Jason Robie: Gradually Going Green

Regardless of your stance on global warming (Dear God I’m not going to touch that with a 10-foot pole), I think we can all agree that taking steps to mitigate our damage to the earth is a good idea. Having lived in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Colorado and New York, it is safe to say that there is a wide variety of opinions and levels of effort toward this end throughout our great country. So, whether you proudly drive a 4-ton, gas-guzzling SUV or you proudly drive your tree-hugging Tesla coupe, I’d like to share some steps we can all take to do our part. Kermit had it right, when he sang, “It’s not that easy bein’ green.”

One important item to keep in mind about making efforts at being green is that the majority of steps you can take benefit the planet but also benefit your wallet. If you solely consider efforts focused around making your house (or your transportation) more energy efficient — that directly translates into less money being taken out of your budget.

The first tip is one that comes at a good time for those of us in the colder areas of the country. This is the season where we can take steps to button-up the house in preparation for the coming winter (No, not the Game of Thrones one! Although I can’t wait!). The first step, if the leaks aren’t blowing your curtains on windy days already, is to get a home energy audit. This is the best way to identify (and target) the areas of the home that are the biggest sinners when it comes to heat (or cooling) loss.

The audit will inevitably point at the areas around your windows, the windows themselves and other areas where the insulation just isn’t able to protect. The less obvious areas are really where the audit pays for itself. We have cedar siding that the migrating birds simply love to poke holes in. When the home inspector was showing me around the house with his fancy camera that shows heat maps, we noticed a big issue. Over the years before we bought the house, these birds had created a veritable castle in our walls. How they had not poked through the sheetrock is beyond me. That 2-foot tall section of wall was entirely devoid of any insulation. Needless to say, that was the first area we attacked with new foam insulation.

That “spray foam” insulation is another great step in sealing up your home. Although the initial investment is a bit of a shock, the installers and experts alike all sing the praises of the eventual savings during all four seasons. There are areas where you can do this yourself such as attics and crawlspaces, but for the overall home it is always best to let the experts handle that. There are air returns to consider and other factors that you don’t want to gamble with when it comes to the quality of the air you and your family will be breathing in the coming months.

Another great way to conserve money and natural resources is by reclaiming or capturing water. Rainwater and household “gray” water can be reclaimed and used for a myriad of things including watering plants and lawns and even washing your car. I know the idea of using “waste” water sounds a little extreme and maybe even gross, but give it a chance, and by doing it correctly you can make a big difference.

“Although conservation is not necessarily tops on everyone’s list, small changes can make a big difference in your footprint on this earth and the costs associated with running a household,” notes Badger Realty agent, Jerry Hamanne. “Not only can it improve your daily living experience, but those small items tend to make a difference for buyers when you are selling your home in today’s market,” he continued.

The last step for those with bigger visions and more motivation is to go solar. This can be done, like most things, in small steps as you work towards a more complete system. Solar panels can be used to store power to supplement your energy costs and can be used to simply heat water for use throughout the home and even for heating. One of the first places I rented had a passive solar system in the back yard that just heated water. This covered a large percentage of the heat in the winter months as well as supplementing the hot tub year round. If that is not a great reason for going solar, I don’t know what is.

Going “green” doesn’t always have to be about saving the planet, but can be a great way to cut costs and supplement the work that your home is already doing to keep you warm, cool and even well lit when it is dark. Regardless of your reasons for wanting to take this path, I encourage you to explore the many ways you can get started and make a difference. You will not only be helping your budget, but your kids and grandkids will appreciate the fruits of your efforts.