Shrinking Your Environmental Footprint as a Home Owner: Baby Steps For An Eco-Home

Jesse in Lifestyle

My head was spinning after hearing the latest eco-friendly, organically inspired gadgets debuted on the morning news. Geared towards HomeOwners who are trying to lessen their environmental impact, load-bearing walls made out of straw and low emission ozone kitchen devices designed to kill bacteria lurking on produce seemed over-the-top. As I ran my Niagara peach under the city-water spouting faucet for a few seconds, deeming it clean enough to eat, I let all the information sink in.

I feel quite proud of the steps that I take in day-to-day life that reduce waste, buy local and reuse, reuse, reuse. As I peer down off of my moral high horse at my fellow Torontonians who use pesticides and do not drink fair trade coffee, the reality of our situation came into fruition and my eco-bubble popped. I, as well as many HomeOwners, can commit to small changes in our households such as chemical-free cleaners and using designated food waste green bins (an activity which, being a condo owner, I do not partake in) without much bank account damage. These changes are minimal, easy and flexible enough that you can return to your old ways if the new method is not your cup of tea.

Eco-overhauling renovation projects are what I cannot seem to warm up to. Ripping up flooring and replacing pipes is intimidating and, let’s face it, inconvenient. The permanency of it all is also something to be considered as certain ecologically-minded changes may clash with who you are; to borrow from Seinfeld: “Low flow? I don’t like the sound of that.”

A Toronto newspaper printed an article a few months back about houses that have been completely remodelled to be energy efficient. With all the bombardment the public receives about climate change, no wonder these HomeOwners saw fit to take drastic measures. One farmer grew his own organic wheat and used bales of it to build his home, quite ambitious and no doubt rewarding once finished. I have nothing but admiration for such a person who can build a home out of the raw materials available to them, but fail to see the practicality of it all for the average Torontonian.

In today’s climate-changing world, HomeBuyers and HomeOwners can take small steps to shrink their environmental footprint. Giving up the conveniences of modern living, although seemingly popular amongst Hollywood’s new crop of eco-warrior, is not necessary. In the area of appliances, a lot of popular brands are sporting the Energy Star Canada symbol signifying an energy efficient model. Although pricier than traditional dishwashers, refrigerators and microwaves, the money saved is reflected in your electricity/gas bills. A list of brands and models are available courtesy of Natural Resources Canada. I plan on purchasing Energy Star appliances slowly, only when the replacement of my current models deems necessary.

On the energy front, there are alternative ways to power your abode without erecting huge solar panels onto your roof. Bullfrog Power is worth considering as an alternative energy source. It requires minimal work, other than the initial phone call to set up the service and it requires zero installation as it utilizes existing electricity hardware and wiring. ‘Green power’, generated through water and wind turbine, travels via the established Ontario energy grid to provide electricity to subscribers’ homes and businesses. Bullfrog matches that same amount of ‘green energy’ required to power its homes and businesses and injects it back into the Ontario grid.

There are numerous other products (steam sprays that disinfect, halogen light bulbs, etc.) showcased at The Green Living Show in Toronto, an entire weekend dedicated to showcasing an environmentally-friendlier version of any household item one could desire. The Virtuous Consumer by Leslie Garrett is a fantastic resource for HomeOwners and HomeBuyers looking to make some eco-changes at their own pace or all at once if they so choose.

Searching for the eco-conscious condominium? Minto Developments have been making leaps and bounds in the environmental department. Their new Toronto high rise developments - Minto Gardens, Minto Skyy and Minto Midtown - are all candidates for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Canada certification, developed by the Canadian Green Building Council. Buildings that have been certified as one of four designations by LEED have taken our unique Canadian climate into consideration during planning and construction to create efficient and sustainable living spaces with the least environmental impact.

The vastly increasing environmental movement can leave HomeOwners and HomeBuyers floundering and wondering where exactly to begin. New products and methods are being introduced each day, adding to the myriad of those already available and with shelves and stockrooms piled high with ‘the latest,’ it is no wonder some Canadians would rather opt out of the crusade. Rest assured the smallest leaps in your daily routine result in huge bounds for the environment.

Jesse Fleming is a freelance writer based in Toronto.

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