Environmental Choices Start with the Big Stuff

For Earth Day, we asked BBR staff member Greg Caplan to summarize his thoughts on how each of us can contribute to true environmental solutions. This is his advice.

To benefit the earth for your children’s and grandchildren’s sake, the most effective actions are those that address the largest scale issues of climate, social equity, and population. Therefore, the most important things to do for Earth Day and every day are in the context of social, environmental, and political activism. Thousands of organizations welcome your participation at the local, state, national, and global levels.

When it comes to the character of your physical lifestyle and how you can make that express your caring for the world and fellow beings, a good guide is the Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices published by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Borrow it from your local library if you’d like to read it in full.

Insulation helps create a tight building envelope to minimize energy used for heating and cooling. Photo by Jesus Rodriguez | Flickr Creative Commons

Insulation helps create a tight building envelope to minimize energy used for heating and cooling. Photo by Jesus Rodriguez | Flickr Creative Commons

The primary message of this book is: Don’t focus on the small stuff. Be prepared to make big decisions in a way that benefits the environment. Focus on making the best decisions when the big or long-term things come up. For example:

  • When selecting a home, prioritize environmental attributes such as proximity to work or school, walkable location, modest size, and energy efficiency.
  • When a home needs a new roof or siding, make it an opportunity for a deep energy retrofit. Funding programs are available to support this.
  • For space heating and cooling, first, reduce the need by upgrading the building “envelope.” Then match the mechanical system to provide comfort.

Also, to make a real difference:

  • Reduce the size and number of properties you maintain and/or occupy.
  • Go car-free, or the closest you can come to it.
  • Select the most locally produced renewable electrical power your utility or municipality’s contracts offer, i.e., Mass Energy’s New England Wind Power.
  • If possible, install solar electric and/or solar hot water generation.
  • In the area of diet, prefer vegetables, grains, and fruit over meats and dairy, particularly red meats. For excellent protein levels, try modern meat substitute products made from pea and mushroom and other vegetable proteins. As Michael Pollan formulates: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
  • Share resources by donating on a continuous basis to organizations that promote environmental justice and balance and social/economic equity.

In a subsequent volume titled Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living, UCS also emphasizes the essential role of community involvement and activism in acting for true benefit of our posterity.

Celebrating Earth Day with One-Day 10%-Off Sale

To celebrate our environmental values, Boston Building Resources will have a one-day sale on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, with 10% off all in-stock items.

The discount will apply to stock items that help homeowners conserve energy and water—such as window and door weather stripping, rain barrels, pipe insulation, LED light bulbs, wood repair epoxy, and plaster repair products. Special-order items such as storm windows or kitchen cabinetry are not part of the sale.

All products at BBR’s Reuse Center will also be discounted by 10%. The reuse of good-quality building materials benefits the environment by preventing needless waste and by conserving the embodied energy used to manufacture and transport the materials.

Environmental values have been at the heart of Boston Building Resources’ business since it was established in 1978 as a source of affordable insulation to help homeowners cope with skyrocketing home heating costs. BBR has continued to focus on products, knowledge, and skills related to resource conservation and reduced climate impact. The company also runs its own business in an environmentally friendly way by recycling, implementing energy efficiency, and using solar power.

Since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated on April 22 to raise awareness of a broad spectrum of environmental issues, from pollution to endangered species to renewable energy and global warming.

Anyone looking to make their home more energy efficient, or just make it a better place to live, is invited to join us on April 22 to get started on spring projects while saving 10%.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Sale pricing is limited to items in stock on April 22. If we run out of stock on that day, we cannot hold the sale price for future purchases after restocking.
  • Reuse Center items purchased for the sale price must be taken away at the time of the sale. This includes even large items, such as cabinet sets.
  • If an item’s price has already been reduced, the 10% Earth Day discount will be applied to the lower price. For example: an item originally priced for $100 has a time-based discount of 50%, making it $50. Purchased on Earth Day, we will take 10% off the $50 price for a final price of $45.
  • Non-material purchases, such as membership and workshop fees, will not be discounted.


Local Nonprofits Stretch Their Dollars with Used Materials

Dozens of local nonprofit organizations make use of affordable materials from the Reuse Center at BBR to keep their properties in good shape and otherwise advance their charitable work. Here are a few examples of organizations that have used their creativity to make a few dollars go a long way.

Bikes Not Bombs

This Jamaica Plain nonprofit used 2x4s from the Reuse Center to construct a platform that makes it easier for volunteers to load donated bikes into a shipping container. Once loaded, bikes are shipped overseas to partner charities in Uganda, Guatemala, and other nations in the Global South.

Kwong Kow Chinese School

Based in Chinatown, this school offers after-school and weekend programming to preserve Chinese culture. While the Reuse Center does not usually take in donations of office furniture, these cubicles were part of a larger donation, and we were happy to pass them along.


Elizabeth Stone House

This Roxbury shelter received some help from Boston Cares volunteers when they landscaped their property last spring. Affordable pavers from the Reuse Center helped them make the most of their limited budget.