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Given the state of the world, we all want to do our part to make our lives greener. Hopefully the advice below provides some broad brush strokes on how to green up your life by reducing your use and consumption of chemicals and energy.
- Make sure you home is tight to prevent heat loss. Seal up the holes before the cold winds of winter arrive.
- Choose green cleaners (including homemade ones) and avoid the use of cosmetic pesticides around the home.
- Make sure your heating unit (furnace, stove, etc.) is running efficiently. If it is getting too old to be efficient, then “invest” in a new unit. Check out solar hot water heaters and the new air source heat pumps. If possible consider a small wood stove.
- The production, harvesting, and distribution of conventionally grown food is an enormous energy hog! Eat locally, organically, and seasonally.
- Transportation has been the source of over 50% of the increased CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere! Drive an energy efficient, small vehicle. An electric vehicle is a great investment. Carpooling and the use of ride share, car share co-ops, and public transit whenever possible goes a long way. Make your trips count. Create a list of errands and a Google map to plot your route efficiently.
Remember as Kermit the Frog sang, “It ain’t easy being green…” but with heart and persistence it can be done.
The pitfalls of going green are twofold, one being the fear of failure to move ahead because of the enormity of the problem. Do I hear climate change, anyone? Yes, admittedly the problems are enormous yet as the Clash wrote, “the future is unwritten” — there is always hope. Millions of people around the world are working on green solutions, surely a reason for hope! So take heart it will all work out in the end, or as Gandhi said “if it doesn’t work out, it isn’t the end”.
The second pitfall, once you become greener, is the possibility of becoming a bit “preachy”, that is, advising others that they too should make the green change. Resist taking on the “Green Preacher” persona. Lead by example and then when others ask how you have managed to decrease your energy use and pollution output — as well as potentially increase your financial savings on energy costs — you can provide some helpful hints.
OK, enough of the pitfalls. How does one green home and travel? The main use of energy in the home is for space heating and hot water. Remember the cheapest heat is the heat you save. In my experience (I was an energy auditor for four years), there is no better investment than an energy audit. The audit provides specifics on how to stop heat loss. The next step is casting a critical eye at the actual devices producing your heat. With regard to hot water, an energy study revealed that an investment in a solar hot water heater was a better investment than an RRSP! With regard to space heating I am convinced that wood heat is the best green fuel, unless of course you have the money for a zero heat loss home and/or a solar generated heat source(wind turbine, photo electric etc). A pellet stove or a conventional stove is the way to go because it uses a renewable fuel, that is wood. The latest buzz in space heating is the air source heat pumps. These new devices use the principle of a reverse refrigeration and yes it works as an air conditioner too! The prices for these units have come down significantly over the past 6 months. Depending on your specific home configuration, (open concept works best) you can heat your home (1000-1700 sq ft) for $60-$80 per month!
Your second green challenge in the home is food. As they say good things come in threes and so if you choose organic/natural food you will 1: be healthier, 2: help reduce pesticide spraying and help save wildlife (party on!). If you add buying locally and eating seasonally you will also help the local economy and reduce your carbon footprint. Most people do not realize that food production is responsible for almost 50% of the CO2 produced in the world. Industrial farming has to change. Many of its inputs are fossil fuel based, even the fertilizers!
And finally but not least to get the green vibe going we need to reduce transportation carbon emissions. Ridesharing, establishing a car co-op, buying or renting an electric or hybrid vehicle are excellent green transport choices.
So there you have it in a nutshell. Reduce energy use in your home by preventing heat loss, use a wood and heat pump to heat your home. Buy locally produced organic and natural food and travel co-operatively and you will be green to go!