Getting to Know Dan Harding

Green Living's Guest Home Writer

For the last month, Dan Harding, has been writing articles in response to you, our readers, questions, when it comes to greening things around your home or cottage. From Learning what it means to have a LEED home to learning what to look for when it comes to "green" labels at the hardware store, Dan has been our visiting expert.

Several of our readers, wanted to know "who is Dan?", so we gave him an interview so you could get to know him! Enjoy!

Have you always been eco-conscious or was there a moment that inspired you to be green?

I certainly have not always been as eco-conscious as I am now, but I was lucky enough to grow up at the same time the environmental movement was finally becoming a part of everyday life. As a kid, there was no such thing as curbside recycling where I lived, but I do specifically remember learning about recycling in middle school. And that's really where it started. As I grew older, I simply became aware of more problems and subsequently more solutions. I'm still learning on an almost daily basis today and trying to adapt my lifestyle accordingly.

How do you keep up to date on the latest trends of green in the home industry?

On a daily basis— the internet mainly. I subscribe to several mailing lists that feed me information every day. And I explore. But not just the internet, I pay attention when I walk neighborhoods surrounding my home. For example, just up the street from me in Portland is a home with six raised garden beds and three chickens, right there in the middle of an urban neighborhood, producing enough food to feed everyone in the house, I wager. I try to take note of things like this, as well as community events revolving around renewable power and sustainability.

Basically, I try to be a part of the ever-growing network of green-minded folks. I think green living is still very much a grassroots movement, despite the corporate attention it gets these days, and it is people in my neighborhood and yours that have and will continue to start new green trends in the home industry.

What has been your biggest learning when it comes to researching green ways?

That there are more ways to go green than I can fathom. Almost every day I learn something new. I'll hear about a new way to reuse this or get around using that. Did you know that garden slugs are attracted to empty (but unwashed) beer cans? It's yet another good way to keep them off your plants without chemicals...Just learned that yesterday.

The modern lifestyle is full of activity and our homes are where we most put our hands to work. There's just so much one can do, and with the internet as a sharing tool, the ideas come in an endless stream. Try using a website like StumbleUpon...just enter "green living" or something similar as a topic to browse and see if you ever run out of pages to view.

What is the most common question you get asked?

Well, in one form or another, it's probably "Is it really worth it?" or "Can that really work?" Whether solar power or green building or energy efficient light bulbs are the topic, I think a lot of people are still a bit unsure of the idea. The overwhelming majority of people I meet are very open to sustainability and can really get behind the idea, but they're just not sure exactly how to go about it. I tell everyone pretty much the same thing: Do what you can. Sometimes people think they have to buy a home solar power system to really go green, which costs thousands of dollars and often leads to resignation or a sense of helplessness. But, as I said before, there are an unlimited number of ways to green up your living.

Lately, we've been saving all the bottle caps from beer bottles to make refrigerator magnets out of them and pass them along as small gifts to friends and family. That's just one idea. I encourage anyone to try composting and just see how much less garbage your family produces in a month. It's really amazing.

What green home events or conferences would you recommend?

Gosh, any you can get to. The most accessible for the most people are probably green or solar home tours. The National Solar Tour, which registers and helps sponsor regional green home tours across the country, is an excellent option. Last summer, I volunteered at a couple - one in rural southern Oregon and one in urban Portland. Both were incredible experiences. It was awesome to get a firsthand look at some of the creative design and ingenuity going into the modern sustainable home. Just in one home, I saw how rooftop gardens, solar panels, solar water heating and thermal mass flooring work, among other things.

Also, I encourage anyone to shop at their local farmer's or craft markets. Remember that compared to the Big Box grocery store at the edge of town, where products and produce are shipped from all over the world, the farmer's market is as green as any event can be. Think Global, Shop Local is still one of my favorite slogans.

What advice would you give the person who is looking to take their first green steps when it comes to their home?

Well, I sort of answered this already, but I can say that I'd begin where your passion lies. Do you enjoy gardening? Go organic this year, and be sure to compost! Are you a do-it-yourselfer? Try seeking out recycled or reclaimed lumber, or FSC-certified new lumber, for your next woodworking project. Or create a fun project out of scrap materials you may already have lying around the workshop. If you want to go solar but are daunted by the high costs, find a small way to do it. Solar garden lights, solar motion sensor lights, or research some of the affordable solar gadgets out there. Put in a rain barrel for irrigation. Ride your bicycle.

There are just so many suggestions. The key is only to be aware of what you do and how you do it. If you are, and you keep sustainability in mind, easy and affordable ways to start going green at home will naturally present themselves. I promise.

What do you hope to teach others when it comes to greening their homes?

That it’s easier than they think and anyone can start right now for free. Green is as much a mental state as anything, and as humans, we are incredibly resourceful when we put our minds to something. Just look at how very fast we've become very good at consuming resources! I have no doubt we can get equally as good at conserving them.

What green project are you currently working on in your home?

Well, there's my daily battle with lights being left on, recycling being thrown out, etc. I have a few roommates for whom my nickname has become Captain Kill-A-Watt. I can't say I mind too much. But otherwise enjoy working with my girlfriend in her organic garden. I'm learning a lot from that experience (been collecting a lot of rainwater lately! To the chagrin of the tomato plants). In general, my primary mission in life right now is to find ways to reuse things. Recycling is good, but as it stands, is a far from perfect solution. We tend to get complacent with our curbside bins but forget that recycling is the last resort in that famed reduce-reuse-recycle mobius loop. So far, I just keep accumulating things, to be honest, but I know soon I'll find some use for all these glass jars and bottle caps.

What book are you currently reading?

Right now I'm reading Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. One of those iconic books I've always meant to read but haven't until now.

What is your favorite ice cream?

Ooh...honestly I really don't eat much ice cream. Although, I've discovered an organic ice cream parlor in Portland I really want to try. But, if pressed I'd have to go with good old French Vanilla. It has always been my dad's favorite and, while as a youth I loved chocolate without reserve, as an adult I've really grown to adore the flavor of the vanilla bean. Yum.