Go Green with your Lifestyle
Upon reading our first installment of Go Green in last month’s issue, you learned valuable tips about how to turn your home into an energy efficient dwelling. This month, read on to discover how you can take this knowledge and apply it to your lifestyle, making you an eco-friendly being.
Green Means Go
Unless a walk to work is feasible, most San Diegans are feeling the crunch at the gas pump this summer. As the environment continues to play at the forefront of our nation’s agenda, the hybrid car is gaining more and more traction in our economy.
Hybrid cars are no longer the small awkward machines requiring an overnight recharge in your garage. The latest technology now allows electric motors to couple with gasoline powered engines to create the ultimate hybrid vehicle. In these new cars, a high-voltage battery consistently works to recharge the electric motor through an innovative regenerative braking system. What does this mean for you, the driver? The former loss of energy due to coasting or decelerating is now siphoned into your motor, recharging your car and allowing for continuous driving. Hail the return of the road trip!
If you are like most Southern Californians, a Toyota Prius is unfortunately not your definition of a luxury vehicle. This year, however, you need to look no further than your neighborhood Lexus dealer to find an environmentally friendly automobile that comes with this quality brand’s commitment to excellence.
New for 2007, Lexus has added an SUV to their lineup of high-class hybrids. The RX 400h joins the GS Hybrid sedan, and like its sleek counterpart boasts almost 30 miles per gallon (mpg). It also maintains the superior attention to detail that Lexus owners demand; the RX Hybrid can come equipped with premium options including voice-activated DVD Navigation with Bluetooth® technology, a Mark Levinson® stereo system and the newly popular Adaptive Front Lighting System. Starting under $45,000, you can afford to splurge on the XM® Satellite Radio or rear seat DVD players.
Another car manufacturer hoping to pave the way to freedom from fossil fuels is Mercedes. Unfortunately the German auto maker is still in the development stage for their luxury hybrids, but their S Class prototypes look to be future contenders for the electric-gasoline hybrid market.
Green Is The New Black
With the ebullient emancipation of high fashion, green seems to be becoming fashion A-listers’ new black. Big name designers are finally embracing less environmentally destructive methods of manufacturing textiles. Oscar de la Renta, Proenza Schouler and Diane von Furstenberg are just some of the industry’s activists of the green movement, although many long-established fashion houses are still slow to follow suit. Even New York Fashion Week has hosted the FutureFashion show where models donned bamboo cloth, organic cotton, and soy-fiber to walk the runway.
Just what is the benefit of buying clothing made from organic or recycled materials? First, clothing manufacturing generally uses environmentally hazardous chemicals such as ammonia and formaldehyde, and oftentimes exploits underpaid workers in squalid conditions. Organic and free trade clothing guarantees that the manufacturing of your garment is being done with the utmost environmental and worker health in mind.
Second, designers tend to take the term “organic” quite literally. This means that some top designers are creating soft and summery visions that are both comfortable and complimentary to any wardrobe. Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, and Nordstrom are some area department stores where you may find some of this season’s fashion-forward “green” garments.
Eat Your Greens
There are plenty of changes you can make to live a greener lifestyle, including changing what you drive and what you wear. But one of the most important ways to become eco-friendly is not to make an external lifestyle change, but an internal one. Eating organic can not only help you to preserve the environment, it can also allow you to support local farmers and most importantly protect your body from harmful pesticides found in a host of foods at your local grocery store.
The Environmental Working Group has named the grocery store’s “dirty dozen,” a list of twelve highly contaminated fruits and vegetables that tests show contain high concentrations of pesticides. To avoid ingesting these, shoppers should strive to buy organic apples, peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, raspberries, strawberries, potatoes and spinach. Whole Foods, Henry’s Farmers Market, and Jimbo’s all carry a dazzling display of fresh organic produce. Even big grocery chains including Vons and Albertsons are joining the organic food trend, offering everything from organic produce to packaged cereal. To save you some money in the check-out line, the general rule is anything with a thick peel is “consistently clean.” This includes bananas, kiwi, sweet corn, sweet peas, onions and avocados.
Shopping local, at weekend farmers markets or at your corner store, can also help the environment by lowering the vehicle emissions of the produce trucks traveling cross-country to these stores. Just don’t forget your reusable shopping bag at home. Plastic shopping bags are costly and difficult to recycle, and according to the World Wildlife Fund, are a major source of marine life deaths. So be prepared for your next grocery store visit by leaving a cloth bag in the trunk of your car, or pick one up for a couple dollars on your next trip to the store.
Let the Green Shine In
With the constant rise in energy costs, even Southern Californians are feeling the pinch. With over 300 days of sunshine a year, it is a no-brainer for San Diegans to harness the power of the sun and use it to make their home more energy efficient.
Although solar panels can be costly to install, they also have solid savings potential. By taking advantage of the 30% tax credit on qualifying solar energy systems, homeowners can reduce a lot of the cost of a pricey installation. Yearly tax rebates can help to all but eliminate the cost of your energy bill over the warranty period of your solar system. Solar panels will also completely eradicate the hefty annual price inflation doled out by your energy company, giving you piece of mind for the lifetime of your system-a good 30 years or longer.
If you’re ready to install a solar system in your home, here are some things you should know. The ideal roof for solar panels’ maximum power output faces due south and has a 30-degree pitch. Systems can also be earth-mounted if your home or outlying structures do not provide a south-facing rooftop. Solar systems generally use 100 square feet of surface area to produce 1 kilowatt of power, and an 8-kilowatt system will most likely be large enough to provide energy for a 5,000-square-foot home.
One issue with solar power is that you will not have light when the sun is down. This is fine for those residences using solar power to supplement their current incoming electric energy. However, for those hoping to replace all incoming energy, a backup battery is required which will add cost to the base price of these systems.
Unfortunately private energy companies will not pay you for any excess energy generated by your solar system during sunnier months. However they will employ net metering, whereby your excess energy will be immediately paid onto the community energy grid, allowing for your utility account to be credited during the darker winter months. The ultimate goal, then, is to install a solar system that just meets your needs, eliminating your electric bill altogether and giving you piece of mind that you’re doing your part for the planet.
Whether you use the sun for energy or wear organic attire, drive a hybrid car or shop locally, it is now so easy to make green lifestyle choices. While choosing environmentally conscious alternatives may be slightly more expensive in the present, the payoff for the planet will surely be worth it in the future.
If you missed our first installment of Go Green, here are some quick fixes to make your home a more energy efficient-and environmentally friendly-dwelling.
1. Seal drafts around windows & doors
2. Unplug appliances when not in use
3. Turn off your computer
4. Program your thermostat
5. Change your light bulbs to CFL’s
By Kelly Cochran
San Diego Premier Vol 12 June 2007