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Going Green – where do I start?

By Subraya Mallya on 26 November 2009 | Topics - Home Ownership


Going Green is the topic du-jour these days. Every thing we do is looked at from the sustainability angle. We have been

  1. Paper Bags: While buying groceries always pack them in paper bags. Paper bags are usually made of recycled paper and easily recyclable themselves. Plastic bags, going into the landfills cause more harm by polluting the soil with all chemicals that went into making plastic. If I was a shop owner, I would have made paper bags free and charge for plastic bags to prevent people from using them and if possible not even have plastic bags. Even better, follow the Bring-Your-Own-Bag (BYOB) for shopping.
  2. Energy Start Appliances: Only buy appliances that are tagged by Energy Star. If you have old refrigerators, Owens, water heaters, dishwashers, washer/dryers that are old and given you the value for the price you paid, consider buying new ones. A lot of innovation has happened in the technology that make up the appliances, from say 5 years ago, so in addition to the new appliances jazzing up your house, they might save you $$. For attic fans, try a solar fan. People in California, Texas, Arizona etc who get sun for more than 2/3 of the year there is no excuse to not try Solar. I am planning to put a Solar powered fan in my attic and from what I have read it seems like panacea.
  3. Unplug: Switch off electrical appliances, lights, fans, computers when not in use. They consume electricity (at least some amount) even when they are not in use. Set the computers to be in Power Save mode so if you don’t want to shut it off at least it goes into hibernation. Personally, I connect my computer to power till the battery is fully charged and then run it on the batteries till I need recharge.
  4. CFL:Try and replace bulbs with compact florescent lamps the next time you replacing one. CFLs not only reduce the carbon dioxide released to the environment it will also save a few dollars in electricity bill. To make it more sweet, these CFLs last 10 times longer than regular bulbs. Note: While replacing bulbs make sure the old bulbs are recycled as they contain mercury which is harmful to the environment, if included in waste.
  5. Ceiling Fans: Without getting too technical aspects, I am sure all of you know that hot air in a room rises to the ceiling. Having a ceiling fan running with circulate the hot air and will make the entire room warmer.
  6. Green: Planting a couple of trees, around your house, that provide shade to your house is another way to reduce heat in the house. No heat in the house – no need for that Air Conditioner or Fan to run.
  7. Home Insulation: Insulate your house walls. The benefits of insulation are multi-fold
    • It reduces the heat from getting in the house during summer
    • It stops heat from dissipating out during winter
    • It reduces the noise from outside
    • Depending on where you live you might even get rebates from your local utility. We got our walls insulated with cellulose (shredded recycled newspaper) and it made a world of difference during summer not to mention the reduction in noise from outside.
  8. Filter: Change the filter on your gas heater and clean your heat vents regularly (once a month is great). This would greatly reduce the energy consumption.
  9. Recycle: Recycle your batteries, cooking oil. Most waste companies and cities have multiple drop off locations in every city for used oil and used batteries. Re-chargeable batteries, while their life is not great, are still much better than use-and-throw batteries. On a average a rechargeable battery comes for at least 30-40 charges.
  10. Cooking: Use Microwave for cooking most of the food (or preparing the food). That is the best and energy efficient way to cook.
  11. Insulation: Insulate the water heater and water pipes with insulation. While I have not tried the tank-less water heater due to the design of my house, I have heard people having good experience. So if appropriate it is worth a try.
  12. Paint: If painting the house, a good option to consider – especially indoors is a low VOC or a zero VOC paint. Most of the leading paint manufactures have lines of paint with low or zero VOC paints. There are also natural paints that are made from natural, non-toxic materials. We used Kelly-Moore low-VOC paints in our house – no odors even while painting.
  13. VOC (Volatile organic compounds) refers to organic chemical compounds which have significant vapor pressures and which can affect the environment and human health. – Source Wikipedia

  14. Double Pane windows: While it is not my intent to make you spend more of your hard earned money, I would strongly advice on a double pane window throughout the house. The benefits are same as insulation. Reduces heat dissipation and noise from outside. It pays off within 4-5 years but has a much longer life. So it keeps on giving. The additional noise barrier it provides is a bonus !!
  15. Car Wash: If you are one of those who washes their own car, make sure you use eco-friendly car washing solutions. If you are using soap, and letting the water from car wash run into public drainage system, then all you are doing is polluting the ocean where this water ultimately ends up. Try and use a full service car wash nearby. They have water recycling process and they do not let the water from car wash go into the ocean. Alternately, if your kids schools is conducting a car wash to raise funds, use that.
  16. Electronic billing: Most companies, utilities, banks, financial services firms, credit card companies provide option to signup for paperless billing. They have PDF based statements. They not just save trees and they also allow you to save space at home. No more filing statements in a file. Download the PDF version onto your computer. – a simple document management system for all bills.

These are things we have done at home and benefited by it. Would love to hear what you have done.

About the Author Subraya is a dad, handyman, sports fan and in his part time works on geeky technology stuff. You can check out some of the stuff he is interested on PrudentCloud