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Spring into Summer with Green Home-Maintenance Projects

By David Krantz

As summer gets under way, our thoughts turn once again to camping, catching waves — and home maintenance. But there are many projects that you can do this summer that will not just green your home, but will keep the green in your pocket, too.

 

Plant a Garden

It’s not too late to plant a garden for this summer! There’s no better summer treat than fresh fruits and vegetables grown in your own backyard. And no plot of land is too small for a garden, even if that garden is only a few potted cherry-tomato plants on your windowsill.

 

Plant Trees

As long as you’re planting, plant big! Trees around a home can help cool a house in the summer and keep a house warmer in the winter. Specifically, trees on a house’s southern side only help cool a house if their shade extends over the roof, so it’s best to plant evergreen trees on the northern side of the house to help block cold winter winds, and deciduous trees (the kinds that lose their leaves in the fall) on the house’s eastern and western sides to protect the house from summer sun.

 

Switch to Energy-Efficient Lighting

Compact-fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are bulbs that use about a quarter of the energy of their traditional incandescent-lighting brethren. CFLs last for years, and although they contain mercury, it’s still less than the amount of mercury released into the atmosphere by producing the extra amount of energy needed to power conventional bulbs. But the best option may be LED bulbs. They don’t use mercury and they only use about a quarter of the energy of CFLs — or about 1/16th of the energy of conventional bulbs.

 

LEDs also last much longer: One incandescent can last about 1,000 hours, or a few months at normal usage. One fluorescent can last about 8,000 hours, or a few years at normal usage. But one LED can last about 50,000 hours, or about 25-30 years at normal usage.

 

Additionally, there are other advantages to LED bulbs: Unlike CFLs, they don’t contain mercury. And they produce much less heat than other bulbs, which is particularly helpful in summer.

 

Install Solar Panels

The sun showers the earth’s surface with 180 million gigajoules (50 billion kilowatt hours) of energy every second. That’s the equivalent of about 5.68 quadrillion (5.67648 × 1015) gigajoules a year. For a basis of comparison, all of the countries in the world consume a total of about 353 billion gigajoules of energy a year. In other words, every day the sun shines enough energy on the Earth’s surface to meet an entire year’s energy needs for about 44 Earths.

 

Even though current solar-energy technology only allows us to capture a fraction of that power, it’s basically free energy, and we’d be foolish not to be using more of it. Fortunately, the U.S. government offers financial incentives to help the public install energy-generating solar panels. To find the incentives for which you qualify, check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and run by North Carolina State University and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. Then start powering your house from the sun!

 

Save Water with Every Flush

Why flush away more gallons than you need to do the job? In other countries it’s common for toilets to have two settings — one for when less water is needed, and a second for when more water is needed. But with a $100 kit, your toilet also can have two flush options.

 

An even simpler way to save water is by gently placing a sealed half-gallon container of water in your tank. The container displaces new water, saving a half-gallon per flush. With the average American flushing five times per day, each half-gallon adds up to significant water savings.

 

Even better: Use the water once before it reaches your toilet tank. Another $100 kit can add a simple sink to the top of your toilet, allowing you to wash your hands with water that then drains into your toilet tank.

 

Or, if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can install a greywater system to funnel water from the sink and shower drains into the toilet tank and leave plenty left over for the garden. Just remember that you’ll need to switch to all-natural, biodegradable soaps and shampoos as well.

 

Save Water in the Shower

New low-flow shower heads can use 70 percent less water without sacrificing full-flow shower sensation. And, of course, one of the best ways to save water in the shower is to turn off the water when lathering and take shorter showers.

 

Green Summer

These are just a few of the many things that can be done to reduce your environmental impact and lower your energy and water bills this summer. You can find much of what you’ll need through the GZA, and anything else is readily available elsewhere online. With a little effort, you make your home a bit more green and save some green in the process.

 

 

 


 

David Krantz is the president and chairperson of the Green Zionist Alliance.

 

 

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