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Trying to proactively live a greener life may seem tough for some people. Recycling could be the first thing that comes mind, but that alone won’t reduce your carbon footprint. There are ways that living green can be much easier. An environmentally-friendly home can make that happen.
By living in an eco-friendly home, you can dramatically reduce your carbon dioxide emissions, electricity and water usage. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, buildings account for 39 percent of the United States' carbon dioxide emissions as of 2010.
You can easily find the carbon footprint of your home by using a calculator online. Based on those results, you can decide to reduce your footprint to where you are carbon neutral or even carbon negative by modifying your home to passively reduce energy consumption. Eco-friendly homes and buildings, in general, require a higher up-front cost than normal buildings, yet this investment will be paid back over time. For example, solar panels are expensive, which is why more homes don't have them yet, but having solar panels will reduce your electric bill over the years.
At the end of their lives, green homes tend to have higher resale values, as well. Not only that, environmentally friendly homes have been linked to increased happiness and productivity of inhabitants! Before completely transforming your home into a green, carbon-neutral machine, there are always smaller changes you can make, which are both easy and environmentally friendly.
Focusing on the outside of the home, one of the simplest things you can do to reduce your impact on the environment is having a clothesline in the backyard to dry clothes; which can eliminate about 1000 pounds of CO2 released per year. Another step to going greener is creating a garden - a fun and useful activity which yields tasty, organic crops. In addition to gardening, you can also create a green roof, which implements plants on your roof and has multiple benefits, such as insulation and water filtration. Extra oxygen production also aids in a cleaner atmosphere, as does composting; which reduces the waste of leftovers that would normally end up in landfills, and add to methane emissions.
Slightly more difficult, but still useful, you can arrange gutters or rain barrels around your house to promote rainwater collection. This water can be used in various ways: watering your lawn/garden, washing your car and outside supplies/toys, or you can even go as far as filter the water and use it in an outside bathroom. You can filter the water by setting up your own carbon filtration system, or using a water recovery company.
Inside the house, you need to create a sustainable home that functions without using solely non renewable energy sources. Natural lighting (aka, the sun) is a great energy saver and has been shown to make people happier while saving electricity costs. Replacing your walls with windows (that have been glazed to prevent heat loss), can provide natural lighting in the day, while also providing a beautiful view of your yard. You can even install “solar windows," which can double as windows and solar panels! The use of solar panels, geothermal generators and turbines, can significantly reduce your use of fossil fuels and your overall carbon footprint.
One of the most common energy guzzlers in a home is the heating system. Controlling heat and heat circulation is almost a science. One of your options is to install underfloor heating (or “radiant heat”), where a fluid is heated in pipes underneath the floors, emitting heat. The heat circulates throughout the house more, rather than being concentrated in certain areas.
Another small change you can integrate in the kitchen, bedroom and living room, is investing in green technology: choose energy efficient Energy Star labeled products when purchasing electronics, including TVs, DVRs, wireless phones, radios, refrigerators, microwaves and washing machines, just to name a few main appliances.
In the bathroom, ensure that your toilet, sink and shower are green, by installing a "low-flow" toilet, 1.6 gpf or less; an energy-efficient showerhead, no more than 2.5 gpm; and perhaps a WaterSense approved and labeled faucet - reduced water flow of up to 30 percent.
Choose a contractor that has an AP credential and has experience with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification to ensure these changes are done correctly. If you are interested in pursuing a career in eco-friendly building, or would like to save some money and transform your house without the help of a contractor, you can become a LEED AP as well! Looking to move into a home that is already LEED certified? Check out EcoPlum's EcoResidence listing.
Although Environmentally friendly buildings are not extremely common yet, and their construction is considered “state-of-the-art” in some cases since architecturally they are designed to appear as coexisting with their surroundings compared to modern, industrial-like buildings, that doesn't mean that you should be discouraged to try some of these ideas - or all of them! Even if your home doesn't blend into the environment like a chameleon right away, incorporating even a few of these changes will get you on the right path to living greener.
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