Thursday, Sep 27, 2012

Green alert
We can no longer afford to be wasteful

Photo: Brandon Barré / Design by Jane Lockhart, Jane Lockhart Design Communications Inc. / Countertops by Cambria / Cabinetry by Mill Street Kitchen & Bath

It’s been coined the Green Shift.

Critics label it the Green Shaft.

Love it or hate it – the “green” movement is back in a big way.

And my bet is many families, whose hydro and heating bills today are now higher than their mortgage payments, wish they’d heeded warnings during the last energy scare of the 1970s, when so-called bleeding hearts were telling us to get off the grid, go solar, become eco-friendly.

But back then gas was cheap. So was electricity. And the propaganda of the day preached that these resources were abundant.

Today, going green is not just financial survival, it’s an awakening that we’ve become a gluttonous, throwaway society, with credit cards maxed out buying stuff we just don’t need and Mother Earth choking on the fallout.

There’s also an awakening, as health care costs go through the roof, that we are what we eat, what we breathe. And our homes are a refuge where we can take control.

“Today’s green movement is more about an integrated lifestyle that focuses on better choices for the environment, rather than a fad – as it was in the ’70s,” says interior designer Jane Lockhart.

Laura Fowler, a designer who’s worked on a number of HGTV shows, including The Unsellables and Colin & Justin’s Home Heist, calls today’s green movement “the perfect storm,” when we can no longer afford to continue living the way we do from an environmental or financial perspective.

This is one of the themes at this year’s National Home Show, now underway at Toronto’s Direct Energy Centre: the New & Green display (booth 4448) promotes eco-friendly products like a new rechargeable electric lawn mower.

Fowler stresses it is important to know your options when renovating or redesigning.

“Always go for longevity and quality – this alone is a green principle,” says Fowler. “We have to stop filling our landfills, and the cheapest option often turns out more costly in the end – replacing countertops, floors and windows.”

Lockhart, who’s also host of the TV show Colour Confidential, says when she advises clients about renovating or refreshing spaces, she always focuses on sustainable solutions.

“For instance, we re-use existing furniture pieces by painting or re-upholstering them using fantastically durable recycled polyester,” says Lockhart. “We also encourage clients to buy local, including furniture and accessories made in the area, so that these purchases support local economics and don’t incur as much carbon emission through transport.”

Lockhart says she advises her clients to use eco-friendly firms, like Cambria and Aya Kitchens “who do not use toxic finishes for kitchen and bathroom cabinetry.”

Fowler urges consumers to support companies that have invested time, energy and innovation into making products safer, greener and sustainable. “We have so much power with our shopping dollar, especially in this economy – and companies are listening.”

Some simple ways to green your home:

• Using stains, finishes and glues that don’t pollute the air with off-gassing chemicals called VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)

• Buying Energy Star appliances that take 20-30% less energy to run

• Using flooring and countertops made from eco-friendly materials

• Replacing old windows with energy-efficient ones

• Installing low-flow toilets and aerators for taps

• Cutting down reliance on household chemicals/cleaners

Bottom line is, greening your home can add equity and actually help sell it, says Carla Woolnough, president of Nex-Step Design and Stage Your Own Home Inc.

“Buyers today are looking to purchase homes that are well-maintained, updated and energy-efficient that will help them save money,” says Woolnough, also a designer with the Re/Max Fit to Sell program.

Linda Leatherdale is the former Money editor for the Toronto Sun. She is also VP, Marketing and Business Development, for Cambria Canada. Linda will be staging her Live the Dream seminars at the National Home Show on Monday, Feb. 22 at 4:30 and Saturday, Feb. 27 at 6:00.

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