15 Sep 2009

Eco-Chic v Eco-Geek — A Fine Line

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I thought I was living green. I convinced myself a hybrid vehicle, curb-side recycling, motion-lights and energy-star appliances grant me eco-chic status. I’m not alone. Many sustainable-thinkers tout their “living green” contributions. I brag about our super-insulated home, tankless hot water heater, aerobic septic, water conservation, recycled paving and drought tolerant plants. Congratulations to you and me for recycling and conserving resources, but I realized living green means practicing good green habits and being vigilant about changing other habits to live greener. To be green, I have to continually think green and live green. My goal is to transcend eco-chic and become an eco-geek.

Living Green is not about what I buy. It’s about what I don’t buy. Conservation is a big step, but an even greener step is changing my lifestyle to eliminate consumption altogether. To graduate to eco-geek status, I critiqued my lifestyle to reveal and change habits, hobbies or practices that waste energy or impact the environment.

  • * I used to leave my computer on all day and night – for convenience. Now we turn computers off when not in use to save energy.
  • * I used to set the HVAC on auto, but now we turn it off during mild weather and open windows for cooling/heating.
  • * I’m constantly searching for ways to refine our greenness so I watch Planet Green (Living With Ed among others) for ideas on how to reduce my ecological footprint. Ed taught me to compost, capture rainwater and reduce, reuse or recycle everything!
  • * I’m more aware of our inefficient fuel economy and reduced driving from 500 miles/week to 150 miles/week. That includes combining trips to reduce waste and consumption.
  • * To increase my green IQ, I research green strategies and products and publish a green building newsletter for my clients. When I learn something new, they learn something new!
  • * We recycled our old laundry appliances and replaced them with energy-star rated appliances. For those considering a front-loading wash machine, do your research. Front-loading machines may save energy, but they are high-maintenance. We opted for the top-loading machine because they offer friendlier long-term benefits.
  • * We shop for recycled products, but learned some recycled products cost more. Did you know recycled toilet paper costs $2 more than virgin toilet paper for half as many rolls? Do you know why? Volume. Few people buy it so the manufacturer doesn’t produce enough to achieve competitive pricing. If we start buying recycled products they will eventually cost less.
  • * We don’t irrigate the lawn to save water and refused to install a sprinkler system when we landscaped the front yard. We planted indigenous, drought tolerant plants using the www.texassuperstar.com site as a reference– lantana, yucca, rosemary, vitex and sage are the drought-tolerant rage!
  • * We don’t mow the lawn. In fact, we have very little turf and don’t own a mower so we save fuel and reduce harmful emissions.
  • * We are water conscientious and share bath water. We fill the tub half full (half-empty for the pessimists in the family) and let the little ones bathe first and reuse the water for the older patrons.
  • * We recycle everything we can, but an even greater step is to purchase and use less so there’s less to recycle or discard. We try to buy products with less packaging so there’s less to discard.
  • * We use shaving, bath soap and toothpaste prudently and only buy products that are non-aerosol and use no palm oil to reduce environmental impact on certain species who rely on the palm for survival.

I’m happy with my greener lifestyle tips. I learned how easy it can be to make a difference. I also learned in my quest for a smaller ecologic footprint I must be careful not to sprain my economic footprint. If going green costs more, is it really green! My changes are a modest start and I’m constantly improving my greenness, but I have a long way to go before I declare myself an eco-geek.

This is an article I wrote for Moving On!, a Boerne real estate publication, in September 2009

About the Author

Your Architect is Eric Faulkner -- an architect licensed in Texas & Oklahoma with 29 years experience in design, construction observation and life.