A few years ago, I decided to make a change in my life -- I took specific note of my personal and professional choices and how they would affect those around me. Sustainability became a very important priority for me; a lifestyle choice. I thought about my personal and professional life and how I could change it to be more sustainable for my children, my community and my business. The first thing I decided to change was my home.
I knew that the house that I was living in was larger than my family needed and I realized that I was being a model of mindless consumption for my children. With the intention of creating a "green" home, I bought a 1915 Craftsman home and decided to use the LEED/USGBC process in the remodel.
I had done a great deal of research on the topic of green living and wanted my home to be more than just a 'green' showpiece but a place that was sustainable for the next 100 years. When I started this process, there were no other homes in the country as old as mine that were in the LEED/USGBC program.
I set out to try to create a sustainable, energy efficient home without compromising the charm and architecture of the home.
Although this has been a very long process for me and as I write this, my home is not yet complete, it has been an incredible experience and no matter how large or small your home or your budget here are some things that we implemented in our home that you can do if you too would like to make your home more sustainable:
1) Added A Grey Water System (make sure it is permitted in your neighborhood -- I live in Santa Monica, California where they are trying to implement this city-wide)
- Using waste: water from the laundry to irrigate the garden.
2) Use renewable energy sources to power the house:
- Photovoltaic Solar Panels: for electricity for house
- Solar Thermal Panels: heating water in the radiant heated floors
- Wind Turbine: creates power for tree house lights and outdoor lighting
3) Implemented Geo-thermal Air Conditioning aka "Roman Cooling" & radiant heat. It only uses a small fan to circulate the air and uses 90% less energy than an off-the-shelf air conditioning compressor. In addition, the solar thermal system on the roof uses nature to heat the whole house year round.
4) Find a sustainable eco-friendly way to store alternative energy:
- I was very concerned about the ecological impact of having 5,000 watts worth of un-recyclable batteries connected to our solar panels. I located a company that still manufactures old Thomas Edison Nickel/Iron batteries. You can still find these working perfectly after 100 years in some Amish and older farm- houses in the Midwest. They are 100% recyclable and are topped off every month with a bit of water and electrolyte. They can't be over charged and they last a lifetime.
5) Use insulating materials from windows, roofing and walls, whereby permitting more efficient savings and conservation in heat and cooling:
- Upgrade with Eco-Insulation and triple pane windows to help reduce the need for additional heating and cooling. In many respects, this is more important than many of the new gadgets and gizmo's reducing high-energy consumption is the real key to living sustainably with a low carbon footprint. Use blown in recycled blue jean insulation that can insulate in tight places that traditional insulation misses.
6) Monitor the house's energy use by computer:
- This enables us to accurately monitor our energy savings and consumption.
7) Use recycled or reclaimed materials like:
- Recycled glass tiles for all bathrooms
- Old redwood deck salvaged wood for garage cabinets
- Old copper solar panels for front gates, paneling, & playroom TV doors
8) Install low water use garden:
- Use water catchment tanks and grey water to irrigate a low water use garden. Less than 20% of entire planted garden should be lawn/grass.
In restoring the house I became mindful of changes I could make in business. I have children's book brand called Mo's Nose where I discovered ways to be more sustainable. We use soy inks, recycled paper, and is printed in the United States to limit the carbon footprint. With a company mandate to donate 10% to animal and children's charities, my goal is to have the Mo's Nose brand help connect parents and children to service and giving. My hope is that through my home and Mo's Nose I am creating a model of mindful living and constantly asking myself "what else is possible"
What I did not realize is that every choice would have it's own challenges, and that being "green" was not as easy as magazine articles would like us to believe but it has truly been an incredible journey and I hope that 100 years from now my grandchildren can find the same love in this home that I did in re-storing it.