By Preston Guyton, Realtor/Broker in Charge/Managing Partner, CRG Companies, Inc.
Going green, and being true to your environmental consciousness doesn't necessarily involve spending a lot to revamp or improve your home environment. Rather, lifestyle changes and simple home enhancements can be the initial building blocks that lead to a reduction in carbon footprint.
On a global scale, sharing a commitment to reduce waste, recycling when possible and moving towards sustainable living is demonstrably effective—perhaps even more so than government mandates and public initiatives.
Easy Steps to Take
Nearly every homeowner is concerned with saving energy, if only from a financial perspective, and most are also aware of water issues and the need to conserve and protect fresh water supplies.
Green building principles have become mainstream, and homes built today are much more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly than homes built even a decade ago. They are also safer and "healthier" for their inhabitants; leading to more comfortable living. For the most part, toxic substances once used by builders have been eliminated in an effort to protect both human life and the environment, and use of renewable and locally-sourced materials is common.
If you're looking at new homes, insist that the builder subscribe to green building principles.
But, yes, there are additional measures that each homeowner can take to further personal comfort and raise the bar even higher. Whether your home is old or new, here are some suggestions:
Perform an informal energy audit of your home environment. Be aware of drafts: check seals, weatherstripping and caulking around all exterior openings. Check attics and basements if your home has them.
Use air conditioning and heating only as necessary. Invest in technology: Automated thermostats that allow you to control your home's temperature settings remotely via smartphone are relatively inexpensive, but very effective. At the very least, replace old thermostats with programmable models—and use them! You'll save money as well as energy.
Be aware of your water usage. If you have water-guzzling toilets and faucets, replace them. Always fix leaks and drips, not only for water savings, but to prevent future problems. Water lawns and gardens only as necessary, or investigate water-saving drip irrigation and add timers to your sprinklers.
Modernize your lighting. If you haven't done it yet, replace older lighting fixtures and bulbs with more modern, more efficient, low-energy models. You'll not only reduce energy consumption, but you'll gain new style and convenience. If you're still using incandescent bulbs, look for newer, cooler options.
Unplug small appliances when they're not in use and ask your utility companies about the benefits of off-peak usage hours. Investigate solar energy. You don't always have to install solar panels on your roof to reap the benefits.
Walk more; drive less. Use public transportation, or investigate carpooling.
Reduce your use of paper and packaging. Go wireless for bill-paying and communication, even for reading the latest novels. Invest in reusable grocery and shopping bags. Buy fresh produce at farmers' markets rather than packaged or canned vegetables, or start a backyard garden and buy some of your own.
Cook meals at home. Pack a lunch rather than ordering packaged food items at convenience stores and drive-through restaurants. Make a habit of reusable, refillable water bottles and coffee mugs, and frequent green businesses: Dry cleaners, hotels, and restaurants are commonly green; support organizations in your community that raise awareness and promote education.
Adopt a minimalist attitude and lifestyle to the degree it suits you. Recycle, reuse, repurpose. If you start a compost pile and take a cooking class to boost your knowledge of health and nutrition and to learn how easy it can be to cook meals at home from fresh ingredients, the reduced packaging and waste will save money.
Look to the Past
There is a meme circulating on social media that claims "Grandma was Green." In some important ways, it seems modern society has a lot to learn from the past in terms of easy, natural and beneficial solutions. There are "green" options for cleaning products, pest control, healthful living and home comfort, even for clothing and everyday leisure pursuits.
It might just be that by looking to the past for inspiration, modern families will find that reducing their carbon footprint is not at all difficult; it just takes a bit of thought.