For years, the lovable, adorable Muppet, Kermit the Frog, has told us in song that it’s not easy being green. Of course, he’s not singing about green changes you can make in your home; he’s pouring his heart out about being an amphibian. Unfortunately, however, many humans out there share Kermit’s cry of woe when it comes to learning about, and trying to be, green — especially when it comes to making sense of what changes you can make and how cost-effective they can be.
If you’re on a budget, don’t worry. Done right, being green won’t blow your finances out of the water. There are some low-cost, low-hanging fruit, changes you can make that will help make your home more energy-efficient and, at the same time, make the world a greener place.
About 20 years ago, even before being “green” was the thing to do, Susan Deninger and her husband Willie Landaira began making more environmentally friendly changes to their lifestyle.
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Deninger started because, “It’s important to help the environment and the planet for our children and their children,” said the Wappingers Falls resident who owns Vegan Teacher LLC. “We began composting, recycling and using recycle bags, and using all LED lightbulbs. “My energy-saving lightbulbs save me money. I use my own compost, so I do not have to purchase (any).”
According to recycleworks.org, yard and food waste make up 30 percent of the waste stream. Composting your kitchen and yard trimmings helps divert that waste from the landfill, waterways and water treatment facilities. You can buy a composting kit for less than $100 or just make one of your own.
“I also joined a CSA this year and spent less on organic, locally grown, just-picked fruits, veggies, flowers and herbs than I would’ve paid in the store for food that traveled, perhaps thousands of miles, were laden with pesticides and had lost some of their nutrition due to the drive,” Deninger said.
When it comes to making changes in your home, it’s a big misconception that you must purchase expensive technologies such as major heating systems to go green. You can make green changes in your home no matter what your budget.
“What changes you make also depends on the home you live in,” said Steven Lapage, energy reduction specialist, certified solar professional at Malcarne Solar in Rhinebeck. “You might not think that changing your lighting will save you money, but it does.”
Laurie Bryant admits that she questions whether or not the small sacrifices will make any difference anywhere but in her own comfort.
“We recycle, have switched to the energy-saver lightbulbs and are conscious of thermostat temps and conserving electricity in general,” said the LaGrange resident. “I’m careful about disposing electronics and other household dangers. But our well water is softened and I don’t like the taste, even filtered, so I just can’t give up bottled water.”
She said she’s looking into getting a large 5-gallon dispenser and using refillable bottles to be more responsible, but she’s conflicted about the issue.
“I realize we need to make changes, but when big business and government resist or make it difficult and expensive to move away from fossil fuels and switch to available alternative fuels, or make a real difference with poisonous emissions, I honestly resent that I am judged for buying bottled waters and recycling them,” Bryant said.
Lapage said that going green, even low-cost changes, can be a tough sell.
“People are skeptical because they don’t know about it and don’t understand it,” he said. “If you are involved in the industry you know it works. It’s a hard sell, but it’s getting easier.”
Starting to go green within your house is the best place to start. In addition to changing lightbulbs, Lapage suggests having properly sized window air conditioners, so they don’t draw an enormous amount of energy.
“There’s also thermal envelope sealing, which means plugging up the holes where the air can escape,” he said. “If you put insulation in the attic and plug up the holes around the light fixtures in the ceiling, it helps.”
He also suggests installing low-flow shower heads and making sure that your dryer has an auto shut off for when the dryer is done.
“Stop using hot water to wash clothes, too,” he said.
Making small, effective changes is done prior to the bigger changes, such as installing new energy-saving appliances or adding solar to your home. Companies such as Malcarne Solar provide complimentary energy audits so you can have your home evaluated and learn how much electricity you use, and identify ways to reduce your energy use through simple repairs and the installation of energy-efficient systems.
After these low-cost projects are complete, especially those on your home, you should begin to see a reduction in your heating and cooling bills, Lapage said. Then you can take the extra money and put it toward your next green project.
Lisa Iannucci is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in knowing more about the green changes you can make? Visit the following websites for information:
Home Energy Saver helps you to calculate your home’s energy usage and provides articles, videos and other tools on energy efficiency, tax incentives and more: http://www.homeenergysaver.lbl.gov/consumer/
U.S. Department of Energy provides extensive information on reducing your energy usage and carbon emissions, landscaping in a more environmentally friendly way, how much you can really save with energy-saving improvements, and how to save electricity and fuel: https://energy.gov/
The Environmental Protection Agency has a section of its website dedicated to composting basics, benefits and how-tos: https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home
Worldwatch Institute focuses on sustainability across the world. http://www.worldwatch.org/mission