EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the third of three articles written by Jeff DeSart, founder and CEO of C2C Development in Lake Wylie, explaining why we are in a "green revolution," how to get involved and how it will benefit you. As part of the Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce's green initiative, there will be news and tips online at lakewyliesc.com, and a Green Award will be presented to a local business making a positive impact on our environment and community.
Now that the benefits of going green and the possible threats for not going green have been presented, it's time we talk about how you go green.
Going green is like losing weight, it's not the diet regimen, the exercise routine or the diet supplements that are important, it's making a commitment to losing weight that gets the job done. Once you commit, you'll find what works for you: buy a scale, start a diet, join a gym, cut out sweets, etc. You keep the things that work, discard what doesn't and always try new things.
The first and most important step to going green is to make a commitment to making a difference in your life, in your work and in the world. Be aware of the issues of climate change, energy efficiency and pollution and how your actions affect these problems. It's been one bad decision here and one step in the wrong direction there that has created these issues, but these things can be resolved in much the same way -- with each of us making good decisions and taking positive actions, one little step at a time.
There are many changes you can make in your life, at home and in business to, reduce your environmental impact, save money, and make your life healthier and happier.
• Let your voice be heard. The most important thing you can do is call on our elected officials to enact policies that are environmentally responsible, beneficial to the community and economically viable. Examples would be to ask for new or improved sidewalks and bike lanes to promote healthier commuting options and cut down on automobile traffic, or to ask that government facilities and schools earn green certifications.
• Purchasing power. Reward environmentally responsible companies by giving them your business. Nothing sends a greater message to corporations and manufacturers than what you purchase. Make sure they know what's important to you. Buy local or at least regional products, which have a lower carbon footprint, whenever you can. Buy organic products, the EPA estimates 70 percent of pollution in our rivers and streams comes from agricultural runoff. Certified organic foods are not produced with the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.
• Don't drink bottled water. It's 240-1,000 times more expensive than tap water and burns 47 million gallons of oil per year to transport. Also, 77 percent of bottles end up in the landfill where they take 1,000 years to biodegrade. Since 40 percent of bottled waters come from a municipal supply anyway, filter home tap water and use recyclable bottles.
• Involve children. They love a good cause, and it builds habits that will benefit them for a lifetime. It teaches them to be thrifty by reusing, recycling and only throwing away what they must. Teach them about energy: how it's made, how we use it and why it needs to be conserved. Take them to the Schiele Museum in Gastonia, N.C., to see contrasting displays of a healthy environment vs. a polluted one.
• Getting around. Try to avoid driving by carpooling, walking, biking or even managing your miles as if your automobile is leased. Use the light rail when going into Charlotte; it may not be the fastest way, but you will save gas, reduce emissions and support public transportation. Try a Sabertec Blade, which can be easily installed to the end of your tailpipe, to reduce carbon emissions by 1 percent while increasing fuel efficiency by 12 percent. Depending on how much you drive, the payback period on the Blade is about six months.
• Get control of your AC and heating. Try a programmable thermostat and set it to be 10 degrees warmer than normal in the summer and 10 degrees cooler than normal in the winter when you're not home, like during the day while you're at work. This will save about 10 percent of energy costs. Payback is about three months depending on the type and number of thermostats you buy.
• Don't let your energy get away. Was your home built before 1980? If so, it could be one of the 80 percent of American homes built without enough insulation. On cold days, walk the perimeter of the house to feel for drafts. Once you locate one, use a can of spray foam insulation to fix it. Check with the S.C. Department of Energy to see if you qualify for the Weatherization Assistance Program, which offers the installation of energy efficiency measures for low-income households.
• See the light. Lighting constitutes about 40 percent of your energy bill. Make the switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. They last eight times as long and use 75 percent less power as regular bulbs. They have a payback period of about three months. The bulbs also reduce air conditioning costs by producing 75 percent less heat.
• Shut off electronics. Cable and satellite boxes use half as much energy as a refrigerator, and video game consoles can use as much as twice the electricity of a refrigerator, so shut them off when they are not in use. Use the sleep and auto power down settings on computers. Almost all electrical devices consume power when they are not even on, so unplug them or use a smart power strip. Always buy energy-efficient electrical devices and appliances that have the Energy Star label.
• Conserve water. Use a faucet aerator and low-flow showerheads that can reduce water consumption up to 50 percent. Try to use indigenous and adapted plant species in landscaping so irrigation won't be necessary. Check your water meter before and after a vacation to determine if there is leakage in the system.
Make more green
• Monitor lighting to manage costs. Conduct a survey of all fixtures to determine what types of lamps are being used. Plan to phase out incandescent and inefficient bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs and LED lamps. Use motion or occupancy detectors in hallways, restrooms, conference rooms and storage areas to cut down on lighting unoccupied rooms. Provide occupants with a high level of lighting control with dimmers and task lighting to avoid using more lighting than necessary.
• Keep a close eye on equipment. If you're business doesn't need much hot water, use a tankless water heater. Make sure sleep mode is used on all computers. Use "smart" power strips to avoid "vampire" energy-use by electrical appliances. Use building automation and programmable thermostats to optimize HVAC equipment energy usage.
• Make an impact in the community. Establish a purchasing policy that cuts down on your waste stream by encouraging the use of recyclable products and those with little packaging. Implement a recycling program that addresses consumables, durable goods and electronics. Ask your waste management provider to perform a waste stream audit to determine more methods for reducing it.
• Improve productivity. A healthy environment improves productivity while reducing turnover and absenteeism. Have the HVAC system on a regular maintenance program and have your contractor confirm it meets current ASHRAE standards for ventilation. Use MERV 13 or greater filter media and change it regularly. Install exterior and interior windows or skylights to bring daylight and views to interior parts of the building. Implement a green cleaning policy to eliminate the use and disposal of harmful chemicals.
• Time for a checkup. Have a professional perform an audit of your structure for performance of applicable green standards. Pursue a green certification for your structure such as Energy Star, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), Earthcraft House or SCEEP (South Carolina Environmental Excellence Program).
Keep a log of your energy and water usage. Go online to carbonfootprint.com to determine your carbon footprint and work on reducing it. You can influence the dividend and total return on investment you earn by going green, and your return benefits us all.
Jeff DeSart is founder and CEO of C2C Development in Lake Wylie. He can be reached at email@example.com.