Green Living

Solar energy strikes again! It seems Volvo Cars is putting its money where its exhaust is, committing wholeheartedly to its vision of having climate-neutral global manufacturing operations by 2025. After having transformed their Sweden-based engine plant in Skövde into the first climate-neutral facility in its global manufacturing network, they added 15,000 solar panels to their factory in Ghent, Belgium.

“Installing solar panels in Ghent ­adds to our broader efforts to minimize our environmental footprint,” said Javier Varela, head of manufacturing and logistics at Volvo Cars. “We have a constant focus across our supply chain on improving energy efficiency, aiming for the lowest possible carbon footprint across our operations, with the highest possible use of renewable sources.”

Volvo Cars is going above and beyond: their Ghent factory also uses wind power (it supplies around 11% of its power consumption), and had introduced a heating system in 2016 that reduced carbon emissions by an astounding 40% — saving 15,000 tons of CO2 per year. With car manufacturers being one of the heaviest contributors to pollution, their actions are truly admirable.

The sun is one of the most reliable forms of renewable energy on our planet; every day, around 120,000 terawatts of power flows through the earth, which equates to roughly 10,000 times more than the production of our entire industrial civilization. With such a limitless source of power, one wonders why solar-powered cars don’t (or can’t) exist. An article on Quartz.com explained it succinctly:

“It’s all about energy density: how much energy falls on a surface relative to how much is consumed.” Essentially, the reason we have solar powered bikes that can travel thousands of miles, or sailboat drones that cross oceans, is because they are all very light, slow, and consume only a trickle of electrons — solar panels generate just enough energy to keep them moving. Vehicles, on the other hand, weigh thousands of pounds, so the energy that would be required to keep them running is impossible to harness with the technology currently in existence.

Though the sun isn’t quite within reach for powering vehicles, car manufacturers looking to go green have electricity to turn to in its stead; electric car giant Tesla has even proven the trustworthiness of their battery-powered vehicles through their limousines — a car whose dependability is crucial to its success. Evoke, a limousine service based in Australia, has just celebrated a milestone with their fleet entirely comprised of Tesla limos: they have just clocked one million kilometers (about 25 times around the planet) traveled without a single dead battery or customer left stranded.

“Electric cars work well as limousines because they spend so much time waiting for passengers, either at the airport or in the city,” said Evoke’s founder, Pia Peterson. “There is a lot of downtimes so we use those gaps in the day to charge the vehicles using Tesla superchargers or [chargers] back at our base.”

There are over 130,000 limousines in service across the U.S. that could benefit greatly from making the switch to electric, especially considering the fact that they offer smoother and quieter rides.

Going green is often easier said than done. While many people want to make the switch to an eco-friendly lifestyle, a lot of factors can get in the way. This is especially true when it comes to one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas and carbon footprint: driving.

Cars are responsible for a large percentage of consumer contributions to greenhouse gasses and climate change. This is especially true in the United States, where the average American household owns 2.28 vehicles (with 35% of households owning three or more vehicles). Owning a car can often feel like a necessity; however, it’s certainly not the only option. Here are a few alternatives to cars that can allow you to stay eco-friendly while still getting where you need to go.

Public Transportation

Depending on where you live, public transportation may be the best way for you to reduce your environmental footprint. Trains, buses, and other forms of group transportation cut down on carbon emissions by using an equivalent amount of fuel to a car to transport dozens of people, making the impact per individual person far smaller. In fact, motorcoaches create the least carbon dioxide per passenger mile compared to other vehicles and are roughly six times more fuel-efficient than single occupancy automobiles.

Of course, the viability of this will depend on your location. If you’re in a rural area and depending on the quality of public transportation in your area, your options may be limited. However, if you’re in an urban area, you could be in luck; many, though not all, major American cities now have a number of available rail lines to make public transit more viable.

Human-Powered Alternatives

Even if public transportation isn’t available, you still have several options to consider to reduce your footprint. Biking tends to be a preferred method of transportation, both for those who wish to go green and those who simply can’t afford personal cars. There are roughly one billion bicycles in the world today, roughly twice as many as the number of motor vehicles.

Biking isn’t just more affordable than driving; it’s incredibly helpful in reducing your overall carbon emissions, even if it’s used as a temporary switch. Bicycling just one day reduces greenhouse gas emissions by twenty-four pounds. Of course, if biking isn’t an option, switching to walking for shorter trips also can help.

Any switch that you are able to make to help the environment is positive, even if it’s only temporary. Try taking the bus or walking next chance you get to see if it might be a change you’re willing to make on a daily basis.

In 2013, Americans created 254 million tons of trash, and that number has only increased in the past few years. Worldwide, consumption and creation of waste has never been higher, and with global warming and climate change becoming a serious threat, this practice needs to change. Some people, however, have already reduced their consumption and waste creation dramatically; many people nowadays are living a “zero-waste” lifestyle, where they aim to have as little of what they use end up in a landfill as possible. Here are a few tips from the zero-waste movement to reduce your household waste.

  • Reusable containers: Disposable containers are everywhere. From plastic food packaging to disposable water bottles, it’s easy to forget just how much trash we create by choosing pre-packaged items. Whenever possible, bring a reusable container that you can then wash and re-use. You’d be surprised how much less trash you create when you’re drinking out of a reusable water bottle and using reusable fabric bags at the grocery store.
  • Repair, don’t replace: With how cheap certain products have gotten nowadays, it’s often easier to replace items than repair them. Why sit around mending clothing when a new shirt is only a few dollars? However, every time you throw out that ripped pair of jeans or worn out shoes, they end up in a landfill. Try to repair what you use, rather than replacing, to help keep items that could still be usable out of landfills.
  • Simple swaps: Take some time to make a list of all the disposable items in your house; you’ll be surprised how much you buy just to throw it away. From disposable utensils to razors to shampoo bottles to dryer sheets, there are plenty of household products that have reusable alternatives. Try to keep track of exactly what it is you’re using, and you’ll be more mindful about your purchases in the future.

No matter how you choose to reduce your waste in your life, doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Even one of these tricks could help you cut down significantly on your waste creation, helping you save the environment.

In the world of green housing, there are some surprising eco-friendly options available for building materials. From 3D printed concrete houses, to houses made out of straw bales, to recycled plastic homes, people keep coming up with unexpected creative ways to build their homes while helping the environment. One example of this ingenuity at work: steel shipping containers. These containers can be turned into unique, eco-friendly homes; read on to learn more about these creative container homes.

Why Shipping Containers?

Out of all the options for building materials, why choose steel containers? The first reason for using these often overlooked materials for building is simple; they’re durable, and made to withstand a wide variety of conditions. Steel shipping containers average a 25-year lifespan and require minimal maintenance when used for their intended purpose. But when incorporated into a home, where they will stand up against fewer rough conditions, they can last even longer.

Additionally, shipping containers are already stable and require little reinforcement to be turned into a functional home. They can either act as a small home when using just one, or they can be stacked together like building blocks to form larger, more complex buildings. Some people choose to use a single container for a small home of only a few hundred square feet, while others have used them to create shipping container mansions out of dozens of old containers.

Green Homes From Recycled Material

Because there are plenty of used shipping containers for sale that would otherwise go to waste, shipping container homes are eco-friendly because they’re making use of what would be waste material. These recycled containers also require little additional material to turn them from boxes to houses, meaning that there’s a serious reduction in scraps and waste material during the building process when compared to traditional housing.

If you’re looking for an unusual housing option to go green in your next home, do some research to see if shipping container homes could be right for you. Be sure to check local zoning laws, though; not all places allow for container homes yet, but with the increasing popularity, you’re bound to see more of them in your neighborhood soon.

A recent survey concluded that around 57% of American consumers are interested in vintage furniture and decor elements, a fact that is supported by just about every episode of every TV show that airs on HGTV. The style — perceived as elegant, romantic, and offering an air of antiquity that is reminiscent of a classier era — has become increasingly popular as the younger generations have turned to flea markets and thrift shops to find their furniture.

However, not all vintage items are created equal: you definitely wouldn’t introduce, say, a wood-paneled air conditioning unit into your home. Generally, the vintage style includes trends from between the last 20 to 100 years, so the horrors of the ’70s do technically count. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you wouldn’t want to bring in a hulking piece of high quality, 2018-designed-and-manufactured technological marvel that cools your home but destroys its aesthetic.

The tech of the 21st Century has come a long way in functionality and design, but if you’re looking to combine two somewhat opposing ideals, you have to think outside the box. Or maybe, perhaps more accurately, deep, deep, inside the box.

That’s right, modern day appliances can be hidden from sight through the use of clever design tactics. From dishwasher and refrigerator doors designed to look like cabinetry to large cabinets (to hold bigger appliances like blenders or toaster ovens) designed to look like pull drawers, interior decorators are working harder than ever to play “hide the tech”. This allows them to incorporate “smart” technology while keeping the aesthetic seamless.

When it comes to the most important piece of technology of all (at least, if you live somewhere where the heat becomes utterly unbearable in the summertime), there are ways to disguise that clunky air conditioning unit. Wood provides an excellent and beautiful distraction if you have an outdoor unit; from latticework to solid boards, the stains and patterns are truly endless — you can even save some money and do the work yourself! Just remember to keep the machine accessible so professionals can perform maintenance on it (around 42% of homeowners have this done routinely). The last thing you want is a home with no A/C in the middle of a sweltering heatwave.

An authentic, vintage home is yours for the taking if you’re committed to keeping your technological creature comforts tucked safely away in a dark cabinet or underneath some elegantly stained woodwork.

More and more people are looking for energy efficiency when they buy a home, and current homeowners are often upgrading their houses to be as energy efficient as possible. If you’re one of those people, take a look at some of these tricks.

Insulate your home

When you go inside during the cold months, you expect your home to be warm, and vice versa in the hot months. If your home is not properly insulated, it can’t keep your comfortable. Your appliances have to work a lot hard to regulate the temperature inside, which only costs you more money. Spray foam insulation can cut your monthly heating and cooling costs by up to 60%, which makes it an excellent option to consider.

Use LED lighting

At night, and even sometimes during the day, you have your lights on so you can see. There are lamps all over the house, outdoor lights to illuminate your driveway, and even a light in the refrigerator so you can have a midnight snack. Replacing your bulbs with LED lights can save you up to 80% on your lighting costs because LEDs use less power and last much longer. By 2019, it’s estimated that LED lights will achieve a 53% penetration of the global lighting market, and it’s easy to see why.

Get new windows

Your windows allow natural light to come in, as well as the nice summer breeze when you open them up. You probably don’t want them letting in the air when they’re shut though. Drafty windows can increase your energy bills significantly. Dual-paned windows, though, are roughly two times as effective at retaining heat and air conditioning compared to single-paned ones. Upgrade your windows, and you’ll notice a difference in your comfort levels and your bills.

Upgrade to Energy Star Appliances

Even if you try to use your appliances in the smartest ways possible to save on energy bills, old appliances can hinder that process. If you upgrade to newer, Energy Star appliances, you can start saving money almost instantly. For example, more than one-quarter of American homes, use a septic system, and an old system can suck a lot of energy. You can replace your sump pump, washer, dryer, dishwasher, water heater, you name it.

Install a programmable thermostat

A programmable thermostat is one that you can set to automatically adjust the temperature in your home on a schedule. If you don’t already manually adjust your thermostat during the day, one that you program yourself can save you as much as 15% on heating and cooling costs

Turn down your water heater

You use hot water for a lot of things, including showering, cooking, washing dishes, and more. Heating your water can account for 14% to 25% of the energy you consume at home. Turning the temperature down on your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit can save a lot of energy. It can also stop you from accidentally burning yourself in the shower when the water gets too hot.

Use smart power strips

Even when you have something turned off, like a coffee maker on the kitchen counter, it’s still using energy when it’s plugged in. That’s referred to as a “phantom load.” It’s estimated that 75% of the energy used by household electronics is consumed when they are switched off. Smart power strips eliminate this problem because they shut off the power to electronics when you aren’t using them. These advanced power strips can save you up to $200 every year.

Use your appliances wisely

Even if you have energy efficient appliances, there are still ways you can use them to maximize their energy-saving potential. Experts suggest things like washing your clothes in cold water to save you $115 every year. You can also run your dryer at night in the summer because it’s cooler at night and not adding to the already hot atmosphere during the day.

Try some of these tricks to help you save money and be as energy efficient as possible. What’s even better is that when you use less energy, you’re helping out the environment too!

Homeownership is hard. All that property to take care of constantly keeps getting out of hand. A task in futility, perhaps, but it’s a necessary evil. The home and garden market may have been worth $272 billion in 2017, but this guy’s home and garden creativity was priceless.

This Canadian man was in the weeds, literally. He had let his lawn get a little out of control. Finally realizing that enough was enough, he fired up his lawnmower and attempted to tame his lawn jungle. Generally, lawnmowers are pretty good at doing the job they’re made for, but his grass was so long it kept stalling the mower.

Unfazed by this consistent annoyance, he tried to continue. Despite his effort, the overgrowth was defeating him. Frustrated by an already tedious task, he got creative. He opened the trunk hatch of his minivan, fastened his push-mower to the back of it, got behind the wheel, and dragged the mower across his stubborn lawn. In his van.

That’s one way to get your yard chores done. Across the street, the man’s neighbor took the video of this ingenious scene. You can hear them laughing while videoing a van-dragged lawn mower ripping across the front lawn and back around the house for another lap.

“My neighbor was trying to cut his grass and it was too long, so he kept stalling the lawnmower. His solution was to attach the push mower to the back of his van and fly around the property,” the filmer wrote in a post.

It’s always amusing to see how people face challenges whether they be personal or landscaping. This, however, is a definite first for us. Perhaps next time, before needing to take drastically hilarious steps, this man can learn from his prior procrastination and tame his lawn at reasonable intervals. Either way, keep up the good work, lawnmower van guy. Antics like that are what the internet was made for.

When you are redesigning the exterior of your home, you may not think in a totally eco-conscious way. It is easy to choose conventional designs and materials and overlook the green materials and energy-saving designs that you have access to nowadays. By thinking green for the outside of your home, you’re being both eco-conscious AND smart about your own consumption. Even a simple choice like the right roofing materials could mean up to a 30% decrease in your home’s energy needs. Here are some options for ‘greening’ home exterior design.

    • Roofing material.
      From a recycling standpoint, roofs can use plenty of reclaimed material like slate, clay, or rubber. From an energy-saving standpoint, a “cool roof” (a light color such as white) can help keep summer energy costs down by reflecting away much of the sun’s daytime heat. Standing-seam metal roofs and corrugated roofing are options that combine elements of usability, recyclability, and durability.
    • Siding options.
      Reclaimed wood is a beautiful rustic option for homes’ siding, and it has an added advantage of saving some trees. A lower-maintenance and less expensive alternative to wood is fiber-cement composite. Green siding options are still a bit limited, but stucco and cement options that are made with recycled materials and less energy-intensive to create are in development and are options to consider in the near future.
    • Driveway “paving.”
      Driveways can be made out of many recycled materials nowadays, including recycled asphalt or rubber. It’s a great way to re-use rubber that’s tough to recycle otherwise, like that from tires.
    • Solar panel or water collection integration.
      When re-roofing or redesigning large sections of your house, why not consider this a perfect opportunity for integrating savvy and green fixtures like solar panels or a water collection system?  Experts from McGuire Property Management advise you to check for restrictions (and perks!) from your HOA, city, or county.
    • Low VOC paints and adhesives.
      If repainting or using adhesives, consider non-toxic and low-VOC options that are more eco-friendly both in production and in use. Your lungs, and the environment, will thank you.
    • Greening your garden spaces.
      If you’re working on curb appeal anyways, consider creating or updating a garden space with environmental efficiency AND beauty in mind. Choose edible crops, or keep it simple and plant wildflowers and other pretty, sweet-smelling things that benefit local fauna like honeybees. Plan a spot for a compost bin that reduces home food waste and also puts your scraps to good use by making rich soil for your gardens.

Eco-friendly living doesn’t have to stop with the inside of your house or keeping litter picked up outside. ‘Greening’ up your home’s outside is as easy as a little research. If you’re using a professional construction or repair team, ask them about green options they can use for your projects.