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Smart Home 101: How to Get Started with Home Automation

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smart home

Does the term “smart home” leave you confused? If yes, you aren’t alone. The smart home is an umbrella term that covers anything from app-enabled coffee makers to voice-controlled garage doors.

That aside, a smart home is essentially a technology that strives to make your life as comfortable and convenient as possible. This technology takes care of repetitive and boring everyday tasks like locking or unlocking your front door, adjusting the humidifier and turning off the lights.

Read through these useful smart home 101 tips to help you start your home automation journey on the right foot.

 

How to Select the Best Smart Home Devices

smart-home-devices

When automating your home by adding smart devices, you need to go for products that’ll serve you for a longer time. Choose those with backward compatibility over those with forwarding compatibility. Products with backward compatibility are those that can work with devices that you already have in your home. Those with forwarding compatibility are compatible with future devices only.

Don’t just dive into buying smart devices for your home, especially with new products finding their way to the market at a dramatic rate. Be sure to do your research. That way, you’ll have some basic understanding of what might work for you and what may become ineffective in the long-term.

 

Start small

Compare products from different manufacturers – look at their prices, quality, and compatibility. Also, subscribe to sites that provide things such as going green with actionable tips and that offer insights into current news and trends in the home automation industry. That way, you’ll always know when new smart devices enter the market and take advantage of discounts, promotions, and seasonal price changes.

Start small – you can buy just a few inexpensive devices and then think about some additions with time. Also, put your needs into consideration and buy only what addresses your needs and fits into your lifestyle. Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Do you need a personal assistant to create lists and order groceries? Nothing is more annoying than getting home from grocery shopping only to realize that you’ve forgotten some essential groceries. With a personal assistant device, you don’t have to worry about that anymore. A device like Google Assistant allows you to add products, prepare several grocery lists, and get personal recommendations derived from your former list.
  • Do you always leave your lights and appliances on? If yes, you need to invest in smart light switches and plugs. They’ll allow you to turn off your lights and appliances from remote locations. They’ll also save you some money by reducing your energy consumption.
  • Do you want to bring down your utility bills? Install a smart thermostat to keep your home comfortable and energy consumption down. You can use your voice to command the smart assistant to adjust the thermostat when you’re at home or adjust it with your smartphone when you’re away.
  • Are you worried about your home security? Keep an eye on your home from your smartphone with a home security app. But your security cameras, door locks, doorbells, and outdoor lights must be connected to the Wi-Fi. Security cameras can also be helpful when you’re working from home. They can help you see who’s at your door. That way, you can decide who to open for and who to ignore, which can go a long way in minimizing distractions and enhancing your productivity.

 

Steps for Setting up and Installing Smart Home Devices

setting up smart home devices

Before we get into the steps of installing smart home devices, one important question to ask is when should you opt for this home automation project?

The answer is anytime, however, if you’d like to make it more practical, home automation devices are the easiest to implement if you also plan to carry out a home remodeling project.

This is because the trusted contractor that is remodeling your home, will also help you integrate the smart devices into your home, and you will not have to worry about it. 

Moving forward, the most exciting and enjoyable part of your home automation project is setting up and installing devices. Here a few steps to follow: 

 

1. Connect to power

Your smart hub will require power to function. Depending on the model, you can hook it up to power via an AC adapter or just install rechargeable battery packs. It pays to have backup batteries in place so that your home stays functional even in the event of a power outage.

 

2. Connect to Fast and Reliable Internet

Most smart hubs hook up to Internet routers via an Ethernet cable. But some are a bit more modern and will only require a password to hook up to wireless routers.

 

3. Install the Application on Your Smartphone

You can access most of the latest home automation systems right from your smartphone through an app. You just need to download and install the relevant app on your smartphone.

 

4. Set up an Account

The app will take you through an easy-to-follow process to set up an account. Remember to secure your account with a strong password.

 

5. Add Smart Devices

Follow easy on-screen prompts to add smart devices to your home automation system.

 

6. Schedule Scenes and Triggers

A scene is a series of actions that can be scheduled to happen at specific times. For instance, a bedtime scene may involve your electrical appliances and lights turning off and your smart doors closing at 9:00 pm. There could also be trigger-controlled scenes. Case in point, a motion sensor may cause a light to turn on when it detects an unlocked door.

 

7. Set up Alerts

By setting up alerts, you will receive either a text or email when specific events like a movement or an open window are detected.

 

Conclusion 

Hopefully, these actionable smart home tips will help you start your home automation journey on the right foot. Take your time to acquaint yourself with home automation technology, start with cheap devices, and continue incorporating new devices into your hub with time. And before you know it, you’ll have a fully functional smart home. 

Best Eco-Friendly Gifts for Dads

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gift for dad

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” – Native American Proverb.

The above quote becomes especially important to consider in the current consumerist and capitalist society we live in. Today, our fast-paced lifestyle has made us consume mindlessly and has resulted in massive pressure on the earth’s existing resources.

Human demand exceeds the pace at which new products are being made, and if we want to sustain our species, we have to examine our consumption patterns.

Luckily, all hope is not lost. Many consumers today are becoming more conscious of the products they buy and choosing eco-friendly products for themselves and people they’re gifting to.

If you’re in a fix about what eco-friendly item you can gift your dad, here are some of the best eco-friendly gifts for dads.

Best Eco-Friendly Christmas Gifts

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eco friendly christmas gift

“Tis the season to be jolly” – Christmas brings with it a lot of festive cheer. It’s a time for the family to come together and enjoy each other’s company while listening to the soft sounds of Christmas carols and enjoying the lights of the Christmas tree.

While the holiday cheer may be high, unfortunately, it’s also a period that results in a lot of waste. Giving gifts is a very important part of Christmas and finding the right Christmas gift can be difficult.

In an effort to live more sustainably and reduce the wastage that occurs around the holiday season, it’s imperative to watch out for eco-friendly Christmas gifts.

Here are some of the best eco-friendly Christmas gifts to choose from.

What is an Ovo Vegetarian?

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Ovo vegetarianism

Ovo-vegetarians are people who follow a vegetarian diet that also includes eggs and egg products such as mayonnaise.

The ethical motivation for choosing ovo-vegetarianism, i.e., excluding dairy products from the diet, is usually based on the fact that the dairy industry resorts to extreme cruelty to sustain itself. Animals raised and maintained for milk are often kept in highly congested spaces that result in several animals dying or living with painful ailments.

These animals are forced to be pregnant for as long as possible to procure milk from them, which means that the calves born out of these pregnancies don’t get access to their mother’s milk.

Ovo-vegetarians also maintain specific criteria for the eggs they buy since industrially produced eggs are also not cruelty-free. They typically choose cage-free and unfertilized eggs. The health-related reasons for choosing ovo-vegetarianism are lactose intolerance problems and the unhealthy amount of fat and gluten content in dairy products.

 

Advantages of an Ovo-vegetarian diet

Economic

Compared to the diet spectrum’s two extremes, a non-vegetarian diet and a vegan diet, an ovo-vegetarian diet can be very economical and healthy.

Non-vegetarian diets are usually expensive if healthy and hygienic meat options are considered.

A vegan diet is also not entirely pocket-friendly since a nutritional, balanced meal will require several vegan alternatives for staple ingredients, adding up to an expensive lifestyle. An ovo-vegetarian diet ensures that you get a well-balanced meal that is also pocket friendly since eggs effectively provide ample protein.

 

Environment friendly

The meat industry weighs heavily on the planet. Rearing cattle is expensive for the planet since it involves greenhouse gas emissions comparable to emissions made by large automobiles.

Additionally, rearing cattle involves grazing on large pastures created by cutting down large areas of forests. The future of the planet depends on decreasing the intake of meat.

 

Health benefits

Vegetarian diets are generally much healthier than non-vegetarian diets. They ensure more fiber intake and prevent all the health risks associated with meat. Intake of fiber helps maintain a low Body Mass Index since fiber is very filling and reduces overeating. Additionally, fiber helps to maintain good metabolism.

Vegetarian diets also involve consuming fewer calories since most vegetarian foods are low on calories. Since ovo-vegetarians avoid dairy and dairy products, they are also at a lower risk of several diseases caused by high sugar intake and unsaturated fat in food products.

Several vegans have started to add eggs into their diet since vegan diets can be relatively nutrient deficient.

Eggs are a great source of protein, and they can provide nutrients such as Vitamin B12 and Omega-3 that are otherwise only available in meat. Vitamin B12 and Omega-3 are essential for the human nervous and immune systems. Adding eggs to a vegetarian meal is also a lot more satiating than a pure vegetarian meal.

 

Potential risks and concerns

Inadequate protein intake

Several kinds of meat form the primary source of protein in non-vegetarian diets. In a vegetarian diet, protein intake can fall below the required amount if it is not carefully supplemented with plant-based options.

Legumes and nuts are good sources of protein for vegetarians. Ovo-vegetarians have an additional option of eggs and egg products. Egg whites are excellent sources of protein.

 

Nutrient deficiency

People who stick to a strictly vegetarian diet can suffer from deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals. Vitamin B12, vitamin D, Omega-3 fatty acids, and minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc are the most commonly neglected nutrients among vegetarians.

These deficiencies are potentially dangerous. These nutrients are usually derived from seafood, meat, and dairy. Several plant-based options are available to compensate for the lack of non-vegetarian food products. Fortified foods often have artificially added vitamins and minerals in food products such as plant-based milk and breakfast cereals.

The important thing is to keep track of your nutrient intake and add health supplements to make up for the nutrients absent in your diet. Making a diet chart can help keep a tab on your nutrient intake.

 

Processed foods

Choosing a vegetarian diet does not necessarily mean a healthy diet. Vegetarian junk foods and processed food products are as available and are as harmful as any other diet.

If you choose ovo vegetarianism for its health benefits, you must include whole foods and green vegetables in your meal. Minimize the consumption of junk food and avoid eating processed food whenever you can. Processed meat alternatives can be tempting, but they can be as harmful as any meat products.

Thinking of Going Solar? These are 5 Questions You Must Consider

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solar panels array

The popularity surrounding going solar often creates misconceptions among home owners about the true benefits of installing solar panels at their home.

If you are considering a solar panels investment for your home, there are certain key factors to consider before taking a final decision.

The variables for each case are specific to your situation. They also relate to your location’s climatic conditions and the orientation and design of your home. Additionally your current electricity bill and availability to financial incentives for solar power factors into the equation.

To help you evaluate such the decision we have prepared the following list of questions:

 

1. Is your location’s climate suitable for solar?

Photovoltaic panels require sunlight to generate electricity. The clearer the sky with more sunlight intervals, the more electricity you will generate; thus have a higher return on your investment.

However, solar panels come with different specifications that suit a range of conditions.

If you live in an area with cloudy weather and sparse sunshine, for example, it is recommended that you seek professional advice from your local solar installers.

It is always a good idea to cross check any information regarding solar installation with state authorities such as your local municipality.

 

2. Is your home suitable for solar panels?

Once you’ve established that your climate is suitable for solar panels, you should then take a look at your house orientation.

Normally you will need to have a clear view to the south at an inclination of 27-35°.  Whether to install roof or land-mounted solar panels largely depends on your home’s specific circumstances.

Apart from orientation and type, you must also consider space availability for your solar panels. Space, as well as size (capacity of solar panels), is much related to the type of solar panels choose.

Provided your house can accommodate solar panels, check with local authorities before commencing installation. Some local town councils have planning restrictions, such as solar panels height, size and aesthetics attributes relating to your building but also to the environment.

 

3. Do you have access to solar financial incentives?

Although solar panel costs have gone a long way down, they are still relatively high compared to conventional energy systems.

Financial incentives provide justification in renewable investment, setting-off the extra cost. Depending on your location, check with local authorities on the types of financial incentives available to you for solar panels.

Once again, we recommend that you double check that any available incentives are verified within your discussions with solar panel installers.

 

4. How much do you pay for electricity?

Apart from being environmental, the main reason you may be considering going solar is cost savings.

Provided that all answers to above questions give the option to go solar, the question of how much you spend on electricity will be the decisive factor in your decision. The more you pay on electricity, the more benefits you will realize from turning to solar.

To fully assess your electricity consumption, you need to consider your bills on an annual basis to overcome seasonal fluctuations.

Also, your average monthly electricity consumption in kilo-watt-hrs (kWh) is a measure of what size of solar panels installation you are looking for.

Typically, residential solar panels range between 4 to 10 kWh of installed capacity.

 

5. Have you found a solar installer?

We highly recommend showing your electricity bills to various potential solar panels installers and ask for a professional consultation; a detailed assessment of the potential cost savings to your specific case.

Professional solar panel installers should be able to provide you with a quotation of your home solar panels. They also should provide a detailed report with analysis on the costs and potential savings on an annual basis.

It is always advisable to seek advice from a number of installers and make a common sense evaluation on who suits you best.

Here are some guiding tips when assessing solar panel installers: Ask for customer references or easily accessible installations they have undertaken that can provide proof of their competence and quality of work.

Experienced and well trained installers can provide you with reliable solutions and good customer service.

Ask to see the installer’s licenses and accreditation to gauge quality and experience levels.

Finally, your final agreement should clearly state and assign responsibility of the whole project under the installer / contractor. Typically, an installer may hire sub-contractors for certain portions of your project. Nonetheless, accountability is non-transferable to any third parties.

You can simplify the process by assigning the job to a trustworthy installer to undertake responsibility and deliver your installation from start to finish.

6 Good Reasons to Get a Rain Barrel

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Rain Barrel

Water use in homes increases over the summer, which is mainly because of the amount of water we use to maintain our lawns and gardens. However, it’s during fall that most places get rainfall.

A recent PNAS report says that the average U.S. citizen has a water footprint of 2,842 m³ per year! Suffice it to say, water and water conservation are becoming hot button issues in the green community and even in mainstream politics.

While you may not think you can do much about the world’s current water crisis, every little bit really does count.

Luckily, there are many simple ways to help with the water crisis, including using a rain barrel at home.

Rain barrels and water tanks are incredibly easy to set up and use, and there are plenty of good reasons to use one. Here are six reasons you should consider one for your yard:

 

Top reasons to get a rain barrel

You’ll cut back on water usage for your lawn and garden

When you get a rain barrel, you can collect runoff during storms and rain, which you can then use on your lawn and garden, dramatically reducing the amount of water you use from your home water line during the summer months, and beyond.

 

Rain water is actually better for your plants

watering can

Even if you don’t have the greenest thumb, you can help your plants, shrubs, trees, and grass grow better by watering with collected rain water. Plants love natural rain water that isn’t chlorinated or fluoridated like municipal water normally is, so collected rain water is the best choice for watering your plants.

Most plants are prone to chlorine toxicity, which makes rain water better for your garden since it does not contain chlorine, and other harmful chemicals used to treat piped water.

Indeed, plants look greener and lush after it rains. Air is almost 80 percent nitrogen – a key nutrient for plants. When the rain comes down with some of the nitrogen, it rejuvenates plants.

 

You can help minimize direct runoff

Direct runoff refers to the dramatic surface runoff of water that floods into sewers during rainy and snowy weather. In industrialized areas, all the concrete, houses, and other impermeable surfaces keep the rain water from soaking into the ground where it lands, as it normally would.

When the water is, instead, flooding into the sewage system, the system can overload, resulting in major problems such as flooding downstream and leakages at local sewage treatment plants. By collecting the rain water that lands on your roof, you can do your part to minimize these problems.

 

You’ll help create healthier drinking water and natural waterways

waterway

When rain falls in the middle of an uninhabited forest, even rain that has picked up pollutants can be cleaned out, since most of the water will soak through the soil.

However, when rain runs along roofs, streets, and cars, it takes all those pollutants with it, right into the natural waterways and drinking water treatment sites, since the soil that would otherwise soak it up is covered.

By collecting rain water, you can prevent some pollution of the waterways around your home.

 

You can actually collect tons of water

rain water

If you live in a relatively dry area, you may think that having a rain barrel is pointless because you’ll never get any water. However, it often takes less than an inch of rain to fill an entire rain barrel, depending on the size of your roof.

According to Water Wise, a 1,000 square foot roof with just an inch of rainfall yields over 600 gallons of water!

 

You’ll save money

save money

If you live in a city, chances are likely that you have to pay for your water usage, which makes rain barrels one great option for conserving water and saving money. Yet another reason to get a rain barrel.

With hundreds of gallons of rain water from a single rain fall, you can use that water for your lawn and garden for weeks to keep things looking green – without ever tapping into your city water supply.

As you can see, having a rain barrel is a great option for families who are interested in conservation and being green.

While you can’t use water collected in a rain barrel for drinking, washing, or bathing, it will definitely offset your use of water in your lawn and garden.

{This article has been updated for freshness and consistency.}

What Will Further Accelerate the Advancement of Solar Power?

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gren roof with solar array

The US solar industry has seen a substantial boom period in the last several years.

Since 2010, we’ve seen a solar growth rate of 68%, thanks to advancements in PV technology, falling costs, and state government incentives that make solar investment a positive move for American homeowners.

But the advancement of solar holds benefits far beyond the financial and environmental. Solar has become one of the fastest growing employment industries in the nation, rising at a rate 17% higher than the US average.

As the industry continues to create jobs, cut down utility bills, and preserve our environment, the question becomes: How do we accelerate this beneficial advancement for the betterment of all?

 

Improve Aesthetics

Rooftop solar panel array

One of the major pain points for solar installers is aesthetics.

People think solar panels are ugly. Traditional panels tend to jut out and can be undesirable to individuals who prefer the more traditional look of a home.

Luckily, the industry has responded to these complaints, and solar shingles are becoming more common. Solar shingles, like the DOW Powerhouse line lay flush against a roof, adhering to asphalt tiles for a more low-key solar experience.

DOW’s product was discontinued in 2016, but the company is set to unveil its Powerhouse 3.0 product very soon.

Tech juggernaut Tesla has also entered the solar shingle game with the Tesla Solar Roof. This takes Dow’s initial concept a bit further, replacing traditional roofing tiles completely.

Tesla’s product is designed to mimic the appearance of French Slate, Tuscan, and glass shingles, with photovoltaic solar cells hidden inside.

Tuscan Glass Tile Roof
Tesla Tuscan Glass Solar Tile Roof

Unfortunately, Tesla’s recent endeavor comes at a hefty price point, and is only 70% as effective as a traditional solar panel system. However, that’s quickly improving.

By sinking more research and development into the solar shingle concept, the industry can overcome one of its largest complaints and increase installations all over the United States.

 

Drive Down Pricing by Decreasing Soft Costs

The price of solar panels has been falling at a rapid rate for 40 years.

In 1977, panels were selling at a rate of $76.67 per Watt. In 2018, manufacturers in India managed to produce the most affordable solar panel of all time, clocking in at just $0.65 per Watt.

That’s a decrease of 7,602%. (More on solar pricing at PowerScout.com)

price of solar power drop

So, if panels are so inexpensive, why are installations still costly? That is a result of soft costs, expenditures which have nothing to do with hardware.

These soft costs make up 64% of the price of a solar installation. Some typical softs costs include permitting, installation, interconnected labor, transaction costs, customer acquisition, installation labor, supply chain losses, and sales tax.

Soft costs are one factor setting the US behind countries like Germany, where solar is far more affordable.

American solar soft costs come out to about $1.22 per Watt, while Germans see only $0.33 per Watt in soft costs.

This is a contributing factor as to why German solar residential installations are 9.5 times higher on a per-capita basis than American.

If the solar industry would stick to a nation-wide commitment to decrease soft costs, we could see a jump in installation volume. More installations mean more profit for installers and more savings for consumers.

 

Expand State Government Incentives

state government incentives

Because solar power helps states decrease their carbon footprint, many state governments have created incentives to encourage residents to adopt this renewable energy. Incentives make solar more attractive by controlling installation costs.

Some states like to offer tax rebates to help offset the cost of a solar system. Others reduce or even eliminate state sales tax. This cuts out a sizeable percentage.

In New Jersey, for instance, where the state sales tax is 6.625%, a $20,000 solar system would ordinarily have an additional $1,325 tacked onto it in taxes. This could make or break someone’s decision to switch to solar.

Net metering is also a popular incentive offered by states. Net metering allows homeowners to bank excess power produced from their system to use later.

If you produce 900 kWh in a month, but you only use 700, that extra 200 is saved. If in the following month your system produces 900 kWh and you use 1,100, then that 200 you previously banked will be used before you have to purchase additional power from the grid.

Incentives are not available in all 50 states. To increase the advancement of solar power, incentives need to be universally embraced, nation-wide.

Make solar easier for your residents to afford, and more of them will make the investment.

 

Avoid Laws That Hinder Solar Advancement

optimize solar panels

While many state governments continue to make the solar experience easier on homeowners, the federal government recently enacted a piece of legislature that could push the industry back.

President Donald Trump signed into law a 30% tariff on foreign solar panels, in a move that Time Magazine described this as “the biggest blow he’s dealt to the renewable energy industry yet.”

Trump defended the tariff, stating that it was imposed to help US based solar manufacturers who cannot compete with the prices coming out of China and India.

Despite this, the SEIA estimates that this could see the loss of up to 23,000 American jobs.

This tariff is a substantial step back for the industry, which relies on foreign made components for 80% of its manufacturing needs.

By making foreign parts more expensive, installation costs will begin to rise. This could lead to a sharp decline in residential solar installations, which would cripple US solar progress.

 

Advancement for All

The only way to truly advance solar in the U.S. is to take steps toward making it viable and affordable for everyone.

We can do that by focusing on decreasing soft costs and petitioning our state governments for more financial incentives. Furthermore, urge lawmakers to fight against legislation that actively hurts the industry. Yet another reason to vote.

{This article has been updated for freshness and consistency.}

10 Genius Ways to Use Coconut Oil for Healthy Skin [Infographic]

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10 genius ways to use coconut oil for healthy skin

The benefits of using coconut oil for a healthier skin and body have been well documented. Both health buffs and beauty enthusiasts swear by it. But, is coconut oil as effective as most people claim?

A lot of lot of people still feel intimidated about using the oil topically. Some of them even cringe at the idea of slathering coconut oil on their skin and hair.

While that’s understandable, coconut oil actually offers nothing but great benefits. Here are some great examples:

  • Reduces wrinkles, sagging skin and age spots
  • It can give back your skin’s lost moisture.
  • It’s effective in killing off bacteria as well as viruses.
  • Nourishes dry hair and reduces dandruff
  • It offers great antioxidant properties.
  • Coconut oil can boost your skin’s collagen production to make it more supple and elastic.

To cast away your uncertainty and save you from the confusion, here are 10 of the best ways you can use coconut oil for healthier skin.

10 ways to use coconut oil for your skin infographic

Did these tips help you? Tweet us @greenerideal and let us know!

Becoming An Environmental Lawyer: Can You Really Make A Difference?

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becoming an environmental lawyer

An ominously growing body of evidence strongly suggests ecological devastation has reached dangerous levels. But not all parties are equally to blame. Where does the liability fall? In the coming years, environmental lawyers will help craft practical answers to this tough question.

Environmental law is always changing in response to the changing landscape. In many settings, ecological crises have intensified and spilled over into the court system, such as the California water wars that coalesced around the export of freshwater out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The Dakota Access Pipeline has also raised legal and political heat over the years.

In other settings, a slow but steady string of legal milestones is quietly shaping the future of environmental law, as seen in climate change litigation.

Environmental conflicts are litigious, and there will be ample long-term opportunities for lawyers who are ready to exercise leadership and shrewd negotiation skills. To meet the anticipated demand, nearly every law school is prepping to train more of their students as skilled advocates of natural ecosystems.

 

Environmental Law Specialty

In today’s uncertain regulatory environment, the judiciary has emerged as a major flash point in numerous deadlocked battles over degraded ecosystems and diminished natural resources. In this space, the modern environmental lawyer has become a pivotal figure with the ability to influence legal and ecological outcomes.

Environmental law specialists do many of the same things as other types of lawyers. They meet with clients, research case law, and write memos and briefs. They may need to visit and evaluate sites of ecological damage.

Additionally, environmental lawyers rarely work far from seething political controversy.

Wherever ecological concerns simmer or green regulations are introduced, these professionals act as critical consultants, defending or challenging laws, designing policy initiatives, and forging solutions between warring parties. It’s an intense role that can be very rewarding.

 

‘Rising Tide’ of Litigation

Demand for environmental lawyers partly results from what’s been called a “rising tide” of litigation over ecological damages. Much of it results from collateral victims’ efforts to seek lawful redress for alleged environmental crimes caused by climate change.

Although many first attempts failed to sway judges, key precedents have laid the groundwork for progress on transnational climate justice. Communities and green groups have successfully taken legal action against perpetrators of violations such as strip copper mining in Chile and the flooding of New Orleans due to levee deterioration on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ watch.

In 2009, the west Pacific island of Micronesia successfully sued CEZ Corporation over a proposed coal plant extension in the Czech Republic which was set to go forward without proper environmental controls.

Although the extension itself was not halted, the judge in the case ruled in favor of Micronesia and required CEZ to incorporate greenhouse gas emission-mitigation technology. The outcome set a striking precedent which advances the principle of transnational climate justice.

The question of liability for damages linked to climate change and other environmental harms is far from resolved. Around the world, more groups are readying legal battles to hold violators responsible and force governments to take mitigative action.

Meanwhile, business and other opponents are gathering lawyers to protect their economic interests.

Although the progress exemplified in environmental justice claims has been slow to gain momentum, there is reason for optimism. As international law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP notes, “history suggests such claims could just be getting started.”

 

Ethical Dimension

Does ‘envirolaw’ have to lead to a career defending offshore drillers, encroaching developers and industrial trawlers?

If you are thinking of going into this specialty to help save the planet, it’s important to realize that ‘anti-environmental’ jobs for lawyers are very common, notably in the private sector. Some pay more than jobs geared toward green stewardship. The latter are often found in government or non-profit settings.

Environmental law is not monolithic, however. There are at least two sides to every issue, and usually many more. Attorneys are needed on all sides to move negotiations forward. Further, conflicts do not always represent a clear-cut clash between pro- and anti-green interests.

 

Constructive Impact

Can you make a difference as an environmental lawyer? Absolutely, but getting to a point of constructive impact takes discipline, commitment, and careful consideration of the ethical challenges with which this legal specialty is fraught—not to mention assessment of one’s salary expectations.

Saving fragile ecosystems as an environmental lawyer is no guarantee of quick riches, but it can be a highly rewarding and well-compensated career. There is a place for attorneys who want to go to bat for the earth and its natural resources.

{This article has been updated for freshness and consistency.}

4 Essential Tips to Build an Eco-Friendly Home

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Eco-Friendly Home

If you’re thinking about doing your bit for the environment and building a green home, you could be part of a revolution.

Green builds are one of the newest and most valuable trends in construction at the moment. For every single new house built, there’s an associated impact on the environment, though green builds can minimize, and in some cases even neutralize this impact.

But where do you even start when planning to build an Eco-friendly home?

There are a lot of options available – pre-fab Eco homes, specialist Eco-designs and more alternative solutions – but if you’re going it alone, there are a few really important points to think about first.

How to build an Eco-friendly home

1. Location, location, location

build an Eco-friendly home - Location

When choosing the plot your new home is going to stand on, consider what is, or was there. The general rule is: don’t build in an environmentally sensitive area – no construction on wetlands, in forests, floodplains or on any patch of land that will significantly alter the landscape if you built there.

Finding brownfield land – land that has already been built upon – is the best bet for Eco buildings. You can knock down any buildings that stand on the site already; but make sure the land is not contaminated, as it will make it impossible to landscape with all those plants that will help make your building carbon neutral.

 

2. Energy efficiency

build an Eco-friendly home

Make sure you’re using as many energy conserving measures as you can within your budget.

Think about having your home completely powered by solar panels – although initially expensive to install, you can save far more than the installation cost, and over a ton of carbon emissions per year!

Comprehensive insulation can ensure that you don’t lose so much heat, making your house more energy efficient. There are a lot of effective recycled insulation solutions, for example, from paper or plastic bottles.

Make sure the windows you install are double or triple glazed, and think about their positioning – maximizing windows on the south side of your building means you’ll get a lot of solar warmth, even on cloudy days.

Installing a green roof can also massively help with insulating, and help offset that carbon footprint.

Make sure when you’re furnishing to buy energy efficient appliances, and also think about having recycled or up-cycled furniture.

 

3. What materials to use?

building materials

There’s a huge selection when choosing green build materials, and it seems a new one is developed every minute. Think about using recycled materials – you could even use materials from the site such as gravel and rock, or from the building that was there before.

When you decorate, make sure you use Eco paint, which is made from natural products and has minimal effect on the environment. Think about where you will be spending most of your time, if in the office, plants can help to diffuse hard edges and can also make for a more oxygen rich environment.

 

4. Water usage

home water conservation

Think about installing low-flow toilets, sinks and showers, and also consider reusing your grey water (not as horrible as it sounds, I promise).

There are several options for this – to have grey water from your bath, shower and sinks diverted to a water butt so it can be used for watering plants, or you can have it diverted to a tank, so it can be used to flush the toilets as well.

Here are safe ways to use grey water around the house.

Conclusion

These four points should be at the front of your mind when designing your home. At every step of your build, just stop for a moment and think, am I doing my bit for the environment? And you should have a great, green home!

{This article has been updated for freshness and consistency.}

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