Do recycling, reuse, renewable energy and gardening have a measurable effect on the environment? That's the definition of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification. The USGBC divides their system into five categories: site, water, energy, materials and indoor air quality. Most people think solar panels is the most effective way to be sustainable, but that's only one of five categories that are equal in their environmental effects.
These measurements are based on the Environmental Protection Agency's modeling of the environmental effects. "An environmental ethic is needed," said the first Administrator, William D. Ruckelshaus, in his first speech to the National Press Club. "Each of us must begin to realize our own relationship to the environment. Each of us must begin to measure the impact of our own decisions and actions on the quality of air, water, and soil of this nation," he said in 1970.
Yesterday the Southwestern Ohio Regional Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council held a tour of a 990 square foot home in Norwood with an organic garden owned by Stephanie Bacher. 1940s construction of poured concrete offers excellent air sealing. Since convincing her mom to set-up a recycling center in their home as a young child, Stephanie Bacher has had a passion for recycling, conservation and learning and teaching the facts. At the tour, she’ll share her knowledge of recycling, household items and health and beauty aids that perform beautifully but don’t harm the environment. Learn more at Stephanie’s Facebook page “Gradually Going Green” and her web page GraduallyGoingGreen.com.
Stephanie showed us how she sorts and separates her recyclable materials and other plastics, aluminum for recycling elsewhere. Number 5 plastics can be recycled at Whole Foods (although it's implied that they would like you to only recycle their number 5s). Aluminum foils and pans can be recycled at Cohen Recycling along with electronics such a computers and television sets. Unfortunately, Rhinegeist six pack holders aren't recyclable by Rumke's curbside pickup. Stephanie also provided our guests with some carpet freshener made from baking soda, a splash of vinegar and peppermint oil. Discussion continued about health and beauty aids and the most natural ingredients available. Another aha moment came when she shared the history of the furniture in her home. Mostly family furniture and they all had a story. That's one of the memorable things about sustainability, your stuff tell story about yourself, even rocks if you're a geologist!
So what can the average homeowner do to waste less and conserve resources? Recycle. Check out Lauren Singer's site "Trash is for Tossers." She has only produced a ball jar's worth of unrecyclables in three years. Period. Live and work in the city, take public transportation and eat locally. Live in a well-insulated condo that uses renewable energy and Energy Star appliances. Use your lavatory sink's water to flush your toilet and 100% recycled paper bathroom tissue. Reuse and repurpose all your materials. But it's indoor air quality that most people don't understand. Everyone needs to have a blower door test done on their home and seal the leaks. Get a MERV 13 air filter and a CO2 meter to improve indoor air quality and know when to open a window or turn on the Energy Recovery Unit. What's that? It's an air to air heat exchanger that recovers heating or cooling from the air you are exhausting so your HVAC system doesn't have to work so hard.
You can and will make a difference if you consume less. What you do purchase, require the manufacturers to use better ingredients. Do you think a local ice cream shop stopped using food coloring in their ice cream because they wanted to do something good for the planet? No, they did because customers stopped buying their ice cream. Same with the food coloring in cereal. They weren't doing it because it was better for the customer, it was better for their bottom line. So vote with your wallet and just plain vote.
Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy welcomes the public to see, learn and do all things green. Through seminars, tours and hands on projects, green thinkers — designers, visionaries, activists, home owners, educators, students, contractors and suppliers are encouraged to learn more about the USGBC methods and practices in designing and constructing energy efficient and sustainable structures for the benefit of the immediate area and the world.
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