Melissa Bidermann dates her commitment to green living back to April 22, 1970. She was 13 on that first Earth Day, and her horticulture class at George Ellery Hale Middle School in Woodland Hills marked the occasion by painting signs, giving away seedlings and rallying in the quad. “What it all did was make us aware of things like over-packaging and (getting) everybody on the no-phosphate and low-phosphate detergents because phosphates were killing all the lakes and rivers,” remembers Bidermann, a renaissance woman of sorts, who still avoids unnecessary packaging, uses natural cleaning products and recycles whenever possible. Just look through the three pantries in their 1927 Granada Hills farmhouse, and you’ll find an arsenal of natural cleaning products: distilled vinegar, baking soda and a tea tree/lavender oil bathroom cleanser by Life Tree as fragrant as any Yardley of London soap. Architectural elements are reused throughout her home, from an old interior door given a second life with newly etched glass to other people’s throw-away furniture spared from the landfill. In the backyard, tall, shady sycamores help cool the house on hot days and keep it warm during colder months when the branches are bare. A variety of fruit trees, berries and vegetables thrive in an organic garden, which is home to three composting bins. A nearby potting shed was built almost entirely of scraps found throughout the San Fernando Valley, including multipaned windows from a turn-of-the-century Simi Valley farmhouse and beams from the old Sunshine Ranch, in the foothills of Granada Hills. “Repurposing is such a big thing now, too, but it’s something we’ve been doing for a long time,” Bidermann says, pointing out the old rake head that she uses as a hanger and some stepping stones that were once part of the original driveway. Interest in greener ways of living is rising as fast as the Earth’s average temperature and concern over where the planet is headed. “I do think people are more aware now than they were,” says Michael Besancon, president of Whole Foods Market’s Southern Pacific region, who credits Al Gore with greening the masses. “Probably the most important event regarding global warming was not the documentary that Al Gore did; it was the fact that he got an Academy Award for it. “That was beamed into a gazillion homes,” Besancon says. “Before that, there were millions of people that were totally oblivious to those concepts.” What you can do Climate experts are predicting water shortages, extreme weather and other real consequences if nothing is done to curb the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The good news for consumers is that a number of companies are now coming out with eco-friendly products and services for every aspect of their life, including the home. Gay Browne’s recently published Zagat-like “Greenopia: The Urban Dweller’s Guide to Green Living” was a direct reaction to global warming. The guide is available in print and on the Web and rates greater-Los Angeles retailers, restaurants, hotels and other service providers on a four-leaf system. “I got into it because I needed a better alternative to the things in my life that kept creeping up,” says Browne, who was born an asthmatic and suspects that the mercury in the tuna sandwiches she ate while pregnant might have contributed to her eldest son’s mild autism. As a result, she built one of the first green houses in Pacific Palisades and later moved to Santa Barbara, where she retrofitted her existing home with water filtration systems, larger windows and radiant heat in some of the bathrooms so that the water warms up the floor, thereby reducing the need for the home’s main heater. Angie Hicks, founder of the Web-based consumer guide Angie’s List, says going green doesn’t have to cost a fortune. “It’s as easy as mowing your grass after 6 p.m. because gas vapors have less time to react with the sunlight, or mulching your flower bed because it will require less water,” Hicks says. “Recycle your paper, use reusable food containers. These are things that cost no money at all.” The Bidermanns are encouraged to see environmentalism returning to the forefront. But even they average two kitchen bags full of trash a week and buy a new spigot when the washer goes bad. Steve Bidermann, who works as a financial analyst for Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says he’d rather just buy a new washer, but Orchard Supply Hardware and Home Depot don’t carry replacements for his particular make. “It’s a complete waste,” he says. “We should tax consumption. The reason we don’t use solar and wind energy is because it’s too expensive. “At some point, it will flip, and we will start taxing consumption instead of production, and people will live more this way,” he adds. “That spigot will cost $10, and then people will go, ‘I’ll buy the new washer because the washer makes more sense.’ … People do what’s in their best interest financially.” — Sandra Barrera, (818) [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!