There is lots of marketing hype about going green but what does it really mean? The first thing to understand is going green isn't about buying, it's about lifestyle. Going green means learning how your actions affect the environment and making conscious decisions to reduce the negative impact you have on the environment. It means reducing how much non-renewable energy you use, how much water you use and lowering the amount of bad things you cause to be released into the air.
While it's difficult to understand how actions affect the planet and contribute to a healthier earth, many of these decisions can affect the quality of your life. Let's explore one term that affects the environment globally and in your home.
Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs
VOCs are organic (sounds healthy?) chemical compounds that are released into the air as gases. They can negatively affect your health so it makes sense to minimize these gases in your home, where you spend most of your time. So how do you get rid of these gases?
Talk about VOC became noticeable when low VOC paints became available. Many people prefer painting inside their home during warm weather, so they can open the windows to get rid of the smell or actually the VOCs? Less noticeable are the VOCs found in many cleaning supplies, building materials and the furniture and soft goods you put in your home. Do I have your attention?
Hopefully you now see that learning how to research products and read labels will let you make informed decisions about what you do or don't want to bring into your home. With some education (what our website is all about), you can decide when you want to pay a little more to buy a new couch that doesn't give off VOCs, or cleaning supplies that are all natural.
Going Green – the Big Picture
It would be easy to impress or overwhelm you with lists of 100s of things you can do to reduce your impact on the environment, outside and in your home. I've read lots of these lists and you have too. The idea here is that a framework for remembering when to stop and rethink a decision you're about to make, will empower you to forge your own path to a greener lifestyle.
- Buy Less – When buying, think about whether you need those paper plates? and when buying for a party, can you buy fewer so there is less waste after the party? If you entertain a lot, maybe you can buy inexpensive plastic plates you can reuse over and over? When we buy less, we waste less with the added benefit of less stuff to organize and store!
- Use Less – Simple lifestyle changes are a good start. Turn lights off when you leave a room and for some frequently forgotten lights like the garage, consider motion sensitive lights that turn themselves off. Don't use water when it's not necessary, i.e. turn the tap off while brushing your teeth and wait to run the dishwasher until it's full.
- Throw Away Less – Consider alternatives to disposable items. Use heavy duty green bags instead (store in car so you always have them when you get to the grocery store) instead of disposable paper/plastic bags. Use a personal water bottle instead of buying 100s of disposable water bottles. Recycle what you no longer need so others benefit and everyone wins with fewer products being manufactured.
Going Green at Home
There are many ways to make your home more green and again, this list is meant to illustrate the scope of changes you can make versus detailed changes.
- Reduce the energy you consume heating and/or cooling your home with: energy efficient furnaces and air conditioners and materials that reduce air flow like insulation.
- Consider alternative energy sources that replace the use of traditional fossil fuels. Solar panels are common on roofs and wind power is gaining acceptance through partnerships with government.
- Become an educated consumer and research big ticket items before you buy and especially before you build a home. There are products like tankless hot water heaters that are very efficient and quite affordable during new construction.
Our goal is to tread gently on this planet, to take no more than we can replenish so there is enough for generations to come. The World Commission on Environment and Development calls sustainability when we're “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”