Archive for the 'Energy Efficiency & Green Building' Category

Nov 16 2011

Profile Image of Curtis Cadenhead

Take Part in “Use Less Stuff Day” – The House Plan Shop

It is time to start a new holiday tradition. The Thursday before Thanksgiving is Use Less Stuff Day. Make a commitment or pledge to yourself to reduce your resource consumption during the holiday season.

 

Here are a few ideas:

 

  • Don’t buy too many groceries or prepare too much food for a holiday gathering. If you do prepare too much, send leftovers home with guests or reheat them the following day for yourself. Try your best not to throw away usable food.
  • Use less energy. Turn down the heat before a holiday party. The body heat of guests will keep the room warm, so lower the thermostat a few degrees.
  • Have a recycling plan. Set up recycling bins to capture all the wrapping paper, gift boxes, bottles, cans, plastic cups, etc. Inform your guests and make sure they know what items to recycle and where to place them.
  • Use fewer disposable paper products and eating utensils. If all your dinnerware, table settings and silverware must be matching sets, rent dinnerware, glassware and silverware for your holiday party. Otherwise, ask guests to bring their own and eliminate paper plates and plastic cups, forks, knives, etc.
  • Use cloth napkins that can be washed and reused at your next holiday gathering instead of buying disposable ones and filling the trash can.

 

Go ahead and make the commitment to use less stuff. Tell your friends and family about Use Less Stuff Day and work toward an environmentally-friendly holiday season without sacrificing the fun and joys all of us look forward to each year.

 

For more ideas about Use Less Stuff Day, please visit www.use-less-stuff.com.

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Oct 20 2010

Profile Image of Curtis Cadenhead

5 Recycled Home Building Materials – The House Plan Shop

Trex DeckingWith the big push toward green building these days, more and more manufacturers are coming up with ways to use recycled materials to create new building materials. Below are five such items. Talk to your builder about the possibility of incorporating these materials or others like them into the construction of your new home.

 

1.    Aluminum Panels: Not only do aluminum siding and roofing panels use recycled materials, but they can be recycled again at the end of their life cycle. For instance, in 2003, flat-rolled, construction grade aluminum manufactured in the US used 80-85% recycled content. Recycled aluminum requires 95% less energy than virgin metal and reduces water pollution by 97% and air emissions by 95%.

2.    Concrete: Coal burning power plants produce fly ash as a waste product. Typically, the wasted ends up in landfills. But, some earth-friendly concrete manufacturers have found a way to mix it with lime and water creating a usable mixture similar to Portland cement, a major component used in concrete driveways, sidewalks and foundations. This fly ash compound is a superior building material because the coal combustion creates tiny spherical particles that make the mixture smoother and reduce friction during mixing and pouring.

3.    Insulation: Insulation is available from a few different recycled materials. The most commonly known insulation made of recycled materials consists of recycled newspapers that are shredded. Denim, such as old blue jeans, has also been reused and transformed into insulation. Recycled paper insulation is more readily available because newspapers are produced and distributed in mass quantities making it easier to collect and reuse for insulation. 

4.    Trex: This compound is an ideal alternative to wood. It consists of a combination of recycled plastic and reclaimed wood. Plastic shopping bags are the main source of its plastic fibers while sawdust and used shipping pallets make up the wood portion. Trex’s unique combination of plastic and wood fibers creates a wood-like material that is more durable than standard wood. The plastic protects against any damage from moisture and insects. The role of the wood is to prevent UV damage that is common with plastic materials. Trex products include many of the things traditionally made from lumber such as fencing materials, railings, boards for decking and trim products.

5.    Salvaged Wood: Salvaged wood is becoming more popular in new home construction. Any wood taken from a pre-existing construction project, such as an older home or building that is being torn down, and is reused in a new construction project is considered salvaged wood. This can include anything from wooden beams, doors, flooring and decking.  Sometimes old wood, or salvaged wood, offers an advantage in new home construction. In some cases, new wood is not thoroughly dry, which means it may shrink overtime causing the new home or building to shift. Old wood is fully cured and dry. It will not shrink so there is no worry about the building shifting. Another advantage of old wood is its size. Trees used for lumber in the past were larger in girth meaning old trees and old wood have fewer knots. Salvaged wood and salvaged wood products are available through dealers that specialized in reclaimed wood and at some salvage yards.

 

For additional information on green building, check out The House Plan Shop’s resource section.

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Aug 04 2010

Profile Image of Curtis Cadenhead

Time for Back to School: Healthy Lunch for a Healthy Planet

Reusable Lunch Box/BagTechnically, it may still be summer, but soon our thoughts will turn away from swimming pools and vacations and focus on back to school preparations. When you do your back to school shopping this year, consider what your children are going to eat and how to make those choices good for the planet.

 

Believe it or not, part of living green is packing a healthy lunch. A waste-free lunch can be healthy and nutritious for your child and healthy for the environment. Get in the habit of packing a healthy “green” lunch. It will have a positive impact on your child, the environment and your wallet.

 

Most kids don’t have a lot of time to eat lunch so keep it simple, healthy and tasty. Pack things your kids will eat and remember to use portion control.

 

When you pack the lunch, think “waste-free”. Skip single use containers and bags and start using reusable food containers like the following:

 

·         Reusable canvas bags, nylon sacks or lunch boxes.

·         Reusable and washable plastic or metal food containers for food and drinks.

·         Reusable and washable cloth napkins.

 

Here are a few things to avoid when packing a “healthy child and healthy planet” lunch:

 

·         Individual serving-size packages

·         Single-serving lunches or snacks

·         Items with Styrofoam and Polystyrene packaging

·         Plastic bags

·         Disposable single-use items

 

Remember packing waste-free lunches isn’t just for school kids. Adults can enjoy the benefits of healthy meals, portion controlled lunches and the accompanying savings!

 

So, pack a healthy lunch for your child or yourself, save money and reduce waste! It is the green way to eat lunch!

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Feb 19 2010

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Building Tips: What Makes Home Building Materials Green?

Green BuildingAlright, so you’ve decided to build your dream home. Part of your dream is to build a green home. So, what makes home building materials green?

 

First, consider price and availability. These two factors may ultimately determine just how green you decide to go during construction. If you find two fairly similar products, but one is out of your price range, you may be forced to go with the product that is slightly less green in terms of environmental friendliness because it fits your budget. Or perhaps you’ve found the perfect material for the job, but it is not available in your area. Again, you may have to settle for the other choice that is readily available but has a slightly less green quality. No matter what products and materials you choose or must settle for when you build your new home, one thing is for sure, even materials that have some green quality are better than those that have no green qualities at all. Keeping price and availability in mind, here are a couple tips to help you choose green building materials. 

 

·         Choose products that are green certified, especially those that have been tested by third parties and independent testing companies that have an unbiased opinion. Greenguard and Energy Star are two widely recognized and trustworthy programs that test for many different environmental standards. Energy Star is well known for their top-rated appliances and lighting.

·         Select local materials whenever possible. Shipping materials long distances is not as environmentally friendly as choosing those that do not have to be transported by train or boat and then by truck. Plan to buy locally saving energy and fuel.

·         Look for materials that are green and are manufactured by companies that follow green practices. How a product is made is just as important as what it is made from. Look for products that post green-practice statements on their websites.

·         Choose materials made of recycled content such as tile and countertops made of recycled glass.

·         Select cabinets and wood flooring made from North-American grown hardwoods such as maple that do not incorporate stains, pigments or solvents.

·         One of the best choices you can make is to buy products, such as furniture, that you plan to keep for a long time. Durable, sturdy, high quality products that last a long time in your home means there is less going to the landfill. Can you imagine what the landfills would look like if every household bought new mattresses or couches every year?

 

These handy tips will get your started when it comes to selecting green building materials for your new home.

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Dec 15 2009

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Live Green: 8 Earth-Friendly Ways to Celebrate the Season

Natural Christmas Decoration‘Tis the season to be jolly….and wasteful. A recent report stated Americans will create an extra 25 million tons of waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Think about it. Wrapping paper filling trash cans. Light displays spiking electric bills. Trees jamming up landfills. And the list goes on. But THIS holiday season can be different. The following suggestions will help you change your habits and start a new tradition, celebrating the holidays in amazing earth-friendly fashion.

 

Turn Down the Amps – Leaving your holiday lights on 24 hours a day can significantly raise your energy bill. Use a timer for your light displays ensuring they are not left on all night. Also, when strands of lights wear out, replace them with LED lights which use about 90% less energy than standard mini-lights.

 

Candle Glow – The holidays are the perfect time to light up your home with candles. A decorative arrangement of tall and short candles in a room is usually enough to eliminate some, if not all, overhead lighting. Not only will you save electricity, but the candles will be part of your décor. Furthermore, with the heat from the candles and your own body heat, most rooms will warm up nicely over the course of an evening allowing you to lower the thermostat. The result – you’ll save on your energy bill. Remember to use caution around burning candles.

 

Use Natural Décor – Use locally grown items to decorate your home. Fill a basket with pinecones you collected at the park, and use it as a centerpiece on the dining room table. Snip a few branches from an evergreen bush or tree and create your own wreath for the door. Add pinecones and a bow or tuck citrus fruits into it for a pop of color. Make your own garland for the tree with popcorn, berries and nuts, for example.

 

Cut your Card List – Over 2.6 billing holiday cards are sold each year and most end up in the trash. Trim you card list by just a few recipients and send them an e-card instead. You’ll save on postage and reduce waste. When sending traditional cards, choose cards made of recycled paper. As for the cards you receive, cut them up, they will make great gift tags for next year.

 

Trim Creatively – There is no need to buy all new tree trimmings every year so you can have a new holiday look. Instead, create homemade ornaments. Make popcorn and cranberry garland or pinecone ornaments. Better yet, swap decorations with a friend each year. You’ll always have a fresh look.

 

Consider Alternative Gift Wrap – With so much wrapping paper ending up in the trash each year, use your imagination. Wrap gifts with other items like a colorful blanket, a furry scarf, a T-shirt. Anything that covers your package can work as gift wrap. Or, have your kids decorate used brown paper grocery bags. Put gifts inside the bags and staple them shut. As for the gifts you receive. Open them carefully saving the paper for next year’s wrapping.

 

Reuse Trimmings – Place a container in the middle of the room. Ask everyone to put bows, boxes, gift bags, and ribbons in the box for use next year.

 

Recycle – Face it. Gifts come with lots of wrapping and packaging. As you open gifts, recycle what you can, plastic, paper, cardboard, etc. Don’t stop there. Recycle your tree as well. Check with your local government or municipality. Some places recycle trees into mulch, others use them for animal habitats in parks and lakes. However you choose to recycle your tree, do it responsibly. Make sure all ornaments, hooks, tinsel and light strands are removed. Artificial trees can be recycled too. If you’re tired of your artificial tree, donate it to a church, community center, shelter or another place that decorates for the holidays.

 

The holidays are exciting, fun, and they are major waste makers. Now is the time to do your part and start changing the holidays for the better. These environmentally-friendly holiday tips will get you started.

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