Thursday, April 17, 2008

Join Kermit, Be Green

HGTV (U.S. Home & Garden TV) had 10 easy things to do to be green.

1. Have a barbecue - Outdoor grills take less energy than electric kitchen stoves. They also keep heat out of the house, lowering air conditioning costs. Stick with grills that use propane or natural gas; they emit 5.6 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per hour while a charcoal grill belches 11 pounds of the air-polluting compound for the same. One more thing: dine on reusable plates made from bamboo, not disposable paper ones. The trees will thank you.

2. Upgrade your toilet - Low-flow toilets have gone high-tech. Manufacturers of new designer loos use advanced computer modeling to deliver more flush power with less water, trimming around $90 from your annual water costs. Several new models feature dual-flush buttons that let you opt for a mighty 1.6-gallon whoosh or a gentle .8-gallon splash.

3. Lose the lawnmower - Everyone wants a putting-green perfect lawn. But constant mowing, watering and fertilizing is a bore, as well as a burden on the environment. A two-stroke, gasoline-powered lawnmower releases as many hydrocarbons into the atmosphere in 30 minutes as a car does in 90 minutes. Switch to an electric mower, which costs $8 to $10 a year to operate, and replace some of your sod with attractive, more environmentally friendly alternatives like clover, strawberries, and ornamental grasses.

4. Get a flat screen monitor for your computer - uses 1/3 less electricity than bulky old monitors

5. Buy organic, locally produced food - Organic food tastes better and it's kinder to the earth. Thirty percent of the fossil fuel used on farms goes into the making of fertilizers. Get greener by buying items grown or produced within 100 miles and you'll reduce the amount of diesel fuel needed to ship food. You can get fresher food and help small-scale agriculture by shopping at neighborhood farmers' markets.

6. Use safer paint - If you feel a little woozy after painting the bedroom with latex-based enamel, choose a product low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) instead. New designer colors and improved quality make these safer paints equivalent to standard ones and they benefit your health as well as the planet's. If you don't mind a paint fume buzz, try recycled paints. Filtered, reprocessed latex keeps harmful chemicals out of the landfill and at $5 to $7.50 a gallon, they're a bargain. Colors and finishes are sometimes limited, though..

7. Get a solar-powered water heater - Stand under the pulse-jet guilt free with a solar hot water system. You can install solar panels on your roof that will work with your conventional water heater. The panels cost between $2,000 and $4,500, and they can reduce the need for conventional water heating by around two-thirds. A solar water heater cuts around 12 percent off the average household's monthly electric bill. Most solar systems use a conventional backup heater, so you're never left with a cold shower.

8. Buy new light bulbs - You've heard that replacing old light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones can trim 5 percent from your monthly electricity bill. But this doesn't mean you have to live beneath the ugly glow of low-end fluorescent bulbs. Go for the premium fluorescents that cast a pure white or buttery golden light across your interior. The cost difference? Bargain basement fluorescent bulbs cost between $3 and $5; the higher grade ones cost $9 to $12.

9. Become an expert in recycling - Shopping bags never go in your bins, even if they do organize the empty vino bottles nicely. Look on the bottom of your plastic items for a number and only put the articles with a 1 or 2 in your bin; most areas don't take the ones with higher numbers. Don't put light bulbs, broken glass, or bits of food in your bin, either. They gum up the process and make your waste professionals feel a little, well, tossed aside.

10. Invite birds, bugs and bats into your yard - Skip the pesticides and use nature's method of bug-eradication: other animals. Install birdhouses to shelter feathered friends who dine on pesky beetles and grubs. Put out egg cases of Green Lacewings or Praying Mantises (less than $15, and they'll gobble up aphids. Bats, and toads will dine on mosquitoes; attract them with bat houses ($25) and toad houses you can make yourself by overturning flower pots.

I would love to do 1, but town ordinance does not permit propane tanks and I would have to run a line for natural gas (one of these days). So I had an electric grill that I've retired three years ago. Waiting for my bro to start doing the BBQ. The BIL does nothing with the housewarming gift I gave them.

House has 2. No need for 3 or 4 or 6 or 7 (no sun). Haven't done the organic thing yet. I've done 8 and okay with 9. Don't know about 10.

How are you in becoming green?

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