The Cool House: Our environmental impact

Monday, October 15, 2007

Our environmental impact

Today is Blog Action Day, the day when bloggers worldwide blog on a single topic and this year it's the environment.
We're still trying to do our part to save the planet but I have to say that since we moved from Europe I feel that we've become a lot less environmentally conscious.
For example, in Belgium we sorted all our garbage. We had to as the law changed to mandate it. We were forced to buy separate garbage sacks for household rubbish, bottles, cans and cartons, paper and vegetable matter. Everyone grumbled because the sacks weren't cheap and the price varied from commune to commune but there were fines for non-compliance and eventually people got with the programme.
When we moved to the US in 2000 we attempted to keep up this regime but there was no separate collection and thus no incentive to sort. Then when we moved to this house in a different district we found that we could recycle our bottles and cans (but not cartons) one week and our paper the next. We can also put out bundles of twigs and grass clippings but not kitchen compost. So we sort of recycle. But the garden waste goes into the same truck as the ordinary household waste so I guess even if we sort, the garbage collection guys don't. Doesn't that sort of defeat the purpose?
We have replaced all the outdoor lights and most of the indoor bulbs with the compact fluorescents but once again in Europe we would have done all of them by now because they are more readily available and we know everyone else does it.
Further than that I can say that today I'm running neither the air conditioning system nor the heating, which has to be good news both for my wallet and the environment but that's a matter of climate and not a conscious decision on my part. When we do run these system I keep the airco at 78F and heat at 65F. We strip off in summer and wear layers in winter.
Outside we don't do too well either. We have a pool, although we don't heat it and a sprinkler system that uses a lot of water, although I do use a landscaping firm that has "Environmental" in its name and the tree spraying firm I employ only uses environmentally friendly products (hot oil). That's still a big environmental impact.
On the renovation front we try to be as green as possible - bamboo floors and silestone for example, and re-purposing the previous owners' furniture but I'd like to do a lot more, including solar panels. But we have a long way to go to renovate in a truly sustainable manner.
I also try to ensure that all the products and furnishings we use are made in factories that comply with International Labour Standards.
The sad truth is when we were forced by the government to do our part, we did it, and while I like to think we are environmentally aware we are not coming close to do all the things we could do to ensure that we are impacting the environment in a positive way.

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