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Looking to reduce your individual carbon footprint? Home improvements, large and small, can mean dramatic changes.
When it comes to reducing your carbon footprint, home is where the power is.
The average American household generates more than 22 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and uses more than 100,000 gallons of water in one year, according to lowimpactliving.com.
When building, remodeling, or simply replacing and repairing parts of your home, doing it “green” can make a huge difference. Even if you make only one home improvement this year, do it with the environment in mind.
Here are five things you can do today:
1. Repair before you replace. Cut waste by repairing items that work just fine, but need a little cosmetic lift (e.g.: stained or scratched porcelain bathtubs, toilets or sinks).
2. Swap out your ceiling fans. ENERGY STAR ® models use half the electricity of no-star models and qualify for Hawaii Energy rebates. Visit hawaiienergy.com for details.
3. Practice “Akamai Appliance Use.” Wash full loads, whether laundry or dishes, keep cook pots covered, and use your washer’s cold-water setting. Find more tips at hawaiienergy.com/27/akamai-appliance-use.
4. Upgrade your windows, doors or skylights. Replacing old windows with ENERGY STAR ® qualified windows lowers household energy bills. Find out how much you can save, on average, annually at efficientwindows.org. Click on the “Window Selection Tool.”
5. Slipcover it. Before you toss old furniture pieces, consider covering them with slipcovers. They’ve come a long way in style and comfort, and can save more furniture from ending up in the landfill.
Make one or more of these improvements this year:
Replacing / Repairing
Install a low-flow showerhead. Many are priced at $30 or less, and can save up to 35 gallons of water during a 10-minute shower.
Protect your roof. A low-VOC “cool roof” coating can reflect large amounts of the sun’s heat, dramatically lowering the temperature inside your home. Talk to your contractor about ENERGY STAR® rated roofing products, which can reduce your peak cooling demand by as much as 10 to 15 percent.
Install a whole-house or solar-attic fan. Whole-house fans pull air in from open windows and release it through the attic or roof vent, reducing your home’s overall temperature and the need for A/C. Solar attic fans ventilate with power generated from solar panels on the roof, keeping the attic cool, thereby bringing the entire home’s temperature down. Hawaii Energy provides rebate incentives for solar attic fans and whole-house fans. You can also qualify for 30 percent in federal tax credits*.
Replace old insulation. Proper insulation in walls and on the roof keeps your home cool and reduces the need for A/C, thereby lowering your energy bills.
Remodeling / Building
Hire a certified architect and contractor. Look for a contractor who has earned certification from the United States Green Building Council through its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program or the National Association of Home Builders’ Certified Green Professional (CGP) program.
Use reclaimed materials. When replacing flooring, countertops, cabinet faces, even exterior shutters or doors, consider reclaimed objects. Find fantastic reclaimed items at reusehawaii.org.
Use ecofriendly building products. Make sure wood products like flooring, doors and cabinetry are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and thus guaranteed to be sustainably harvested. Or, choose a rapidly renewable material such as bamboo or cork or products made from recycled glass or resin.
Six Simple Steps … to a more efficient home
1. Use a soaker hose when watering steep slopes to prevent excess runoff and save water.
2. Rearrange furniture to keep valuable fabrics out of the sun. The more quickly fabrics fade, the sooner they have to be replaced. Prevention is key.
3. Meet your ecofriendly retailer. Know which ecofriendly product lines your hardware store carries. Unsure about a product? Ask!
4. Modify your toilet to use less water. Drop a brick or half-gallon plastic jug filled with water (cap-on) into your toilet tank. This tricks your toilet tank into thinking it’s full all the time, when it’s really only partially full.
5. Fix air leaks. Sealing air leaks around doors, windows and other vulnerable parts of your home reduces air-conditioning use by 10 to 20 percent, according to heco.com. Check out the DIY Guide to Sealing and Insulating with ENERGY STAR ® at energystar.gov under the “Home Improvement” tab.
6. Calculate your home’s impact. Visit myfootprint.org and enter information about how and where you live. Discover your home’s carbon footprint and compare it to the national average. Find your food, goods and services, and overall carbon footprints, too.
Restore. Recycle. Repurpose: Create a Beautiful Home, by Randy Florke and Nancy J. Becker, is a room-by-room guide to decorating with sustainability in mind. Available in hardback from amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
Hey, weekend warriors:
Be sure to landscape with native plants. Invasive plants can spread rapidly, reducing the ability of native species and ecosystems to thrive. Call the University of Hawaii Master Gardener Helpline (ctahr.hawaii.edu/uhmg/helpline.asp) to discover the best plants to use in your area.
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