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Eco-Friendly Home Projects Can Be Cheap, and Also Stylish

Going green is going mainstream these days in environmentally conscious California. Record numbers of people here are moving toward an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle.

LOS ANGELES -- Colette Brooks spent two years and $500,000 greening her Malibu home with solar panels, a recycled metal roof, organic linens and a waterless urinal.

As a New Year's resolution, she pledged to do a similar transformation of her parents' Sherman Oaks home. This time, however, the budget was just $1,500, but there was still plenty to do.

As Brooks and her family demonstrate, going green is going mainstream these days in environmentally conscious California. Record numbers of people here are moving toward an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle.

"We're seeing a big uptick in the interest in building green and using greener materials," said Matt Petersen, CEO of Global Green USA, a nonprofit headquartered in Los Angeles that

"It's not a niche thing anymore."


The number of residential installations of solar panels in the state has doubled over the past five years, according to the California Energy Commission. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation that calls for a 25 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. And the Los Angeles Unified School District is undertaking the greening of many schools.

As eco-friendly living becomes commonplace, the price will continue to drop, along with the perception that a green lifestyle is an ascetic one.

Take Brooks, 48, and her husband, Eric Cadora, 42. Since the two began greening their 2,900-square-foot home in 2004, prices for sustainable materials have fallen 15 percent, they said. And although everything in their home -- from the recycled metal roof down to the garbage-eating pig out back -- is eco-friendly, there are plenty of modern creature comforts.

On a recent tour, Brooks and Cadora pointed out a shower made of river stones that lightly massage your feet as you scrub, expansive windows that offer watery views while protecting from harmful sun rays, and chaise lounge chairs upholstered with recycled cotton.

"A lot of people, when they think about going green, they think about sacrifice, living in a hut," Brooks said. "But that's not true anymore. You can do it quite nicely and stylishly."

Greening an existing home can also be done quite cheaply, as Brooks and a team of co-workers and friends demonstrated over the weekend at the Sherman Oaks home where Brooks grew up. Her parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew and the father of her brother-in-law live there now. The trick was to green the home on a budget of $1,500.

Just after noon, the team got to work. They dug up the side yard and planted tomatoes, squash, herbs and an apple tree. In an upstairs bedroom they turned pink walls green using paint made without harmful volatile compounds. They tossed out cleaning products in the kitchen and made new ones using vinegar, baking soda, and lemon. They donated paper plates and napkins to a homeless shelter and vowed to use china and cloth towels. They replaced dozens of electricity-sucking light bulbs with compact florescents, which lower utility bills by running on less juice.

As the work wound down, Brooks' sister, Jacqueline Brooks-Ferro, talked about putting her new lifestyle to use as a real estate broker.

"Oftentimes (sellers) try to create a better environment so their home is more desirable for buyers," Brooks-Ferro said.

Her daughter, Alexandra, 9, said she would take the greening lessons to her fourth-grade class. Even little adjustments in materials and behavior can lessen the impact on the environment, Brooks said later.

"If people can just make small changes," Brooks said. "Multiply that by millions and then we've got something."

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Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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