Photo: Green up your home: a toolkit

(Credit: Brooke MacDonald.)

Corinne asks: I am a young student working on a big project for school. My goal is to let people know what we can do to our homes to make them eco-friendly by building a small version of a house and demonstrating it inside it. I was wondering, could you tell me what are 10 easy things we can do to make our house eco-friendly?

Whether it's a real or virtual home I think I have just the answer. We've launched an excellent resource called Sustainability at Home: a toolkit. It's a result of a partnership with The Natural Step, the Light House Sustainable Building Centre and the David Suzuki Foundation. Although this toolkit was made specifically for British Columbians, anyone can use it! Some of the best elements are that it walks you through your home, room by room, comes with a shopping guide to explain labels and a checklist. Enjoy!

November 5, 2009

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Feb 15, 2010
3:36 PM

Indygo, Thanks for your comment and your excellent questions. I have answers for you and they live on this very website. 1. Disposal: Most hardware stores or any store that sells CFLs takes them back. Check out your local Home Depot for example. We also have a link to all Canadian recycling depots. 2. Broken bulbs: should you break one there are safe disposal steps to follow. 3. Life expectancy of a bulb: In order to maximizing their life, you need to use them properly. Check out our tips.

You may choose to use them only in high traffic areas because they do save so much energy. And saving energy is a health concern if your energy comes from coal for example, which release more mercury than a broken light bulb. Read more here.

As a final note you could begin switching to even more efficient LED lights but right now they are quite a bit more expensive. The quality of light could be worth it, at least for some areas of your home. I hope that helps,

Lindsay Coulter, David Suzuki’s Queen of Green

Feb 15, 2010
1:39 PM

I have concerns about these compact fluorescent bulbs that are being pushed onto consumers: 1. They contain mercury — we are already flooded with mercury in our environment, from the fish we eat, to vaccines we give our children, to the use of it in every day products like contact lens solution. What kind of control studies have looked at the danger of breaking these bulbs in our houses — bedrooms, children’s rooms, etc. How do we clean up when one of these bulbs is broken? What about the danger of cutting oneself on the glass? If they aren’t safe for landfills, how can it be safe to break a bulb in our own home? Or to store quantities of used bulbs that are difficult to recycle? 2. These lights are similar to old style fluorescents in that they flicker, all be it at a faster frequency than older types. This is indeed perceptible and often visible to the naked eye. As someone who is sensitive to light and experiences light-associated migraine headaches, I really dislike the quality of the light emitted by these bulbs, as well as the colour, which is harsh and provides poor illumination no matter what type of tint used. 3. The regulation of emissions from these bulbs is inadequate and independent testing shows that they have varying and often dangerous levels of electromagnetic emissions with a huge footprint of health side effects. 4. How long has the use and effect of these bulbs been studied before the market was flooded with them? It’s important to go green but not at the cost of health and safety. 5. The difficulty of finding a recycling depot for these bulbs means that used bulbs build up in our homes, increasing the chances of breakage and the amounts of mercury we are exposed to through the storage of used bulbs. 6. I believe these bulbs have a role in reducing carbon emissions under certain applications but it is not in my home — at least not until they are studied and regulated for safety, provide a better quality of light, can easily and safely be recycled and are not TOXIC.

Nov 30, 2009
11:48 AM

Hi Queen and Corrine! I used this toolkit and it’s so handy. It goes through every room in your house with tips on how to make it eco-friendly, and how to clean it so you’re not hurting the environment. I’ve been cleaning my house now with baking soda, borax, and vinegar. Everything is squeaky clean, and it’s so much cheaper! I feel kind of duped that I bought fancy, smelly, and expensive cleaners for so long.

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