A Healthier Environment Starts with You
As an interior designer, I regularly read vast amounts of trade publications, magazines and books. It is fair to say I have learned a vast amount of information about daily living green practices. This blog is dedicated to passing on simple (easy to implement) green practices into your everyday life. Small changes you make today can lower your carbon footprint and contribute to a healthier environment.
10. Use suppliers, manufacturers and local products as much as possible when purchasing items for your home. Ditto goes for when you remodel and redecorate your home. The farther we ship, the more fuel we use. Besides, supporting your local economy is good for you and your fellow neighbors.
9. Using “low” or “no” VOC paints. VOC stands for volatile organic compound. You know that smell that lingers for days when you paint? It isn’t good for you or the general air quality. Big surprise, I know. Most paint lines now offer this option. I use Sherwin Williams. In Portland, Oregon, visit their store in the Pearl District. Ask for Jamie or Keith. They are wonderful to work with! (503) 222-1200.
8. Invest in a programmable thermostat. I read a simple article from the Oregonian last week about programmable thermostats and weatherizing your home. It is not sexy, but it will make a considerable difference in your energy bill. Energy consumption is our number one greenhouse gas source, so consider doing your part not to waste energy.
7. When you are looking to make decorating changes in your home, take an honest look around. What can you improve yourself or re-purpose? If you need some help seeing your items through fresh eyes, consider hiring an expert redesigner or scheduling a design consultation. If you live in or around Portland, Oregon it would be my pleasure to help.
6. Unplug electronics that you don’t use regularly. They are still pulling power when they are idle. Your DVD player, stereo systems and computer running a little red or green light is adding about $70 to your electicity bill and creating 190 pounds of greenhouse gases. Even in standby or sleep mode, appliances and home computers can still be operating at 40 percent of their full running power. Buy power strips and shut them down. Also look for electronics with Energy Star that use half the electricity of regular electronics.
5. Turn off the lights. Better yet, don’t turn them on when you don’t need them. Use natural light in your home when you can, and shut off lights when you are leaving the room. Also consider turning off your faucet when you are brushing your teeth. Do you run your water for several minutes to obtain a hot temperature? Consider installing an instant hot tap. I use mine everyday for instant hot tea. It also works great for cooking.
4. Refuse plastic bags at the checkout counter. Here is an alarming statistic. Americans go through 380 billion plastic bags each year and 100 million of those are from shopping. Today only 0.6 get recycled, and an estimated 100 million are let loose in the wild. These “urban tumbleweeds” are clogging sewers, gutters and waterways, entangling birds, and are fatally ingested by marine life. Here is a great article on plastic bag impact and what is being done worldwide. Keep a reusable bag or two in your car and make a habit of bringing them into retailers when you shop. At the very least consider times when you don’t need a plastic bag. Do you really need a bag for an item already packaged or for 1-3 items? If you do use a plastic bag or two, please do bring them back to your grocer for recycling. Safeway has a recycling container right by the entrance. You local grocer probably does as well.
3. Balance your diet and eat less red meat. It takes 132 gallons of water to produce a pound of potatoes, 505 gallons to produce a pound of rice and 26,400 to produce only 1 pound of grain-fed beef. Cattle, sheep and other livestock account of 87% of America’s total freshwater consumption and agriculture is the second largest source of greenhouse gases (after the energy sector.) Choose to eat less resource-intensive meat such as chicken and turkey and eat more grains, fruits and vegetables.
2. Recycle at work, and make sure your items are actually being recycled. A few years ago, I was working late one night in my office when the cleaning crew came through. I watched the cleaning service empty my recycling container and my trash in the same bin. I asked the attendant about it and she was dumbfounded. I called the property manager the next day. It seems the cleaning crew hadn’t been recycling for months. Kind of scary isn’t it? Nearly two thirds of Oregon’s waste comes from businesses. If you work for a small business that doesn’t practice recycling, please be an advocate. Here is a link to establish recycling in the Portland, Oregon metropolitian area.
1. Though we can get caught up in the American dream of seeking wealth, research has show that happiness has little do with how much we own or what we have in our bank account. The happiest people among us are those that help others and spend time in their community. From volunteering in an area where you have expertise, to assisting a neighbor in need, volunteering gives you an activity that doesn’t revolve around consuming resources. It can also make you a happy, enriched human being.
Here is a fun website to review your carbon footprint in everyday living. http://www.carbonfootprint.com/
If you have made adjustments in your everyday living to positively impact the environment or your community, please post a comment and tell us about it.