A happier, healthier Earth can begin right at home.
They used to say go “big or go home,” but these days, it’s more like “go green or go home.” Being meaningfully eco-conscious is not only cool but morally right as well.
When thinking of sprucing up our homes, many of us are guilty of giving little to no thought to how the final look will impact the environment. From toxic paint emissions to energy-guzzling appliances, a home’s impact on your immediate environment and the environment at large could be greater than you think!.
The good news is that you can start making smart choices TODAY. Some of them could even save you money! Why not do your part to reduce your environmental impact?
Ahead, nine ideas, big and small, to help you improve your home while making it more eco-friendly! Let’s dive right in.
Use Naturally Derived Cleaning Products
One of the easiest, most basic ways to green-ify your home is to start with something you use just about every day: cleaning products.
Many traditional cleaning supplies are laden with chemicals that aren’t so safe for the skin or food prep surfaces. Worse, they can have worrisome impacts on marine life and water safety when washed into the water supply.
As the global focus on environmentally friendly cleaning products expands, it’s becoming easier to find products that ditch the toxins and get the job done well--and for a good value!
Whether you reach for Instagram darling Blueland, the economical Seventh Generation line (available at Target), or good ol’ fashioned white vinegar or baking soda, green cleaning is a no-brainer.
Environmental consciousness is all about being cognizant of what we’re using, and making use of what we have until the last drop. Composting is a perfect example of this principle. Food and garden scraps have an opportunity to take on new life and serve as rich fertilizer for your garden instead of being tied up in a plastic bag and hauled off to the dump--where they can emit harmful gasses as they decompose.
Need some tools to build your compost bin? We know a guy. (Or...you know a guy, since it’s probably your neighbor!)
While slightly more expensive than old-fashioned offerings, LED bulbs come with a whole host of benefits. Some heavy hitters include lifespan of the bulb, energy efficiency, and safety. For example, in contrast to traditional fluorescent bulbs, LEDs do not contain any mercury, which means they don’t require special handling and disposal at the end of their life.
Non-LED lights are also extremely energy inefficient compared to LEDs. Incandescent bulbs turn up to 90% of the energy used to power them into heat instead of light! [source] That means a measly 10% of the energy distributed to the bulb is being used to perform its primary job: actually providing light. LEDs produce almost no ambient heat, which means they’re safer and more efficient than their traditional cousins.
Side Eye Your Appliances
Kind of a no-brainer, but worth mentioning anyway. Appliances--particularly ones that run constantly, such as refrigerators, can make or break the energy efficiency of a house. There are several things to consider when choosing appliances, so be careful not to rush into a purchase.
If a complete appliance overhaul isn’t in your budget, see if your electricity and/or gas provider breaks down your bill by category (HVAC, kitchen appliances, etc.) and tackle the biggest energy gobblers first.
Salute to Solar
We’re graduating to some big kid projects here! If solar power is an option for you, we couldn’t possibly think of a better way to improve your home’s energy efficiency. There are obstacles for some folks, such as roof type and upfront costs, but if those aren’t deal breakers, the benefits can be innumerable! Some of the most common include use of a renewable energy source (duh), low maintenance costs, and even some stellar financial incentives if you live in the right state!
Take some time to weigh the pros and cons, and if solar panels check your boxes, go for it.
Opt for Energy Efficient Windows
If you’re having a hard time keeping heat (or AC) inside your house, your windows may be a prime suspect. There’s a handful of reasons old windows shift and wear down over time, allowing for uncomfortable (and pricey) drafts.
Energy-efficient windows come with some special sauce in the form of Low-E glass, exceptional frame quality, and more that’ll lower your energy costs, cut down on condensation, prevent UV damage to furniture and other possessions in your house, and increase natural light. They’re a little pricier than traditional windows upfront, but the savings, in the long run, balance things out.
Insulation is a No-Brainer
Insulating your home is the quickest way to minimize energy use.
There is, of course, the insulation in your walls and stereotypically chilly areas like attics, which is the first thing you should be looking for--and touching up--when needed. If you’re looking for an approach that’s a little less invasive, you might consider double-glazing your windows or throwing some area rugs down on exposed hardwoods.
Make Your Landscaping Eco-Friendly
When considering ways to make our lives more eco-conscious, landscaping doesn’t immediately come to mind. They’re plants, after all. Doesn’t that automatically mean they’re green?
Not so fast. Many customary landscaping practices riddle the earth and water systems with toxins, overuse resources, and value appearance over plant health.
The obvious starting point here is to nurture your yard and plants using toxin-free practices, such as composting--if you need to add anything at all! Test your soil first to see what it may be lacking, then supply nutrients accordingly.
Find Native Plants
Plants that are native to your region will require less water because they’re already conditioned to thrive in the area. Plants’ nativity can vary a ton, so it’s best to a) do your research to find plants that grow in your immediate area, and b) shop locally. (Smaller, local plant shops tend to carry a greater variety of region-specific plants than big box retailers do.)
Build a Rain Barrel
Rain barrels allow you to gather naturally soft rainwater and use it to water your landscape, instead of pulling out the hose and taxing your home’s water system.
Upgrade Your HVAC
A home’s HVAC (heat ventilation and air conditioning) system is by far its most energy-taxing element. Ensuring that you’re utilizing the most up-to-date, energy-efficient technology is critical in minimizing your environmental impact--as well as your energy costs!
If your system is more than ten years old, it may be less expensive to replace the whole thing, rather than try to perform update maintenance. If you do decide it’s time for a new start--and you have a little budget to work with--consider a geothermal heat pump, which can be up to 40% more efficient than its traditional heating and cooling counterparts.
Short of tossing the whole kit and caboodle, there are other steps you can take to enhance your system’s efficiency, such as:
- Make sure you have the right size system for your house.
- Have an HVAC professional out periodically to perform maintenance.
Consider a two-stage compressor.
Whether you’re looking to minimize your carbon footprint, save money, or both, there are plenty of ways to start right at home. We’ll be right there with you, tools in hand!