Green Technology, the Environmentally Friendly Solution

By Lana Christian

Today’s conveniences and technology are often touted as ways to simplify our lives or make former luxuries available to more people. The ugly flip side is that the products or technologies for making them harm our environment.

Industries and regulatory bodies are taking steps in the right direction. But don’t wait for them to come up with all the answers. You can help the environmental healing process. How? By using green technology.

Green technology is a broad term for more environmentally friendly solutions—whether it’s manufacturing carpeting that produces zero landfill, developing a planned community, turning radioactive cesium into glass, or creating less packaging for frozen foods. You don’t need to be a chemist to understand or use green technology. You can seek out and demand products that support it. And you can use its principles yourself.

Let’s see how this works. You go grocery shopping. Instead of using the store’s paper or plastic bags, buy your own reusable bags. Strong, durable, washable bags made of cotton, hemp, or nylon can handle the weight of groceries and can "stand up" just like paper bags. As you stroll down the aisles, pick organic produce, eggs, and other items.

When you think about your kids’ lunches, skip the prepackaged single-serve items. Sure, they look convenient. But they contribute a lot of waste that could end up in a landfill. Instead, make your own sandwiches and pack them in your child’s lunchbox. An important side benefit is that a home-packed lunch will be much healthier because of fewer preservatives and artificial ingredients, and will probably save money as well. That doesn’t mean you have to make everything from scratch, you can still buy ingredients (like a box of cookies) and pack what a kid-sized meal needs.

The proliferation of cleaning products available today is dizzying. You really need just a couple of all-purpose products to keep your house sparkling. Vinegar and baking soda are inexpensive, effective cleaning products that don’t harm the environment. Most commercially popular laundry detergents are made using a petrochemical process (similar to that used in making gasoline). But if you buy one 50-ounce jug of laundry detergent made by using vegetable oils instead of petrochemicals, you can save the world 130,000 barrels of oil consumption—enough to heat and cool 7,500 homes for a year. Now that’s energy efficiency!

All synthetic fragrances are made using petrochemicals. That includes fragrances in your shampoo, soap, shaving cream, hairspray, so-called "air fresheners," carpet cleaner, and anything else that simply lists "fragrance" as an ingredient. Make more eco-friendly choices that include no fragrance or only a natural fragrance, such as an essential oil. You’ll save on oil consumption every time you do.

If you’re thinking about remodeling, incorporate green technology into your plans. Many construction materials release dangerous chemical gases that deplete the environment. Pick materials that are made from sustainable products and "green chemistry." Green chemistry (a subset of green technology) purposely develops products and processes to reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances.

Say that you want built-in cabinets for the family room. Many ready-made cabinets are a thin wood veneer, covering a construction of wood shavings pressed together with a lot of glue—a concoction that can silently give off formaldehyde gases for years. Instead, consider cabinets made from solid wood, such as a hard pine cut from sustainable forests. Choose stains and finishes that contain no VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Ditto for wall paint.

When selecting carpeting, choose from "green minded" companies. Such companies consciously use green technology in the manufacturing, shipping, and installation of their products. Products are made with minimal wastage and materials that preserve indoor air quality (as opposed to offgasing harmful chemicals). Furniture companies that use organic fibers and shun synthetic glues, dyes, or finishing sprays during production are also worth serious consideration. The cost be a little more, but the resulting benefit to the environment, including the environment in your own home, is worth it.

Walk outdoors. Does a lawn service spray your yard? If you are on a yearly maintenance plan and you own an acre of land, you are putting 5 to 7 pounds of pesticides on your lawn every year. That’s as much (often more) than farmers put on their crops. Switch to a service that uses all-natural lawn care. Within a year, your lawn could be greener and healthier than your neighbors’ lawns. And you won’t have to worry about what you track into the house when you walk across your yard.

Everything we do impacts the environment. What matters is how big a footprint we leave on it. We need to look through "green lenses" to minimize that footprint. It starts with you.

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