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Earth Saver: part 11

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Clare’s dad starts redecorating the living room, and Clare suggests eco-friendly paints.

Okay, this is not good. Our living-room is a total mess. All because of Dad.

It seems that since his company made him redundant a few weeks ago, he’s been getting quite bored at home, just looking for a new job without much success. So today he decided that instead of just sitting around waiting for people to call back, he’d do something useful and do all those little DIY jobs around the house he keeps putting off. Then, apparently, he remembered that Mum had wanted the living room redecorated for Christmas this year, but had given up on the idea because we now can’t afford to hire decorators. So as a sort of Christmas present to her, and so she wouldn’t be disappointed, he decided to do it himself.

Which is why we’ve just come in from school and found him in his grotty work jeans, with the wallpaper steamer, stripping off the last of Mum’s expensive, grey and cream flower pattern paper.

And Mum is less than impressed.

I appreciate the sentiment, really, but what were you thinking?” Mum cries. She’s standing in the living room doorway with her coat half-off, having just brought us back from school. Daisy, Ben and I are standing behind peering in through the door. Gobsmacked.

How do you expect us to afford to redecorate the whole room properly, including furniture, curtains and carpets? Even if we’re not paying hired decorators, it just isn’t going to be feasible. Not now we’re meant to be on a budget!” Mum continues.

I thought we could do it on a budget”, Dad replies, “Look… I know I kind of got carried away with the whole idea, and I’m sorry. But I’ve just been feeling so… useless. I wanted to do something. And besides we’ve already given up a holiday. We shouldn’t have to give up everything, just because  our income’s a little less than before.

You’re meant to be a financial advisor. You know it’s going to more than a ‘little’ out of our income”, Mum groans, “You’re just in denial. You want to think we can afford whatever we like. I know, I look at things in the shops, and I think – I want it, I should be able to afford it. But we can’t do that anymore. We can’t just spend however much we like on food, drink, entertainment, going out or on redecorating.”

There’s a horrible pause. I glance at Ben and Daisy. They both look uncomfortable and gloomy. Mum’s words have hit a nerve. I think we were all hoping that, yes we’d lost a holiday, but that was all. Nothing else would change. All Mum and Dad’s words about saving would only apply to stuff we wouldn’t notice, like the heating.

I’m sorry”, Dad repeats. “So much for that Christmas present idea”, Mum sighs.

It’s alright”, she says, “We’ll just have to buy some cheap paint and redo the walls. And you can buy me that book for Christmas instead.”

Wait”, I say, “If you’re going to repaint we need to use eco-friendly paint.”

Weren’t you listening? We can’t afford fancy paint made from bamboo or whatever”, Daisy says, “And anyway, that’s the difference. It’s just paint.”

Actually”, Ben says, “Normal paints contain Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs. They give off  toxic fumes as the paint dries. They can irritate your eyes, nose, lungs and they harm the ozone layer. Some countries have already banned paints high in VOCs, and I think some new regulations possibly in 2010 banned the production of paints with VOCs, but don’t quote on me on that.”

I stare at Ben in surprise.

How’d you know all that?” I ask.

I’m studying A level chemistry”, Ben shrugs, “Paints contain chemicals.”

So have you read that website that says that 30 litres of non-biodegradable waste is created for every litre of non-eco-friendly paint made?” I retort.

No. But thanks for that. I’ll use it in my next assignment”, Ben grins.

Well, I think based on those figures we have no choice, but to buy eco-friendly paint”, Dad says, “If we’re going to honour Clare’s green project. And you know, I bet a change of colour is probably all we need. All the furniture is sort of magnolia and beige, so it’ll match anything.”

I think you mean neutral colours, but yes you’re right”, Mum nods, “Perhaps a change in colour will do it.”

Oh, if you’re-painting the living-room a different a colour”, I say. “Can we get new thick curtains to keep in the heat? We don’t have to get second-hand. I have a couple of ideas for curtains that would be even more eco-friendly. You know cotton is grown with a lot of pesticides?

No”, Daisy says in bored drone.

Well, you can buy organic cotton by the metre and then make things out of it. So we could buy some material and make curtains.”

Great”, Mum nods, “If I knew how to sew.”

Daisy does”, Ben points out. Daisy freezes and then glares at Ben.

It’ll probably still be quite expensive”, Mum says.

OK, then how about repurposing”, I say.

Which is?” Daisy asks.

It’s rather like recycling. You take something you already have and convert it into something else. Which is similar to upcycling, which is where you find a new purpose for waste materials or useless objects instead of throwing them away. For example turning old sheets into a set of curtains, or turning bottles into lamps.

So you’re suggesting we make curtains out of old duvets?” Daisy says.

Yep”, I smile.

I suppose we could give it a go”, Mum sighs, “After all, we have a lot of good quality covers and sheets we don’t use anymore. But lets decide what colour we’re re-painting the living-room, don’t you think?

Okay”, I reply.

Well, I don’t know about you”, Dad says cheerfully, “But I’m starving.”

I’ll start on dinner”, Mum says, finally pulling off her coat completely.

I’m going to start my homework. But later, do you want to search for eco-friendly paints Clare?’ Ben says, “You can see what colours are available and I’ll know more about the chemical stuff.

Sure”, I reply.

Your father and I will join you”, Mum nods, “And Daisy can look for curtain making instructions too.”

Daisy pulls a face, and disappears off down the hall, followed by Mum. The conservation obviously over, Ben and I drift off too. As I go upstairs I can’t help but feel a little pleased that, except for perhaps Daisy, the whole family seems to be getting into the swing of going green.

Next Sunday:

Ben’s birthday approaches, and Clare’s dad hints at buying Ben driving lessons, or even a car, as a present. However Clare tries to persuade her parents, and Ben, to go for an eco-friendly option.

Part one // Part two // Part three // Part four // Part five // Part six // Part seven // Part eight // Part nine // Part 10.

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Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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