September 2013

Eco-Home: Easy Ways to Go Green

Author: Rebecca Edwards

Pick your favorite chair or sofa, sit back, relax, and look around your home. Notice how your kids, pets, spouse or significant other interact with the space. Maybe you listen to the sound of bare feet or paws slapping on wooden floorboards. Then, reflect on you and your space. Maybe you feel warmed by the afternoon sun as it pours in from your window. Take this stuff in. Your home is your hub. It is your own personal ecosystem.

And yet most of us spend more time thinking about being “green” outside our home environment. Maybe you’ve saved a polar bear (via donation). Maybe you’ve saved a tree (by reusing paper). But—and not to sound dramatic—have you saved you and your family lately? An eco-home is not only advantageous, it’s easy. No, really it is. And it does not have to be expensive or time consuming. Let’s start with the home itself—its construction, components and functionality—and then let’s zero in on tips for going green without going mad.

For those of you looking to buy a new home, eco-conscious developments like David Weekly’s Energy Saver Homes in greater Hilton Head make green homes that won’t put you in the red. David Weekly’s Gold Level Environments for Living Program includes homes with improved thermal systems (to provide enhanced insulation techniques to minimize voids and gaps and higher thermal properties), Low-E windows with low “emissivity” (to help keep heat in during winter and out during summer), and internal moisture management that includes vents, pressure balancing, and fresh air ventilation work (to reduce moisture in multiple ways).

Current homeowners can also have their home and their energy efficiency, too. Jamie Kaye of Elm Energy Group admitted, “I’m a cabinet maker by trade, so I enjoy being very detail-oriented. I am passionate about what I do, because I get to give a homeowner a thorough assessment: looking at durability, performance, comfort, and health and safety, diagnosing key issues and giving people immediate results.” Kaye gives an example of a woman he recently helped. Her elderly mother who lives with her had been vomiting daily for six months and required an inhaler due to mold. The woman spent nearly $20,000 dollars and three years trying to solve the problem when she finally met Kaye. “I tested her ductwork, and her 10-ton AC unit was losing two tons under her home, creating all sorts of issues. I ended up correcting her ductwork, insulating the house properly and managing a thorough cleanup. It’s been a year, and the woman just called yesterday to thank me again, saying she and her mom have never felt healthier,” Kaye said.

Kaye says most of his clients get a return on their investment within a year—whether it is reflected in their energy bill or their medical bills—and he makes an astute distinction. “You can easily incorporate green practices into every home,” he said. “Keep in mind the difference between sustainability and conservation. Sustainability is when you pick LED lights. Conservation is when you get in the habit of turning those LED lights off when you’re not in the room.”

Kelly Hughes of Kelly Hughes Interiors likes to look at both sustainability and conservation from an aesthetic perspective. “Just because it’s eco, doesn’t mean it has to be expensive or even modern,” Hughes said. “What is does mean, though, is that you have to think outside the box a little—which in truth can be fun to explore and enriching to learn about. In the end, there is a nice harmony when you respect your environment, your family’s health, and your design aesthetic.”

Courtney Hillis, a L.E.A.N. certified family nutrition health coach and family wellness blogger, agrees. An all-natural crusader, Hillis makes all of her family’s cleaning and healthcare products, and—get this—without feeling inconvenienced. She truly enjoys out-of-the-box applications and the creativity involved in environmentally friendly living. “The number-one contributor to air pollution is from indoor household cleaners,” she said. “So I have fun making my own products with my two-year old son Emerson. Plus, it saves us time and money because we don’t have to go to the store as much.” Hillis also says motherhood has inspired her to provide the cleanest, healthiest, safest environment for her family. She is a wealth of wellness information and she emphasizes the importance of slowly infusing more and more green practices without feeling overwhelmed.

Abby Wirth of Tailwaggers at the Village at Wexford also believes being eco can be easy and jokes, “Don’t forget about Fido.” Wirth, who is also the project manager for Experience Green and the Bluffton Farmers Market, is constantly researching ways to preserve your “other” child’s health. Her store offers a long list of products that not only improve your pet’s health but also the health of your home. “Because of the average dog’s lifespan, each meal is 10 times more important,” she said. “Start with low-allergen foods and treats. All of our food is high quality, U.S.-made, no dyes, no fillers. Then check out some products that ‘upcycle,’” Wirth said, as she pointed to several adorable, durable and eco-savvy items. From biodegradable poop bags, to dog collars and beds made from recycled water bottles, to all natural cleaning and bathing products and doggie anti-anxiety treats, Wirth covers all of man’s best friend’s needs.

Now, back to those bare feet you heard earlier. Are your floorboards chemical free? And that afternoon sun. Is it creating and excessive energy bill? Here are 15 easy tips from our eco-home pros:

10 Easy Eco-Home Tips:
1.Get an energy assessment to ensure that your house is well insulated and your ductwork is properly installed.
2.Be resourceful and repurpose. (Hillis uses old socks as a dusting and cleaning mitts.)
3.Buy used kids toys (e.g.: http://www.storkbrokers.com/buy/Used-Baby-Toys/search/1/22/0) and eco-minded pet products.
4.Replace toxic, plastic cookware (even BPA-free) with glassware (e.g. Pyrex), stainless steel and silicone products.
5.Grab a canvas bag and visit one the area’s three farmers markets. (Sea Pines on Tuesdays, Shelter Cove on Wednesdays, and Bluffton—which was voted the 11th best in the state—on Thursdays.)
6.Get the kids involved. Recycled materials make great art projects.
7.Try Hillis’ all-natural cleaning starter kit. For your floors get one gallon of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar and a few different essential oils like peppermint or lavender. To make sunscreen, furniture polish or lotion, get a few jars of coconut oil. (For recipes, see Hillis’ blog http://www.thrivenaturalfamilyliving.blogspot.com/)
8.Ditch the paper towels and use cloth napkins and dish towels. Many local thrift stores have fun retro patterns that you can mix and match.
9.Grow a garden. From a small window box with herbs to a plot at Heritage Farms in Sea Pines, you can ensure the quality of your food, provide a fun activity for the kids and get grooving with Mother Nature.
10.Start slowly. Begin with easy modifications and then see if your inner hippy wants to start composting and collecting rainwater.

10 Local Eco-Sites:
www.environmentsforliving.com/EFLPublicSite/pdfs/PL_Gold.pdf
www.davidweekleyhomes.com/energy-saver-homes/sc/greater-hilton-head/energy-saver
www.elmenergygroup.com/
www.facebook.com/pages/Aeroseal-of-the-Lowcountry/531929433505826
www.experiencegreen.org/
www.farmersmarketbluffton.org/
www.facebook.com/ShelterCoveParkFarmersMarket
www.facebook.com/pages/The-Farmers-Market-at-Sea-Pines-Center/338983322871147
www.greenlowcountry.com

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