Green Building Q and A: Answers to common Green Building questions

Page archived as of December 31, 2013

Green Building Q&A : Answers to common Green Building question:

What are some simple ways to save energy at home?
  1. Plug electronics into a power strip rather than the outlet. Appliances plugged into the power strip leak 80% less electricity than when plugged into the wall.
  2. Seal the cracks in window and door frames which can account for 25% heat loss in your home.
  3. Buy energy efficient appliances. Although they cost more initially, they are almost always more cost effective over time.
  4. Eat less meat; livestock is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

I’m building a new home in Alexandria. What are some ways I could make my home more eco-friendly?

  1. Consider a green roof. These roofs provide temperature and sound isolation while improving air quality. They also absorb rainwater, thus filtering out pollutants and improving the quality of stormwater runoff. More information about green roofs can be found here.
  2. Look into solar or geothermal heating options. Basic information about these systems can be found on Alexandria’s Green Building Resource Center. Installing a solar powered water heater is one of the most affordable ways to use solar power, paying for themselves in the first year or two by significantly lower your electric bill.
  3. Choose low VOC paints and explore sustainable flooring options.

Where can I dispose of hazardous materials such as paint, CFLS, and batteries?
See Alexandria’s Solid Waste and Recycling site for a list of locations. The link to “Refuse Collections” tells you how to prepare materials and where to take them. Many of these materials, like CFL bulbs, are collected at home improvement stores such as Home Depot.

What is LEED?
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. (Source: US Green Building Council)

How do I buy green power?
In Alexandria, you can sign up for Dominion Virginia Power’s VA Green Power program online or by phone. Your rates will be only slightly higher (an additional $0.015 /kWh), costing as little as $2 more each month while reducing carbon emissions and encouraging independence from fossil fuels.

How do I calculate my carbon footprint?
Your carbon footprint is the sum of all emissions of CO2 (carbon dioxide) produced by your daily activities, such as driving a car or buying food, over a certain period of time. The CO2 released from the burning of fossil fuels is one of the most significant causes of global warming is the CO2 released from the burning of fossil fuels. Here’s an online calculator to help you out:

Is it true that washing my clothes in cold water will still get them clean?
Yes, and doing so can save you money while eliminating as much as 350 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Most liquid detergents work as well as cold-water detergent, so there’s no need to switch to a special soap. Grease-stained clothing may come cleaner in hot water but, for the most part, cold water will get your clothes just as clean as warm water rinses and keep them looking newer in the process.

Is it more efficient to use a dishwasher or to hand wash?
Studies show that while it is possible to hand wash dishes more efficiently than a dishwasher, doing so is difficult. Washing a full load of dishes in the dishwasher, especially on the energy saving cycle, has been shown to be the most eco-friendly way to tidy up the kitchen. Even more points if you skip the heated-dry.

Where can I learn more about green living?
The City of Alexandria hosts workshops monthly on major topics of concern, such as making historic homes more energy efficient. These workshops are posted on the here on the resource center.

I live in a historic house. Can I still use solar technology?
Yes. Although regulations are somewhat stricter, solar technology can be a great way to provide clean power to your home. Alexandria’s Green Building Resource Center has several articles on solar power, including one directly addressing solar power options for historic homes.