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Shades of Green: start off small when making home 'green'

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Shades of Green
“Shades of Green,” a new column on environmental issues related to the UIC campus and community, appears monthly in UIC News.

The Museum of Science and Industry’s current exhibit, “Smart Home: Green + Wired,” features a sustainable three-story “green” home to help us learn how to make our own homes eco-friendly.

As I look around my own three-story townhouse, I wonder, where do I start?

I did a quick Internet search (including the Office of Sustainability’s blog) to find helpful tips for a green home. It’s overwhelming.

I realized the best approach for me is to make small, low-budget (or free) upgrades now and do my research for later, when buying new appliances or starting new projects in the long term.

I can’t do everything at once!

We already replaced our light bulbs with CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs), which use about 75 percent less energy than standard bulbs. To my husband’s annoyance, I follow him around the house turning off all the lights.

We bought a qualified ENERGY STAR dishwasher when our last one flooded the kitchen. ENERGY STAR has great information about the types of energy-efficient products available (ceiling fans, TVs and phones — who knew?).

My co-workers vetoed me taking fewer showers, but I can take shorter showers, replace the showerhead, install high-efficiency sink aerators and look for WasterSense faucets and accessories when we upgrade or replace bathroom fixtures.

I can run my new dishwasher only when it’s full and stop hand-washing the dishes before putting them in the machine (that will not be easy for me). I can use cold water instead of hot water when I wash clothes.

This winter, I can lower my thermostat by two degrees, raise it to 73 in the summer instead of 72, and use the timer on the thermostat during the day and on weekends. I could turn the water heater down to 120 degrees.

By switching the direction of my ceiling fans this winter (clockwise), it will help distribute cold air to the ceiling; doing the reverse in the summer (counterclockwise) will create a downdraft.

And don’t forget recycling ... until I get Chicago’s new blue bins, I can take my recycling to the drop-off at the Nature Museum at Lincoln Park. I can concentrate on reducing and reusing — making coffee at home using my own mug rather than getting a white chocolate mocha at the Port Center each day (now that will be really hard).

Now that I have some ideas, I’m ready to go see that exhibit. And this Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Alumni Association and the Office of Sustainability will have a special presentation at the “Smart Home: Green + Wired” exhibit, featuring UIC’s interim associate chancellor Cynthia Klein-Banai and a guided tour through the home.

Afterward, a trip to Home Depot might be in order.

Monica Rausa Williams is assistant to the chancellor and a member of the Chancellor’s Committee for Sustainability and Energy. Send comments and suggestions to sustainability@uic.edu

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