Living the green lifestyle can be an environmental commitment or it can be a desire to lower your bills without forfeiting comfort. Whatever your motivation is, going green has serious benefits for all.
Just after the turn of the century, after more than three decades of annual Earth Day celebrations supporting environmental protection efforts, there was an increased focus on sustainability and energy efficiency in new building structures. Folks were recognizing the need to reduce waste and make more use of renewable energy. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards are most applicable to newly built or major renovations, but still offer guidance to "go green." These items include low-flow water systems, less waste production, better ventilation, use of renewable energy, energy efficient appliances, natural light sources, renewable building materials and as little impact on the environment as possible.
Going green doesn't have to be expensive or totally life-changing. It can start with a daily habit. You can make a big difference with no cost to you. For example, don't run tap water continuously while you brush your teeth; take shorter showers; run the dishwasher only when full; turn lights off when you leave a room; turn your furnace's thermostat down 2 degrees; use warm or cold water washes with cold water rinses in the laundry instead of hot; and unless you have a tankless water heater, turn the thermostat down to 120 degrees. None of these activities will cost you a thing, but you will see savings on your energy and water bills, in addition to being more environmentally kind.
With relatively small investments, you can do even more for the environment and your pocketbook. Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators to save on both water usage and your bill. Purchase refillable water bottles to carry with you in the car, on your daily run or to stay hydrated doing chores. It's easy to install a filter in a water line to your tap or refrigerator dispenser if you prefer the thought of clearer water over municipal or well water. Keep a large pitcher of water in your fridge so you don't have to run the tap for cold water. Making tea or coffee? Don't boil more water than you need; it takes more energy, whether you're using a gas or electric stove.
Upgrade the insulation in your attic so that heat doesn't escape during winter months, and don't forget to replace the weather stripping around your windows and doors. Adding attic ventilation will help to keep your home cooler during the summer, as it pulls both heat and moisture out; make sure you have soffits in the eaves for better air circulation. You can save even more on your energy bill when you use solar-operated attic fans: your air conditioning won't have to work as hard and you won't pay for electricity to run the fans. When it comes time to replace appliances like dishwashers, refrigerators, washers, dryers and furnaces, choose certified energy efficient appliances to keep your home running for less money and less drain on your electric supplier. If you purchase a tankless water heater, you will only heat the water when you need it. Consider installing a thermostat that will automatically lower the temperature setting when no one is home or when people are sleeping.
The following higher cost investments will pay for themselves over time: installing solar panels to replace or supplement your electrical supply, incorporating a solar heating system into your home to augment your normal heat supply; and installing a geothermal heat pump around your home can cut your energy consumption and lower the cost by 25 to 50 percent.
Green is certainly in style.