Living green is the right thing to do for our environment and for our planet's future. Since the early 1970s and the observance of the first official Earth Day, there has been a greater emphasis on caring for the world we live in. We see many more organized efforts to help clean up our air, streams and the land we call home. Conserving our world's natural resources, reducing pollutants, minimizing our impact and learning to live a less wasteful life are all great ways to start. Using natural energy resources such as sunlight and wind goes a long way to providing for "tomorrow."
"Global warming" and "the greenhouse effect" are phrases frequently bandied about in conjunction with predictions of atmospheric calamities and world destruction. As a matter of fact, these terms are used often as the main plot in popular disaster movies. It's enough to scare you. The delicate balance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere helps to regulate the temperature of our planet. Too many gases would prevent sufficient heat and light from the sun from getting in, and too few gases would allow the sun's solar radiation to burn through in amounts dangerous for living beings.
Being environmentally conscious doesn't mean tearing down our present homes and rebuilding all green homes. While some newer homes and buildings qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification, many of us do not have the cash on hand to make this sort of drastic modification to existing buildings. Fortunately, "living green" is not an all-or-nothing proposition.
There are scores of no-cost and low-cost measures you can take to be a bit nicer to our planet. Inside the home, we can change existing light bulbs to more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient bulbs. The simple act of turning lights and TVs off when you leave a room will lower your electric bills, as well as conserve energy. Unplugging appliances will also help, because many of them have built-in trickle charges to allow for quicker on/off settings. Weather-stripped windows and exterior doors retain heated or cooled air in a room.
Cut down on waste. Paper plates may seem convenient, but they only add to waste. Use regular dishes and glassware when possible. And if you insist on using paper goods, then by all means, please buy recycled products. Install water flow inhibitors on your shower heads and faucets to cut the flow and waste of water and still provide satisfying pressure. Many older toilets use unnecessary water to flush and often require more than one flush -- sending money and resources down the drain. Replace your throne with a modern design that features low-capacity tanks and a more efficient flush.
Replace appliances as needed with energy-efficient models. Learn to read Energy Guide labels from manufacturers, and choose high-efficiency models. The proper window treatments will help to provide cooling shade in warmer months, will allow the sun's heat in during cold weather, and can help reduce drafts and heat transference through the panes of glass. Double-paned windows also increase heat and cold conservation.
Growing your own vegetables can be a fun family activity, and children especially enjoy the feeling of growing their own food. Using natural bug repellents (e.g., a mild solution of nontoxic dish soap and water) is far better for your family's health and reduces many of the toxins that release into our air and onto our food. A compost bin enables you to turn everyday scraps of food (non-protein) into nourishing plant food that will help to keep your garden growing and producing, as well as cutting down on your outgoing garbage. And sorting and recycling cuts down the waste products used in landfills. Reduce, reuse and recycle to help the planet and save you money.
There's much to do that will cost you little or no money. But even some measures that cost a lot, such as installing solar panels or new siding on your house, will pay you back in lower energy bills. Depending on the initial outlay, many green projects pay for themselves in just a few years or less.