Today people use the term “going green” quite a lot and it means different things to different people. Often the primary focus is on the positive effects it can have on the environment or the financial benefits of being energy efficient. While these effects are certainly true and highly beneficial, an often overlooked but equally important aspect of going green is the positive effect it can have on your health.
A well-designed “green” building utilises lots of natural light while minimising heating from the sun (and thus expensive energy costs of cooling the space). However, we know from scientific studies that this natural light has a direct effect on your health. Natural light increases your focus, improves your vision, reduces stress and anxiety, increases overall happiness and energy levels and even boosts your immune system due to the increase in vitamin D. Your home or your office can quite literally make you healthier if designed with a “green” focus.
Volatile Organic Compounds — commonly referred to as VOC — are toxic gases emitted from a variety of chemicals in items commonly found in your home or office. These compounds can be found in paints, sealants, glues, disinfectants, pesticides, certain fabrics and in many other household items. These gases can cause mild to serious health problems, including headaches, fatigue and allergies and asthma. They are even linked to cancer. Whether in new construction or an existing home, you want to ensure you use low-VOC or no-VOC “green” products where possible.
Going green also has broader macro effects on health. Recycling and avoiding single-use plastics and bottled water that pollute the oceans, have wide-ranging positive effects, including ensuring that the foods we eat and water we drink aren’t tainted by harmful micro-plastics.
Most people today recognise that going green with clean energy technologies such as solar, saving on water through water efficiency technologies and building “green”homes can save substantially on the amount of money and resources they expend. These savings can in turn be spent on things that have the ability to positively impact our health: better food ingredients, gym memberships, exercise equipment, preventive medical care, much-needed vacations or many other things that can have tangible effects on one’s health, happiness and peace of mind.
James Whittaker is the founder of the GreenTech group of companies that provide renewable energy systems and design of eco-friendly LEED-certified homes in the Cayman Islands.