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Environment: How green is it? Ask a consultant

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

For anyone who has ever wondered how their home rates on a “green” scale, Lisa Barrett of Advanced Custom Design has the answer.

The Pawleys Island area resident is an eco-consultant through Green Irene, a national corporation dedicated to “greening our world, one home at a time.”

As an eco-consultant, Barrett is trained to go into homes and offices and show the owners changes, big and small, that can be made to create a healthier, more environmentally friendly domain.

She and her husband, Christian, are the only ones in the area who offer the service, which starts at $99.

“You really don’t have to make this big 360-degree change to go green, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money,” Barrett said. “It’s just a matter of directing your abilities in the right way.”

If folks do that, they can actually save money on water and electric bills with just a few minor changes.

Switching out incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescents, which last longer and are more energy efficient, and installing smaller aerators on faucets, which cuts down on the amount of water wasted, but doesn’t affect water pressure, are money-savers.

“It’s just amazing the things you don’t know to do, but easily can, and they make a big difference,” Barrett said.

Evaluating a 2,400-square-foot, three-bedroom home in Hagley this week, the light bulbs and faucets were the first things Barrett wanted to get a look at.

Replacing the aerators on the faucets in the kitchen and bathrooms would save as much as 7,000 gallons of water a year, Barrett said.

Most of the incandescent bulbs in the house had already been replaced with CFLs. The homeowner said she was phasing the old bulbs out, but thought it wasteful to throw them away while they were still working, she told Barrett.

While Barrett understood the reasoning, she said it was faulty.

“It’s actually more wasteful to keep the bulbs,” Barrett said. “If you change them, it would not only save you money, but it would save on carbon emissions, too.”

CFLs are being made in all shapes and sizes now, so they’re available to fit just about any light fixture.

Barrett spent two hours going through the home, inspecting faucets, appliances, air filters and cleaning products, all the while asking the homeowner about her family’s habits. Along the way, she made suggestions to improve efficiency and indoor air quality.

Barrett was glad to see the family already had a recycling program in place, with easily accessible receptacles for bottles and cans.

One of the main reasons people say they don’t recycle is because it’s too much effort. Having designated areas for different recyclables makes it more convenient and people are more likely to stick with it, she said.

The family wasn’t composting, but after talking with Barrett, they’re planning to start. Items including food waste, office paper and a long list of other things can be composted and made useful again in the garden or on the lawn.

Barrett said composting has made a big difference in her house.

With five children ages 2 to 15, the Barretts used to throw out two bags of trash a day. Between composting and recycling, they’ve managed to cut back to about four bags a week, which means a lot less going into Georgetown County’s landfill.

As Barrett went from kitchen to laundry room to bathroom during the evaluation, cleaning products were one of the things she kept coming back to. She highly recommends switching to nontoxic products, which make a big difference on indoor air quality.

Cleaning products are the main source of indoor air pollutants and have been linked to a number of health problems, including cancer.

There are more than 80,000 chemicals used in products ranging from floor cleaners to shampoos, she said, and “just because you’re buying it off a grocery store shelf doesn’t mean it’s been tested for toxicity.”

The chemicals in cleansers, particularly dish and laundry detergents, also end up leeching into ground water, another reason Barrett said nontoxic is better.

“Phosphates and chlorine are the worst things that can go into the water system,” she said, so she recommends checking labels when purchasing products.

She also suggests buying products that use recycled materials in the packaging.

“That way, you’re making sure all the effort you’re putting into recycling is coming back around,” she said.

While many of the changes Barrett recommends are quick and inexpensive, others, such as upgrading to Energy Star appliances, can be pricey. But those, too, will save money in the long run by cutting energy bills, Barrett said.

After a consultation, Barrett formulates a report on her findings, so the client can refer back to it in the future and implement the changes they want to make at their convenience.

As part of the consultation, clients also get access to a database of businesses that provide green products and services to help them in improving their space.

To learn more about going green in your home, call Advanced Custom Design for an eco-consultation, 543-0242, or visit www.acdgreen.com.

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