25 Ways to Go Green Without Going Insane


21. Harness The Sun
Now is the time to install a solar photovoltaic system to power your house. The LADWP restarted its solar program this past July, after a three-year moratorium. The average job runs about $30,000, says Graham Owen of Go Solar (818-566-6870), who has been in the business for more than 20 years. However, with rebates from the DWP and the tax credit offered by the federal government, you can cut the cost by 50 percent. It may take more than a decade to break even, but you’ll sharply reduce your utility bill. On sunny days you can even see your electric meter spinning backward, which means you’re making more electricity than you’re using. The excess goes back into the grid.

22. Cool Your Roof
Dark roofs absorb and radiate a lot of heat, making it difficult to cool your home in summer. They also contribute to what is known as the urban heat island effect: raised temperatures in city neighborhoods. When it’s time to reroof, select a lighter, heat-reflecting color, preferably white. Or if your roof isn’t too steeply pitched, you can throw on a waterproof membrane and cover it with succulents, grasses, and flowers. In addition to keeping the roof cool, the vegetation helps clean the air and reduce storm drain runoff into the ocean. But you’ll need professional help. Brentwood’s Flower to the People (310-312-5076) has designed a number of green roofs. Their suggestion? Start with a garage, guest house, or other small building to keep the cost down.

23. Fix the Pool
Swimming pools can lose thousands of gallons of water a month through evaporation. A plastic pool cover can cut your losses by 90 percent. Pool pumps use gobs of energy; replacing yours with an efficient new model will save electricity. At the least try running your equipment for less time; six hours a day is often all a pool needs. The initial cost of rigging a pool with a solar heater is steep—a system from Escondido’s Performance Solar (800-274-5836) is roughly $5,000—but doing so eliminates the waste and expense of warming the water with natural gas. As the coup de grace, consider converting your pool to saline—no more monthly chemicals, red eyes, or medicinal-smelling skin.

24. Build It Right
If you have the resources, the best way to create an eco-friendly home is to build one from the ground up. “When you have an existing building that is not efficiently built, it’s much more difficult to go in and insert green technology than if you were starting from scratch,” says Emily Jagoda of Jagoda Architecture in West L.A., who loves integrating into her designs such things as passive cooling, zoned heating, and gray water recovery systems that irrigate the landscape with “used” bath and sink water. The L.A. chapter of the American Institute of Architects (213639-0777) can help you find architects specializing in sustainable design, including those with an accreditation through LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), the U.5. Green Building Council’s formal training program.

25. Go to Greener Pastures
You’ve done your best to do right by the planet. Why muck up your efforts when it is time to move on? Yes, we’re talking the D word. According to Joe Sehee of the Green Burial Council, about 827,000 gallons of formaldehyde, 109,000 tons of steel, 30 million board feet of timber, and 1.6 million tons of concrete are buried each year. If you don’t want to be cremated, you can go casketless and vault free. The county has no 100 percent green cemeteries, but wherever you’re going to be laid to rest, you can request that your body be wrapped in a shroud and put in the ground. Salespeople may be loath to give up their casket commissions, but the practice is legal in California.

Additional writing and reporting by Justina Ly, Cortney Rock, and Matthew Segal


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