Green Living: 5 Steps to a Sustainable Lifestyle

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December 30, 2015


There are many ways to think about sustainable living. Some define it as the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising future generations. To get a sense of what this means on a practical level, it helps to look at examples of those who embrace the concept in their daily lives.

 

Take, for example, Grow Community, a small but growing neighborhood on Bainbridge Island, Washington, funded in part by a group of clients from The Private Client Reserve.

 

Their airtight, solar-powered homes produce “net-zero energy,” meaning the amount of energy used is roughly equal to the amount generated. Neighbors have the opportunity to connect through the use of bike- and car-share programs, although most necessities are within walking distance. Community gardens provide locally grown sustenance.

 

Five Steps to a Sustainable Lifestyle

 

In a modern society, sustainable living can certainly be a challenge. However, a little education and effort can go a long way. A small but beneficial change may simply require the use of fewer, or better, resources. Grow Community demonstrates five basic sustainable practices that everyone can adopt:

1. Sustainable materials: This is one area where homeowners have an abundance of choices, thanks to the green products movement. Many consumers already do their part by using green cleaning products and low-flow water fixtures. The right selection of building materials can also improve indoor air quality. Here’s what to look for:

 

  • No added urea formaldehyde (NAUF) — Composite wood products made without the use of formaldehyde
  • No or low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — Paint options that don’t emit toxic compounds
  • Greenguard certification for carpets — Products that meet strict chemical emissions limits
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December 30, 2015


2. Intelligent landscaping: There are many ways to reduce energy through landscaping. Instead of water-hungry turf grass, Grow Community uses mulch and plants that can handle a dry spell. Urban and suburban dwellers should also keep in mind that plants and wildlife share an ecosystem beyond their properties’ borders.

 

That means it’s important to incorporate native trees, flowers and drought-tolerant field grasses. Being more adaptive, they require less water and maintenance over time. Intelligent landscaping also can support the local ecosystem through edibles for birds and blossoms for pollinators.

3. Composting: The use of composting is on the rise throughout the country. Close to 70 percent of waste at Grow Community is recycled or composted. When you compost organic matter like coffee grounds and vegetable peels, you can create plant fertilizer, reduce landfill impacts and help protect your sewer treatment system. 

 

It takes a bit of effort, but improvements like odor-prevention filters for in-home compost containers are making individual compost bins more attractive to homeowners. Ask your waste management company or condo association about composting options in your area.

 

4. Solar energy: Statistics from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions reveal that buildings account for almost 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

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December 30, 2015


Fortunately, photovoltaics, or solar panels, have become less costly for homeowners looking to offset their carbon footprint. Nearly 784,000 U.S. homes and businesses have gone solar, according to the Solar Energies Industries Association.

 

Here are key considerations for those thinking of going solar:

 

  • Conduct an energy audit. An energy audit is a necessary first step in reducing your energy use. It's easier to save energy than produce it.
  • Analyze your home's solar capability. Google’s Project Sunroof can provide a preliminary online analysis.
  • Check out the financial benefits of going solar. Many homeowners are able to offset the cost of solar panels with local incentives and a 30 percent federal tax credit. There are likely many competent solar installers in your area who are ready to help you go solar!
  • Take advantage of local energy-efficiency programs. Many cities have services that educate residents about their home’s performance, from windows and insulation to HVAC systems and water heaters. A little free information could help you prioritize where to start in your home. 

5. Community thinking: An oft-overlooked component of sustainable living is the mentality itself. Places like Grow Community provide a simpler, more intentional lifestyle that brings people together. 

 

Modern life can be isolating, so look for small ways to reconnect with your community. For instance, maybe you could try taking a walk every now and then instead of driving.

 

At its heart, sustainability is about living a healthier and — yes — more cost-effective lifestyle. Small changes don’t just create a better world for your loved ones tomorrow — they make a happier one today.

 

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