Make a fresh start while moving home A new home opens up several environment-friendly possibilities.

Moving home is akin to making a fresh start. It offers you an opportunity to carry out some serious stocktaking of the inventory of household goods you have acquired. But while doing so, wearing a green bifocal will make a world of difference. You will not only be able to give away things you don’t need but can recycle and repurpose bits and pieces of furniture and clothes lying unused for years. More importantly, you can invest sensibly in new household goods to ensure that your new home is as minimalist and environment-friendly as possible.

I know this from first-hand experience having gone through the exercise of moving home from distant Delhi to closer-to-my-heart Chennai. The entire process of setting up a new home served as an eye-opener. When I unpacked my kitchenware, I realised I had acquired more than I required. These included gifts from friends and relatives that had piled up over the years. I know I ought to have given much of it away in Delhi but sometimes emotion and sentiment get the better of us and we rather keep a gift though it will lie unused in some inaccessible top shelf.

Luckily, in Chennai I was more pragmatic. Many of the utensils I had no use for were quickly donated to an organisation which was distributing essentials to people dislocated by the cyclone that had struck Chennai in early December. Out went many clothes and an assortment of household goods and appliances that had seen better days.

But I did not stop there. I decided that my new home should reflect and incorporate the priorities of the times we live in. A fair amount of research went in before the new home was set up and that is the information I would like to share with the readers. But before embarking on this, let me point out that one may not be able to implement all the recommendations of the pundits, but we can at least try.

While buying electrical appliances like air conditioners and fans, invest wisely on brands that are certified as energy efficient, with a Bureau of Energy Efficiency star rating. Do not opt for inexpensive machines which are outdated and run up huge energy bills. If you are buying a washing machine, choose one that consumes less power and water. Ditto for water purifiers. Conserving water is as important as saving energy. Luckily, most manufacturers are producing far more ­environment-friendly machines than they did in the past.

One way of saving energy I learnt was by keeping your flat/home well ventilated. The apartment complex we shifted into on the Old ­Mahabalipuram Road is blessed — as is most of ­Chennai —
with a sea breeze. But most houses in the area we observed have their windows closed for most of the evening and during the night for fear of mosquitoes. Unopened windows may ward off mosquitoes but keep the fresh sea breeze also out.

While buying electrical appliances like air conditioners and fans, invest wisely on brands that are certified as energy efficient, with a Bureau of Energy Efficiency star rating.

The young designer we consulted was someone who married aesthetics with pragmatism in her work. She suggested we invest in mosquito meshes that are mounted on sliding metal frames for all windows, large and small in the flat. We took her advice, and are happy we did. The house is so airy that we have not felt the need to switch on our ACs so far. We even use our fans sparingly. In peak summer it might get hotter and stickier, but I believe that a well-­ventilated house will be far more comfortable than one in which windows are closed in the evenings to keep mosquitoes and insects at bay.

We also chose a place where a metro link will be available soon. This will help us avoid using fossil fuel vehicles in the future and that too only during emergencies.

Along with our designer, we also decided to do most of the interiors in eco-friendly bamboo as it is the most sustainable material available and sits lightly on the conscience.

Ours of course is a high-rise apartment block, but if you are lucky to have your own plot of land, there are several choices that you can make to travel on the road to sustainability. The first rule is to study your plot of land carefully and decide not to do away with any of the greenery that exists on it. Consider a design that can incorporate the trees and bushes that already adorn the landscape instead of cutting down the greenery and starting on a barren new slate.

Understand the water source that is serving your plot. It would be best to plan around that. For instance, make sure you install a water harvesting system that will help you replenish your groundwater and can be used for watering the garden and vegetable patches. It would be great if you could also make use of the grey water from your kitchen and sinks. A water consultant could tell you how to recycle the same water for your flushing system.

Finally, a word about solar power. The last column delved in detail on how important it is to install solar panels to cut power consumption and finally even be free of drawing energy from the official grid. If you have your own house, setting up ­panels would be that much easier than in a flat. However, despair not, judicious use of balconies might help. Or persuading your building society to install solar panels could be an option. Some companies are even offering a mini wind turbine in the balcony that can cut the extensive use of energy from the grid. I saw some installed in Noida, and in a windy area it would be even more efficient.

The idea is to reduce your carbon imprint and do your bit for Mother Earth.

The writer is a senior journalist who writes on environmental issues


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