Taking shorter showers, turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth—conserving water doesn’t require gadgetry, but eco-minded technology can save you both money and resources. According to the EPA, toilets account for nearly 30 percent of residential indoor water consumption, and a leaky toilet can be a major source of wasted water.
Does your toilet make WaterSense?
To avoid water loss and the consequent drain on your bills, do some simple, preventative maintenance. Check connections, check the rubber flapper valve for worn spots, and make sure the ball float isn’t leaking or touching the sides of the tank.
If you want to get super efficient, replace your toilets with ones that are EPA approved and labeled WaterSense. They use 20 percent less water and bear little resemblance to their wimpy 1990s predecessors. A list of WaterSense labeled toilets can be found at epa.gov/WaterSense.
If you’re looking to really invest, consider installing a flood prevention system like WaterCop. You can install multiple leak detecting sensors that connect to the WaterCop system on your main water valve. Any detection of water leakage will prompt water shutoff. The system is pricey—$335 for the system and $60 for each sensor—but could save you from potential flooding damage. Available through watercop.com.—Lucy Kim
Where the houses are
On the hunt for an eco-house, in this area or perhaps out-of-state? One good resource is greenhomesforsale.com, which lists sustainable real estate across the U.S and Canada. Local listings on the site right now include houses in Esmont, Free Union and Nellysford. Further afield, there are lust-worthy green dwellings in Woodbridge, Virginia; Plymouth, New Hampshire (LEED Platinum, no less!) and Johnson Valley, California (off the grid!).
Read listings carefully for the particulars of what makes each place green. We think the site might be a good way to get leads on green-savvy Realtors, too.—Erika Howsare
Green in old and new
You know the old adage about making new friends and keeping the old? Find both the silver and the gold at the Preservation Piedmont Fall Open House and Walking Tour event, which features what president Eryn Brennan describes as an “eclectic mix of historic homes and structures and a lot of contemporary sustainable architecture.”
The contrast of a fully renovated, modern condo inside an older administrative building with classic brick exterior is a striking reminder of how the goals of preservation and green living are intertwined—to create a beautiful and diverse landscape for a community to treasure and pass on. Of particular interest are some of the contemporary designs of architect Allison Ewing, built with sustainable materials and attuned to their sites’ natural surroundings. Ewing’s own Woolen Mills home is part of the October 17 open house.
That event runs 1-5pm; a walking tour with UVA prof Richard Guy Wilson is October 18, 2-4pm. Tickets are $20; $15 for students, Preservation Piedmont members and Woolen Mills residents, available at Greenberry’s, Beer Run and New Dominion Bookstore or by e-mailing preservation email@example.com. You can buy them on tour days, too.—L.K.
Back to basics
When going green and local, is going “native” a helpful touchstone? Local musician Adrienne Young thinks so. She’s created an organization, Backyard Revolution, to “encourage people to practice the economical ingenuity and engineering of the Native Americans.”
You may remember seeing Backyard Revolution tents at this year’s Albemarle County Fair and Heritage Harvest Festival, where the group hosted workshops and lectures about skills and survival, domestic and field arts and open fire cooking. Participants learned about everything from chicken-keeping to native plants. “Our vision is to refresh, re-skill and reconnect people with the wealth of human services to our own communities,” says Young. “We help people plug into the pioneer within.”
If green energy, going local and/or Native American cultural practices are areas of interest, this is a group to keep your eye out for. Young says she hopes to integrate workshops into other festivals and educational events. Check out the web site at backyardrevolution.com/.—Caroline Edgeton
Greening your greenbacks
Think about this: Your hard-earned money in the bank could very well be funding activities you would find appalling: say, oil exploration in Antarctica’s wildlife refuge. How can you ensure your dollars are promoting the better world we all envision?
Simple steps include going paperless: Decline ATM receipts (at 8 billion transactions per year, that makes a difference), use auto deposits, and obtain tax forms, bank statements, investments materials online. More importantly, where do you shop for a mortgage and do your other banking? The Better World Handbook recommends using local credit unions, not-for-profit institutions with a mission to serve their community, and therefore preferable to large banking institutions whose practices are more about profits than the planet.
“If you are truly invested in a better future, socially responsible investing (SRI) just makes better sense,” according to Ryan Miracle of FMI, a socially responsible investment firm in Waynesboro. Screening is a good first step. This means excluding companies that violate your personal values and including companies which match them.
Another way to effect change is through shareholder advocacy where the fund manager acts on behalf of your beliefs about, for example, the importance of sustainable business practices. Community investing designates funds for specific organizations who are making change at a grassroots level.
Now the burning question. Is there more risk with SRI? Miracle has good news: “The Domini 400 (a sustainability index) has outperformed the S&P 500 since 1990.” Check socialinvest.org for a list of socially responsible mutual funds, a comprehensive screening chart, and financial performance data.—Better World Betty