Set priorities for energy-efficient living

The concept of green living goes hand in hand with the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Since buildings use a significant amount of the total energy generated, they play a huge role. This includes our homes. Deep green home efficiency upgrades coupled with increasingly affordable solar energy systems make a difference.

There is no longer a solution to prevent global warming. It is happening and what has been put into motion cannot be reversed.

It may be possible to reduce its severity but only if we are truly committed. Effective, rapid and permanent change requires a paradigm shift in our thinking with the realization that every single thing we do has consequences.

Each choice we make is an opportunity to address the issue. It has become absolutely critical that we choose wisely. Here are a few examples:

■ Power down. Since most of our energy comes from fossil fuels, whenever we use power, we contribute to global warming. Always remember this simple fact, then turn off everything except when it is actually needed.

Vote with your dollars when buying new homes, cars or appliances, selecting the most energy efficient models available, every time. The positive impact of our collective choices will be tremendous.

■ Lighten up. Living lighter applies to many things. Recycling paper, plastics and glass greatly reduces the energy required to manufacture new products. Eating vegetarian meals three or four times a week (or all the time for some of us who are vegan) saves water and energy. Choosing organic food reduces the need for fossil fuel-based fertilizers and pesticides.

The benefits of walking or riding a bike are obvious. Smaller homes are not only more affordable and easier to maintain, they are a very responsible choice given the impact they have on our environment.

■ Think long term. In our society, we tend to focus on immediate results, this quarter’s profits or only what will happen during our lifetime. Our technology has become so powerful that the decisions we make right now will affect the future for many generations. Let us not forget that.

■ Educate yourself. There is no substitute for education. Turn off the television. Use our excellent public library system to learn about our place in the nature of things, the sacred balance of the earth’s biosphere or the incredible biodiversity that we are a part of and totally dependent upon.

Much of this wealth is changing or disappearing at alarming rates. We are living in the most unique time in the history of life on this planet. Embrace it. Learn about it. Our situation is very serious, but it is also fascinating. The information is out there and accessible to everyone.

■ Reconnect with nature. There is tremendous value in getting “out there.” But don’t just drive the Red Rock Loop and then head home. Get out of the car and walk around. Go to the higher elevations if it’s hot.

Hike some trails but make sure you have the necessities, including plenty of water. Go slow and look at the smallest details, noticing the relationships between sun and shade or trees and insects. For too long, we have excluded the value of our biosphere from our economic system. Re-establishing our connection with the natural world is crucial to our success.

■ Live local. Learn to value what we have right here. We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Shop at farmers markets regularly. Seek out and join local organizations working to improve the community.

I always prefer locally owned businesses over larger ones. Keep our community strong! By learning to live in place, we nurture greater appreciation for what we have. By reducing long-distance travel, we also reduce our carbon emissions. It is a win-win.

We have no choice but to face the challenges of climate change. It is upon us. Our choices and actions will dictate its severity. Choose wisely. Green living is more than just a good idea.

Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, a company committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. For more information and links to additional resources relating to this column, or to reach Rypka, visit