Living a “greener lifestyle” means joining together to help protect our planet, save energy, save money, and make our homes and offices healthier environments in which to live and work. Your choice to go “greener” benefits you and also benefits the environment. You save money and energy. And energy efficiency is one of the top reasons consumers choose “green” these days.
Today, it’s quite easy being “greener” by making some small changes in your home. Adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle reduces home energy costs and enhances the environment. The following tips offer four ways to “go green”.
- Save on utility bills by simply unplugging home appliances and electronics or using an energy powerstrip. Home appliances and electronics are still using electricity when they are off.
- Stop 75% of your junk mail by registering with the Direct Marketing Association.
- Choose non-toxic house products for a healthier space for your family and the environment. Some homeowners are choosing “low VOC” paint, natural stains and formaldehyde-free glue, which generally cost a few dollars more per container.
- Check with your power companies for special “green” programs. Many electrical utility companies offer “clean green energy” options for the home.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. A major cause: volatile organic compounds (VOCs) commonly found in paints, stains and glues. When these products dry, they release chemicals and continue to do so for years. This can exacerbate allergies and asthma, and cause headaches and nausea.
Today the majority of houses that meet the U.S. Green Building Council definition of a “green” home – one that uses less energy, less natural resources and fewer toxic chemicals – are indistinguishable from their traditionally constructed neighbors.
Traditionally constructed homes, while far more energy-efficient than those built in past decades, can still squander a mind-boggling amount of fossil fuel. The typical house loses 15 percent to 20 percent of its heat or air-conditioning leakage from ducts alone, according to Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Energy-conscious construction reduces energy waste. Some of the savings come from materials that provide extra thermal resistance, such as straw-bale construction and insulated concrete forms. More can come from designs that maximize exposure to winter sun and minimize summer heat.
Energy-efficient appliances and water-conserving fixtures are favored by many Green builders and remodelers. The higher up-front costs are usually paid for in about two to seven years.
In terms of resale value, green homes have come a long way. From the outside they look like any other house on the block. For people who want to leave the smallest footprint you can on the planet, going green uses less energy and helps to protect the earth. Many projects cost as little as 2 to 4% more than traditional construction methods. There are also some significant tax credits available on the state and federal level that may help pay for improvements.
However, building a full green house can cost 20 to 30% more than traditional construction. John Bredemeyer, president of appraisal company Realcorp in Omaha, “but it will likely sell at the upper end of the range and quicker,” as it will have something more going for it than an equivalent traditional construction.
UPDATE: The U.S. Green Building Council, has a LEED rating which is the gold standard for commercial green building. This summer, the council plans to launch a residential rating program.
Sarah Max, Money Magazine contributing writer
US Green Building Council