acting green

Acting Green vs. Buying Green

Every day, a new green product hits the market that promises to protect the environment more and make our utilities bills less expensive. At the same time, researchers are constantly performing new studies on how we use those products. These studies help us identify how we can be more energy efficient with changes in our behavior. In many ways, going green comes down to nothing more than our acts and our appliances.

Why We’re Asking:

Your energy-efficient washer may use less water and power, but that doesn’t matter if you wash your sheets every morning. Likewise, making sure all your lights are turned off when you leave the house is great, but not so great if you also have a collection of antique chandeliers, lit with incandescent light bulbs.

Homeowners are constantly wondering how to go green. The best answer usually involves a combination of behaviors and products, but we want to play devil’s advocate. If a green expert had to choose only one solution, what would it be?

So green experts, your turn to weigh in:

What’s more important: green behavior or green products?

Is it more important to make sure lights are shut off when not in use or to make sure that you are using LEDs instead of incandescents?
Can a quicker shower make a bigger difference than a low-flow shower head?
Are some appliances more important to update while others make more of a difference when used correctly?

Check in throughout the week to find out what our green experts have to say!

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!



  • Shel Horowitz 06/19/12

    Although I feel what you’re asking is equivalent to “is it more
    important to breathe or to eat?”, I do have an answer: start with the
    behavioral changes.

    Why?

    1. You’re establishing behavior patterns that are easy to change and
    have a permanent effect
    2. You model them to other family members
    3. You have an impact when you’re traveling, and may even be able to
    influence friends and relatives to change their behavior as well
    4. It doesn’t rely on what you have in the house or cost anything out
    of your wallet

    In many parts of the US, we learn–and have to unlearn–to leave the
    water running full force while we brush our teeth, wash our hands, or
    wash a single dish. Modeling that one behavior alone will save
    hundreds of thousands of gallons of water (our most important
    resource) as people watch and learn from you. That being said, if
    you’re concerned about water waste, you want to fix leaky pipes,
    switch to low-flush toilets, and flow showers. If you’re concerned
    about the effect of coal and oil power plants on climate change, why
    wouldn’t you switch to LEDs or at least CFLs? Why wouldn’t you
    insulate your outside-wall outlets and switch plates? These little
    things will make a big difference. Going from incandescent to LED
    will reduce energy consumption by something like 90 percent–if you
    care, you’ll want to make the switch. There are still price issues
    about LEDs, but not CFLs.

  • Pablo Solomon 06/19/12

    General Patton once said that wars are fought with weapons but wars are won with men.
    The most important thing that you can do to make a difference in preserving, protecting and restoring this beautiful earth is to make being a steward of the earth part of your value system. Once taking care of the earth actually means something to you, the rest is a matter of filling in the blanks according to your skills, available time and budget.
    Pablo Solomon
    Artist & Designer

  • Grand View Builders 06/19/12

    In our opinion, green behavior is just as important as green products. Often times the cost of going green can prove to be costly. The easiest ways to go green actually come from conserving, rather than spending, excess money on green products and cleaners. Try a combination of these tips in order to go green in your own home while saving a few dollars in your wallet!

    • Wash laundry in cold water instead of hot
    • Line dry laundry
    • Enjoy natural light and avoid turning on lights as long as possible during the day
    • Remember to turn lights off when you leave the room
    • Turn off your computer completely at night
    • Pay your bills online vs. mailing them in
    • Reuse scrap paper, print on two sides or let your kids color on the back of used paper
    • Unplug unused chargers and appliances
    • Collect rainwater and use it to water houseplants

    Luckily, the homes at Grand View come standard with ENERGYSTAR appliances, allowing homeowners to achieve energy savings through established, reliable building technologies. Keep our tips in mind, and you can do you part in helping to conserve the environment!

  • Tanya Stock 06/19/12

    When I meet with clients the first question I ask is not “How much are you willing to spend?” Instead its “How much are you willing to CHANGE?” All the green gadgets in the world are not going to do much without the equivalent and appropriate change of behavior to accompany it.

    A good example is someone who wanted to reduce their water use. I looked at their overall water distribution method. They committed to replacing all the faucets to low flowing ones, to dual toilets and more importantly better water use in the garden – including adding rain water tanks. These were all reasonable and affordable options that should provide immediate “payback” to both their water usage bills and to the environment. As I do with all clients I left them with an audit sheet to monitor both use and costs. The result – nothing. They were so frustrated by the new equipment and the adjustments they would have needed to make they instead used more water over less. Lesson there: Without needed behavior change the material changes are less important.

    You don’t even need to do all that to actually reduce your water usage that can be accomplished singularly with a behavior change. Same with Indoor Air Quality the number two reason I am called into homes. I do think that the intent is there but unless the act is there to accompany the desire its all for moot.

    Change is hard but if you are willing to put the effort vs the money you can find your right shade of green without spending a great deal of green.

  • Linda Benninger 06/19/12

    Green products can do a lot to protect the environment; but, some green products can be cost-prohibitive to many people. Changes in behavior, on the other hand, usually cost nothing and can even save money through reduced water and utility bills. For this reason, I say start with educating people to change their behavior. Then, encourage them to take the next step towards purchasing green products as they experience the benefits to the environment and to their pocketbooks.

  • Greg Chick 06/19/12

    By including education in behavior, behavior is more important because products listed as “green” installed at less than correct, are often more wasteful than standard products. Public opinion will take a step backwards if “green” products fail as did the ULFT’s did in early 90’s causing a black eye in water saving toilets. All products need educated installation and maintenance. “Thankless Water Heaters” are un-maintained ones that cause expensive repairs. Also, if endless hot water is available, showers tend to get longer. I could go on and on with examples. Responsibility is a state of mind, not a product, just as a ray of sunshine is wasted unless captured. If I am too abstract, that is because of culture / behavior issues. My point: if we behaved as we could, we would have all the “green” power in the world we needed. It is behavior that is in the way, not products. Green is as Green does.

  • Adam Duke @ Go Green Energy Consulting 06/19/12

    There is no lack of confusion surrounding green behaviors and the benefit of certain products. We are bombarded each day by advertising on how to save money, be energy efficient, live environmentally friendly and be green so its hard to know what to believe and even harder to change a behavior.

    I own a home performance company in Detroit, Michigan and I have a unique perspective from experience in renewable, public policy, non-profit, green construction and energy efficient home improvements. I graduated from Michigan State in 2010 and have paid close attention as over the last eight years we have started to see something green on just about everything.

    When it comes to the benefits of products vs. behavior i would say that it’s a 40/60 for behavior but it has to be looked at differently depending on the age of the person. For someone who has been washing their clothes on a daily basis for 50 years, an EnergyStar washer might help cut some energy but changing that behavior from daily washing to weekly after so long is unlikely. However, a child learning in school to turn off the water while they are brushing their teeth seems totally rational to them and the opportunity to be green as possible can start before they know a different way. Children are large influences on their parents to adopt energy efficient practices while at home, yet adults are the ones who usually make the green purchases.

    There is no doubt on the comfort and energy saving benefits of a properly air sealed and insulated home here in Michigan. A home that is energy efficient doesn’t waste energy when it is being heated or cooled. However, a person with a energy efficient home when it comes to the structure could have computers, extra refrigerators and other costly electric appliances plugged in when not in use which could cause the electric bill to stay higher than it could be.

    Reducing personal waste is one of the most important aspects of being green. It can be done by behaving differently (FREE) or paid for with products and services. There needs to be some behavior adjustment no matter what. Just like mentioned in the query above, just because you have an Energy Star washing machine doesn’t mean you get to do laundry more often than you did before. While many people now claim to have Energy Star appliances, they seem to have lost the manual on how to use it to maximize energy efficiency.

    Teaching to the full extent the FREE ways to be more energy efficient, encouraging homeowners to make energy efficient improvements, then educating them on how to maximize energy efficiency has been one of the keys to our success. Making it easy as possible and catering to the individual is really important.

  • Anna@GreenTalk 06/20/12

    Green behavior is more important than green products. There are so many options now to reuse or re-purpose products that consumption should be the last resort even if it is green.

    Many green actions are learned behavior just like Adam mentioned. Turning off the lights and facets. Locking the windows for better energy efficiency, Reducing paper consumption by altering your computer settings or not printing at all. Using tap water rather than buying fancy bottled water. All of these options are low/no cost items that reduce your footprint without buying anything.

  • Paul Abrams, Roto-Rooter Corp. 06/20/12

    In plumbing, green products alone really can make an impact on your water usage. Making green retrofits, installing sink aerators, green shower heads and toilets will reduce a home’s water usage.

    At Roto-Rooter, we are strong believers in the idea that homeowners can go green without changing daily behaviors. Green plumbing installations are a one-time, no hassle action that will help save water day after day. The one other exception, being that it is not a necessarily a product, is fixing leaks. Leaks are one of the biggest sources of wasted water in homes. Luckily, this is also a one-time fix, requiring no change in daily behavior for the homeowner.

    Homeowners really cannot go wrong with earth-friendly plumbing products!

  • Andrew @ Money Crashers 06/21/12

    Incandescent light bulbs cost roughly 10 times more to operate on an annual basis than LEDs. For example, if the energy utilized by incandescent bulbs costs you approximately $150 per year, switching to LED lighting would cost only about $15. While it’s tough to provide an average estimate of how much money habitually switching off lights can save you, it’s safe to say that you’d need to turn off a whole lot of lights to approach such significant savings. So in this example, the product beats out the behavior.

    Your behavior is very important to conserving water, especially if you have an old shower head: If you cut a 10-minute shower down to five minutes, you can conserve about 25 gallons of water. If you continue this behavior on a daily basis, you can save you roughly $180 per year. However, installing a new low-flow shower head can save you 30 gallon of water per shower, and $220 annually. So the product wins again.

    Generally speaking, updating products may make more financial sense than attempting to change behaviors. Humans are creatures of habit, and forcing habitual changes can be extremely difficult. I suggest changing the product to receive the automatic savings on your utilities bills. Any behaviors that can be adjusted thereafter will provide you with additional savings.

  • Nettie Owens @ Sappari Solutions 06/22/12

    It seems that we experts are in agreement that the best thing you can do to make an environmental impact is to change your behavior. I believe the one greatest behavior you can change is to consume less. It is the ‘Reduce’ in “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. Reducing has a profound impact on our environment and can be applied in many different areas. Read on for 10 ways you can consume less:

    1 – Reduce the length of your shower.
    2 – Reduce water consumption through an inexpensive ($2-3 aerator on your sink faucets).
    3 – Reduce food waste by shopping with a list.
    4 – Reduce the amount of things in your home and share your abundance with others (reducing what they need to buy new)
    5 – Reduce the size of your home and use fewer utilities
    6 – Reduce purchases by reusing, doing without or purchasing used. This one item can reduce fuel consumption, the use of new materials, and strain on our landfills.
    7 – Reduce electricity use by turning off lights & appliances and unplugging when not in use
    8 – Reduce gas by planning your errands and car pooling or walking!
    9 – Reduce packaging waste by purchasing items with less packaging like fruits and veggies from your local farmer’s market and meats in bulk from the butcher.
    10 – Reduce plastic waste by utilizing reusable grocery bags.

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