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Going Greener–One Small Gesture at a Time

If you’re concerned about the environment and your own health, you may have begun investigating ways to live a “greener” lifestyle in your home. Not only is it a good practice for your health and conscience, but come time to sell your home you can appeal to new buyers with the pledge that only carefully-chosen products were used to maintain the home.  How can you go “green”?  Here are several ways to conserve energy, prevent waste of materials, and leave a smaller carbon footprint:

Energy-saving home products
You don’t have to replace windows and doors (though it may be a wise idea) to conserve energy at home. Simple gestures such as using solar lights outside, emphasizing open windows versus air conditioning in summer, switching to energy-saving bulbs in the house, and unplugging appliances when not in use can conserve precious energy. For more ideas, visit the Web site of Energy Star, the government organization promoting energy education: www.energystar.gov.

Greener cleaning products
Many homeowners have allergies or suspect they may have sensitivities to the chemicals in common household cleansers sold in supermarkets. Increasingly, companies are producing alternative cleaning products. How do you know if you’ve found a greener cleaner? Read product labels and look for choices that use natural cleaning ingredients including baking soda, borax, castile soap, cream of tartar, hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice, or vinegar as key ingredients. Consumer Reports offers guidance on finding non-toxic cleaning products—and even making your own cleaning products—at its Green Choices site www.greenerchoices.org.

Cleaner painting products
Paints release what’s known as “volatile organic compounds” or VOCs. It’s difficult but not impossible to find “zero VOC” paint, but “low VOC” paint and paints made from natural ingredients are also good choices if you’re concerned about paint fumes and toxins. The Web Site EarthEasy offers a guide to environmentally gentle paints here: http://www.eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_paints.htm.

Cleaner gardening products
For homeowners who want to prevent pollution and keep their yards looking nice, using organic methods to cultivate plants and combat weeds is a necessity. Rather than use conventional pesticides, clients may be able to use natural ingredients such as vinegar-based solutions to combat weeds. To enhance plant growth, common household foods ranging from compost to coffee grounds can take the place of chemical-based plant boosters. Interested? Consult your local branch of the American Horticultural Society’s Master Gardeners team and ask experts about organic gardening methods: http://www.ahs.org/master_gardeners/.

Consider reclaimed building materials
Materials made using recycled wood, glass or other products may cost more, but they convey a feel-good mystique if you’re concerned about wasting precious resources. Another option: Find out where the local salvage store is, as these stores often sell materials removed from homes prior to demolition. These stores offer a Catch-22 for some homeowners, however. On the one hand, they prevent materials from disappearing into landfills. On the other hand, many materials from older homes feature toxic ingredients—such as lead-based paint.