When Hurricane Sandy ripped through Long Island in 2012, the Erle family’s charming 1940s Hamptons cottage was no match for the superstorm. The storm delivered a crippling blow to the home that the family had just finished repairing from Hurricane Irene. Instead of once again challenging Mother Nature, Kim Erle decided to respect it by building a resilient, sustainable home that’s been dubbed Sunset Green Home. She is the first person to register a home for LEED certification following Southampton’s passage of green building tax incentives that will be valued at about $15,000 over the course of 10 years.
LEED for Homes is a voluntary rating system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes that deliver fresh air indoors and improve water and energy efficiency. According to the LEED for Homes Reference Guide, water efficiency measures alone in LEED Homes reduce water usage by 30 percent or more, a savings of 30,000 gallons of water per year.
Whether you’re looking to go as green as possible as you build your dream home or make an addition to your current pad or just want to reduce your carbon footprint, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce the impact of your home on the environment while also making it storm-proof. Erle shared her green home solutions with Pulse.
If you’re in the market for a new washer-dryer, check to see if it qualifies as an EPA Energy Star appliance. “People should choose Energy Star appliances whenever they can because they use less energy than their non-qualified counterparts,” Erle said.
Erle didn’t just use Energy Star appliances. She took it a step further. “We chose Energy Star ceiling fans from Big Ass Solutions in all of the bedrooms and living spaces,” she said. The haiku ceiling fans, which are as trendy as they are great at cooling down a room, allowed Erle to use a smaller-sized air conditioning and put her temperature set points higher. “For me, I’ll put my set points at 76 whereas someone else might set it at 72,” she said. “By using Energy Star appliances on my ceiling, we’re able to reduce our energy use in other categories.” Living on the coast, she also loves opening up her windows and letting the natural breeze cool her home. When that’s not an option, she has an automated shading system that is programmed to raise and lower the shades depending on where the sun is, creating a difference in room temperature.
LED lights are the way to go when choosing an environmentally friendly light bulb. They use a fraction of the energy incandescent bulbs use and don’t contain harmful chemicals such as mercury that contaminate the earth when disposed like their fluorescent counterparts.”[LED lights are] very efficient and the light they produce is very pretty,” she said. “We’re on a second-generation of LEDs and they’re quite nice.” Every light in Erle’s home, with the exception of one, a chandelier, is an LED, and she didn’t sacrifice style points for LEED points. There’s a modern, sphere-shaped chandelier in the foyer and chic fixtures line the walls.
Jennifer Aniston was once lauded for saying she brushed her teeth while showering to save water. These days, you can up your green ante by installing water-efficient toilets and showers into your home. “If you’re paying your water bill and you’re mindful of the fact that water has to be processed to come to your home or you have well water and know it’s a finite resource, consider some water efficiency measures,” Erle advised. Erle recommended a toilet with a 1.6 gallon or 1.1 gallon flush. Low-flow showers may not be popular as they make you feel like you’re cleansing in a cheap motel (oxymoron?), but you don’t have to trade luxury for efficiency. “There are a lot of new technologies that mix air with water that you don’t feel like you just sacrificed your shower,” Erle said. The Hansgrohe hand held and regular showerheads in the home boast water-saving flow rates of 2.0 gallons per minute and still feels great. Another way to minimize your water bill and up your water efficiency: Consult Cornell Cooperative Extension for lists of drought-tolerant native and adaptive plants to grow outside.
According to the World Preservation Foundation, “deforestation has been found to be responsible for 20-25 percent of global warming, due to the massive release of CO2 that had been captured and stored in the trees. To get a picture of just how much CO2 is being released, deforestation releases as much CO2 into the atmosphere in one day as would 8 million people flying from London to New York.” If you’re building, be mindful of where you’re getting your wood. “If you can, select wood products that have been grown, extracted and processed regionally because a lot of the environmental impact of wood is transportation,” Erle said. Erle chose ZIP System sheathing and AdvanTech sub-flooring because the wood was grown, extracted and processed within 500 miles of the project. Woodwrights Wide Plank Flooring, a mere 15 minutes from Erle’s home, is responsible for the gorgeous wide plank white oak floor.
A green solution any homeowner can implement: grow your own vegetables. “First of all, you know where it comes from and you know what sort of chemicals were used to produce it,” Erle said. “You’re not transporting it…from California or somewhere else. It’s traveling 40 feet to get to my front door.” It’s the same concept as using local wood to cut down on CO2 by cutting down on transportation. She eats what she grows. Beans in August, asparagus in May and June. “That’s the way our ancestors used to live, they ate a lot beans during bean season,” Erle said. “You have to be able to tolerate that. I’m ok with that, and I love knowing where my food comes from.”
Beware of Green Washing
“There’s a lot of green washing, companies that will claim their product is green and they’ll put green colors on it and make you think you’re buying something that’s a good product,” Erle warned. Make use of government resources like the Energy Star program and EPA Emission’s instead of simply relying on a label. Even if you aren’t going for a LEED certification, you can still consult the manual on the US Green Building Council website when it’s time to build or add onto your home.