Diapers and Showers and Sodas, Oh My!

"Thirty to 40 percent of the materials you use in an average home end up in landfill. It's staggering," said Glenn. Compare that to the five percent of a pre-fabricated home's materials that end up in a landfill.

Inside, every appliance and every detail is designed to conserve. The dishwasher adjusts the wash cycle to the number of dishes, the indoor plants clean the air, and the fireplace doesn't burn wood. It burns denatured alcohol -- ethanol, basically. No smoke for this green home.

And there's more: all the water that goes down the shower or sink drains is re-used to irrigate the home's landscaping and roof garden, the latter of which helps insulate the home. Also on the roof are the home's solar panels and solar water heater which, together, provide most of the home's electricity and hot water. Of course, what's practical in sunny southern California is not necessary practical for the rest of the country. It can take a decade before Californians break even on their investment in earth-friendly, but still costly, solar panels.

The costs of building green are coming down, but are still on the expensive side. If you can't afford to re-model in an eco-friendly way, there are small steps nonetheless that you can take to reduce your personal ecological footprint.

Moms Making a Difference

Small steps can have a huge impact. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, if every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent one, in one year enough energy would be saved to light more than three million homes and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of more than 800,000 cars.

The founder of a grassroots movement called the EcoMom Alliance, Kimberly Danek Pinkson says, "The things that we do in our daily lives can add up to make a really positive change."

Pinkson says that mothers have the power to change the world for the better because "they're natural role models." EcoMoms also wield a significant power of the purse.

"[Moms] represent over 85 percent of household spending," Pinkson said. "2.1 trillion dollars. Want to talk about propelling a green economy and heading toward a sustainable future? Moms have a significant ability to affect that positive change, quickly."

The group holds EcoMom Parties where women gather to trade tips and discuss and debate environmental issues such as the merits of buying organic food grown locally.

As for those thousands of diapers, Pinkson says there are alternatives.

"The diaper issue comes up at every single EcoMom party," she said. "Fortunately right now there's actually a wonderful new product called gDiapers, which are kind of like a hybrid. It's a cloth outer cover, and it comes in cute colors, and then the inside is actually flushable. … There's also chlorine-free [diapers], and some that are made with a little bit more recycled content than others. So there's steps in the right direction."

Small steps for man and moms, and a potentially giant impact for the planet.

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