Just imagine a world where nature’s untouched beauty reigns—with lush rainforests, oceans with clear blue water, clean air, and animals, birds, and all living things thriving in a safe and beautiful planet Earth.
Since the observance of that first Earth Day in 1970, millions of people around the world have embraced the concept of protecting the environment and conserving energy. Today, “going green” is a lifestyle—not just a fancy trend popularized by a new generation.
For at least the past two decades, there has been an increasing demand for energy-efficient homes. Architects and builders have responded by using green products on walls, windows, doors, roofs, floors, and ceilings. From solar panels to cell-foam insulation and energy-monitoring units, new homes definitely have a “cleaner footprint.”
Above are examples of two-story passive-solar energy-efficient house plans featuring huge south-facing solariums, which allow abundant natural light and solar radiation into the homes to help warm them up on cold but sunny days (top, Plan # 146-1177; above, Plan # 146-2046).
An alternative to a solarium, the octagonal sunroom in this house is the focal point of the dramatic design. Clerestory windows admit light and solar heat, and the area can be vented in warmer months to cut down on cooling energy/costs (Plan # 146-1249).
In addition to green products and cell-foam insulation, insulated-concrete-block units are gaining popularity as the core construction material for today’s modern homes. Insulated concrete blocks are versatile—decorative, functional, and most importantly, energy-efficient. Some homeowners in warm climates also grow trees around the home to provide shade from the sun and allow the breezes into the home—and avoid using air-conditioning for as long as possible.
Here’s a charming and eco-friendly one-story, three-bedroom home—with an insulated-concrete-block exterior that makes it energy efficient (Plan # 133-1029).
So, as we celebrate the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, let’s look at ways we can help safeguard our planet and its resources, and live a healthier life.
“Going Green” in 10 Simple Ways
The most important consideration is the use—or misuse in wasteful ways—of energy. While not everyone has a new home with all the built-in energy savers, there are lots of things you can do at home.
1. Invest in a programmable or zone-based thermostat to adjust temperatures in the home, conserve energy, and save money on the bill.
2. Turn off lights when you leave rooms for long periods of time. The same rule goes for appliances and computers. It’s not just a matter of turning them off—you should also unplug them because, especially with cell phones, laptops, and other rechargeable devices, current still leaks through while they are plugged in. Even unconnected rechargers still use small amounts of current while they are plugged in.
3. In the summer time or when days are longer, open curtains and blinds to allow as much light as possible to filter into the home.
The attractive tree-lined courtyard of this two-story contemporary home is all about curb appeal; and the house is all about energy efficiency with its insulated-concrete-block exterior. Inside the home (below), the living-room area remains somewhat bright even as the light outside starts to fade. Only two low-wattage ceiling lights are on (Plan # 190-1004).
4. Lower the heat during the winter months, and turn up the air-conditioning a notch in the summer to save energy.
5. Take it easy on the water, especially heated water. Shorter showers are recommended. Install low-flow showerheads, toilets, and faucets if you don’t have them already.
Love bottled water? It’s cheaper to get a filter and drink tap water. Save your money and all those plastic bottles.
6. Stop the drip! Fix those leaky faucets, and save water.
7. Has it ever occurred to you to use the cold cycle when doing your laundry? What about line-drying some of your clothes? This is a common practice in many tropical climates; elsewhere, you can line-dry your clothes in the spring and summer months.
8. Save a tree—or a few them. Instead of using paper towels and paper napkins, use dishcloths and cloth napkins.
9. Don’t throw out printed paper. Use the other side if possible—at least as scrap paper.
10. Recycle glass and plastic bottles, cans, and jars; plastic containers; cardboard; paper; and cell phones, chargers, and other electronic devices. Some municipalities have introduced “single stream” recycling, in which they pick up containers filled with mixed recycling items, making it easier for households to recycle.
These are just simple, painless ways of being active participants in preserving the planet and fostering environmental responsibility.
Start by doing the little things, and before you realize it you’ll be on your way to a healthier and “greener” lifestyle.
Footnote: The lead image (upper) in this article is a three-story passive solar contemporary home with an energy-efficient woodstove. For more details, see (Plan # 146-1618).