Make going green great in 2008

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor



The ball has dropped, the confetti has been thrown and the champagne has been downed. Two weeks into the new year, people looking to revamp their lives have already given up on their resolutions because they're too hard, too time consuming or too ridiculous.

Lose weight? Been there. Quit smoking? Done that. Write the next great American novel? The first chapter's been finished since 2002.

There are some who are looking for something different this year, some who want to make a significant change in their lifestyles and in their world. It may seem like a fad, but going green could be great in 2008.

Living a greener life isn't just recycling paper, plastic and metal, nor is it simply replacing every light bulb in a home with low-watt compact fluorescent bulbs. Everything a person does everyday impacts the world around him or her.

Let's start at home: Everyone knows the cost of fuel oil and gas is going to increase in the future. Heating a home can now be a very costly thing, which is why various town residents through the Greater Springfield area have tried resorting to outdoor wood boilers.

What can one do besides wear three layers of sweaters while lounging at home? The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) released the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines in 2006, which outlines issues like lot design, preparation and development, resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, operation, maintenance and homeowner education and global impact. At approximately 150 pages in length, the guidelines are very specific in ways home builders and current homeowners can make their homes the greenest they've ever been.

Builder Paul Huijing, based in Wilbraham, recently constructed a certified Energy Star house, which he said is about 50 percent more energy efficient than a standard new home.

Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy designed to help Americans save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.

According to Energy Star's Web site (www.energystar.gov), U.S. citizens saved enough energy in 2006 alone "to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 25 million cars - all while saving $14 billion on their utility bills."

"Not everything I do now is 'green,' but I'm headed in that direction," Huijing said. "I try to be very energy efficient."

In addition to using insulated double-paned windows, high grade insulation, Energy Star appliances and a propane-burning furnace, Huijing looks to use other green products as well. He said he's looking for lumber that's not needlessly shipped cross-country and other more environmentally-friendly products for his new homes and additions.

Huijing added that local power companies can come to homes and perform inspections to let the homeowners know what they can do to make the home more energy efficient. In some cases, the company may be willing to pay up to half of the cost to make the improvements, up to a certain point.

"My goal is to build houses and additions that will have the least negative impact on the environment," Huijing said.

To download the NAHB green guidelines, visit www.nahb.org.



Vegetables Aren't the Only Green Groceries

Now it's time to leave the home and go grocery shopping. The green, savvy shopper has brought his or her reusable bags so as not to bring home a dozen plastic bags that will end up in a landfill. But how green is the grocery store itself?

Big Y and Fresh Acres taking going green very seriously, according to the company's sales manager, Phil Schneider.

"Food safety is prevalent in everyone's decisions, from food handling to storage to sales," Schneider said. "We follow rigid food safety rules. We have a full-time food inspector and checklists and audits are used frequently."

When it comes to product choice, Big Y stays green by staying local. "We offer a full variety of organics, like certified USDA organic meats," he explained. "And a focus on local is a focus on fresh. If a product is grown and harvested within a 100-mile radius, its nutrients get to the consumer within 24 hours."

Like Huijing, Schneider believes staying local is a key to going and staying green. If a product is coming from California, it could be a week before it reaches Western Massachusetts, and even under the best shipping conditions, fuel is wasted and the food may not be the best it can be, according to Schneider.

"In our grocery offerings and health and body care, we have a full line of certified organic products under the Full Circle label," he said. "We offer organic meat and locally processed meats, like from Carando. In the top five sellers of milk, we have Hood. In the top five sellers of ice cream, we have Friendly's." Big Y also sells local products like maple syrup and honey.

The food isn't the only green thing at the stores, either.

Schneider said the stores are doing things people do around their homes to save energy -- closing doors and shutting off lights, for example.

The company is also working with manufacturers to help save the environment by asking them to use more efficient, and often less, packaging for products.

"Going green is very important to Big Y," Schneider stated. "It's something near and dear to all of us."

The grocery shopping is done, and just in time to head to your hair appointment.



Getting a Real Organic Experience

Bellucci Salon and Day Spa, located in Springfield, is dedicated to a greener tomorrow, according to Iris Arnold, salon manager.

All the paper products in the establishment, including the toilet paper, comes from recycled materials. The ink used in their printing is soy-based. With their recycling program, they've reduced their total waste by about two-thirds.

"Maureen [Bellucci, owner] lives this lifestyle," Arnold said. "And it's not hard to get into the habit."

While green products are a little pricier, Arnold said the cost is worth it in the long run.

One way the salon has been going green is phasing out the use of aerosol hairsprays. Another way is by using Soma hair products.

Soma, according to the company's Web site (www.somahair.ca), is a plant of uncertain origins, a substance that produces a feeling of euphoria and ... is communally distributed to create and promote social harmony.

The Soma line of products, which includes conditioners, shampoos, gels, straighteners, shines and cremes, is 100 percent vegan. In addition to organic polymers, the products also use things like chamomile, rosemary, jasmine, lavender, aloe and hibiscus.

Going green doesn't have to be an individual effort, either. The United Methodist Church of East Longmeadow recently helped its community by installing an Energy Star dishwasher which will cost approximately $19 a year to operate. The parsonage bathrooms also received new faucets and an Energy Star light fixture.

Other churches are doing their part to save the environment as well. The Earth Ministry (www.earthministry.org) has a goal "to inspire and mobilize the Christian Community to play a leadership role in building a just and sustainable future."

If going green is a belated New Year's resolution and motivation is needed, look to the Green Sox of Reeds Landing, a group of about eight retirees who have been working to make the retirement community more ecologically-minded. The group has helped to step up recycling measures within the community.

To learn more about the Green Sox, see the feature "Walkin' the Talk" in this month's issue of PRIME.

Going green can be a relatively easy goal. All it takes is a little effort -- and that effort will help the world we live in now and the entire planet for years to come.

 
 
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