Art of green living

eco-consciousness

Changing climatic conditions have made us aware of how important it is to create a green world. However, our good intentions need to be translated into action to make a difference, says Anuradha  Muralidharan

Words like “green” and “eco-friendly” can seem a bit confusing, especially when we wish to implement them at home. For those who wish to contribute to a greener world but are yet to take action, the first step forward is to connect these words mentally with the word “natural”.

This essentially means that whatever is natural and given by nature is inherently good. If this can be sustained then we are doing our bit in creating a greener world. Also, if we can avoid artificially created products, we are contributing to the planet in a more meaningful way. When we talk about green homes there are two aspects we take into consideration. The first is the larger picture i.e., of designing and constructing a home. The good news is, today, a lot of builders are ensuring that they include environment-friendly equipment and procedures in housing projects and those of you who are in the process of buying a house, can chose a builder who is focused on constructing eco-friendly apartments.

The second aspect involves ma­king our living spaces greener. This can be accomplis­h­ed by anybody and all that is req­uired is a bit of commitment.

Eco-friendly homes are not only our way of contributing to the environment but also the best way to protect the health of our family and offer them a safe environment to live in. We all are aware that natural materials are safer; many plastic by-products release toxins that cause difficulty in breathing and they can also be carcinogens.

So where does one start? As mentioned earlier, the first step is to connect the word “green” with “natural” and when you do that, answers will automatically flow.

So if you are living in an apartment or independent house and would like to do your bit for the environment, consider making any of the following changes. Some of them come at a cost while others just call for subtle changes to existing  habits. Incorporating even one of these can have long lasting effects on your homes and the health of your family not to mention the environment on the whole.

Energy efficiency is one of the primary concerns of environmentalists across the world. To design a greener home, we can consider using solar energy. Installing solar panels and solar heaters is the first step in environment awareness. Today, solar energy is used to provide electricity to homes, businesses and other establishments. With escalating traditional energy costs, more people are turning to solar power as an alternate energy source. One of the best advantages of solar power is the fact that it does not cause pollution. This immediately translates into better health benefits for family members. That along with the monetary benefits, i.e. solar power is absolutely free, and the fact that the life-span of a solar water heater or panel is easily between 30 to 40 years and what you essentially have is environment benefits along with a significant saving in terms of cost.
If, because of the high upfront cost involved in migrating to solar panels or heaters, you wish to delay the project, then, a temporary fix would be to use fluorescent bulbs. These energy-smart bulbs use only around 25 per cent of the energy required for incandescent bulbs.

Save water

Now comes a really easy one – don’t waste water. Ensure that leaky faucets in the house are quickly fixed or repaired. Water conservation can be undertaken in so many ways, starting from reducing the amount of water used while brushing teeth or washing hands to using less water for washing clothes. Also, you can reuse water for other purposes.

The pang of guilt you feel while using a bit too much water can be used to make a positive change and over time you will realise that it is really very simple to curb wastage of water. More than a habit, it is a discipline to be imbibed, Also, you can substitute your existing shower heads with low flow showerheads. They help control water usage and also save energy costs. Who isn’t in love with air conditioning? They not only help lower the temperature but also help make the air we breathe cleaner.

However, dust is captured in the filters of the air conditioner. If these filters are not cleaned regularly, they hamper airflow and are also not completely effective in controlling indoor pollution. So the next time your air conditioner needs a service check, learn from the technician how to clean and maintain your a/c’s filters and breathe easy.
Exhaust fans are also important in keeping the air clean — they help push out polluted air. In kitchens especially exhaust fans push out fumes which when inhaled can cause irritation in the throat and lungs.

Cooling fans are a great alternative to air conditioners as they provide cooling during summer and air circulation during winter. Therefore investing in exhaust and cooling fans is another great way to creating greener homes.

Nature power

Whether you like gardening or not, whether you have the space for an outdoor garden or not, it is a great idea to have a little herb garden at home. Many herbs require very little sunlight and grow in small pots, so as far as upkeep is concerned they are really low maintenance. Plants release oxygen and in a world of pollution, there is nothing like fresh oxygen from your garden to ensure better health for your family.

Apart from providing nutrients, oxygen and an aesthetic look to your house, herbs also have a unique fragrance and add their subtle scents to the atmosphere thus making your surroundings smell great. Inhaling these natural fragrances does wonders for your health — many herbs are used in aromatherapy.

So the next time you want to reach for an artificial room freshener, buy a potted herbal plant and keep it on a window sill.

If you have the space, you can also grow your own vegetable garden. We never know how much pesticide has gone into growing vegetables we buy. Growing organic vegetables at home can be a healthy and economic option. There is much we can do to contribute to a greener planet and it all starts at home.

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