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Ask EcoGirl

A syndicated eco-advice column
Written by Patricia Dines


"Encouraging the eco-hero in everyone!"

"Making it easy to be green!"

This Month's Column:

Seeing Through Green Eyes:
Remodeling Green on the Cheap


THIS COLUMN HAS BEEN CUSTOMIZED FOR TWO PERIODICALS. Click on your desired version or just scroll down:

* HopeDance (serving southern California - SLO, Ventura, and Santa Barbara Counties). Published January 2008.

* West County Gazette (serving northern California's Sonoma County). Published October 2007.

ASK ECOGIRL'S HOME PAGE. Click here for more information about the column, including how she can appear in your publication.


** COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL. AVAILABLE FOR SYNDICATION, CUSTOMIZATION & REPRINT! **


COLUMN CUSTOMIZED FOR HOPE DANCE
(serving southern California SLO, Ventura, and Santa Barbara Counties)

PDF VERSION -- formatted with the EcoGirl logo and ready to print! (Click here to download a PDF reader.)

Seeing Through Green Eyes: Remodeling Green on the Cheap
 
Published in HopeDance
January 2008
(c) Patricia Dines, 2007-2008. All rights reserved.

Dear EcoGirl - I want to know about green remodeling that isn't for millionaires. Signed, Strapped in San Luis Obispo

 
Dear Strapped: How wonderful that you want to remodel ecologically. The good news is - it doesn't have to cost more!
 
Certainly, it can sometimes seem that it does, as our culture's consumer-oriented media too often equates green with buying new products, which can be more expensive. And, yes, if you're going to buy a new item, look for a green option. (Avoid hype by asking what exactly makes the item green.)
 
However, if your goal is to be earth-friendly and lessen your impact on the planet, and especially if you want to save money, first consider how to avoid buying a new product at all. Instead, follow the eco-mantra - "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." Then, what you do to be green can also save you money!
 
Because, while new eco-goods are helpful, we won't stop our harm to the earth if we keep consuming at our current rate, even if all the materials are labeled "green."
 
So ask yourself, "What's my goal with this project? Can I use what I have, just in a different way? Can I repair, refurbish, or repaint to refresh the look and match my new design? Is there an opportunity here for creative expression?" I did this recently with an old porch table, repainting it in an artistic way that delights me every time I see it.
 
If you do decide to buy any items, look first at other people's discards. This saves you money, avoids the earth impacts of producing and shipping new products, and reduces waste in our overflowing landfills. You can also often find unique pieces that bring style into your home - and meet interesting people along the way.
 
For instance, a while back I got a bedraggled old chair for $5. It didn't look like much, but I saw good lines and knew that some (non-toxic) stain and a new seat cloth would make it look amazing, which it does. It would've cost me a lot more at an antique store to get something with this great classic design. Plus, it's fun seeing what a little creativity can do. (I hung a small framed picture of the chair's original condition next to it, just for fun.)
 
Here are some local places where you can find "previously owned" remodeling goodies. (Note: All area codes are 805.)
 
•  ReStore. At Habitat for Humanity's ReStore locations, you can get surplus and salvaged building materials at serious discounts. Plus, profits help fund Habitat's construction of homes for low-income families. For more information, see:
- San Luis Obispo County <www.hfhsloco.org/restore.html> 546-8699, 434-0486
- Ventura County <www.habitatventura.org/restore-donate.html> 981-2268

- North Santa Barbara County <www.nsbhabitat.com/restore.html> 928-5399

Note: The South Santa Barbara County chapter holds periodic parking lot sales and plans to open a store in the future. <www.sbhabitat.org/restore.php> 692-2226
 
•  CalMAX. Search the free website of California Materials Exchange <www.ciwmb.ca.gov/calmax> to find (and rescue) items that would otherwise go into the landfill. You get things for little or no cost, and the previous owners save tipping fees. Ventura County also has an exchange at <www.vcmax.org>.
 
• Community websites. Look for both individual items and garage sales on websites such as <www.craigslist.com> and <www.freecycle.org>. Or post a request and see what emerges from someone's attic!
 
•  Thrift stores and classifieds. You can also find treasures at area thrift stores. Look in your Yellow Pages or search online for "thrift stores" plus your county name. Also check the classified ads in your local newspapers and their websites.
 
And, when you're done with your project, remember to "pass it forward" by discarding of your waste wisely. For information and drop-off options, contact the waste management folks in your area: San Luis Obispo County (<www.iwma.com> 782-8530), Ventura County (<www.wasteless.org> 658-4321), and Santa Barbara County (<www.lessismore.org> 882-3600). Some cities (such as Santa Barbara) also have helpful resources.
 
For more green building information and resources, see <www.BuildItGreen.Org>. This site includes a wonderful page outlining what qualities you might look for in a green product. (Look under "About Green Building" for "What Makes a Green Product?") You can also get more ideas for aligning your home with nature from Natural Remodeling by Venolia and Lerner.
 
So, yes, it is indeed true that being cheap can actually be good for the planet &emdash; when you look at your project through green eyes!
 
Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guides, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter. Email your questions about going green to <EcoGirl [at] AskEcoGirl.info> for possible inclusion in future columns. You can view previous columns at <www.AskEcoGirl.info>. Also contact EcoGirl for information about carrying this syndicated column in your periodical.
 
(c) Patricia Dines, 2007-2008. All rights reserved.
 

COLUMN CUSTOMIZED FOR WEST COUNTY GAZETTE
(serving northern California's Sonoma County)

PDF VERSION -- formatted with the EcoGirl logo and ready to print! (Click here to download a PDF reader.)


 
Seeing Through Green Eyes: Remodeling Green on the Cheap
 
Published in the West County Gazette
October, 2007
(c) Patricia Dines, 2007. All rights reserved.

Dear EcoGirl - I want to know about green remodeling that isn't for millionaires. Signed, Strapped in Santa Rosa

 
Dear Strapped: How wonderful that you want to remodel ecologically. The good news is - it doesn't have to cost more!

Sometimes it can seem that it does, as the consumer-oriented media too often equates green with buying green products, which can be more expensive. And, yes, if you're going to buy a new product, look for an ecological one. (Avoid hype by asking what exactly makes the product green.)

But if your goal is to be earth-friendly and lessen your impact on the planet, and especially if you want to save money, first consider how to avoid buying a new product at all. Instead, follow the eco-mantra - "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." Then, what you do to be green can also lower your costs!

Because, while new eco-products are helpful, we won't stop our harm to the earth if we keep consuming at our current rate, even if all the products are labeled "green."

So ask yourself, "What's my goal with this project? Can I use what I have, just in a different way? Can I repair, refurbish, or repaint to refresh the look and match my new design? Is there an opportunity here for creative expression?" I did this recently with an old porch table, repainting it in an artistic way that delights me every time I see it.

If you do decide to buy an item, look first at other people's discards. This saves you money, avoids the eco-impacts of producing and shipping new products, and reduces waste in our overflowing landfills. You can also often find unique pieces that bring style into your home - while meeting interesting people along the way!

Here are some great local places to find "previously owned" remodeling goodies.

• Recycletown (795-3660). Located at the dump (between Rohnert Park and Petaluma), Recycletown has doors, windows, tiles, chairs, lamps, gardening pots, bikes, exercise equipment, household items, and more, all at great prices. Go at least once to have a sense of what's there.

I recently got a great chair there for $5. It didn't look like much, but I saw good lines and knew that some (non-toxic) stain and a new seat cloth would make it look amazing, which it does. It would've cost me a lot more at an antique store to get something with its great classic design! Plus, it's fun seeing what a little creativity can do. (I hung a small framed picture of the chair's original condition next to it, just for fun.)

•  ReStore (568-3228). In Santa Rosa, Habitat for Humanity's ReStore offers surplus and salvaged building materials at significant discounts. Profits support their affordable housing work.

• Sonomax <www.SonoMax.org>. Few folks know about this great resource, where businesses offer free and cheap items in order to avoid disposal fees. Recent listings include windows, window coverings, red bricks, carpet, drywall, sinks, doors, insulation, appliances, red lava rock, paint, redwood, and compost.

• Public websites. Look for items and garage sales at <www.waccobb.net>, <www.craigslist.com>, and <www.pressdemocrat.com>. Or post a request and see what emerges from someone's attic!

• Newspaper classifieds and thrift stores (see the Yellow Pages).

For more places to explore, plus information about recycling your own discards, see your phone book's Recycling Guide (in the Yellow Pages under "R"). Look by category, for instance under Building Materials.

You can also get more green building information and local resources at <www.BuildItGreen.Org>. This site has a wonderful page outlining what qualities you might look for in a green product. (Look under "About Green Building" for "What Makes a Green Product?")

So, yes, the good news is that being cheap can actually be good for the planet - when you look at your project through green eyes!

Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guide to Sonoma, Napa, & Mendocino Counties, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter.

Email your questions about going green to <EcoGirl [at] AskEcoGirl.info> for possible inclusion in future columns. You can view previous columns at <www.AskEcoGirl.info>. Also contact EcoGirl for information about carrying this syndicated column in your periodical.

(c) Patricia Dines, 2007. All rights reserved.


A reader writes:

Dear Eco-Girl,

Enjoyed your recent column about sources of recycled items.

Thought you might want to publicize the local freecycle listserves as well.

These are yahoo groups localized by town where people list items they no longer need; and others list what they are looking for. To quote their website:

"The Freecycle Network is made up of 4182 groups with 4148757 members across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. Membership is free, and everything posted must be FREE, legal and appropriate for all ages."

A terrific resource! To check out the Guerneville, Sebastopol, Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park Freecycle lists, go to yahoo.com, click on "groups" and then enter the town name and the word, "Freecycle" into the search field.

Thanks and keep up the good work!

Once a Forestvillian, Always a Forestvillian...

----------------

EcoGirl replies - Yes, thanks for bringing up this useful resource! For easy access, you can also just Google "freecycle" plus the town name - then a link for the appropriate group (if there is one) will appear. Or you can go to the main Freecycle site at <www.freecycle.org> and enter the town there. So many options! - Blessings, EcoGirl


FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information on related eco-topics, see my other Ask EcoGirl columns.


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