Green Living

There is so much a person can do in their homes, in their office, in their car (or better yet on their bike or the bus) to make changes in lifestyle and help move us in a better direction for our future. We believe that it starts in your mind. So start by thinking differently and pretty soon your thoughts become your actions and your actions become you habits. Madison WI is known for its gorgeous lakes. But we need to work hard to keep them clean! There is plenty to do to get involved in creating a healthier Madison. Feel free to contact Alvarado Group or call (608)251-6600 regarding a tour of Madison area green homes for sale.

Reducing Electricity Usage around Your Home

The largest source of greenhouse gases is electric power generation. The average home actually contributes more to global warming than the average car. This is because much of the energy we use in our homes comes from power plants which burn fossil fuel to power our electric products. To reduce the amount of electricity used in our homes:

  1. Replace the familiar incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (the swirl) – For each CFL bulb replacement, you will lower your energy bill and keep nearly 700 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air over the lifetime of the bulb. CFL bulbs last much longer and use only a quarter of the energy consumed by conventional bulbs.
  2. Improve the efficiency of home appliances – Home appliances vary greatly in terms of energy-efficiency and operating costs. The more energy-efficient an appliance is, the less it costs to run. You can lower your utility bill and help protect the environment.
  3. Buy energy-efficient appliances – When shopping for a new appliance – especially a major appliance such as a refrigerator, dishwasher, or air-conditioner – select the one with the highest energy efficiency rating. By opting for a refrigerator with the Energy Star label — indicating it uses at least 15 percent less energy than the federal requirement — you can reduce carbon dioxide pollution by nearly a ton in total.
  4. Reduce energy needed for heating – According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling systems in the U.S. emit over a half billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. Much of the energy used for heating our homes is wasted, and yet the prevention is, in many cases, simple and inexpensive. Use or buy a thermostat with a set back and take the time to understand how it works and commit to really doing it.
  5. Reduce energy needed for cooling – Air conditioners alone use up to 1/6th of the electricity in the U.S. and, on hot summer days, consume 43% of the U.S. peak power load. You can reduce much of the need for air conditioning, and enjoy a cost savings benefit, by using ‘passive’ techniques to help cool your home like window shades, light color exterior siding/roof, planting trees close to the home to create shade, roof venting, and ceiling fans.

Healthy Home Environment

Americans spend 85-95% of their time indoors, so the quality of the indoor environment is extremely important.

  1. Test the air quality in your home. The cause of toxic indoor environment can be anything from mold to invisible gases to household cleaning products. Some common indoor air pollutants are: Biological Pollutants, Radon, Carbon Monoxide, Formaldehyde, Household Products and Pesticides. There are solutions and ways to decrease unsafe levels.
  2. Clean your home with non toxic, green cleaning products – Today’s home is loaded with toxic and polluting substances designed to make domestic life easier. The cost of these commercial, chemical-based products can be high — long term health concerns for the family, and environmental pollution caused by their manufacture and disposal. In the US, for example, 1 in 3 people suffer from allergies, asthma, sinusitis or bronchitis (US National Center for Health Statistics). Treatment for these conditions should include reducing synthetic chemicals in the home environment.
  3. Paint with non toxic interior paint – Indoor air is three times more polluted than outdoor air, and according to the EPA, is considered to be one of the top 5 hazards to human health. Paints and finishes are among the leading causes because they release low level toxic emissions into the air for years after application. The source of these toxins is a variety of VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) which, until recently, were essential to the performance of the paint. Most paint manufacturers now produce one or more non-VOC variety of paint. These new paints are durable, cost-effective and less harmful to human and environmental health.
  4. Non Toxic Pest Control – Pesticides are available for most common household insect pests, but these potent chemical compounds may be more harmful to you and the environment than the pests. There are many natural solutions that work just as well as buying a can of spray.
  5. Install an Air Cleaner This increases the air flow in your home to create a healthy breathing air on a regular basis.
  6. Use less water in your home – Most people in North America use 50 to 70 gallons of water indoors each day and about the same amount outdoors, depending on the season. Indoors, 3/4 of all water is used in the bathroom so remember that it does make a difference to turn water off while rinsing dishes, brushing teeth and to only run the dishwasher/washing machine with a full load. Learn more about the Madison area toilet rebate (get a new water saving toilet and the city will send you a rebate for $100).
  7. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle and Reuse!
  8. Lawn Care Maintenance – Plant more trees, grow vegetables and spend time outdoors. It is good for you and for the planet.
  9. For more great simple tips, here is a link to 15 green renovations for under $500.

Healthy Lifestyles

Becoming aware and conscientious of our lifestyle and how that affects our mood, our family life, work life, spiritual life and our aspirations will give us a boost into a healthier lifestyle and help the earth at the same time.

  1. Eat locally produced food – Today, the food choices available in supermarkets come from all over the world. All of this ‘traffic’ in food requires staggering amounts of fuel – generally by refrigerated airplanes or transport trucks. Food transportation is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Check out Madison area Farmers’ Markets!
  2. Eat vegetarian meals – Vegetarian food requires much less energy to produce. Enjoying vegetarian meals once or twice a week results in significant CO2 savings.
  3. Simplify – Making an effort to simplify our lives creates space to remember what is really important, who we are and why we are here. Slow down and enjoy each moment for what it is.
  4. De-Consume – Take a stand in this consumer driven society and be aware of what our needs are and how that is different than what we simply want because of a commercial or a whining child. Enjoy nonmaterial pleasures like playing sports, reading books, cooking a meal.
  5. Exercise – When we feel good about ourselves and we are healthier on a regular basis we are more able to focus on helping others and the environment. Fewer hospital visits, less medications and more time spent doing activities we enjoy and make us feel good are a better way to live. Remember that action comes before motivation, so dont wait to feel motivated to get up and get going, just do it and the motivation to continue will keep you going.

Improve Vehicle Fuel-Efficiency

The second largest source of greenhouse gases is transportation. Motor vehicles are responsible for about a third of all carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. and Canada.

  1. Practice fuel-efficient driving – Every gallon of gasoline burned puts 26 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. You can boost the overall fuel-efficiency of your car as much as 30% by simple vehicle maintenance and attention to your style of driving for example: using cruise control, driving at a steady speed, turn off the air conditioner and regular maintenance.
  2. Buy a fuel-efficient car – Even more important is the choice of car or truck you buy. If you buy a new car that gets 10 more miles per gallon than your old car, the amount of carbon dioxide reduction realized in one year will be about 2,500 pounds.
  3. Drive less – You will save energy by taking the bus, riding a bike, or walking. Try consolidating trips to the mall or longer routine drives. Encourage car-pooling, work from home.

Green Links

Making the green lifestyle change is about practicing new habits and thinking differently about our daily choices. Here are some great websites that can help you continue to learn and challenge you.

  1. www.ewg.org: The Environmental Working Group is a great place to find a variety of green products.
  2. Wisconsin is lucky to have a wonderful Green Built Home program for new construction and existing homes to certify and support new homes and remodeling projects. Check out the checklists to understand what areas in your home can be changed for the better.
  3. The US Green Building Council’s Green Home Guide provides checklist, FAQ’s, case studies, and certification information on all of the latest trends in green home building and remodeling.
  4. Learn about rain gardens and how the city of Madison can help you. Or read more about researching and installing rain gardens at the My Fair Lakes website.
  5. Sustain Dane is non profit organization that is committed to creating a community that deeply enjoys, cares for and is sustained by its unique environment. Great resources are here to support you and your sustainability goals.
  6. In the food arena: FoodRoutes, REAP, CSA’s in the Madison area, Farmers’ Markets.
  7. Our local utility company, Madison Gas & Electric (MG&E), is committed to our enviornment. There are always great tips on saving energy in your home and wonderful resources at their website. We love their Green Power program too!