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Green living and saving money go hand in hand more often than you may think! We love this 4 minute video on eco friendly home products, and you can get them all at sustainablesply.com! Inhabitat shows how you can potentially knock hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars off your annual energy bill. On top of that, a home that is energy efficient can also dramatically transform how you and your family live by creating a comfortable space that promotes both health and well-being.
Sustainable Building is a great way to save money and make less of an impact on the environment. Using energy-efficient products in our homes seems to be the smartest bet for healthy living and a sustainable economy, right? All of these new green building initiatives leave us with new questions, though. Is green building really effective? Here are 6 of the most popular green building myths, squashed.
1: Green homes cost more.
Not really. Sustainable building supplies sometimes do cost more than conventional building products, but as technology moves forward, we’re seeing the cost of eco-friendly products become much more affordable. And on top of that, green building always saves money in the long term. Sustainable materials are more efficient, and thus don’t have to be replaced as often. So while initial costs may seem like a lot, green building offers better values when you consider the long term savings.
2: Green homes look weird.
Green homes can look like your home! It’s true; some of the early green buildings didn’t have a focus on design or architecture. The builders’ focus on features for self-sufficiency and lower costs took away from the overall aesthetic of homes. But if you’ve watched 5 seconds of HGTV, you know that now there are tons of options for sustainable building companies and green architectural designs. These days, green homes don’t have to look strange unless you want them to. And let’s be honest, some of the weirdest designs are pretty cool.
3: You can’t make an existing home green.
Wrong! Any home can have sustainable features. Incorporating energy efficient products and making upgrades on insulation, lighting, and solar panels, can make a huge difference without changing the appearance of a home. Upgrading windows, switching to HVAC equipment, sealing air leaks, and installing energy-recovery ventilation equipment are all examples of upgrades that will make a house more energy efficient.
4: Green homes can be too insulated or too tight.
Your breathing ability and air quality depends mostly on mechanical ventilation. Some traditionalists argue that houses need to breathe, and they caution against “too much insulation” and “building too tight.” However, uncontrolled air movement wastes energy, and doesn’t filter air efficiently. Minimizing air leaks and adding insulation helps control air movement to maximize benefits for home owners. To offset any “tightness”, a mechanical ventilation system not only circulates air flow, but also ensures that the air is fresh and filtered.
5: Low-flow toilets don’t work well.
Today’s low-flow toilets work great! At first, when the federal government limited toilets to 1.6 gallons of water per flush, early models of the low-flow toilet didn’t work very well. But neither did the first version of the iPhone, and how many more improved, awesome generations have come out since then? Times have changed, and homeowners now have more options. Today’s low-flow toilets, high-efficiency toilets, and waterless urinals work as well or better than older water-guzzling models. And they save you money every month on your water bill.
6: “Green” is just a passing fad.
Sustainability lasts. Eco-friendly, green, eco-safe- all of these terms are current buzzwords in our society. From kitchen cabinets to skylights to siding, consumers are looking for eco-friendly features for their homes, perhaps in part for the attractiveness of the green trend. However, there is no denying that sustainable houses last longer, have fewer problems, are cheaper to live in and keep people healthier and happier. High energy costs, limited natural resources, awareness of global climate change, better understanding of building science and growing health concerns are all contributing to a lasting sustainable economy. Green is a shortened term for a sustainable movement that will benefit our health, economy, and environment. Who doesn’t want that to last?
With a new year comes fresh starts, and a great time to start going green. Instead of the common new years resolutions of loosing weight, or quitting bad habits, why not make a green new years resolution? “The global community, and particularly people living in industrialized societies, have put unsustainable demands on our planet’s limited resources,” says Robert Engelman, President of the Worldwatch Institute, a global environmental research organization based on Washington, D.C. “If we expect to be able to feed, shelter, and provide even basic living conditions to our growing population in years to come, we must act now to change.”
The United Nations has designated 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. Broadening access to sustainable energy is essential to solving many of the world’s challenges, including food production, security, and poverty. “With so many hungry and poor in the world, addressing these issues is critical,” says Danielle Nierenberg, director of Worldwatch’s Nourishing the Planet project. “Fortunately, the solutions to these problems can come from simple innovations and practices.”
Here are 8 suggestions you may not have realized can make a huge difference:
1.) Turn on the tap : The bottled water industry sold 8.8 billion gallons of water in 2010, generating nearly $11 billion in profits. Yet plastic water bottles create huge environmental problems. The energy required to produce and transport these bottles could fuel an estimated 1.5 million cars for a year, yet approximately 75 percent of water bottles are not recycled—-they end up in landfills, litter roadsides, and pollute waterways and oceans. And while public tap water is subject to strict safety regulations, the bottled water industry is not required to report testing results for its products. According to a study, 10 of the most popular brands of bottled water contain a wide range of pollutants, including pharmaceuticals, fertilizer residue, and arsenic. What you can do: Fill up your glasses and reusable water bottles with water from the sink. The United States has more than 160,000 public water systems, and by eliminating bottled water you can help to keep nearly 1 million tons of bottles out of the landfill, as well as save money on water costs.
2.) Support food recovery programs: Each year, roughly a third of all food produced for human consumption—-approximately 1.3 billion tons—-gets lost or wasted, including 34 million tons in the United States, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Grocery stores, bakeries, and other food providers throw away tons of food daily that is perfectly edible but is cosmetically imperfect or has passed its expiration date. In response, food recovery programs run by homeless shelters or food banks collect this food and use it to provide meals for the hungry, helping to divert food away from landfills and into the bellies of people who need it most. What you can do: Encourage your local restaurants and grocery stores to partner with food rescue organizations, like City Harvest in New York City or Second Harvest Heartland in Minnesota. Go through your cabinets and shelves and donate any non-perishable canned and dried foods that you won’t be using to your nearest food bank or shelter.
3.) Buy local: ”Small Business Saturday,” falling between “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday,” was established in 2010 as a way to support small businesses during the busiest shopping time of the year. Author and consumer advocate Michael Shuman argues that local small businesses are more sustainable because they are often more accountable for their actions, have smaller environmental footprints, and innovate to meet local conditions—-providing models for others to learn from. What you can do: Instead of relying exclusively on large supermarkets, consider farmers markets and local farms for your produce, eggs, dairy, and meat. Food from these sources is usually fresher and more flavorful, and your money will be going directly to these food producers.
4) Get out and ride : We all know that carpooling and using public transportation helps cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as our gas bills. Now, cities across the country are investing in new mobility options that provide exercise and offer an alternative to being cramped in subways or buses. Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C. have major bike sharing programs that allow people to rent bikes for short-term use. Similar programs exist in other cities, and more are planned for places from Miami, Florida, to Madison, Wisconsin. What you can do: If available, use your city’s bike share program to run short errands or commute to work. Memberships are generally inexpensive (only $75 for the year in Washington, D.C.), and by eliminating transportation costs, as well as a gym membership, you can save quite a bit of money! Even if without bike share programs, many cities and towns are incorporating bike lanes and trails, making it easier and safer to use your bike for transportation and recreation.
5) Share a car: Car sharing programs spread from Europe to the United States nearly 13 years ago and are increasingly popular, with U.S. membership jumping 117 percent between 2007 and 2009. According to the University of California Transportation Center, each shared car replaces 15 personally owned vehicles, and roughly 80 percent of more than 6,000 car-sharing households surveyed across North America got rid of their cars after joining a sharing service. In 2009, car-sharing was credited with reducing U.S. carbon emissions by more than 482,000 tons. Innovative programs such as Chicago’s I-GO are even introducing solar-powered cars to their fleets, making the impact of these programs even more eco-friendly. What you can do: Join a car share program! As of July 2011, there were 26 such programs in the U.S., with more than 560,000 people sharing over 10,000 vehicles. Even if you don’t want to get rid of your own car, using a shared car when traveling in a city can greatly reduce the challenges of finding parking (car share programs have their own designated spots), as well as your environmental impact as you run errands or commute to work.
6.) Plant a garden: Whether you live in a studio loft or a suburban McMansion, growing your own vegetables is a simple way to bring fresh and nutritious food literally to your doorstep. Researchers at the FAO and the United Nations Development Programme estimate that 200 million city dwellers around the world are already growing and selling their own food, feeding some 800 million of their neighbors. Growing a garden doesn’t have to take up a lot of space, and in light of high food prices and recent food safety scares, even a small plot can make a big impact on your diet and wallet. What you can do: Plant some lettuce in a window box. Lettuce seeds are cheap and easy to find, and when planted in full sun, one window box can provide enough to make several salads worth throughout a season.
7.) Compost: And what better way to fertilize your garden than using your own composted organic waste. You will not only reduce costs by buying less fertilizer, but you will also help to cut down on food and other organic waste. What you can do: If you are unsure about the right ways to compost, websites such as HowToCompost.org and organizations such as the U.S. Composting Council, provide easy steps to reuse your organic waste.
8.) Reduce your meat consumption: Livestock production accounts for about 18 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and accounts for about 23 percent of all global water used in agriculture. Yet global meat production has experienced a 20 percent growth rate since 2000 to meet the per capita increase of meat consumption of about 42 kilograms. What you can do: You don’t have to become a vegetarian or vegan, but by simply cutting down on the amount of meat you consume can go a long way. Consider substituting one meal day with a vegetarian option. And if you are unable to think of how to substitute your meat-heavy diet, websites such as Meatless Monday and Eating Well offer numerous vegetarian recipes that are healthy for you and the environment. The most successful and lasting New Year’s resolutions are those that are practiced regularly and have an important goal. Watching the ball drop in Times Square happens only once a year, but for more and more people across the world, the impacts of hunger, poverty, and climate change are felt every day. Thankfully, simple practices, such as recycling or riding a bike, can have great impact. As we prepare to ring in the new year, let’s all resolve to make 2012 a healthier, happier, and greener year for all.
Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. For more information, visit http://www.worldwatch.org.
These are just some of many suggestions for how you can go green this New Year. To read more of this article visit: http://yubanet.com/enviro/12-Simple-Steps-for-Going-Green-in-2012.php#.TwNRC80gvel
Help the environment, and have an Eco-Friendly Black Friday by purchasing used books, with carbon neutral shipping. Save money while being ecoconcious, by entering coupon code “blackfriday”, and get 15% off 3 or more books this weekend. For every book you order, another book is donated to a literacy fund. You even receive a “certificate of goodness”, which thanks you for keeping books out of landfills, saving trees, an helping to fund children literacy programs. To read more about this green business, check out our blog on how Better World Books Makes the Printed Word Sustainable.
Sustainable building and green renovation are great ways to improve your own health, and the health of the environment. Not to mention they’re pragmatic ways for you to save money on energy bills, water bills, and more. As mentioned in 6 Green Building Myths Squashed, you can make any home more sustainable. But what if your home is over a hundred years old? Those charming homes often have creaks, nooks and crannies that- in all of their enchantment- are strikes against home sustainability. Carolyn Sperry states in her article on green renovations for old homes, “It’s more challenging to make major changes without compromising the structure’s unique period features… but green living and preserving a historic home don’t have to be mutually exclusive.” Here are 7 tips for green renovations in older homes:
- Replace old windows with energy efficient windows
- Seal windows, doors, and outlets
- Insulate pipes, ducts, attic floors, and basement ceilings
- Inspect paints, replace dangerous chemical paint walls with no-VOC paints
- Use water-based stains, water-based adhesives, and recycled wall paper
- Use local products and sustainable products, ie; sustainable harvested wood, recycled linoleum, and local stone
- Replace old hardware and fixtures with water-saving models
These green renovations will leave the structure of your old home intact, but improve the energy efficiency overall. You also have the option of installing or improving wall insulation, however this can “compromise period features and permanently alter the home”. No matter the age or condition of a home, there are always options for improving the efficiency and over all sustainability.