A healthy interest and commitment to ecological concerns can be best realised at home. The thinking behind a sensible green home makeover should be to modify and remodel, rather than to attempt a complete restructuring program. A remodeling can be done in a logical manner that makes the most of tried and tested techniques of both money and energy-saving procedures. Here are five of the best ways to create an eco-friendly home.
When undertaking a large scale home renovation it can be tempting to take an ‘out with the old and in with the new’ approach to remodeling. From both an ecological and financial point of view, this method of simply throwing things away should be avoided at all costs! The key idea here should be to recycle. Home residents should aim to reuse items themselves wherever possible and if not, to take them to a registered charity or ecological group. The dumping of perfectly recyclable electronic items can cause highly toxic waste. This can be easily avoided through the use of eco-companies that can collect and recycle items. Customers may even be able to sell them their old phones, TVs and computers as an extra cash incentive.
4. Sensible insulation
A logical and well thought out attitude to home insulation should be taken by everyone about to remodel their home. Practical methods of keeping the heat in and the cold out can offer drastically reduced energy bills as well as a greater degree of comfort in the home. As well as using high quality insulation materials on widow and door openings, a certain amount of common sense can make a great amount of difference too. Check for drafts and seal them off wherever they appear. This can soon make a home more efficient and can save both money and heat.
3. Eco-friendly home heating
A correctly balanced and green method of heating lies at the heart of every home. An energy efficient method of keeping interiors warm is important not only for comfort but also for the confidence provided by the knowledge of taking the greenest option. Companies such as Dimplex Canada can be a great way to do this. Their range of easy to manage floor and wall heaters can offer the most advanced forms of economical and proficient heating sources.
2. Full energy audit
A complete energy audit is an absolute essential for everyone looking to enjoy an ecologically healthier home. This form of assessment should be realistically completed before anything else, so that the residents know exactly what kind of a remodelling task they have in front of them. The ability to see a complete breakdown of exactly where and how energy is being used throughout the home can point the way to making the best savings. It has been estimated that a great degree of carbon emissions can be effectively cut through the use of regular audits to inform the remodelling process. Energy efficiency should also be central in the minds of anyone installing new electronic equipment. This is especially true of refrigerators, a notorious energy drainer.
1. Buy reclaimed and re-owned
Rather than spending money on brand new items for a remodeling, why not make use of reclaimed and re-owned items? This can have a positive effect on both a bank balance and the world in general. As one of the simplest ways to take a green approach it is one of the simplest, and potentially the most effective.
Jeremy Thompson is a freelance writer from Toronto, Ontario. Most of his article cover environmental issues and what can be done to make the world more sustainable.
Flip The CF Switch
If you’re looking for a simple switch you can make to save a little bit on energy bills and get more out of your lighting, replacing the incandescent light bulbs around the house with their superior CF counterparts is an easy move to make and one that energy providers, the government, and environmentalists have been encouraging since at least 2001 despite their existence on the market for more than 25 years.
The cold hard facts are that by replacing just one incandescent light bulb in each American home with a certified CF light bulb, the amount of energy saved would light more than three million homes for a year saving $600 million and significantly reducing the amount of greenhouse gases produced.
Why are CF light bulbs so effective? Compact fluorescent lights use less energy and have a longer life span than incandescent bulbs and have also made great technological strides improving their light color and consistent lighting performance. Thanks to the combination of a gas-filled tube and an electronic ballast, CF light bulbs emit ultraviolet light which creates a phosphor coating inside the tube which then radiates visible light. Their efficient technology uses about 75 percent less energy than standard bulbs so by replacing a typical 75W bulb with a 20W CF bulb 1,300 lbs. of carbon can be saved.
Though CF bulbs have a higher initial price tag than incandescent, they can outlast an incandescent from anywhere between 5,000 and 14,000 hours saving plenty of money over the years on replacement bulbs. One energy aficionado’s calculations predict that a single Litetronics 5W 300 lumen bulb that cost $10 will last for 96 years. With a bit more initial investment in more efficient light bulbs, estimations are that home owners could save anywhere from $400 to $1500 in light bulbs over the bulb’s lifespan and up to $22 in energy usage per year. Understandably, it could be hard to justify replacing a perfectly good incandescent bulb with a new CF bulb so start with the rooms you light up the most to start seeing the effects of making the switch.
Early versions of the CF light bulbs were reminiscent of flickering, buzzing back room fluorescent fixtures with a harsh light output, but new technology and advances in energy efficiency have produced new CF bulbs that meet the silent and white light expectations of incandescent bulbs. There are also a range of sizes and light fixture adapters now available that allow replacing incandescent bulbs with CF to be a hassle-free process.
New technology will continue to make it easier to integrate efficient and sustainable products into the home, but it is the home owner’s responsibility to make the green change. Switching out a few light bulbs is a good place to start.
Reduce Your Curbside Trash
Making the home a greener place to live does not need to be accomplished by eco-friendly construction materials and sustainable resources alone. In addition to standard reuse and recycling practices, composting is an ideal way to make the most of your waste, and you don’t need to live on a farm to do it.
Compost is the result of the decomposition of organic matter and can be used as fertilizer and soil conditioner in landscaping, in gardens, on farms, and in any horticultural practice that requires nutrients to flourish. The act of composting household waste means there is less trash accumulated that must be managed at landfills thereby making even the smallest difference in reducing the amount of landfill space needed to hold our trash.
Composting is a natural process that involves the circulation of air, heat, water, and food that support microbial life allowing organic waste to decompose. A balanced proportion of carbon-rich materials often referred to as “browns” and nitrogen-rich materials, called “greens” will create the best environment for decomposition. A good rule of thumb is 25 parts brown to one part green for speediest composting and minimal odor. There are a few basic components required for successful composting and multiple variations to the system.
Since the majority of what you will compost at home will come from kitchen scraps and yard waste, it’s important to have a bin separate from your trash can in which you deposit waste intended for the compost pile. However, because you can also compost things like hair, dryer lint, and cardboard you may want additional separate trash cans or bins in the house to collect the most amount of compostable materials for your pile. Make sure the bins have air tight lids to prevent bugs from gathering and to reduce any smell the waste might generate.
Selecting a location for the outdoor compost pile is relatively simple so choose a spot that is convenient for you, preferably on a lawn or soil to invite worms and other decomposers. A contained three-foot by three-foot space is sufficient for your compost pile and this larger size will allow the maximum amount of heat to build up in the pile. There are myriad bins you can buy or you can certainly make your own reusing any extra wood or plastic scraps on your property; ensure there is an aerating lid to trap heat and allow for air circulation. Create a bottom layer of grass clippings for your greens and add dried leaves, cardboard, straw, or shredded cotton clothing for the browns. Begin adding waste materials from your indoor containers as often as possible keeping the main pile moist and enclosed. Stir the main pile once or twice a week to encourage aeration and help reduce aerobic bacteria. With proper attention, most compost piles will not smell unless meat scraps and high-fat foods are introduced to the pile which have a stronger smell and are more likely to attract insects.
The combination of the materials composted, the level of involvement of you as the composter, and environmental factors like temperature will all affect the time it takes for your pile to become usable compost. When you have a layer that is dark, earth-smelling, and can sift through your fingers, separate this layer for use in your garden and stir up the rest of the pile to continue decomposing. Your roses will thank you!
How to Select A LEED-Certified Hotel
The influence of greener building practices is a widespread initiative among architects, contractors, and suppliers. Integrating eco-friendly building techniques into the home can be a little expensive but because it increases savings in expenses down the road is a realistic choice for home builders and owners to make.
When owners of commercial buildings and public properties choose to go green, there is no doubt they are taking on a costly project but it’s worth it to achieve green building goals. For eco-savvy travelers, it’s nice to have accommodation options that take the environment into consideration.
By following the guidelines and criteria set forth by the USGBC, hoteliers are able to build green hotels to high standards and also enhance the traveler’s experience. A new Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott-Inner Harbor that is set to open in Baltimore in spring 2009 will be Baltimore’s first LEED-certified hotel and the features that have been integrated into its design promote environmentally friendly building practices as well as green and healthy lifestyles. Owners and builders of the new hotel took its location into consideration and ensured that it will have good access to public transportation as well as bicycle storage and changing rooms so that employees and guests are able to reduce their carbon footprint. The hotel is in the historic Jonestown District, on Baltimore’s Heritage Walk, and on the site of the former Baltimore Brewing Company at Brewer’s Park. Builders will be reusing materials from the original brewery such as beer storage tanks that will be used to collect rainwater; hardware; bricks; and the original Baltimore Brewery sign, which meets the goals to be both environment-conscious as well as supportive of local history.
Many of the green building practices that the new hotel will represent are standard among other LEED-certified buildings and should set the traveler’s mind at ease. For the Baltimore hotel in particular, no deforestation is required to build it as it’s all part of an urban redevelopment plan and because of the urban location, construction will be done in such a way to minimize environmental impact, pollution, and waste.
LEED designs integrate storm water management, light pollution reduction, enhanced fresh air intake and use of natural light, the use of recycled construction materials, and sustainable refrigerants to operate more efficient HVAC systems. Simple things like making recycling storage containers available for guests will make traveling routines similar to those at home by allowing people to continue their green lifestyles on the go.
Though the new Baltimore hotel is a $23 million project, Bill Marriott announced at the groundbreaking ceremony that the Marriott group is on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one million tons, a goal that was set in 2000.
If you’re used to your green habits at home, seek out a LEED-certified hotel when you travel; it’s guaranteed they share your same awareness for the environment. At least you know where to find one in Baltimore.
In 1970, the first Earth Day motivated and energized people to take action and think differently about life on the planet. Earth Day itself is about educating, celebrating, and becoming engaged in ways in which we can improve and reduce our impact on the environment around us. Fortunately, the good behaviors of Earth Day have been increasing and spreading for 39 years and things like recycling have become second nature.
As more and more individuals, communities, schools, businesses, and governments become involved in the types of things Earth Day encourages, there is an ever-growing opportunity to make a difference today, tomorrow, and every day. Use Earth Day to jump start even more eco-friendly behaviors in your lifestyle. Need help getting started? Here are eight easy ways you can reduce your carbon footprint and improve your impact on Mother Earth:
No matter where you are, you have an opportunity to recycle used items rather than throw everything in the trash. Instead of sending all your waste to landfills, pick up recycling bins from your local distributor and start sorting. If you’re lucky, your recycling center won’t require you to pre-sort your items, but all you need is one corner in the kitchen, garage, or outside to place a bin or bag where you toss your recyclables. From cleaning containers to food containers, cereal boxes to paper napkins, and junk mail, much of what comes into the home can go out of the home in the recycling bin rather than the trash can. In addition to “standard” recycling, e-waste now also has recycling solutions. Trashing cell phones, computers, and other electronics contributes highly toxic substances into soil and groundwater, but with today’s recycling programs, old electronics can be safely repurposed.
The best way to integrate good reuse practices into your lifestyle is to modify your purchase habits so that you are buying durable products with long life spans. Choose items that can be reused rather than trashed or that can be repurposed for other uses. Instead of buying paper plates and napkins and plastic serving ware, pull out your own plates, silverware, and cloth napkins for the next party. If you’re headed on a road trip, take a mug from your cabinet to use at the coffee shop instead of their paper or Styrofoam cups. Opportunities to reuse items you already have also inspire a bit of creativity-who said you can’t use a glass spaghetti sauce jar for your goldfish?
Reducing is the practice of minimizing the amount of “stuff” that you use and throw away in order to avoid making waste in the first place. If you carry reusable grocery bags with you to the store, you are by default reducing the amount of bags you might have otherwise used. If you carpool to the gym, work, or the store with a friend or neighbor, you are reducing the amount of carbon generated by multiple cars. If you rely on natural light to fill your room (so long as you can see), you reduce the amount of electricity you are generating. Like many other eco-friendly habits, reducing must first start with making the choice. In this case, we must decide to use less as often as we can.
Do you have a mattress, TV, or bike that you no longer need or want? If selling on eBay is not up your alley and all you want is to move your goods to a new home rather than the landfill, Freecycle is an international, non-profit, web-based solution. The Freecycle Network has over 4,700 groups with over 6 million members and all you have to do is join your local Freecycle Yahoo Group and you can post, share, give, and receive products for free and save them from going to the landfill.
While there are many reasons for maintaining a “paper trail,” much of what used to be done on literal paper that kills trees and takes up space on desks, in drawers, and in files can all be done electronically. From note taking to letter writing to bill paying to shopping, you can save trees and reduce trash by choosing to do as much as possible online. There are many options for electronically paying bills and when you can shop online, why do you need to receive the catalogue? When paper does come into play, be sure to first use it for scrap paper before tossing and when it’s time to toss, recycle it.
The closer the food, products, and services you buy are to your home, the less they have to travel to get to you; and less travel means less energy expended on the overall production of that item. Buying local also eliminates the need for a “middle man” and is an investment in your local resources as well as the environment. Try your local farmer’s market as a starting point for buying local and get to know where your food is coming from.
From the home to work to school, there are many ways to reduce the amount of energy you use that you can implement wherever you are. Turn off lights when you’re not in the room. Unplug items that are finished charging. Use CFL bulbs in place of the incandescent, energy-consuming alternatives. Make sure your appliances are in good working order to reduce energy drain. Insulate your home and replace drafty windows and doors to improve the heating and cooling of your home or office.
It’s reported that a family of four uses up to 400 gallons of water a day. By making a few simple changes in routine, we can help conserve water for future generations. Little changes make a big difference: turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth; only run a full dishwasher; repair leaky faucets and toilets; and choose products that meet water-efficiency programs.