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Green Living Begins At Home

green_living.gifGo into any grocery store, big-box retailer, or shopping mall these days, and you’ll notice “green” products practically jumping off the shelves into your cart. People are growing increasingly concerned about the state of the environment, and marketers have picked up on that fact. Sometimes it seems like “green” has become just another advertising slogan. In today’s consumer-driven society, it’s easy to forget one simple fact: Going green begins at home. Although responsible consumerism is still important, environmental awareness encompasses more than just the products you buy. Home, after all, is where you spend most of your time. Don’t you want yours to be as environmentally friendly as possible?

Whether you are building a new home or simply trying to improve the home you already have, here are some tips that will help you “go green” in every room.

All Through the House

The most important step you can take to make your home more earth-friendly is to save energy. Did you know that much of the energy you pay for is not actually used? Instead, it leaks out through windows, doors, and even walls and ceilings if they don’t have adequate insulation. Just imagine what that does to your utility bill! According to the US Department of Energy, only 20% of homes built before 1980 are adequately insulated. If yours is older, you probably need to get it reinsulated. Energy efficient windows are also an excellent idea. If you can’t afford to replace them, at least re-caulk them to keep air from seeping out through the cracks. These simple changes will create a win-win situation for you, your pocketbook and the planet. For the same reasons, don’t skimp on the insulation if you are building a house from scratch.

If you are building a home, also ask the builder if it’s possible to orient the windows so that they take advantage of winter sunlight to save on heating. If he or she doesn’t know what you’re talking about, get a new builder. Efficient design means your home will take less energy to heat and cool. Ideally, windows and window treatments such as blinds and curtains can be used to your advantage, letting heat in when it’s cold and shutting the sun out when it’s hot.

Also, watch out for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde, benzene and toulene. Carpets, paints and wood cabinets can all emit VOCS into the air you and your family breathe for years after they are installed. Fortunately, VOC-free paints and carpeting are available.

The Living Room

The modern living room is becoming one of the biggest energy hogs in the whole house. Home theater systems and other appliances can suck power, even when they are not being used. To stop the energy drain, unplug them, or use a power strip to turn them off completely.

Also, get a ceiling fan to help air circulate-you’ll save energy no matter what season it is.

The Bathroom

Yes, you can green your john. For starters, when it comes to a flushing toilet, Americans tend to believe that “bigger is better.” We want to hear whitewater rapids whenever we pull the lever, but it really isn’t necessary to waste that much water. Try a low-flush or dual-flush toilet instead. For an even more environmentally-friendly toilet experience, get a composting toilet. They don’t waste any water, they produce lovely compost for your garden, and unlike the smelly toilets you might remember from childhood trips to the beach, the new models are hygienic and odor-free. Although still a novelty, they are becoming more popular. Models by BioLet are even available at Home Depot!

The Kitchen

To create an energy-efficient kitchen that you’ll enjoy cooking in, make sure that the area includes as many windows as possible. During the day, sunlight will provide free natural light. As you cook, open the windows to vent cooking fumes in the most energy-efficient way possible.

To cut down on the amount of trash you produce, make space for recycling and composting. If you don’t like the idea of carrying out compostables to the backyard, a kitchen worm bin or composter can make salvaging food scraps a little bit more convenient.

Also, go for flooring made from renewable resources, such as bamboo or Forest Stewardship Certified wood.  Wood floors have the added benefit of being easy to clean without toxic cleaning products that can escape into the environment-and the air you breathe!

The Bedroom

In the bedroom, energy use can once again be addressed as described above. For bedding, wool or down comforters make an excellent choice that can help keep you snug even with the thermostat turned down during the winter. In summer, breathable combed organic cotton keeps you cool and absorbs perspiration, again reducing the amount of energy you’ll need to stay comfortable.

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