rated appliances and electronics. The organization has placed its blue star of approval on everything from dehumidifiers and refrigerators to ceiling fans and DVD players. Each product is designed to run more efficiently, reducing its "operating cost." For even better results, remember to unplug all electronics while not in use.
Take Your Temperature: Most have heard the adage that you should move your thermostat down 2° in winter and up 2° in summer to save electricity (according to Energy Star, almost half of the energy we use in our homes goes to heating and cooling). For even better results, consider installing a programmable thermostat that will automatically adjust for day vs. night and/or days of the week, depending on the model. Finally, don't forget to clean or replace filters on your furnace and air conditioner.
Keep a Tight Seal: No matter how superb your HVAC system, you won't see the results if you do not protect your home from uncontrolled air leakage those spots around your windows and doors where your expensive heated or cooled air slips outside, virtually unnoticed. New caulking and weather stripping around windows and doors is a big help, as are those handy draft "pillows" that you can lay by a door.
Love Low-E: Short for “low emissivity,” these state-of-the-art windows improve the insulation value of the window itself. This is a more significant upgrade to consider, but if you live in an older home, it can make a huge different on your utility bills, and make your home far more comfortable, too.
Let It Rain: Beyond installing water saving faucets and fixtures, further improve your water bill by installing a rain barrel (or two or three). You can buy them ready made, or make one yourself. The barrels collect rainwater runoff from your roof via your gutters and store it for later use watering your lawn and plants.
Compost It: Want to really pamper your begonias? Start a compost pile using grass clippings, leaves and organic kitchen scraps. Pick an out-of-the way spot in your yard, and the pile can start on the bare ground, or you can build or buy a container. (Again, your local Cooperative Extension office is a great resource.) In time you will have the most wonderful, nutrient-rich soil to cultivate your plants with, while simultaneously reducing the amount of organic matter in landfills. An added bonus? Little ones will also appreciate a virtual science classroom in their own backyard.
HEALTHY CLEAN PRODUCTS
Clean Green: Noxious fumes and chemicals don't have a place in your home. Trade out old, harsh cleaners for gentle and natural ones made by companies such as Method, Green Works or EcoQuest. Follow the individual product directions for a sparkling, clean home.
Buy Local: Opt for locally grown produce and locally-crafted housewares and furniture to not only support your neighbors, but to help cut down on transportation and packaging needs normally required with interstate distribution. Just don't forget to bring your groceries home in reusable shopping bags!
Recycle, Recycle, Recycle! Recycling should be a daily part of your routine. Utilizing separate "trash" cans saves you from sorting later in the week. One of the most important times to recycle, however, is during construction (particularly for a home renovation). Also, don't forget to buy recycled products. Paper products are a given, but branch out. Today, everything from countertops and decking to furniture and fabrics can be made from recycled materials, and, due to modern innovations in production, they may be difficult to spot. Don't forget to shop antique and thrift shops, too.
Start with these simple steps, and you will be on your way to going green. But don't stop here. There are an endless number of uncomplicated ways that you can be more environmentally friendly, from washing your laundry in cold water to installing low flow faucets and fixtures. Just have fun exploring your options!
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