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A Local Family Adopts a Green Lifestyle

Emily Miller
By Emily Miller
Posted on Jul 15,2009
Filed Under Fashion , Local Style,
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Photo by Erin Lassahn/Local Kicks <br /> <br />The family's dream is to buy and redo a house that will be completely “green” and leave the smallest carbon footprint possible. In the current real estate market, however, they decided to make smaller but important changes to their longtime residence.
Photo by Erin Lassahn/Local Kicks
The family's dream is to buy and redo a house that will be completely
 “green” and leave the smallest carbon footprint possible. In the current
 real estate market, however, they decided to make smaller but important
changes to their longtime residence.

Having young children made one local couple see both their home and the world differently.
 
In the past five years, they have gone from Range Rover to Prius and from carbon footprint to carbon toeprint. “Going Green” for these parents means creating a safer home their two young children and preserving the earth for the future grandchildren.
 
After studying the corrosive and devastatingly negative impact of modern energy use on the earth and on climate change, they decided to alter their own home to be more responsible consumers of energy.
 

Photo by Erin Lassahn/Local Kicks<br /> <br />After studying the corrosive and devastatingly negative impact of modern energy use on the earth and on climate change, they decided to alter their own home to be more responsible consumers of energy.
Photo by Erin Lassahn/Local Kicks
After studying the corrosive and devastatingly negative impact
of modern energy use on the earth and on climate change, they
decided to alter their own home to be more responsible consumers
of energy.

Their dream is to buy and redo a house that will be completely “green” and leave the smallest carbon footprint possible. In the current real estate market, however, they decided to make smaller but important changes to their longtime residence.
 
They also wanted to create the safest home environment - air and water – for their children to grow up safe from toxins and environmental hazards. Their green tips are easy and affordable for families to adapt for their own homes to breathe cleaner air, drink healthier water and do their part to preserve a precious earth.
 
By taking vital steps to green their home, the owner of the home, the CEO of a large "energy responsible" company, said that his children now live in a house that has the cleanest air and water. As he put it, "Our family’s efforts are subtle changes that many American families can afford to make that will dramatically reduce our carbon footprint, and preserve the earth for future generations.”
 
Reducing Power Usage
 
The couple replaced all the standard incandescent light bulbs in the ceiling lights and table lamps to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), which use 75 percent less energy and last about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb. An ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) will save about $30 over its lifetime and pay for itself in about 6 months.
 

Photo by Erin Lassahn/Local Kicks<br /> <br />In the kitchen, the family uses 35 percent less water by using a dishwasher instead of hand washing if they do a full load of dishes, which haven't been pre-rinsed. They have also learned to save about 15 percent of the dishwasher’s energy use by selecting the air-dry setting or open the dishwasher's door instead of using its drying cycle.
Photo by Erin Lassahn/Local Kicks
In the kitchen, the family uses 35 percent less water by using
a dishwasher instead of hand washing if they do a full load of
dishes, which haven't been pre-rinsed. They have also learned to
save about 15 percent of the dishwasher’s energy use by selecting
the air-dry setting or open the dishwasher's door instead of using
its drying cycle.

On a recent business to trip to London, the home's owner discovered an even more advanced halogen light bulb that is another 30-40 percent more effecient than current ones available in the United States. He has since changed over many of his lights to these new bulbs, which have a silver coating on the lens that reflects the heat back into the filament.
 
Also, they light all their second floor ceiling lights using the sun’s power. On their roof, they installed a solar box which contains 50 magnifying glasses that absorb the sunlight and use it to power the ceiling light bulbs.
 
Another easy power reduction idea he gleaned from a useful National Geographic Web site, “Green Home Tips,” says that using power strips for your appliances, rather than power outlets, will save about 2 percent a year in electricity costs. When appliances are turned off, they continuously leak electricity, but the amount goes from 15 watts if plugged into an outlet to 1-3 watts when plugged into a power strip.
 
Also, the Web site suggests buying a refrigerator with a top or bottom freezer, which saves 15 percent more annually in energy costs than a side-by-side model, which lets more chilled air escape. You should also choose a refrigerator without an icemaker and water dispenser in the door, features which increase energy use by almost 20 percent.
 
Another kitchen appliance often overlooked is the oven. A gas oven is 50 percent more efficient than an electric oven, and an electric ignition also helps save gas because its pilot light is not continuously burning.
 

Photo by Erin Lassahn/Local Kicks<br /> <br />Depending on your climate, you can reduce your utility bill by as much as 10 percent with double-pane windows as the family has done here. If your home already has single-pane windows and you live in a cold climate, consider storm windows. They're almost as efficient as double-pane windows and cheaper.
Photo by Erin Lassahn/Local Kicks
Depending on your climate, you can reduce your utility bill by
as much as 10 percent with double-pane windows as the family
has done here. If your home already has single-pane windows
and you live in a cold climate, consider storm windows. They're
almost as efficient as double-pane windows and cheaper.

Clean Water
 
The largest investment the couple made for their family was installing a water filtration system for the entire house.
 
Through reverse osmosis, the carbon filter system removes chlorine, germs, biological agents and pharmaceuticals out of the water before it enters the home. Houseguests are surprised when they can drink out of any faucet in the house!
 
The filtration system also ensures the children’s bath, parents’ shower; cooking water and dishwasher are using only purified water.
 
Clean Air
 
The couple learned that air inside homes is often more polluted than air outside because of “off-gas” (which comes from carpets and furniture), and chemicals emitted by computers, TVs and other technologies.
 
To combat the internal air pollutants, they installed a whole-home air filtration system which continually brings outside air through a filter and disperses it in the house. They chose the highest level system with a MERV 16 filter. Air filters “Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value” (MERV) range from 1 to 16 describing the filter's effectiveness in removing pollutants from the air, with 16 being the highest rating.
 
The ultra-efficient air filtration system removes the pollution from the family home. UV lights in the system kill allergens and viruses in the air. The system also filters the air that moves through the furnace so that heated air is also filtered before circulating in the home.
 
As a result, the home's owner said that his house is “more evenly heated, cooled and cleaner air,” while also “reducing our carbon emissions and energy costs.”
 
Reducing Heating and Air Conditioning Costs
 
The EPA’s ENERGY STAR reports that about half the energy used in your home goes to a home's heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
The program recommends sealing and insulating the shell of your home — its outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors, and floors— as the most cost effective way to improve energy efficiency and comfort. ENERGY STAR estimates that you can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs by sealing air leaks throughout the home to stop drafts and adding insulation to block heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer.

Making smart but relatively small decisions about your heating and cooling can have a big effect on your utility bills, your comfort and the environment. The program’s tips for heating and cooling your home more efficiently include: change your air filter regularly; tune up your HVAC equipment yearly; seal your heating and cooling ducts; and consider installing Energy Star-qualified heating and cooling equipment.
 
Depending on your climate, you can reduce your utility bill by as much as 10 percent with double-pane windows. If your home already has single-pane windows and you live in a cold climate, consider storm windows. They're almost as efficient as double-pane windows and cheaper.

Other affordable options include caulking and weather stripping. When replacing windows, look for Energy Star-qualified ones which meet strict energy-efficiency guidelines set by the government and can save up to 15 percent in any climate.

Reducing Water Usage
 
The EPA reports that municipal water systems require a lot of energy to purify and distribute water to households, and saving water, especially hot water, can lower greenhouse gas emissions.
 
In the shower, the couple was frustrated by the waste of water from running the shower until the water was hot. So, they installed a gadget that automatically shuts off the water when the hot water reaches the shower head, which they can pull a lever to restart the hot water instantly when they get in the shower.
 
The Chevy Chase family replaced many of their appliances with Energy Star-labeled ones. They purchased a front-loading, high-efficiency washer to reduce the amount of water and energy used for doing laundry – which saves quite a lot of water for all the laundry loads of two small children.
 
In general, front-load washers use about half the energy as top-load washers and only need about 10 to 20 gallons of water to do a full load, compared to 40 gallons for a top-load washer. To increase your savings even more, wash only with cold water.
 
Reducing the amount of water you use in your house is a relatively easy way to help the environment. The EPA tips for simple actions you can take to save waters include: water your lawn only when needed and do it during the coolest part of the day (early morning is best); turn the water off while shaving or brushing teeth; don’t use your toilet as a trashcan which wastes water with each flush; and repair leaky toilets and faucets.
 
In the kitchen, National Geographic reports that you will use 35 percent less water by using a dishwasher instead of hand washing if you do a full load of dishes, which haven't been pre-rinsed. You can also save about 15 percent of the dishwasher’s energy use if you select the air-dry setting or open the dishwasher's door instead of using its drying cycle.
 
The family has also replaced all of their home’s older toilets with low-flow toilets that use only 1.6 gallons per flush, compared to 3.5 gallons per flush with pre-1994 models. Using less water in flushing is particularly earth saving when teaching two children to be toilet trained!
 
Green Cleaning Products
 
The mother of the house is vigilant about exposing her children to the “least amount of toxins into their systems.” She will only use non-toxic, environmentally safe, biodegradable cleaning products, including laundry products. To this end, she uses only Seventh Generation brand cleaning and laundry products, and she often cleans with “just old-fashioned water and vinegar”.
 
She also feels that she's doing her part for the environment because the run-off from the toxic cleaners into the water and soil harms "everyone’s children.”
 
The Three Rs of Going Green
 
The family has taught their children the Three R's of Going Green: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
 
The wife takes reusable sacs to the grocery store. The children take water in reusable metal bottles. The husband gives older appliances like to friends to reuse. The family recycles everything the county will accept: newspapers, beverage containers, paper and other goods.
 
“Our use of fossil fuels and carbon emissions in the atmosphere is clearly not sustainable for the future,” said the husband, a leading environmentalist in business. He feels strongly that “once you are aware of the impact of carbon dioxide on the world, you are morally and ethically responsible to make any possible change to reducing your personal impact on the earth.”
 
The couple hopes to soon create their dream green home that will be powered by solar panels, cooled and heated by a low-energy geothermal system, covered by a green roof and filled with all high efficiency appliances.
 
Until then, they have found these green tips have gone a long way toward creating a safer home environment for their family and a more environmentally ethical house.
 
To View a Flickr Slide Show of this home, click here.
 
Click here for a useful illustration of How Homes Become Green.
 



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