Is it viable to live green in South Africa

Is it viable to live green in South Africa

Are you a couple who understands the benefits of living green? Perhaps you started out by separating and recycling your rubbish. Then you read about solar water heaters and installed one into your home. Perhaps you’ve even gone as far as installing rainwater catchments and photo-voltaic solar panels.

But the question is this: What will you do when the time comes to move out? How will you find a home that someone else has invested in as much as you have in your current home?

The sad truth is that converting your home into a green home is often over-capitalizing on your property (depending on the area in which you live). Not many buyers will appreciate your green features enough to give you a return on investment. So unless you’re planning on staying put for a really long time, green features are not always recommended.

Growing accustomed to green living

But let’s say you’ve slowly implemented green features into your home. You’ve added some solar panels. You’re collecting rainwater for your garden. You’ve even had a heat pump installed to save on your geyser costs.

And now the time comes for you and your family to move. All these green features have become such a part of your life. Will you look for a home that has the same green features? How hard will it be to find such a home?

This is a question of finding a new home for sale that offers the same green benefits you’ve come to expect. These may include:

  • Saving money on your utilities
  • Living comfortably and sustainably
  • Being independent of the grid
  • Having a clear conscious about your impact on the environment

Green home development is slow but sure

Well, you’ll be happy to know that slowly but surely, green home development is catching on in SA. Fully green homes are being developed.\

Now buying a home like this is a big decision. You already know that green homes in South Africa cost more than regular homes. But if you’ve done your research, you also know that green homes give you such a large return on investment, the initial price is well worth it.

But you already know that, don’t you? You’ve already experienced the savings and convenience associated with green features. Right?

Not necessarily!

Those bad experiences

You see, there are a lot of people out there who were quickly sold on the idea of living green. They understood that being off the grid would save them money in the long run. They also wanted less dependence on the grid and convenient living. But did they get what they bargained for?

Let’s face it: there are a lot of dubious companies out there who provide dodgy products—or don’t know how to install them. In short, many people in South Africa have experienced problems with their green features. And these problems are often enough to put people off green living for good.

Another issue is the return on investment. If green features are not properly thought through, home owners may not get all the benefits they were promised. This is the case for many home owners—and maybe you are one of them.

So have you been scared away from green living?

These obstacles may easily scare you away from living as green as you’d like. But the truth is, living green is an inexpensive, hassle-free lifestyle that keeps you and your family happy, healthy and safe.

These three objectives are exactly what you should aim for:

  • Happy: If the green features in your home aren’t adding joy and convenience to your life, then something is amiss. Your home should aim to provide you with a happy life by making things comfortable and spacious. Everything you need is always on-hand. In addition, all aspects of the home require almost no maintenance.
  • Healthy: Green living is healthy living. When you consider the five types of insulation all green homes possess, you can be sure your family will remain healthy during the harshest winters. The under floor hydronics radiant heating and cooling also ensures your family’s health without costing you the earth. As opposed to air conditioners, air is able to rise and circulate within the home—instead of circulating what is outside and bringing it into your home.
  • Safe: The location of your home influences your safety. Be sure to choose an area with tight security and a close-knit community culture, making it a safe haven for families who want their kids to be able to play in the street without fear of harm.

Don’t these benefits seem worth it? Living green is a lifestyle that is becoming easier and easier to obtain. A few bad eggs should not put you off pursuing this kind of life.

So what about that initial capital?

Now an immediate objection many have when considering a green home is the price. Green homes cost significantly more than regular homes because of all the extra work and strategy that goes into them.

But buying a green home is actually one of the smartest investments you can make in South Africa at the moment. People invest in properties all the time. They invest in properties with the hope that the value of that property will appreciate in value.

Buying a green home in South Africa is a sure way to get a solid return on your investment. Even though the market for green homes is on the increase, it’s currently a very slow market. This means that, say within five years—when the market for green homes has increased—your home will be worth a lot more than what you paid for it!

Now that’s what we call an overall return on investment. But let’s consider the compounding ROI you receive while living in your green home:

  • You will save costs on water due to the implementation of rainwater harvesting
  • Your electricity bill will be significantly low with the use of photo-voltaic solar panels
  • Low maintenance strategies will ensure that you almost never have to fix up sections in your home such as roof tiles, repainting the walls, rust-proofing the banisters, maintaining the garden, etc.

These savings will add up very fast as the months and years of your stay go by. Soon you will grow accustomed to living in your home at a fraction of normal living costs! Now add these savings to your overall ROI when you sell the home, and you can see how buying a green home makes great business sense.

The responsibility to live green

One also cannot overlook the aspect of living with a clear conscious towards the environment. This human responsibility is wedged into the conscience of most of us. People who have children are especially concerned with the future of the planet and how their lives will ultimately impact life as we know it.

So let’s take a quick look at seven ways a green lifestyle can have less of an impact on the environment:

  1. Utilizing rainwater reduces the need for chemically treating water for home usage. Of course when one person uses less water, this hardly makes a difference. But as the trend grows and more people stop needing municipal water, the need for chemically treated, fluoridated water will begin to decrease.
  2. Insulating a home is a great way to cut down drastically on power usage. Think about it. During the hot months, your electricity usage goes up because of fans, air conditioners and the like. In winter, heaters form a massive part of your electricity bill. But when a home is insulated at the ceiling, the floor, the windows and the walls, each room maintains its temperature for much longer.
  3. Generating and using photo-voltaic solar power ultimately reduces the need for burning fossil fuels. The sun is a limitless source of energy that can be harnessed by us to power our homes. Why use fossil fuel generated electricity when a renewable source is at hand?
  4. Planting a garden that is fully indigenous is a way to work with nature rather than against it. By excluding invader plants from your garden, you give indigenous plants a chance to thrive. And by planting trees and shrubs that are native to South Africa, you ensure little maintenance and watering.
  5. A proper hydronics radiant system uses way less power than conventional heating and cooling methods. By having such a system in your home, you negate the need for grid electricity thereby having less of an impact on the planet’s fossil fuel usage.
  6. Through pipe insulation, water is kept at its temperature for much longer. This means that less electricity is used to heat up water when it is accessed through a tap. Again, this is another contribution to the planet’s welfare.
  7. Finally, by furnishing your home with low maintenance material, fewer chemicals are needed to repair and maintain wear & tear.
    1. For instance, using bamboo instead of tree wood shows an understanding for how important trees are to our environment.
    2. Using aluminum and stainless steel is a great way to ensure long life and low maintenance for your metal fittings.
    3. Roof tiles that don’t require painting mean that fewer chemicals are used.
    4. A decorative approach to gardening uses very little lawn area. This will mean never having to use a lawnmower to maintain your yard.

So as you can see, living green makes you a responsible citizen of the planet. Not only is it cheaper, more convenient and simple, but it’s also the right way to live.

There’s really no reason why you shouldn’t consider buying a green home in South Africa.

If you and your significant other are highly conscious about living a green lifestyle, we’d welcome you to speak to your real estate agent and find out what options are out there. 

Green at Heart, Down to your Core Being

Green at Heart, Down to your Core Being

What are the benefits of green living?  Maybe we start with recycling, then think about installing a solar water heater.  Maybe we even put in a rainwater tank or photo-voltaic solar panels.

Living green means we are passionate about preserving the planet for future generations.  This is also a healthier way to live, with long-term cost savings.

Within the home, using sustainable materials helps us to conserve our surroundings.  When shopping, we’ll also play our part:

  •  Buy local: This means that less transportation of goods over long distances was required.
  • Honey: Be sure to check for a badger-friendly label.
  • Vegetables: Buy fresh, loose fruit and vegetables (which uses far less packaging)
  • Buy only what is needed, so there is no waste.
  • Opt for eco-friendly biodegradable cleaning products

Let’s go back to nature.

Eco-living is Healthy, Really

Eco-living is Healthy, Really

In modern times, we are indoors for most of the day, including the time spent in our cars.  And there’s no guarantee that the air we breathe is clean.

Dust, dust mites, fungi, bacteria and viruses are some of the more common air pollutants.  Contagious illnesses and allergies are made worse by polluted air.

In a green home, the growth of mould and fungi is minimised.  Radiant heating doesn’t produce the same kind of humidity as conventional heating systems.  And as radiant heating is made up of a network of water pipes laid over the insulated floor, there is no extra equipment to collect dust within the home.

With traditional homes, chemicals that evaporate at room temperature are based in the materials.  This is harmful to our health as well as the environment.  Green homes use natural material and finishes and so the air in a green home is virtually chemical-free.

How to reduce your home’s carbon footprint—and save money

How to reduce your home’s carbon footprint—and save money

There’s more to green living than simply reducing your impact on the planet. You can actually save money by doing simple things that make a big difference. And where better to make a difference than in your own home?

Reducing your carbon footprint is all about having as little impact on the earth as possible. We all know that climate change is affected by some of the ways we live our daily lives. A large factory may be emitting harmful gasses into the atmosphere. A private person may own an automobile that’s way too large for what he or she needs.

All of these lifestyle choices have an impact on the environment. Reducing your carbon footprint is about making the right decisions in your everyday way of life.

In this article we will discuss small ways you can reduce your carbon footprint in the simple way you live your life at home. And best of all, these methods won’t cost you any extra to implement. It’s a great harmony of living well, living cheaply, and living responsibly towards the planet.

Insulate your home from draughts and air leaks

Insulation in-between external and separating walls helps to maintain the temperature inside the house. This reduces the cost of heating your home in winter and cooling it in summer. If you’re buying a new home, look for one that is expertly insulated.

But insulation goes a lot further than your walls. In summer, a lot of hot air comes into your home when the sun bakes your roof. Ceiling insulation is a must in these cases. A home that has ceiling insulation can be easily identified when the weather outside is uncomfortably hot or cold. You walk in and can immediately feel the difference.

Insulation is all about trapping air inside and preventing external air from coming in. A great way to do this is by insulating your windows and glass doors. Believe it or not, air does travel through glass. But preventing this from happening is easier than you think. Double glazed glass panes can be fitted to your window frames. This special glass can also be used in your glass doors.

So how does double glazing work? Simple. It’s two panes of glass with a cavity of air in between them. This air traps the hot or cold air and keeps your home at a consistent temperature—regardless of the climate outside.

Now if a home is TRULY green, it goes even further to ensure insulation. Floor insulation makes a big difference to ensure your comfort. Not only can air escape through your floor, but under floor heating and/or cooling is best maintained with a floor that contains some form of insulation.

So if you’re searching for a green home, ask your agent about these types of insulation. Having some is great, but having all of them is even better! The more insulation your home has, the more power you end up saving in the long run.  And of course the environment will love you for it.

Replace incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs or LEDs

Compact Fluorescent Light and Light Emitting Diode bulbs are more energy efficient and last longer than regular incandescent bulbs. You won’t have to replace them as often, so you save in the long run. Even turning off the light when you’re not in the room will help to reduce your carbon footprint.

There’s been a lot of publicity about these light bulbs. Truth be told, not enough can be said about how great they are. Not only do they shine brighter, but electricity usage is minimal. These light bulbs are a bit more expensive, but they will last longer than regular bulbs and save you loads on your utility bill.

Use a low-flow showerhead

How can a low-flow showerhead help save the environment? Simply put, water is the earth’s most precious resource. So if you can save it, you’re doing a lot. You’ll still enjoy getting clean, but you’ll use a lot less water. And don’t forget to turn off the tap when you’re brushing your teeth. It’s a little thing that can make a big difference to your water bill.

You like shower pressure? No problem! Many of the low-flow showerheads on the market today can be adjusted in such a way that water pressure is focused and strong. This is done despite the fact that little water gets utilised.

When you think of the slightly higher cost for a showerhead like this, you will quickly see what a good return on investment this is for your pocket and the environment. You save a lot of water in the long run. The longer you have it, the more you get out by saving water. So be sure to include this in your home’s carbon footprint reduction strategy.

Replace old appliances with energy efficient ones

If you need to get a new fridge, freezer, dishwasher or microwave, check the energy star rating before you check the price tag. At the end of the day, an energy efficient appliance will save you more money.

Most people don’t even know that appliances have energy star ratings on the packaging. In short, the more stars such a rating has, the less electricity it uses. This is becoming an important factor to many shoppers all over the world. And yes, South Africans are starting to shop according to energy star ratings too.

The energy star ratings put a lot of responsibility on the manufacturers of these appliances. It adds an extra competitive element to products too. As more and more shoppers begin to recognise the energy star rating system, more and more manufacturers will start to produce appliances that run on less energy.

At the end of the day, the main reason for energy efficient appliances is not predominantly for money saving or better competitiveness. The main reason is to help the environment. You as a consumer and the manufacturing companies are both taking part in an important responsibility—reducing your carbon footprint on the planet.

A water-wise garden strategy

There are many small ways you can save energy and money around the home. But don’t forget your garden. Even if watering your garden doesn’t use energy, harvesting rainwater in tanks will also help you save money by saving you on your water bill.

As mentioned above, water is our most precious resource. It’s important to save as much of it as we can. Rainwater harvesting is an effective way of doing this. When certain parts of your home utilise rainwater instead of municipal water, your carbon footprint is reduced. That’s because using less water in general is beneficial to everyone around the globe.

Now there are various ways you can use rainwater in your home. But you will find that most of your water goes to maintaining your garden. South Africans are avid gardeners. And hey; there’s nothing wrong with that. However there are some simple ways to run your garden in a way that very little water is used.

The first is by planning indigenous plants, shrubs and trees. Plants that are accustomed to the South African climate need much less water than non-native plants. Another way is to fill your garden with lots of pebbles, pots, statues, birdbaths, rocks and pavers. These will negate the need for lots of watering and they will lend your garden an aesthetic quality that will never grow old.

But your biggest water saving method will be to not use municipal water to irrigate your garden in the first place. Now you may be saying that all water is originally rainwater anyway; so besides your water bill, what’s the difference? Well, remember that a lot of rainwater gets lost after it falls over your home. It sinks into the ground, washes down the street or gets soaked up by the sun.

Rainwater harvesting collects as much of this water as possible, and keeps it for when you need it! This puts you in control of when you use a resource that you obtained for free. It prevents waste and ensures a clean alternative to treated water from your municipality.

Can you buy a house like this?

You may be interested to know that many houses already have these strategies in place. But even more importantly, green home developers are building green homes that have ALL of these factors in place. Imagine living almost completely green!

People who live in these homes reduce their impact on the environment. It’s awesome to watch parents raise their children in this kind of lifestyle. Fortunately for us all, more and more South Africans will begin switching to a greener lifestyle—some quicker than others.

It takes no more than a little imagination and effort to make any home a green one. By doing so you are securing a future for future generations. You are also limiting the impact you and your family currently have on the environment. The wonderful truth about living green is that it all works out for the benefit of everyone. Yes, the planet will be smiling, but so will you. You’ll be healthier, happier, and financially better off for implementing these strategies. 

How to conserve resources for a greener living

How to conserve resources for a greener living

The trend towards green living is growing as people are becoming conscious about the environment. Conserving resources is always a good place to start. The first step is to change your own habits in your home, which will not only help save the environment but also costs. You will probably be surprised at how much unnecessary stuff accumulates in your home and ultimately ends up on a landfill.

So, let’s look at ways you can reduce consumption in your home:

Use less paper

Avoid using paper cups and plates: There is no need for paper cups and paper plates if you have a fully stocked kitchen. If you don’t feel like doing dishes, then rather eat out. It’s more costly producing these items and then having them end up on a landfill. You do have to make small lifestyle changes sometimes in return for a greener home. And really, in this case some soap, water and a few minutes of your time is definitely worth it.

Eliminate paper napkins and paper towels: Paper in the home doesn’t only include magazines, newspapers and postage. Think about how many times you have wiped your hands or mouth with a paper napkin or tended to spillage with a paper towel. What’s worse is that paper towels and napkins are not recyclable, so they are definitely items you should scratch off your green home shopping list.

This doesn’t mean you now have to walk around with a dirty mouth or dirty hands after consuming a plate of vegs at dinner. It simply means you should choose an alternative, which in this case could be a cloth napkin, which you can simply wash and reuse.

Magazines and newspapers: It’s not uncommon to find a stack of magazines and/or newspapers in many households, unless it’s a green home of course. But these days, technology allows us to enjoy the same reading experience on a digital device, as electronic versions of most reading material is now available.

Paper receipts: Most businesses, including retailers are making the shift towards a paperless environment. Email receipts are fast replacing their paper counterparts. Help move this paperless process along by simply requesting that an electronic version of your receipt be emailed to you instead, next time you do your grocery shopping.

Audit your mailbox: We all know how annoying ‘junk’ mail can be and as a result, it either ends up being stashed into a drawer or cabinet or thrown in the trash. This means more unnecessary paper either accumulating in your home or unfortunately ending up in the landfills. Avoid this by contacting the advertisers and asking them to remove your name from their mailing list.

Get your bills and statements online: There is obviously mail that you are expecting and wanting to receive, such as your statements and bills. In this case you can contact your service providers and request that they send you digital versions instead. These days most businesses offer paperless alternatives anyway.

Avoid using disposable products: Don’t use plastic shopping bags, but if you already have them in your home then simply reuse them instead of getting more from the retailer when you do your grocery shopping. You can also purchase permanent shopping bags made from cloth or canvas that you can re-use every time you shop.

Also, when doing your shopping check the labels on all the products you wish to purchase and only select products with recyclable packaging.

Reduce your home energy consumption

Choose energy efficient appliances: Select appliances with a good energy rating. This is usually indicated by stars. The more stars, the better the rating.

However don’t be fooled by larger appliances, as their energy efficiency is determined by size versus consumption. Because they are bigger, they will still use more electricity than the smaller ones.

Your fridge and freezer consumes massive amounts of electricity because it operates 24/7, 7 days a week. When looking for a more energy efficient model, consider one that has butane or pentane for insulation.

Some countries are even implementing minimum energy performance standards on all new refrigeration appliances. It’s better to consider these options (if available), rather than those that are “CFC free,” as this is no reflection of their energy consumption.

Be sure to unplug your appliances once you have switched them off. Many appliances have a stand-by mode, which means they still draw electricity even when they are switched off.

Consider insulation for heating and cooling your home: In summer you want to keep your home cool, whereas in winter we want to keep your home warm. Unfortunately this means more electricity consumption, which is not ideal when you are striving to conserve resources in your quest for a greener home. The solution is simple. Insulation. Insulating your roof or ceiling will naturally block out heat in summer and trap warmth in winter.

Prevent Draughts: Draught proofing your home is simple and cost effective. All you need to do is make sure your windows and doors are closed and sealed properly. You can seal doors with draught excluders and get special seals for your windows.

If you have a chimney then get a damper to prevent heat from escaping in winter when your fireplace is dormant and also from entering your home in summer.

Don’t use down lights: Not only do these lights chew up a lot of electricity, but they also cause heat loss by interfering with the ceiling and insulation. A good alternative is Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) or light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs).

Use shading on your windows: A lot of heat enters your home through your windows in summer, especially if they are big and face west, east or north. Blocking the sun’s heat means you don’t have to use extra energy via cooling systems to cool down the interior of your home. In winter, simply close curtains or blinds to help retain the heat inside your home.

Manage your air conditioner effectively: Ideally, if you want an authentic green home, you should avoid using an air conditioner altogether. Consider ceiling fans as an alternative as they are more cost effective and use less energy. However, if you feel you can’t do without an air conditioning system, then use it sparingly.

It helps conserve energy if you keep windows and doors closed while your air conditioning system is active. Remember to switch it on before the heat of the day has already penetrated your home, as this will allow it to cool the interior a lot quicker.

It also helps to invest in a unit that has a thermostat and/or a timer as it will allow you to manage the unit more efficiently by setting the temperature accordingly and enabling it to switch off automatically. Avoid setting the temperature too low, as it will use more energy to maintain it.

Reduce water consumption

Water is a valuable resource and so, saving water is an obvious choice if you want a greener home.

Look out for water-efficiency labels and standards (WELS): This scheme allows various water-dependant appliances, as well as showers, taps and toilets to be rated in terms of water efficiency, which is determined by their number of stars.

Cut down on shower time: If you shorten your shower by just a minute, you could save 150 gallons of water every month. If you prefer to bath, then make an effort to use less water and spend less time in the bath so you aren’t tempted to top up with more hot water when the water cools down.

Harvest rainwater: Save water by watering your garden with collected rain water. This can be done by installing a rainwater tank.

Use recycled greywater: This is used water from your basin, sink, tubs, shower and washing machines. Even though it may contain various household waste material, it can still be used to water your garden. Take note that sewerage water is not greywater.

Invest in a water saving showerhead: Water saving shower heads fully compliment green homes, as they not only help save water but are also great energy and cost savers.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

These activities fully support a greener home environment. Not only do they help you conserve energy, they also reduce the amount of toxic gas emissions which are released into the atmosphere during extraction, manufacturing and disposal of various resources. Take advantage of recycling programs. Simply gather all the recyclable material in your home, such as paper, tins, magazines and other items and drop them off at designated recycling sites.

Go green in your yard

Composting is also a great way to limit the amount of garbage that ultimately ends up on landfills and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. You can use food, as well as garden waste to produce compost which can then be safely fed back into the soil to help nourish your lawn as well as your plants.

Limit your fuel consumption

Transportation is a big contributor to your carbon footprint and so this is a great area where you can make a big difference. Reduce the number of errands so you use your car less. Instead of doing your shopping weekly, draw up a comprehensive shopping list and do your groceries fortnightly or monthly. If you are going on a long journey to an area you are not familiar with, avoid getting lost and clocking up additional miles by using a GPS.

Ultimately you want to try avoid driving where possible. If you are close enough to your destination, then rather walk or ride there on a bicycle. Not only will this help save fuel and the environment, but it will also have a positive impact on your health.

Avoid entertainment that uses energy: Consider spending more time reading and playing games to reduce the demand on electricity and natural resources.

Consider downsizing: Smaller homes are just easier to manage, especially if you want to reduce your consumption of resources. Smaller homes consume less energy for lighting, heating and cooling. So if you are aiming for a greener home then consider downsizing. There will also be less space to accumulate paper and other unnecessary materials and you won’t need as much furniture or furnishings. If you intend to build your green home from scratch, then be sure to consider green building ideas and techniques as well.

Reducing your overall consumption of various resources contributes to a greener home, as well as a more sustainable living. Furthermore, you will also end up cutting costs significantly which is a great reward when choosing to go green. Remember to share these tips with family and friends. The more people that chooses greener living, the better it will be for the environment and for us all. 

Tips on how to detox your home

Tips on how to detox your home

Your home is your sanctuary, it’s a place where you want to experience peace and good health. These days we are becoming more aware of what constitutes a healthy environment, both outdoors and indoors and so the trend towards greener homes is growing. This means there is an emergent need to eradicate poisonous chemicals and toxins that are both harmful to a home’s occupants, as well as the environment.  

Removing toxins from your home environment is a similar process to detoxifying your body. It’s about removing obstacles that lead to ill health. The process is really simple. Identify the products in your home that are hazardous and replace them with eco-friendly alternatives for a much healthier, greener home.

Here is a list of the most common toxic products, their effects and some non-toxic alternatives:

Pesticides are a common household product. They are designed to kill living organisms such as weeds (herbicides), insects (insecticides), fungus (fungicides), rodents (rodenticides), and others. Unfortunately because they are designed to kill, they do harm other organisms, including humans. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 3 million cases of pesticide poisoning each year and up to 220,000 deaths, primarily in developing countries. It’s is often difficult to contain the area during the application of pesticides, so there is a great risk of exposure to other organisms in the same vicinity.

Harmful effects of pesticides: It has been noted that even low levels of exposure to pesticides have adverse health effects. Children and developing organisms are unfortunately the most vulnerable. The effects of exposure range from memory loss, loss of coordination, reduced response to stimuli, reduced visual ability, altered or uncontrollable mood and general behaviour, and reduced motor skills. Other health effects include asthma, allergies, and hypersensitivity as well as cancer, hormone disruption, reproduction and foetal development issues.

Alternatives: For a greener home consider using non-toxic products made from d-limonene.

Ammonia is a very common substance in the home, as it is found in most household cleaners. Ammonia releases fumes that are harmful to the eyes, lungs and skin. Products made with ammonia become even more harmful when mixed with chlorine bleach or other products that contain it. The byproduct of this combination is chloramines gas, which is extremely poisonous and can cause severe damage to the lungs. Ammonia is therefore particularly harmful to asthmatics.

Harmful effects of ammonia: Ammonia is known to burn and irritate the skin and attack mucous membranes. It is highly toxic to the body if accidentally ingested. Ammonium nitrate particles are formed when ammonia fumes come into contact with nitrates in the environment. These toxic particles attach themselves to dust and other household fabrics such as carpets and upholstery.

Alternatives: Replace ammonia with vinegar-based cleaners instead and you can also use regular soap to maintain a clean, but greener home.

Chlorine can be found in many household cleaners. It is also used as a fumigant and often added to water systems because it prevents the growth of certain bacteria. Unfortunately this means chlorine exists in treated tap water as well.

Bleach releases a chlorine gas, which adversely affects the respiratory system. This is why chlorine is often referred to as a choking agent and has also been classified as a chemical weapon. Therefore, eliminating this product shouldn’t only be a consideration for people wanting greener homes, but rather for everyone on this planet.

Harmful effects of chlorine: Chlorine attacks organic matter, skin and is a mucous membrane irritant. Inhalation of chlorine gas can cause coughing and breathing issues, including hyperventilation as well as chest pains, eye irritation, rapid heartbeat and even death. It has also been linked to dementia in elderly patients.

Alternatives: If you have a pool, avoid using chlorine as a disinfectant. Instead, consider silver-copper ion generators and salt water. They are great, safe alternatives.

There are also safer, natural alternatives to chlorine based home cleaning products available such as hydrogen peroxide-based bleaches.

Fabric Softener’s have lovely fragrances, but they are merely covering up the odours released by the toxic ingredients. Your clothes may feel nice and soft as well as be static-free, but this is because these chemicals actually form a layer of lubrication over the fabric.

There are huge amounts of harmful chemicals in fabric softeners which include, but are not limited to: enzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, ethanol, a-terpineol, chloroform, pentane etc. You will find a comprehensive list on the internet.

Harmful effects of fabric softeners: It can cause central nervous disorders, respiratory issues, liver and kidney damage as well as loss of muscle coordination.

Alternatives: Invest in garments that are made from organic cotton, as they are much softer. Purchase a natural non-toxic fabric softener which can be found in most health stores that you will be visiting often anyway while planning your greener home. If you don’t want to spend money, then you can also make your own! Baking soda is a great, safe alternative. Washing your clothes in cooler water also helps.

Formaldehyde is commonly found in glues that are used with various woods, boards and carpeting during home renovations, construction and when making low cost furniture. It is also found in paint, varnish, adhesives, floor finishes, wall paper, cardboard and paper, as well as in some hair care products and nail polish.

Harmful effects of formaldehyde: It has been identified as a human carcinogen. Symptoms of exposure include headaches, nasal irritations, watery eyes, and burning in the nasal passages. It can also cause coughing, asthma, nausea rashes, allergic reactions and in some cases has been linked to birth defects.

Alternatives: Buy solid wood furniture instead as it doesn’t contain formaldehyde or if you prefer pressed wood products, then ensure that they are adequately sealed with a plastic laminate coating. Replace regular paints with Low-VOC and Zero-VOC paints which are commonly found in most paint stores. Ensure proper ventilation where exposure cannot be avoided.

Nonstick cookware and bakeware: Teflon is a product used for nonstick surfaces. It contains perfluoroalkyl acid, a synthetic material that is harmful to humans and animals. Exposure can occur when the cookware or bakeware is scratched or overheated.

Harmful effects of perfluoroalkyl acid: it has been linked to ADHD, high cholesterol, thyroid disease as well as infertility.

Alternatives: Opt for alternative nonstick cookware, such cast iron, glass or stainless steel. And replace your non stick cookware and bake ware immediately if you notice chips or scratches.

PVC (polyvinyl chloride or vinyl) is found in many household items, ranging from food packaging, toys to shower curtains and building materials. It is known to be the most toxic plastic to both the environment and our health. PVC is made from a chemical called vinyl chloride, which is a known human carcinogen according to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).  One shower curtain made from PVC can release more than 100 chemicals into the air. Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) is often added to PVC to make it more flexible.

Harmful effects of PVC: Some of the chemicals released by PVC products can cause developmental damage as well as damage to the liver and central nervous, respiratory, and reproductive systems.

Alternatives: Simply avoid packaging with the #3 or the letters “PVC” on it, which can usually be found next to the recycling symbol. Substitute PVC containers with glass containers and use reusable shopping bags instead of plastic ones. Some manufacturers are starting to become more aware of the dangers associated with PVC and are supporting the green home trend by excluding it when producing textiles, wall covering and various furniture items.

Anti-bacterial soaps: Many antibacterial products found in the home include triclosan which is meant to prevent bacterial infection. Triclosan can be found in antibacterial soaps, cosmetics, detergents, surgical cleaning agents, toys and some toothpastes. In 2013, the FDA issued a consumer update citing the need for additional studies of its potential hazards and developmental effects, which is definitely a red flag. Furthermore anti-bacterial soaps can create antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Harmful effects of anti-bacterial soaps: There are many health risks associated with triclosan, some of which include dermatitis, allergies, immune, thyroid reproduction and brain development issues. By using anti-bacterial products we become more resistant to the bacteria, which only forces it to become stronger by mutating into more harmful strains.

Alternatives: The best method to remove bacteria from our bodies is to use plain soap or pick a liquid soap that includes alcohol instead of triclosan. Work up a lather and wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. Don’t forget to clean under your nails, the cuticles and palms. Use a clean towel to dry your hands.

Radiation is found everywhere in the home. So when striving for a greener home, you need to think beyond chemicals. Radiation is produced by electronic devices and appliances. Sources of electronic radiation include: Cordless phones, cellular phones, cordless baby alarms, microwave ovens, wireless routers, radios and Bluetooth devices.

Harmful effects of radiation: Although radiation produced by electronic devices and some appliances is of a very low frequency, the cumulative effect can be harmful to our bodies. While there is not much scientific research, certain proposed health problems have been linked with radiation. These include: Irregular behavioural patterns in children, disrupted sleep patterns, frequent headaches, stomach issues, skin cancer, hypersensitivity and increased blood pressure, feeling of melancholy or depression and exhaustion and fatigue.

Alternatives: It’s not easy to rid your home of all these electronics. Some people may do so to achieve the ultimate green home, but it depends what extreme you want to go to. Instead, you can invest in an electric filter as well as special paints (Y-paint and air pure paint) to block out the radiation, as well as window shielding film. Bed canopies and shielding floor mats are also a good investment for the bedroom, as they will protect you from harmful radiation which disrupts your sleep by interfering with your brain wave patterns.

Detoxifying your home doesn’t have to be a daunting project. There is no need to get stressed out about it, as this will also have a negative impact on your health and your home environment. Take it one step, one room, one cupboard and one product at a time.

You may be satisfied with the alternative, greener products and therefore happy to eliminate them, but in some instances this may not be the case. If so, then simply take the necessary precautions to limit or prevent exposure completely. For example wear protective clothing and masks when cleaning and ensure sufficient ventilation. But remember, the more toxins you can eliminate the better as it will be one step closer to a happier, greener home.

Your green home checklist

Your green home checklist

Being involved in the construction of your own home is exciting. You’re calling the shots and it’s only natural that when you’re making that kind of investment that you want everything to be perfect. And it stands to reason that what you chose now will influence your lifestyle and that of your family for years to come.

It’s no different when building a green home. In fact, it requires even more thought and planning to build a home that’s not just beautiful, practical and cost-effective, but in harmony with the environment too. So where do you start? This green home checklist should give you something to think about.

Location, location, location

When shopping for a new home, most people consider location to be the most important factor. You want to be close to your place of work, in an area with convenient shopping, entertainment and schooling. It also needs to be safe and have the right infrastructure in place for comfortable living.

But when you’re buying or building a green home you have to take it one step further. Look at the site conditions of your future home and whether it has the necessary qualities such as enough space for rainwater harvesting tanks and access to clean air and water.

Building position and orientation

You’ll want to orientate your home in the best position to take advantage of what the site you’ve chosen has to offer. In the southern hemisphere, a north-facing position is best as it allows you to make use of sunlight to warm your home in the winter and keep it cool in the summer.

Knowing where to place your windows, what size they should be and what the best spot for solar panels would be are all crucial elements when it comes to building a home that is energy efficient. After all, the purpose of a green home is to work with nature and not against it. Getting the basics right from the start will have a significant impact on the practical operating of your home and determine just how efficient it can be.

Get savvy with your layout

This is an important part of turning your green home dream into a reality. When planning the layout of your home take the orientation of the building into consideration. Think about which rooms need natural light and heat to reduce your electricity costs. Look at the flow of air around the building and how you can use natural ventilation to your advantage.

The way you layout your home can go a long way to reducing your construction costs too. So don’t focus only on the aesthetic. Be practical about how your home will function now and in the future.

Choose the right building materials

You might think that green construction is all about using materials that are sustainable and don’t poison or damage the environment. And while that is certainly true to some extent, it’s essential to be practical about this element.

All materials have strengths and weakness when it comes to being eco-friendly. While the production of a certain material may be more sustainable, it might not be very durable. In which case, you’d have to replace it or maintain more often. And that may have a negative impact on the environment. For example, bamboo is an excellent substitute for traditional wooden structures in a home such as counter tops and even flooring. It’s a fast growing plant which means it’s more sustainable than other woods. But the finishes used on bamboo may contain toxic chemicals to ensure its durability. Find out as much as you can about the sourcing and manufacturing of various construction materials before you commit to using them in your design.

Try to achieve a balance between using materials that are sturdy, don’t require much maintenance, are sustainable or recyclable and aren’t produced using methods and techniques that are harmful to the environment. Building a green home requires you to think farther into the future than you would with any other type of home. The initial layout will cost more so you should think of it as a long-term investment. Choose wisely now and you’ll reap the benefits well into the future.

Add green features for future cost savings

A home may be considered green when it incorporates technologies that reduce or eliminate your reliance on the normal infrastructure associated with housing. So make sure these elements are part of your initial plans:

  • Insulation:A home that is properly insulated is easy to keep cool in summer and warm in winter. This means you’ll draw less power from the grid to live, work and play in comfort. Insulation should be built into the structure, between exterior walls and in the ceiling and flooring.

You won’t need to use an air-conditioner or heaters to maintain the temperature of your home throughout the year. Not only will you save on electricity, but you’ll reduce the demand on the grid and reduce the risk of outages which affect everyone.

  • Rainwater harvesting:With green homes these large tanks can be hidden underground reducing the amount of space they need and ensuring that your property looks as attractive as a regular home. It also means you’ll have a supplementary supply of water available for flushing toilets or watering your garden.

By making use of rainwater, you’re not only saving a precious resource you’re also saving costs.

  • Solar panels:Can a home really be green if it doesn’t have solar panels? These are essential for anyone who wants to reduce their reliance on the grid and power their own home. The size, type and number of panels depend on several factors. Careful planning will ensure that you have enough power available for necessities or to run your full household, including for your lights, TV and appliances.

And given the constant sunshine available in South Africa, relying on solar panels to power your home isn’t just wishful thinking. You may need back-up batteries, but if you’re building a new home from scratch these can easily be incorporated into your design. And you’ll never have to worry about being unable to power the things you need if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Solar panels are also perfect for heating your water which has a double cost-saving effect. Not only do you save on electricity, but you could have hot water on tap, meaning you don’t waste it just waiting for the hot water to reach the right temperature – thus saving on water too.

  • Hydronics radiant heating and cooling: This is a clever system that uses a network of pipes to run hot or cold water through the floor of your home. It’s a cost-effective way to maintain the temperature without resorting to power hungry heaters or air conditioners.

And if the pipes are properly insulated, the system is not only more effective, but a cheaper method of keeping your home at a comfortable temperature through all seasons.

You may not be able to afford all of these things right away. In which case, you’ll need to decide which are the most important to you. Retrofitting an existing home with green features can be more difficult and costly. Do your research and work with a company that has expert knowledge to help you make the right decision for your family.

Think outside the box

Your home isn’t just about the building you live in. It’s also about your surroundings such as your garden and garage.

Wherever possible, you should look to reduce the maintenance costs of these often neglected areas. A water-wise garden doesn’t just make financial sense; it also makes a difference to the environment. Use indigenous plants to cut back on the water required to keep your garden looking good all year round. And you’ll appreciate how much less maintenance it requires too. Instead of spending hours tending to your garden, you’ll be able to just relax and enjoy the outdoors.

Even your garage should be planned using the principles you apply to your home. Consider its position and location and use green building materials for the construction. A garage can be a dark place, so look for ways to include natural lighting and use energy-efficient LED bulbs to light it up at night.

If your garage is attached to your home, it makes sense to factor it in to your plans. A cold concrete floor could result in an icy draft making its way into your home through a connecting door. So use insulation cleverly to complement the rest of your home.

All garages have a roof, which means they can be used to collect run-off water. This water can be stored in a tank and used for general cleaning purposes. At minimum it is efficient and eco-friendly to use run-off water from your garage to wash your car.

The benefits of green construction

Many people feel that investing in a green home is an unnecessary expense. Yes, they do cost more to build but in the long term the savings are substantial. Apart from that, there are many other benefits to green living:

  • Your impact on the environment is minimal: Green buildings reduce energy usage, CO2 emissions, waste output and water usage.
  • It’s healthier: Improved indoor air quality means you’re less likely to suffer from common respiratory ailments.
  • It increases the value of your home: If you should ever need to sell your property you’ll be pleased to discover that a green home commands a higher price.

And once you get down to planning your green home, you may be surprised to find that it doesn’t cost that much more than a traditional one. The key is to work with experts who are knowledgeable in the area of green construction. They’ll be able to give you good advice and know where to get the features and eco-friendly materials you need.

It’s not just how you build; it’s how you live

Building a green home doesn’t stop at using eco-friendly construction materials or adding green features to save you money, it’s about the way you live your life. You’re conscious of the impact you have on natural resources and extend this way of thinking into every area of your life, from how you use your car to recycling your waste whenever you can.

The many benefits of living in such a home should not be taken for granted. It can be at least as comfortable as living in a traditional home, even luxurious, and with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you’re treading as lightly as possible on our planet.

Remodeling your kitchen and bathroom the green way

Remodeling your kitchen and bathroom the green way

Do you have a kitchen or bathroom in need of remodeling? Would you want to save the planet and your budget at the same time? The green living trend has a number of solutions that will do both. You can save water, save energy and add value to your home without spending a fortune.

Bathrooms and kitchens are two areas of the home that are particularly suited for green makeovers. They both rely on water and electricity to provide you with comfort and convenience of modern living. And they both offer you cost-effective ways of conserving these resources without sacrificing your style.

Getting green in the bathroom

Before you pick out the colour of your new tiles you’ll want to consider how you consume and heat the water for your bathroom.  Here are some areas you could consider when planning your ideal eco-friendly bathroom:

Toilets: Surprisingly, your toilet uses the most water. If you’re still using an old toilet, it can use as much as 13.6 litres per flush. In the average home that would add up to 71.2 litres per person per day. Your toilet accounts for about 30% of your household water usage.

You could put a brick in the cistern to reduce the flushing capacity—that’s hardly a renovation! Instead, look for a dual-flush toilet. They are more efficient. A dual-flush toilet uses about 8 – 9 litres for a full flush, and only 4 – 5 litres with a reduced flush. They do cost more than regular toilets and offer you the dual benefit of saving water and money—truly green living. If you don’t want to replace your current toilet you can install a dual-flush converter.

Showers: Next to your toilet, the shower uses the most water in your home. If you shower for seven minutes with a conventional showerhead you’ll go through 112 litres of water. That’s 16% – 20% of your total water usage. Even if you think showering is better than bathing when it comes to practicing green living, that’s no longer true. The average bath uses about 80 litres of water. These days we tend to spend more time in the shower. A five-minute shower consumes 16 litres of water a minute—as much as a regular bath.

With a low-flow showerhead, you can halve the amount of water you normally use for a five-minute shower. And you’ll still enjoy the feeling of a powerful blast of hot water every time you step under the shower. If you consider that 70% of the water used to shower is heated, using a low-flow showerhead means you’re also cutting down on your hot water consumption.  With the price of electricity constantly going up, using hot water wisely is becoming a necessity for eco-friendly living.

Water heaters: What would a shower or bath be without hot water? That’s what makes your geyser such an energy-guzzler. You could simply buy a geyser blanket and make sure your pipes are fully insulated. Two steps you can take that would reduce your electricity usage by an extra 4 – 9%. While you’re at it, turn down the thermostat by a few degrees. You won’t feel any difference, and reduce your final power bill.

If you’re serious about green living, you’d probably prefer to splash out on a solar water heater. They are expensive and a retrofit may also require some extra spending; the end result is worth it. Install a solar water heater and you’ll see an immediate reduction in your electricity consumption.

Another alternative you may consider is a heat pump. Although you’ll still be using electricity, heat pumps are more energy efficient. A heat pump works by absorbing the heat energy from the surrounding air and using this energy to heat the water in your water tank. You save more of your total electricity bill with a heat pump.

Finishes and lighting: This is the part you’ve waited for! Choosing the finishes for your new bathroom is probably the main reason why you want to renovate your bathroom in the first place. It’s also an area where you can continue to exercise your desire for greener living. When it comes to selecting eco-friendly tiles for your walls and floors you have plenty of options:

  • Concrete: This material can be used as both the finish and structural floor. That makes it a cost-effective choice. You can make it green by combining it with recycled aggregates such as glass, porcelain or coal fly ash.
  • Linoleum: True linoleum is made from natural materials and should not be confused with sheet vinyl. It is naturally anti-bacterial, scratch-resistant and easy to maintain.
  • Recycled glass: Tiles make from recycled glass give your bathroom a clean, bright and contemporary appearance without impacting the environment.
  • Cork: Another natural material, cork is sustainable, durable and safe. It doesn’t release toxins, it’s doesn’t attract dust and it’s resistant to mould.
  • Ceramic tiles: Arguably the most popular choice for bathrooms, ceramic tiles can be a green choice. Look out for tiles that are made from recycled ceramic waste such as discarded clay and tableware.

Be sure to use low VOC paints and adhesives when fitting your chosen flooring and finishes.

Energy efficient lighting is essential for every area of the home if you want to keep your electricity costs down. Fluorescent lights for your bathroom are now available in wide range of modern, attractive designs.

Creating an eco-friendly kitchen

Remodeling your kitchen is a serious business. It’s the one room in the house that has to be very practical, while at the same time you’ll want to add a touch of your own style to it. Eco-friendly houses have kitchens that are functional, appealing and green. These are the elements you need to consider before you begin demolition:

Countertops: There are many different eco-friendly materials you can use for countertops. Wood is a popular choice that gives you two options: bamboo and reclaimed wood. Bamboo is a fast-growing material that is sustainable making it 100% eco-friendly.  It’s durable, hypoallergenic, anti-bacterial and easy to install. Bamboo adds a touch of real elegance when used in the kitchen. Don’t stop at bamboo cutting boards. Make your whole countertop bamboo and enjoy the benefits of this beautiful material.

Of course, if you want to achieve a different style you could use another type of wood. And instead of buying something new, look for ways to recycle scraps of wood. With a little love and care, they can be restored to their former glory and provide you with a true green living alternative. Scrap wood is still solid and durable and it’s unnecessary to let it go to waste when it can be used to make the perfect countertop for eco-friendly homes.

Recycled stone-chip composite countertops are ideal for eco-friendly houses. These countertops are made from a variety of recycled materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill or burnt in an incinerator. They offer a mix of strength and stain resistance and there are plenty of different styles and designs for you to choose from. They have the appearance of granite countertops and are just as durable, with the added benefit of being an eco-conscious choice.

Flooring: Many of the materials available for bathroom floors can also be used in the kitchen. Bamboo works well for countertops and floors and can help you pull the look of your new kitchen together while saving you money. The same can be said for linoleum. It’s less expensive than tiles although you should call on a professional to install it correctly. It’s highly water resistant and you’re less likely to break your precious crockery on it if you accidentally drop a plate or cup.

Another material you may consider using for the flooring in your kitchen is cork. Made from the bark of a tree, cork has a low impact on the environment. Trees need to be at least 25 years before its bark can be harvested and then the cork can be stripped every 18 – 25 years without killing the tree. It’s one of the most comfortable flooring types available because it ‘gives’ when compressed. Think about how much time you spend standing in your kitchen and you’ll understand why cork is a popular flooring choice for this area of the home.

Appliances: If you haven’t already considered replacing your old fridge, washing machine and dishwasher for new, energy-efficient appliances—do it now. As you’re busy remodelling, it’s the perfect opportunity to cut down on your energy bill. A top/bottom refrigerator unit is a better choice than the side-by-side model because less cold air escapes when you open the door.

You should also investigate getting a convection oven. It uses a fan to drive heat from the source to your food. As a result, your dinner will be ready almost 25% faster than with a conventional oven. Everything from your kettle and toaster to bigger appliances such as your washing machine and dishwasher can be used more efficiently. Using power wisely is the hallmark of eco-friendly homes.

Lighting: Once again, you can take advantage of the modern fluorescent lighting available today to brighten up your kitchen. They could cut your total energy use significantly and your kitchen won’t will feel overly bright and stark. There is now a wide range of tones available to help you set exactly the mood you want in your kitchen without sacrificing your style.

As you get on with the hard work of removing old fittings and fixtures, think about what you’ll do with all that rubble. Estimates reveal that between 22% – 40% of landfills consist of construction debris. Of course, there will be many bits and pieces that you simply cannot salvage. And where possible, donate your old toilets, sinks, baths, kitchen cupboards and countertops to charities. This way you’re reducing the waste that you send to the landfill.

It is possible to build eco-friendly houses from scratch. Although it is not yet a trend in South Africa, many homeowners are coming round to the idea of finding ways to reduce their consumption of water and electricity. Remodelling your kitchen and bathroom to embrace the principles of green living makes just as much sense for your pocket as it does for the environment.

Green alternatives are available, all it requires is for you to put some thought into the choices you make. Every element of these important rooms in your home can be optimised to run more efficiently. And the good news is that you don’t have to sacrifice style or comfort to accommodate greener living.