3 Strategies for Going Green On a Budget!

The concept of greening up your home means different things to different people.  To some, it’s all about boosting their property’s energy efficiency (and slashing those monthly utility bills), others might be more concerned about creating a healthful home environment for their children.  Still others are concerned about the ecological environment, and minimizing their footprint on it.

Regardless of where your conception of green falls, it’s possible that you fall in the ranks of those homeowners who view going green almost like going on a diet. It’s one of those things people see as important, but non-urgent.  And there’s always a reason not to start now.  “Ah, green is just a buzzword, anyway.” “It costs too much to install all new windows!”  “That’s for young people/old people/people in big cities/people in small towns/people with more time/people with more money/people with less money.”

I propose that if you’ve ever even thought about going green at home, you can create a version of green that can be executed within your budget of both cash and time.  Here are a few strategic approaches to try out:

1. Adhere to Occam’s Razor.  Occam’s Razor is a scientific and philosophical principle that boils down to this: boil it down!  Occam’s Razor mandates that problem-solvers always look first at the simplest approach to finding an answer – and actually uses the term “elegant” to refer to answers containing the fewest variables possible.

How does this relate to going green at home? Some homeowners stop themselves before they ever get started out of overwhelm at all the work they think it would take to green up their old, charming but really inefficient home. Don’t fall into that thinking – the simplest approach to going green can be the least expensive and the quickest projects often deliver the biggest return on investment.

What if you had your handyman or woman spend a single Saturday:

  • Servicing your furnace and checking for/fixing any faucet leaks
  • Changing out all your heating and air conditioning filters
  • Re-sealing and weather-stripping all your doors and windows
  • Wrapping your hot water heater and
  • Switching your shower heads to low-flow and placing a water bottle in your non-low-flow toilets?

For a couple hundred dollars, you’d probably have maximized your home’s efficiency and saved yourself a significant amount of time and money.  All of the above – with the exception of the furnace servicing – are also highly suitable do-it-yourself projects, if you’re into that sort of thing or want to learn.

You can apply Occam’s Razor to any level of home-greening project you want.  The upshot is simply not to assume that you have to install all new appliances, windows, plumbing, HVAC equipment and greywater systems to green your home.  Start simple, solving for the particular areas of inefficiency that are most impacting your personal budget or comfort, like replacing the running toilet that is costing you money or sealing up the drafts that force you to wear your down puffer coat indoors.  Alternatively, start by focusing on the short list of green home ideals that most appeal to your personal values, priorities and budget – see #3 below, for more.

2. Use OPT + OPM.  You might not know it (yet), but Other People’s Time and Money are resources that you can put to great use in service of your vision of greening your home. For example, there are now a number of companies that now allow homeowners in certain states to have solar panels installed and maintained on the company’s dime. In exchange, the homeowner pays the company for electricity instead of the utility, at a lower rate than they were paying to the utility.  (This is called solar power service, by the way – click here for more information.)

If time or money are your biggest challenges to getting your green home projects done, get creative and think flexibly about how you can access the people power and funding you need.  A few things you might consider:
  • Having your friends and relatives help kickstart your vegetable beds or kitchen garden
  • Engaging your local Conservation Corps or high school 4-H students to help with yard or urban farming projects, like composting or installing a low-water xeriscape of native plants
  • Hiring a neighbor on TaskRabbit or Craigslist to help you install your recycling center or do some of the simple energy efficiency projects in #1, above
  • Visiting your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore to find everything from brand new toilets to dual-paned windows at a fraction of the retail cost.

And above all else, make sure you don’t overlook local, state and federal grant money and tax credits for green home projects.  These range dramatically, from local offices where you can pick up a low-flow toilet hacking kit for a few bucks, to state and local tax credits in the thousands for going solar.  Visit your city, county, state and IRS websites to explore the tax advantages you might be able to tap into to help fund your efforts to go green.

3. Do it Your Way.  As I mentioned earlier, green means something different to everyone who has ever used the term. Don’t get caught up in the buzzwordiness of the green trend, or dismiss the entire concept of green because you don’t identify with the sorts of people you think exemplify a green lifestyle.  Recent data has shown that a surprising number of Boomers and people who don’t identify as “Green” actually live green lifestyles because of their concern for saving money, their concern about preserving the environment in which they hunt and fish and the desire to simply not waste resources.

So, before you make decisions about whether or not to green your home, and throughout the process of choosing and carrying out green home improvement projects, be thoughtful about which personal values and priorities you hope to further in the course of going green.  Then, use your values as the driving force behind which projects and budgets you choose.  Some values-based approaches to green home ownership include:

    The In/On/Around Approach – This is the approach of people who are fundamentally concerned with the healthfulness of the things they put in, on and around their bodies – and those of their children and pets.  In their efforts to go green at home, these folks prioritize organic textiles, minimally toxic paints, upholstery and mattresses, hypoallergenic floor coverings and natural and non-toxic cleaning supplies.  They might also cultivate kitchen gardens in an effort to feed their families whole, healthful and organic foods.

    The Efficiency and Money-Saving Approach. Green homeowners with values in this bucket are most focused on optimizing their homes’ energy and water efficiency, making sure their properties are running like well-oiled machines.  They are likely to service or replace old appliances that likely to cost a lot to operate, from dishwashers to refrigerators and furnaces; install water-efficient toilets; go solar to minimize their utility bills; and check their bills every month to detect the first sign of a water or energy leak.

    The ‘Light Green’ Approach.
  The light green among us are those who love the concept of going green to protect both the environment and their wallets – but who are most interested in doing so without making any major sacrifices in terms of time or convenience.  Many actually love green lifestyle projects specifically because they find them more attractive, convenient or comfortable than the alternative. These are the people who are likely to install the latest in solar to power their new hybrid SUV or who love the idea of a kitchen garden mostly because it allows them to grow and eat their own gourmet foods.

    The Self-sufficiency, urban farming and homesteading Approach. These people and their values come in many variations, from those who are focused on preparing their homes and families for a natural (or other) disaster, to those who simply are attracted to the idea of growing some or all of their own food at home.  These folks’ values inspire projects like kitchen gardens, urban farms, keeping small livestock like chickens and goats, maintaining beehives, composting and even installing greywater systems to use waste water for their gardens and other irrigation needs.

ALL:  Have you made any efforts to go green at home? What worked?  What would you advise a friend to do differently?

Brought to you by: Trulia

No comments:

Post a Comment