Source: Make it Better Magazine By: Kristina Tober
Go “Green” In Your House This Spring
Environmental issues abound in the news and many people strive to find ways of living a more sustainable existence even amidst the many relative luxuries in our lives. There are dozens of ways to make less of an impact on the earth by the choices we make every day regarding our homes, how we build them, furnish them, clean them and live in them. Highlighted here are just a few ways you can begin to think about conservation in your home. You might be surprised by how some simple choices can make a difference.
Buy Energy-Efficient and Energy-Saving Products
This applies to your heating and cooling systems as well as water heating, refrigeration/freezing, lighting, cooking and other light appliances. Since the 1970s the government has put large “EnergyGuide” labels on appliances so the consumer can use the information for comparison. Where a more efficient product is more expensive at the outset it will pay for itself over time. This is true not only on the big purchase of a refrigerator but also applies to the most efficient light bulbs.
Consider Water-Efficient and Water-Saving Products
On average, a single person uses thirty thousand gallons of water a year indoors. Thirty per cent of this water use is toilet flushing. There are low-flow toilets readily available and now required by many City Building codes. Faucet water flow accounts for fifteen per cent of household water use. The amount of water that flows out of an unrestricted faucet is about fifteen gallons per minute. A faucet aerator is easy to install if your faucets don’t already have them. Even simpler, only run the faucet while you are actually using it. Low-flow shower heads are readily available and though they are not consistent with the fashion of having the rain shower, a regular shower and the hand held shower, perhaps at least one of these could have a water-saving device.
Avoid Buying Toxic Products That Become Hazardous Waste
Many house-cleaning supplies are actually quite toxic. Items such as ammonia cleaners tile cleaners, chlorine bleach, drain openers, furniture polishes, lye, oven cleaners, metal polish and other items are all toxic and most have nontoxic alternatives. Alternatives are available at Whole Foods and by catalog. If you have these chemicals in your home and you want to dispose of them, take them to a local disposal center rather than pouring them down the drain.
Buy No or Low-VOC Products
VOC is an acronym for a group of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds which, to simplify the chemistry, pollute the air we breath. VOC emissions are regulated by state. Two common products that are particularly high in VOCs and have their own regulations are paint and lighter fluid.
Paint is made from solvents, resins, pigments and additives. Paints are classified by the type of solvents they contain with oil-based paints containing 40 to 60 per cent VOC solvents and water-based paints containing 5 to 10 percent VOC solvents. There are two European companies that make paint from natural and renewable ingredients and are sold here. These are Livos Paints and Auro Paints. Also, The Gliddon Company makes an interior latex paint, Spred 2000 that was tested and found to emit no VOCs from a one-liter volume. Lifemaster 2000 is the professional series line by Gliddon. Benjamin Moore also offers a low-VOC line of paints.
Sustainable Interior Furnishings
The number of sustainable home furnishing products out there in the market is growing quickly. This subject alone may be the topic of several future columns but, generally speaking, consumers should be aware that products such as flooring, carpeting, furniture, fabrics and solid surface materials (comparable to plastic laminate products) can and are being made in a sustainable way. These products are made without toxic glues, are made from natural or recycled and recyclable materials. Flooring and furniture is being made from sustainably harvested wood. There is no compromise in the design aspect of these products either. Quite the contrary, there seems to be new design energy about these new products.
The earth’s resources are finite, and for that reason very precious. The intense industrialization of the past two centuries has greatly increased living standards but continues to pressure those resources. We all have different priorities in family obligations, jobs, and friends. But everyone wants clean air, fresh water and an environmentally healthy planet. To that end this very general, and by no means exhaustive list of simple steps is offered. Somewhere in this list is an action everyone can take without great effort to contribute to conserving our planet’s life sustaining resources.