Building an Ecologically Sustainable Home
By Ernesto Velazquez
If you own a home,you have a unique opportunity to introduce changes that can save you money while reducing your dwelling’s carbon footprint. With a little effort, your home can be transformed into a space capable of generating clean energy, capturing and storing water, and recycling waste while creating a nutrient rich compost that can help you grow your own food or enhance the quality of your flower beds. Sounds like a lot of work. Well, it is not as difficult as it may sound. With very little investment, you can turn your home into a microcosm of sustainability with substantial long term financial and environmental benefits.
Free Power from The Sky
Imagine your home becoming a space where solar energy is captured instead of wasted and then converted to electricity. Solar radiation hitting your home’s roof is not only transformed via a solar array into electricity, but also is reflected into space via the use of reflective roof coatings. This creates an albeto effect reducing roof top temperatures as well as ground temperatures, much like the reflective elements in snow and ice.
Turning your home into an energy-generating plant is a reality and the economics are now in your favor. The main economic factors are the local state or federal subsidies and the price that you normally pay for electricity from your utility company. Solar energy is the fastest growing energy generation source in the U.S. You can lease solar panels from various companies for no cost entry, or you can simply ask your utility company to switch your power consumption to wind-solar and the utility will guarantee that your energy consumption is at least partly supported by clean energy such as wind and solar.
Also Free, Water from The Sky
Why stop with solar energy, when your home can capture other free resources such as rain water. A small investment in a basic water capturing system can turn your home into a water reservoir, again significantly reducing your dependency on municipal utilities. The roof of your home can capture and store enough water to irrigate your lawn and garden, and wash your car and sidewalk.For those with Jacuzzi, fountains, ponds and/or swimming pools, water capturing can translate into a significant savings as you help reduce the burden on municipal water resources. With the City of Philadelphia Water Department Rain Check Program, residents capture rain water through the clever use of downspout barrels and planters, water gardens and porous paving. Some of the program features are for free and others are offed at a reduced price. This program helps the City better manage storm water while proving free rain water to residents for multiple uses.
Recycling, Mulching and the Earth Friendly Consumer
Most municipalities have recycling programs as part of their waste management services. With a bit of effort pretty much everything we can dispose of can be recycled or re-purposed. Besides the familiar paper, cardboard, glass and plastic that we stuff in bins and place on the curb, we can recycle all of our left-over foods and other organic waste by simply composting. This can be accomplished via a very simple process of mixing these various organic materials and allowing them to decompose on a bin that you can keep in your backyard, creating a soil conditioner that can be used to grow plants in your garden.
There are special programs managed by municipalities that will take toxic materials for recycling that may be sitting in your basement or garage, such as left-over paint, batteries or certain household chemicals. You can contact your local government’s waste management program for dates and locations for recycling these types of liquids or solids.
From a consumer’s perspective you can also help by considering what you buy and its ultimate effect as a possible contaminant. By buying products that are nontoxic and that are packaged in a manner that is minimalist and eco-friendly, you are using your power as a consumer to reduce waste and pollution from its inception.
Ultimately, we can adopt values that are sensible and help protect the delicate ecosystem that that sustains us in its womb and nurtures us into life. Through value-driven action we can engage in conscious behaviors, on a day to day basis, that may not appear to have impact, given the challenge.But they may be contagious, and if enough of us do the right thing, who knows, we may just tip the scale in favor of this lovely planet and our lives.Even though time is against us, through immediate action can still make a difference.