Sunday, March 14, 2010

Green Is The New Black Volume IV

Here are five more green tips for living a green lifestyle. You can also check out our past tips in Volume I, Volume II and Volume III.

16. Eat locally as much as you can.  The average distance a piece of fruit or vegetable has travelled to get to your plate is 2400km.  That has a heavy cost in CO2 released into the atmosphere.  Check out local farmer's markets or specialty stores to see what is available in your area.  Even your local grocery store will have products grown close to home when they are in season.  In Canada, there are regulations requiring that signage identify country of origin so you can see where your food comes from.  You can also check out the website for The 100 mile diet for more tips on eating locally.

17. Green your renovations. We live in an old farm house (circa 1854) and renovations have become an ongoing part of our life. I love restoring the house while also being able to incorporate some some green principles into what we are doing.  Wherever possible, we've restored the original floors. Not only are they gorgeous, but by refinishing them we were able to avoid chemically treated carpets. In places where we can not refinish the floors because they are too damaged, we've installed bamboo flooring.  Also beautiful, but from a sustainable resource.  The other advantage of an old farmhouse is the big windows.  They allow more natural light into the house which reduces the amount of time our lights need to be on. We've replaced our old windows with low-e glass. They have a higher R value so they reduce heat loss in the winter and keep the house cooler in the summer. Another, less obvious tip is to check out salvage yards and antique dealers for antique building supplies and decor.  Don't cringe. Even the designers are doing it these days. I've had more compliments on some of the antique doors and door handles in our house than you can imagine. It adds character and restores the feel of an older house.

18. Use the car wash.  You may be surprised to find out that washing your car at home can be much less water efficient than going to a drive through. An average wash at home can take between 80 to 140 gallons of water.  On the other hand, water efficient equipment at a car wash can take water usage down to 45 gallons per car wash.

18. Buy rechargeable batteries. This is one of the best investments our family has ever made.  Sure, they are more expensive initially.  However, the shear number of times you can use them, combined with the materials used, make them much more environmentally friendly than disposable batteries.  In a 2007 study by Uniross rechargeable batteries were found to have 32 times less impact on the environment compared to disposable batteries. The members of our family are big fans of gadgets, so it's been ridiculously convenient to have rechargeable batteries on hand rather than having to run to the store every time a digital camera goes dead. Here's my big tip--pick a spot in the house for the charger and keep it there permanently.  Put a small box beside it for charged batteries. Every time someone goes for batteries, the old ones go into the charger, the charged ones come out and go into their device.  Extra batteries stay in the box so they don't get lost.  Losing the batteries defeats the purpose...we've learned that through experience. At the end of their life when they won't hold a charge anymore, you can recycle them through Call2Recycle if you live in Canada or the United States. They have an extensive list of drop off points so most people will be able to find a location that is very convenient to use.

19. Cut your grass less often. Grass that is greener and requires less water when you let it grow to a minimum of 3 inches. Think of those emissions you'll save by running your gas powered lawn more less often.

20.  Get involved.  It doesn't take very much to have your voice heard by the politicians and to take action on climate change. If you are Canadian, there are some quick tips on Climate Action Network.  In a matter of minutes you can send a message to your Member of Parliament to show your support. You can also take less than 5 minutes to send a note to the Prime Minister and the leaders of parliament through the David Suzuki website.  There is a pre-written email that you can use (though you'll want to do a quick change to the lines about Copenhagen now that December has come and gone). If you are American, a quick search of the web will give you plenty of options. Here are a few different ways to contact the President. Interestingly, he even has a Twitter account.

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