Winter green

How to save money, energy and the environment when it’s too cold to give a damn

Josh Daniels says that simple improvements such as caulking drafty leaks or avoiding phthalates can make your wintertime home more eco-friendly and cost-efficient.

Josh Daniels says that simple improvements such as caulking drafty leaks or avoiding phthalates can make your wintertime home more eco-friendly and cost-efficient.

Photo By jerome love

What can Sacramentans do to change their not-so-environmentally-conscious wintertime habits? Green experts suggest that people start inside the home—and even at the start of the day: the shower.

Many submit to the power of the shower to quickly waken from morning drowsiness. But come fall, and later during the unforgiving chill of winter, hot-water use increases for morning-shower fans. And the amount of water wasted per household while waiting for one’s preferred temperature soars, too.

This is when environmentally conscious household gadgets come in handy. Josh Daniels, owner of Green Sacramento, says that to lessen water consumption during the winter, opt for a shower head that slows to a trickle as the temperature reaches 95 degrees, which conserves both hot and running water. Also, adding aerators to all faucets improves the water’s air pressure, which allows strong flow and at the same time enhances water conservation.

The city’s greenest experts have many other simple, cost-effective ways to affordably transform any home or apartment into a more eco-friendly abode. “People are definitely a lot more environmentally conscious as far as the way they think about their homes,” said Daniels, whose Green Sacramento specializes in providing environmentally safe materials and gadgets for any residence. “However, they also equate healthier, more sustainable products with being more expensive.”

But going green for many homeowners doesn’t have to mean spending more. Getting rid of incandescent light bulbs and shelling out extra money for compact fluorescents is one household tip that should be a “no-brainer,” according to Jim Parks, director of SMUD’s Energy Research and Development department.

Parks also says if you’re willing to spend a bit more in the lighting department, LED bulbs are an even better choice. “You will save. You’ll get your money back for the light bulbs,” he argued, “and you’ll save the money in energy very easily.”

Daniels also suggests shopping for caulks and adhesives to seal the leaks in a drafty home. He recommends a more green approach by looking for brands with low volatile organic compounds and to stay away from phthalates. The gases emitted from high amounts of VOCs can affect the toxicity levels of indoor air quality in your home. The same can be said for phthalates, a chemical used mainly as a plasticizer.

“Another thing people can get is energy meters,” Daniels said. “It can do the math and tell you how much a product costs you [each] month to use. You can go through and see what your energy gluttons are and what are the more energy-efficient products you use.”

According to SMUD’s Parks, the most cost-effective tip to prepare for the cold fall and winter months is insulating one’s home. Daniels suggests choosing a greener option, such as cellulose instead of fiberglass or foam materials. Unlike other options, cellulose is made from a familiar renewable resource: recycled newspaper.

When it comes to a greener peace of mind, small home improvements can effectively ease the everyday environmental impacts. And conscious choices for a shorter morning shower, with the help of modern gadgets, or even a $5 faucet aerator, are all fine starts.

“My theory tends to be we don’t need to be perfect,” said Daniels. “We can do things incrementally, and something’s better than nothing.

“If we tend to feel like nothing’s going to make a difference, well, that’s not true. Every little thing really does help make a difference. Obviously, the more we can do, the better. But every small part does help.”