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Green at Home - An Overview

Sustainable living involves conserving resources and energy both at home and in the community. Following are some simple suggestions for living green and saving energy and money at home. As all homes and families are different, we are including a variety of suggestions – some of which are mutually exclusive. Some of these suggestions cost money; others require simple adjustments to a family‘s daily routine. All steps taken towards sustainable living are valuable and contribute to walking lighter on Earth.

 

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The list below addresses some remodeling ideas, but does not include new green home construction recommendations, which we plan to add to the future editions of the guide (Green Building 101: A Basic Guide to Green Building Industry Resources and Information).

 

Conserving resources:

  • Transportation – reduce the usage of fossil fuels:
    • Walk, ride a bike, or taking public transit to your destinations whenever possible.
    • If you must drive, take as few trips as possible.
    • When buying a car, look for the most fuel-efficient model that meets your needs, and consider buying a hybrid. Rethink the number of cars your family needs.
    • Consider telecommuting to work.
  • Purchasing – buy locally, bring your own bags, and buy used whenever feasible:
    • Buying locally keeps the local shop owners and service providers in business thus assuring a varied and thriving community.
    • Purchase your produce from a local grocer or a farmers market. Buy organic and locally grown food whenever possible. Consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture model farm – members buy shares of the farm‘s crop, and receive fresh, locally grown produce during the growing season.
    • When shopping for furniture, household goods or clothes consider buying them used in a local re-sale store. You are likely to save a lot of money and divert goods from landfills. You might also be lucky to find high quality goods for a fraction of a price you‘d pay for the same item if it were new.
    • Buy goods (toilet paper, paper towels, printer paper, trash bags and others) made out of recycled materials, with high percentage of post-consumer recycled content.
    • Pick goods with a minimal amount of packaging whenever possible.
    • Consider NOT buying. Books, films, and music can be loaned from the libraries. Many neighborhoods have tool exchange co-ops. Many items that you need sporadically can be borrowed from friends and family.
  • Recycling – divert reusable materials from landfills:
    • Familiarize yourself with the local recycling program. Most communities recycle paper, cardboard, glass, metals (soda cans and steel cans), and selected plastic containers. Encourage all of the family members to recycle.
    • Resell or donate your unwanted electronic, kitchen, and other equipment. If the equipment is obsolete, look into a proper way of discarding it. Many municipalities or private recycling organizations will accept electronic waste and appliances and get rid of them in a sustainable manner for a small fee.
    • Donate used clothing and toys to appropriate charities or pass them on to people you know.
  • Kitchen – reduce waste:
    • If you have a garden, consider having a composter to reduce the amount of organic waste you throw away.
  • Water – reduce demand:
    • Install high-pressure faucets and shower heads.
    • When replacing older models, buy low-flow toilets.
    • Install a rain collection system; harvested rainwater can be used for irrigation.
    • Use native plants in your front and back yard. They are adapted to the local climate, and require little or no irrigation.

 Conserving energy:

  • Electricity powered equipment – increase efficiency and reduce power usage:
    • When replacing refrigerators, washers, dryers and others, pick ENERGY STAR rated models.
    • Turn all of the electronic equipment off (computers, monitors, printers, TV, DVD players, etc.) at the end of the day.
    • Unplug all devices with power adaptors when not in use – they use electricity even when not turned on.
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning – increase efficiency and reduce demand:
    • Hire a professional to optimize the working of your HVAC system. Have the ducts cleaned and all leaks sealed. If your ductwork is located in an unconditioned attic space, insulate the ducts.
    • Install a programmable thermostat, which allows you to set the temperature to different values at different times of the day.
    • Create a tight building envelope: install energy efficient windows, seal the gaps around doors and windows, insulate your attic and attic hatch if located in conditioned part of the house, insulate the floor over your basement if the basement is uninsulated, and add insulation to the exterior walls if needed and feasible.
    • Reduce heat gain through windows in the summer. Install blinds inside or exterior shading (overhangs, trees, awnings).
    • Consider installing a green roof if possible, which significantly lowers the cooling cost in the summer and acts as an additional layer of insulation in the winter providing savings on heating costs.
    • Consider installing light-colored roofing materials, which reduce the heat gain in the building during summer months.
  • Water heating – reduce power usage:
    • Set the water heater temperature to no more than 120 degrees. Insulate your water heater with a "blanket" (available at hardware stores).
    • Consider installing a tankless water heater.
    • Consider installing a solar water heater, which reduces energy needed for heating water.
    • Consider using a Wastewater Heat Recovery System, which uses the waste hot water to preheat incoming cold water; by doing so, as much as 60% of the energy needed to heat the water can be recovered.
    • Wash your clothes in cold water unless heavily stained.
  • Power – reduce demand for municipal electricity and your environmental impact:
    • Consider installing photovoltaic panels to reduce the need for electricity from the city grid.
    • Select "green power" options from your utility.
  • Lighting – reduce power usage:
    • Replace the incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones wherever feasible.
    • Turn lights off when leaving the room.
Protecting indoor air quality:
  • Cleaning Supplies – reduce toxic fumes:
    • Use natural and non-toxic cleaning agents.
  • Carpets, furniture, wall finishes – reduce toxic fumes:
    • When remodeling, buy products with low levels of VOCs (paints, adhesives, carpeting, furniture, and others).
  • Indoor plants – improve the indoor air:
    • Consider placing indoor plants around your home as they reduce the levels of VOCs in the air, increase humidity, and increase a sense of well-being of the occupants.

 Stormwater management:

  • Reduce the amount of stormwater that leaves your property to lessen the load on your local sewer system:
    • Install a green roof if feasible.
    • Harvest rainwater and use it for irrigation (ready rainwater barrels are available at hardware stores, or they can be made at home).
    • Plant a rain garden to increase infiltration of the rainwater on your property.
    • Install permeable pavers or gravel on your driveway and outside parking areas to increase on-site infiltration.

To learn more about increasing the energy efficiency of your home, see the following document created by the U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Savers Booklet.

 

Excerpted with permission from Green Building 101: A Basic Guide to Green Building Industry Resources and Information.

 

 

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Green at Home - An Overview:  Created on July 26th, 2011.  Last Modified on July 30th, 2011

 

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About Rate It Green

Rate It Green (www.rateitgreen.com) is an online community for people interested in finding and sharing the best in green building and design products and services. The company aims to facilitate an open marketplace where everyone can shop for and buy green products confidently. The Rate It Green site features a green building product and service directory and user-driven Green Ratings system as well as The Green Forum where members can share their thoughts and ask questions about a variety of green products, services, and related topics.

 

 

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