9 Green Products You Should Know About
Save the earth and your budget with these noteworthy eco-friendly products
Want to go green? Sure you could buy a hybrid car or purchase only organic foods, but the place where you can have the biggest impact may be in your own home. In the United States alone, buildings account for 72 percent of electricity consumption, 40 percent of raw materials use, and 38 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions, according the United States Green Building Council. So whether you're doing a full-scale remodel or just performing a maintenance project or two, you can do a lot for the planet (and your pocketbook) by choosing the right products. Here are nine that are worth checking out.
Velux, known for its skylights, now makes solar hot water panels for your roof. Velux estimates its system will pay for itself in three to seven years by reducing your water-heating costs by 50 to 80 percent. Federal tax credits pay 30 percent of the cost, up to $2,000, and many states and utility companies offer additional financial incentives. Although the panels are new to this country, they have been available in Europe for years.
Low- and no-VOC paints and finishes are gaining popularity, but what's the point of using them if you spoil your eco-efforts with a VOC-packed primer? Several primers on the market don't contain volatile organic compounds. The latest is from Olympic Paints—part of the company's Premium Interior Paints line. The low-odor primer has a 100-percent acrylic formula and performs as well as similar primers with VOC, according to the manufacturer.
These new faux tiles from Stone Impressions aren't quite solid stone, but they are quite sustainable. The rocky imitations are actually made from recycled glass, water bottles, post-industrial metal shavings, demolition wood chips, and some cement. They're half the weight of concrete, making installation easier, and come in a myriad of motifs.
Paint roller trays have always been a nuisance to clean; you have to use either a lot of water or turpentine. That's why the trays often get tossed in the trash when the job is done. The Bio Tray is made from 100 percent recycled post-consumer waste materials: wood pulp fibers and plastic. The pulp fibers make up the bulk of the tray. The plastic is laminated to it to form a water- and solvent-proof inner layer. The Bio Tray is 95 percent biodegradable and will decompose in 4 to 6 months. Just peel off the ultra-thin plastic liner with dried paint and put it with your other plastic recyclables; then drop the pulp tray in your paper recycling bin.
ESS Energy Products has a simple solution to the common household problem of icy air leaking through an uninsulated ceiling hatch for pull-down attic stairs. The Energy Guardian is a polystyrene bulkhead that mounts on the attic floor, providing an R-39 insulation value. The kit usually pays for itself within a year or two.
Even if you're still using incandescent bulbs, you can do your part to go green. First Alert, known for its smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, also sells this motion-sensing socket that automatically turns on a light when a person enters the room, then turns it off when it hears the sound of that person plopping back down on the couch in the next room or after four minutes, whichever comes first. The sensor does not work with compact fluorescents.
Titebond's Greenchoice line of construction adhesives and sealants are solvent-free but still pass the same rigorous testing as their solvent-based competitors. Eliminating the solvents improves indoor air quality, without having to give up strength. The adhesives come in handy 10.5-ounce and 29-ounce versions—and even the tubes themselves are made from post-consumer recycled products. The line is non-flammable, non-toxic, waterproof, and cleans up with soap and water.
The Eco-Cloth, a soft blue microfiber cleaning cloth, cleans glass and polishes stainless steel with just a little water. Left dry, it makes a great duster. The secret of its effectiveness is the engineered fibers, a combination of oil-loving polyester and water-loving polyamide, so small that 75,000 are packed into each square inch. Each fiber is 100 times finer than a human hair and segmented lengthwise into 16 strands. The segments work like one of those multi-edged windshield wipers to scoop up dirt and hold onto it without scratching. To clean an Eco-Cloth, just pop it in the washing machine on high heat and then dry it without softeners. The manufacturer claims it will survive 300 washings.
An upgrade of Automower 220AC, the Husqvarna Automower Solar Hybrid is a fully robotic, weather-proof machine with on-board navigation and upgraded wheels. It can handle slopes up to 35 percent and is smart enough to dock itself for recharging. It mows up to a ½ acre for you; all you have to do is set up the easy-install perimeter by staking or burying a few wires in your yard. This model will be available for purchase in March 2009.