“The whole idea of green can be done one choice at a time” which is basically what Marla’s book Living Green Effortlessly: Simple Choices for a Better Home, is about. Marla and Tony agree that it’s not just about radical “tree-hugger” kind of stuff but everyday simple choices. Tony wants folks to know that making simple changes can greatly affect the environment and the quality of life for decades to come.
“Green,” or “going green” is a catch-all term that has come to mean being more mindful and conscientious about things you can do to make better homes, better buildings, better lives and a better future. For some “going green” can be overwhelming as they are not sure what to do or where to start. Marla encourages people to use more of a “green as you go” approach, an incremental green course of action rather than trying to paint your whole life green all at once. Tony sees it as a step by step lifestyle change, somewhat like a “paint by number” project where one decision builds on another with lots of shades of green.
For example, when purchasing a new washer and dryer, instead of simply running to Lowe’s or Home Depot and making a quick decision based on convenience and price, the first thing to do is to determine priorities. What’s most important; is it price, space issues, a favorite brand, a certain type of style (front loader or top loader)? Another priority to consider adding to the list is the impact the purchase might have on the environment. A good question might be, which one has an Energy Star certification seal? Marla’s number one tip on going green is to look for certification labels that let you know the product has been approved by a verifiable third party, independently tested certification system.
Most people have heard of the Energy Star certification label, which is the energy efficiency seal of approval. Energy Star certification labeled products are guaranteed to use less energy and run more efficiently. You can find the Energy Star certification on everything from windows, insulation, and appliances to electronics, computers, and light bulbs. It’s an easy choice the provides an extra level of assurance that what you’re buying will perform well, is built to last providing more bang for the buck.
Other certifications available include:
- WaterSense guarantees to use at least 20 percent less water, save energy and perform as well as or better than regular models.
- Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), that guarantees products come from responsibly managed forests
- Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), educate consumers regarding the recycled content of a product and helps them know if their purchases are from a certified forest.
- The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), ensures items are among the lowest VOC carpets, adhesives, and cushion products on the market.
- GREENGUARD Certifications confirms products have “met some of the world’s most rigorous and comprehensive standards for low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into indoor air.”
- Cradle to Cradle reviews products using five quality categories — material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. They also show the complete life cycle of a product.
Going green is getting easier as we continue to see new certifications and products being developed that will help consumers make better more sustainable buying choices.
Health, Wellness and Safety Benefits
Marla emphasizes the fact that a green home is simply a holistic approach to building and remodeling. Beginning with a basic set of values and priorities helps builds a template from which every project can then be approached. From painting one wall in a bathroom to replacing the facet in the kitchen or purchasing a new area rug for the hallway, if you know your priorities you can make better decisions.
For many women, top priorities for their families are health, wellness, and safety. There’s a growing correlation between the products and chemicals we bring into our homes and the increase in allergies and respiratory illnesses.
Indoor air pollution is a big concern that can usually be lessened through making simple green changes in the cleaning agents, beauty products and household items brought into the home. Some doctors are even starting to prescribe environment changes for respiratory issues.
Cost Saving and Comfort Benefits
Saving the green by going green is not the normal “cheaper is better” way to think about saving money. It’s more of a long-term cost-saving mindset that takes into consideration things like what kind of energy was used in production, how far was it shipped, was it made to last, and what ongoing maintenance is required? Of course, the resale value of a home is always a consideration and green, sustainable certified homes are now selling faster and for more money.
The systems in our homes such as the HVAC and heating systems contribute to the comfort of a home. A person’s comfort needs and desires vary greatly. It’s important to consider temperature levels and lighting issues. Some people desire cool dark living spaces while others prefer bright, airy, sun-warmed rooms. A home that can accommodate the different comfort needs of its occupants is a huge issue to consider.
Painting by Numbers: Greening as You Go
A good place to start is to take into consideration the land on which a structure is built, the lot its built on and how the land, the lot and the house interact. This affects the amount of direct sun a home receives, landscaping choices, windows and window treatments.
Next is all the “stuff” that make up a home which includes building and decorating materials, cleaning products, fixtures, finishes and more. Shopping at second-hand stores and buying local bypass shipping fees and transportation costs. It’s not just the cost of shipping but the effects of shipping on the environment.
Third, are the systems that make up a home such as HVAC, heating and automatic lighting systems. Good green practices include programming the thermostat to 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer. Install an automated light system and be sure and check the insulation every 6-12 months either by yourself or through your local utility company.
As far as water conservation is concerned there it’s as easy as replacing plumbing appliances or accessories that moderate the flow of water using low-flow, high-pressure products commonly found in faucets, aerators, toilets, and shower heads. If you have older toilets add a filler to the tank or better yet replace them with Water Sense certified new toilets. Putting in a drip system for watering the lawn and garden helps and landscaping with native plants can make a huge difference.
Finally, the all-time number one most energy efficient change is as simple as replacing incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs. They won’t need to be replaced for years and the savings are right away.
You can paint by numbers in as many shades of green as you desire, just start somewhere to invest in the future for yourself, your family, community and the world.
- a Green Gab podcast with Marla and Tony
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