Wednesday, October 17, 2007

We're going green!

When Tim and I decided to buy this old house, we understood that we are going to have to do more upkeep than if we had bought a new house. We also know that a 122 year old house may have good bones, but renovations will be required. So, we agreed that any changes to the home would be done in an environmentally-friendly manner.

Now, I am not one to jump on every trend or bandwagon, but preserving our world is one thing I completely support. It's not trendy, it's not cool, it's necessary. We're fortunate to live in the only recycling test district in Chicago. This means that we have designated recycling bins that are picked up on garbage day, rather than using the "blue bags" that other Chicago residents just toss in with their regular garbage. Supposedly, these designated bins are more successful than the "blue bags" at getting the recycling actually recycled. We're on board for this program 150%.

So, that's one step in the right direction. Another idea we had, and we got this from "Living with Ed" on HGTV (check it out, great show!), is to use a soybean based foam-like insulation that you blow into your attic spaces and between walls. It's naturally derived, completely renewable, and doesn't give off any toxic waste. My guess, and this is a wild one, but my 122 year old house may need a little assistance with insulation. We're going with the soybean product, and we hope to have it installed by the end of this winter. Reviews to come.

Yesterday we replaced a number of old lightbulbs with the flourescent bulbs. I'll be honest, I have always hated the bright white light that flourescent bulbs give off, but Benards of all places actually sells flourescents that have the same "soft white" light that incandescent bulbs give off. Sign me up! I can't find these at Home Despot, or maybe I'm just ignorant. Either way, this is a simple, inexpensive way to make a small change. And save some money on your bills. Same thing with buying Energy Star rated appliances. We're going to need a new washing machine and dryer in the near future, and we're not even going to waste our time with products that aren't energy efficient. And these tankless hotwater heaters?! So freaking cool! When we need a new one, that is at the top of the list.

Another great idea that we're contemplating is bringing in skylights to reduce the number of electric lights we need to have on. These are not your standard rectangular style skylights. These are reflective tunnels that come in many diameters that you install in your roof and then snake down into the room where you desire more natural light. Its great because you can bring in natural sunlight from your second story roof down to your basement, or first floor dining room in our case. Again, Benards is selling a version that I checked out last night. And in time there will be even more like-minded products to choose from.

We would also like to replace our kitchen countertops eventually. We have a laminate right now that looks fine and is in good condition, but it's just not great. Tim and I have been doing lots of research into natural vs. manufactured stones and materials and the different effects the harvesting/manufacturing has on the environment. Ideally we would like to find a product that is locally created so we don't have to think about the environmental costs of its traveling to get to us. We'll get back to you when we figure it out. There is so much information flooding the marketplace right now. This is not going to be an easy decision.

And the piece de resistance, BMW is launching a "greener" version of the the 3 series Tim currently owns. Now, just so you all don't think we're image snobs, Tim has owned cars from every manufacturer out there, and firmly believes that the Germans know what's up better than anyone else. They may be slow to get on the green wagon, but they're getting there. They just want to make sure its a perfect product. So, once we see that BMW symbol go green, you better believe we both will be the first ones in line. For now, its the gas guzzlers for us and our shame at the pump next to Lis's pretty blue Prius.

Those are all endeavors that require expense. A few ways to think about it is to really recycle everything. And I don't mean your soda cans and plastics. I mean buying old furniture and making it new again by reupholstering or painting it. Craigslist is a gold mine for this sort of thing, and Ebay has been doing it for years. We buy new when you can re-use? I know this is not always ideal, and some things will be bought fresh off the department store floor, but it's a great alternative.

I'm going to continue doing as much research as I can on new products, materials, and processes, and make wise decisions on our energy consumption. I want a healthy home in which to raise our children. I want to look back on the changes we make to this house and know we did the best we could in protecting the environment.

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