They set up a shop dedicated to greening way back in 1999, and easily espoused a global cause now embraced by millions. Greenhome, a San Francisco-based ‘original' online ecostore, retails an array of eco-friendly products and resources that are now available almost everywhere.
"Our company is on a mission to green the world, one person and one business at a time. We serve consumers looking to go green by reducing their environmental footprint, and the toxicity in their homes," says the company. Over the years, Greenhome has built a list of bestselling products which are eye-openers. For instance, their Kitchen Composter takes advantage of Japanese technique Bokashi to create compost that is five times more potent than the results from a compost heap — using only the contents of a typical kitchen dustbin.
The Powertraveller solarmonkey generates an electric current on exposure to light, which in turn charges electric and electronic devices. Not only is it eco-friendly but also practical and functional, with a Velcro strap for easy attaching to bags, belts and rucksacks. Working with sunlight and incandescent lighting, the solarmonkey charges standard mobile phones, iPods, PSPs, digital cameras and PDAs, with 8 to 10 hours of light adequate for full charge of most devices.
In the same vein, independent weblog Inhabitat devotes itself to technology, practices and materials that are pushing design towards a smarter and more sustainable future. Here is where homeowners can get inspired by ideas from around the world, and imitate them or improve upon them in their own living spaces. For instance, Finnish hotel Moods has two unusual features in its foyer — a tactile moss wall and a living bamboo wall, and Films on Fridges, an outdoor cinema at the London Olympics site, is built entirely of discarded fridges.
This is also a site that showcases the latest launches of green appliances around the world. Earlier this year GE announced the launch of GeoSpring, its most energy-efficient hybrid-electric water heater. According to a statement, GeoSpring uses 62 per cent less energy and will save users an average of $325 (Dh1,186) every year on their electricity bills, simply by absorbing heat in the ambient air and transferring it to the heated water. The company says that if a mere 25 per cent of (American) households switch to this hybrid system, it will reduce annual CO2 emissions equivalent to removing 360,000 cars from the road.
Individual champions are no less ardent about recommending friendly products and solutions, and blogs, magazines and newspaper articles devote a lot of space to ideas and innovations that can be easily purchased, or adopted inside homes.
Danny Seo, green lifestyle expert and author of Simply Green, also writes for magazines and regularly appears on television shows. When asked to choose his favourite green products, one item stood out in his list — the JC Penney Simply Green Shag Rug. "I have one of these cozy shag rugs in my kitchen because they look great and are made from 100 per cent post-consumer recycled polyester from old water bottles. Each 5x8 rug uses 200 plastic water bottles, saving energy and reducing waste in our landfills," he explains.
One of the main barriers to using more recycled plastic in home appliances is the scarce and uncertain supply of recycled raw material. Much research is being done by the recycling industry, but experts point out that the imbalance in supply and demand needs a complete change in overall consumer perception.
Electrolux's ‘Vac from the Sea' project aims to do just that — educate consumers, says Cecilia Nord, Vice -President, Floor Care Environmental and Sustainability Affairs. "This issue is much too important to leave to politicians. Companies and consumers are equally accountable for the situation. There are plastic islands, some several times the size of the state of Texas, floating in the world's oceans. Electrolux intends to gather this plastic and turn it into vacuum cleaners," she explained at the launch. Vac from the Sea vacuum cleaners are made from plastic harvested from polluted oceans.
Greening goes beyond plastic to include the obvious, the unlikely, and even the quirky. Siemens' Green Power iron steam station has eco functions which reduce power consumption by up to 25 per cent when compared to the average iron. The Miele Earth canister vacuum cleaner features an AutoEco setting that automatically detects flooring type, and adjusts power for optimal cleaning and energy efficiency. Ikea, well known for their solar powered lighting now has Solvinden lamps that have solar panels that provide four hours of light after soaking up about 12 hours of sunlight. The built-in LED bulb in the lamp has a shelf life of 20,000 hours, and the batteries last two years.
Danish company Vestfrost's ECO-Fridge, free of greenhouse gases, is made from recycled materials. Sony's Bravia series of televisions use 40 per cent less energy than other LCDs and include a sensor that turns the screen off when no motion is detected, while Samsung's LED range is now 50 per cent more energy efficient than it was three years ago. Haier's WasH2O is the world's first ‘detergent less' washing machine.
Inspiration is everywhere, it just needs to be brought home.