Updated 5/7/2020 with two extra tips at the end!
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With all the rhetoric of green living and sustainability bouncing around these days I want to share some ways we can put our money where our mouth is and walk the walk. Here are the top three eco-friendly solutions of my sustainable home:
#1: The Living Wall Planter
What is a living wall planter? The living wall (also called a green wall or a living fence) is a vertical arrangement of plants that allows you to grow far more plants than you could with regular planters arranged horizontally. It’s super helpful where I live in Miami on a small footprint and is absolutely one of my favorite parts of my house. It’s beautiful, functional, and fascinating.
The living wall planter has four primary benefits: it improves air quality, generates oxygen, reduces the heat island effect, and it looks beautiful. It is eco-friendly home decor at its finest. Mine is on an automatic watering system so even when I’m traveling, the plants are taken care of. I chose to use mostly ornamental plants but you can include food and medicinal plants as well.
Before I put in the living wall, this area of the house was a boring wooden fence. Lame. When I decided to go for the living wall, I investigated a few green building contractors in South Florida. They were all pretty expensive so I decided to invest the labor of love and build this living wall myself. Learn how I built the living wall from this guide.
#2: Rooftop Solar Panels
The next thing that every green home needs is a green power source. Here in Florida, rooftop solar panels are the best choice. Not only do solar arrays save money, but they reduce carbon, protect my roof from the intense sun, and once again reduce the heat island effect in the city.
The important thing is what these panels offer me: money in the bank and a net-zero carbon footprint at home. So far, these solar panels have prevented about 50,000 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. That’s like taking a car off the road for five years.
By financing my solar array, I was able to put $0 down and immediately save money on electricity. I protect myself from utility rate increases and am building equity toward the solar panels, increasing the value of my home (for those paying cash, you will achieve financial payback after just 7-8 years). Even better, I generate as much power from solar as my house uses so I can feel good knowing that I’m not spewing toxins into the atmosphere when I turn on the AC or crack a cold kombucha. Going solar is truly one of the best green living solutions. Learn more about solar in South Florida.
#3: The Electric Car
Road transportation is typically one of the highest carbon-impact activities an individual performs, accounting for 10% of your carbon footprint (roughly equal to the carbon footprint of the power your home uses). So by charging my Tesla Model 3 electric car with solar power generated on my roof, I get closer to a truly eco friendly lifestyle and save even more money (almost $2,500 in gas after about 24,000 miles). And with the Tesla, I cruise in absolute luxury. Who knew living green could be so fun?
So there you have it folks. Those are the essential green living solutions of my sustainable home: the living wall planter, green power source, and Tesla Model 3 electric car. What are yours?
This is Post One in The Green Stuff, a blog series about Green Living. See Post Two: This Florida Mayor Lives Net-Zero in a Cypress Preserve and Post Three: 12 Sleek & Useful Tesla Model 3 Mods.
Bonus Eco-Friendly Solutions!
#4: The Hybrid Water Heater
A hybrid water heater is a water heater that draws heat out of the air into the unit to help heat the water. It’s basically like a water heater and air conditioner combo. This is awesome for two reasons: it can heat your water more efficiently and it reduces the work that the air conditioner has to do. Here in Miami, that’s a big bonus. By installing a hybrid water heater in my garage, I dramatically reduced my energy consumption, and my garage stays much cooler. Since the garage is attached to the house, this really helps keep the house cooler.
#5: The Tesla Powerwall
The Tesla Powerwall is a battery for your house. It stores solar energy for later use, either transferring it back to the grid or serving as a backup in case the grid goes down (like during a hurricane). I now have three Powerwalls on the side of my house:
Now, the Powerwall doesn’t reduce my carbon footprint or provide the same environmental benefits as the other features on this list, but I decided to include it because in the long-term, battery storage is an essential part of the grid’s transition to renewable energy. This is because it allows renewable power sources, which are highly variable and unpredictable, to be stored for when they are needed. This keeps the grid up and running 24/7. Batteries are one part of the “virtual grid” puzzle. You can learn more about the virtual grid in this video:
For homeowners, the primary benefit of installing Powerwalls or another battery system is peace of mind. In Florida, like in California, grid outages can sometimes last for weeks and are just part of life here every summer. Having a backup system in your house makes sure that you have all your energy needs covered when this happens. This is awesome, especially now when so many of us are working from home. In this article, I discuss my top three features of the Powerwall.
There You Have It!
These are the top five eco-friendly solutions for green living I have at my home in Miami, Florida. I am always on the hunt for new ways to improve the sustainability of my home. If you have any tips, please share them in the comments below, and make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel for more green living solutions.