* I spent the early-morning today emailing some friends who live in a community near mine that just voted to become a new city (which would make it the newest city in the United States) and want to encourage eco-practices that are smart from the start. The metro-Atlanta city where I live held that title three years ago, and I led a commission to help the city adopt policies that were “green from the get-go” as part of a regional “green communities” certification process. I knew nothing about working with City Hall before I started, I learned a ton while doing it, and now environmentally-sound practices are built right into the core of our city’s identity. Along the way, I got a little more house-savvy, too, since, let’s face it, the principles of energy and water efficiency, recycling and waste reduction, and other easy-on-the-land choices are the same, no matter whether you’re running a city, a business, or a home. Here’s an example–when I discovered that a nearby nature center’s new building was LEED Platinum-certified, I paid close attention to its features to see what I could apply at home. Recycled building materials (such as the flyash concrete floors mentioned here), a rain harvesting system, and a green roof with climate appropriate sedum succulents all caught my eye. Drought-tolerant sedum succulents in place of pricy annuals in my landscaping (whether or not I have a green roof)? Bring it on!
* You may even find that you’re a checklist kind of person (do you, or did you, use those behavior or chore charts with your kids? If so, you’re a checklist person). You may love to pursue an eco-certification especially for homeowners, such as Earthcraft here in the southeast (there are other regional certifications that take into account your climate and other conditions). An Earthcraft-certified home (which could be either new construction or a renovation), typically reduces energy use about 28% over “regular” houses (see features of an Earthcraft-certified house here). You might find new Earthcraft-certified houses in conservation communities such as Serenbe (where the HGTV Green Home 2012 is currently being built, by the way). Any renovation, however, could shoot for certification. (See mention of homes built to LEED or Earthcraft certifications here.) Typically, these eco-renovations cost only a bit more than non-eco renovations in costs, but will save you far more than that over time. And yes, drought-tolerant xeriscaping is there (sedum!). (See more about drought-tolerant landscaping here.) And look–you even get bonus points for geothermal heating and cooling!
* Speaking of housing, this blog is housed on Kudzu’s site, and Kudzu is a subsidiary of Cox Enterprises. Cox takes the environment seriously and dedicates a whole website to showcasing its Cox Conserves efforts, which are intended to help reduce its carbon footprint 20 percent. It even offers green tips for folks like you and me for at home, at the office, and while traveling. At home, Cox Conserves advises we do the kinds of things we’ve been talking about on this blog (two points to us!): grow your own food (it’s time to plant the garlic, by the way–just separate an organic head of garlic into cloves and then plant pointy-side-up), remodel with recycled and sustainable materials (I had forgotten about this post–this one’s fun), use no-VOC paints, clean with baking soda and lemon, go low-flow on your showerheads, upgrade your appliances to be more energy-efficient, and many more great ideas. See here for the complete list.
Let service pros you find on Kudzu help you give your home an eco-makeover, either one little change at a time or all at once as part of a complete remodeling job. (Or at least get a nice, clean house for the holidays from a “green cleaning service.”) And don’t forget to nose around at public buildings in your going-green city for clever eco-ideas. That dual-flush toilet in the public library’s bathroom? Might be worth trying at home.