What does it mean to be green? A few years ago, I decided to explore what living a green life really meant and what it would take to create it. I hit a place where I knew that the way that I was living wasn’t in line with my values and what I wanted my children to practice. I decided to live mindfully and fully understand how my choices affected the environment. I knew that I needed to consume less and downsize much of my lifestyle.
Sustainability became an important priority to me— a lifestyle choice. I thought about my personal and professional life and how I could change it to be more sustainable for my children, my community and my business. The first thing I committed to change was my home.
While doing a great deal of research on the topic of green living, I opted to make my home sustainable for the next 100 years. I set out to create an energy-efficient place to live without compromising the charm and architecture of my 1910 craftsman home. We used the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design/United States Green Building Council (LEED/USGBC) program as a guide. However, I tried to go beyond its specifications and be mindful every step of the way.
To get a better idea of the scope of the LEED guidelines, log onto www.usgbc.org. It covers everything from how a home is built and what materials are used, to how waste is disposed. On a LEED project, all of the waste is documented and recycled. The project promotes an investment in your local surroundings. In southern California, with water shortages being inevitable in the coming years, my family planted only low-water use plants. In addition, we ensured that a certain percentage of all materials employed came from within 300 miles of our home.
Going green has been a process that has taken me almost two years from start to finish. My children love our home and are proud of the way we live. They feel like they are stewards of the planet. We have a steady stream of people on the weekends who drive by and stop to look at our home, especially our vegetable gardens. Our neighbors seem enthusiastic about having a green neighbor, and there is another close LEED project underway.
No matter how large or small your house or budget, you can make your home more sustainable. Here are things we implemented at home that you can do too.
- Change your light bulbs. Swap old light bulbs with LED or compact fluorescent light bulbs, which last longer and are extremely energy efficient.
- Replace old appliances with Energy Star appliances. In most homes, kitchen appliances are the biggest energy guzzlers and have the highest energy cost. For example, an old refrigerator uses 1100-1500 watts a day versus an Energy Star refrigerator that uses 300 watts.
- Change the color of your roof. Paint or replace your roof with a light reflective color. Making the change to a light-colored roof is the single best thing an individual can do to help reduce the effects of global warming. It also decreases your heating bill by 40 to 50 percent.
- Switch from an old roof to a metal roof. The metal is reflective, never needs maintenance and lasts a lifetime.
- Relinquish the lawn. Remove all or part of any planted space that functions as your lawn. Grass requires two to four times as much water as anything else that you can plant. The fertilizers and chemicals that most of us use to keep the lawn green are toxic for groundwater. Use low-water plants and ground covering like certain types of thyme, which smells great and holds up in high traffic areas.
- Reuse water. Install an inexpensive valve system that enables you to reuse shower water in toilets. Collect water that you use to clean fruits and vegetables and reuse it in your garden or on potted plants.