Part 5 in an 8-Part Exclusive WebEcoist Series on How to Go Green
Image via tomsaint11
You’ve tricked out your car and you’re an expert hypermiler. You know where to find the freshest, cheapest local food. You’ve greened your consumption habits and you know all the basics of living green. What’s next? The home. As stated in the Beginner’s Guide to Going Green: “The home is the easiest place to start greening. There are literally hundreds of relatively easy home hacks – many free and most inexpensive.” Here are just a few common-but-useful ones to get you going.
Quick Upgrades for a Greener House
Image via Jeff Kubina
Replace dead light bulbs with CFLs and watch your energy savings increase. CFLs are far more efficient than standard bulbs (they can last years longer). However, because they contain mercury they are an environmental and health hazard unless properly recycled. Home Depot now offers a free take-back program, even for CFLs not purchased there, so make sure you drop dead CFLs off at the nearest Home Depot – definitely don’t toss them into the trash. (Curious why they’re that funny squiggly shape? Here’s why.)
Buy a programmable thermostat and watch your dollars pile up even further (the average person will save $15 a month). By setting your thermostat on a timer you’ll save energy but still enjoy heating and cooling when you need it most.
– Water heater
Lower the temperature on your water heater by a few degrees to save gas and/or electricity. You won’t need to take a Navy Shower to compensate – though that’s a great idea to help the environment, too. Most people don’t even notice the difference.
– Efficient Appliances
It’s not eco-friendly (or affordable, for most of us) to toss out perfectly good appliances and replace them with newer, greener models. But when the washing machine or the coffee maker or the refrigerator does start showing signs of age, be sure to replace the dying appliance with the most efficient model possible. As with the other tips in this section, the great thing about “going green” around the house is that it tends to save the other kind of green, as well. If you rent, encourage your landlord or landlady to invest in efficient bulbs, thermostats, heating and appliances. Show them a cost comparison.
– Household Remote Control
Spend a little money (under $30) on a wireless home remote control that can shut off lamps, televisions, computers, and any other electronics or appliances at the touch of a button. This is a great way to ensure that your home isn’t using needless (and expensive) energy. No more yelling at the kids to turn off the lights.
Simple Tips for a Greener House
Image via Friends of Water
Even if you don’t garden, composting is essential. Americans on average throw away 1/3 of their food, and there’s no reason for it to go to the landfill. Community gardens will take compost, but so will a green thumb neighbor. Start with a simple compost kit or a countertop bucket that’s attractive – you’d be surprised what you can compost. This will only cost about $20.
– Eliminate bottled water use
Bottled water is one of the worst environmental and health offenders. Put a stop to purchasing bottled water and install a faucet filter or buy a Brita pitcher instead. Tap in the United States especially is completely safe and the need for bottled water is an engineered one on the part of marketers. You can also make your own seltzer for sparkling water anytime without resorting to bottled seltzer.
– Adjust the temperature
Set your thermostat two degrees cooler and your A/C two degrees warmer. You’ll barely notice the change in temperature, and while you’ll still feel comfortable the energy savings will really add up.
– Stop using disposables
For centuries humans relied on towels for cleaning up around the home. Then paper napkins, towels and cloths came along and landfill waste is the result. There’s no need to cut down threatened forests for simple spills. Get back into the habit of using washable cloth towels and napkins to help the environment.
– Cleaning supplies
There are so many household chores and supplies that can quickly be “greened” by simply choosing the right product in the cleaning aisle at the supermarket. You can use eco-friendly detergent, carpet cleaner, soap, plant fertilizer, pet food, wood polish, shower cleaner, dish soap, shampoo, lotion, and more. Visit The Green Guide for a comprehensive directory.
Image via Abbey Carpet and Wood
– Carbon impact
Assess your home’s carbon impact with the easy Low Impact Living carbon calculator. After determining areas for improvement, you can begin to make simple improvements with the calculator’s suggested ideas – some include the above listed tips but there is also information about carbon offsets, green power, and even light structural changes that you can make.
– Seal it up
An incredibly easy way to improve efficiency and prevent energy leaks is to seal up drafts and cracks. Do an annual audit of your home to ensure that doors, windows, attics, basements and piping are sealed and secure. (Or you can hire someone.)
– Around the yard
To improve eco-friendliness around the yard, use a push mower (lawnmowers are worse for the environment than cars). In fact, lawnmowers account for 5% of the United States’ pollution. Plant large shrubs and trees near your house to help cool it by as much as six degrees! Just make sure to choose zone-appropriate (native) species. Consider alternatives to a lawn.
– Remove carpet
Ah, carpet – that toxic off-gassing petroleum-based breeding ground for tics, fleas, bacteria, grime and germs. Carpeting is inherently filthy, no matter how often you get it cleaned, and it’s bad for you and the environment. Tear it out and enjoy the wood, parquet or cement floor beneath. Or purchase “green” carpet.
Like carpet, paint contains all sorts of harsh chemicals that “off gas” and create unhealthy, environmentally unsafe indoor pollution. Repaint your walls with non-VOC or low-VOC paints to make your home greener.
Be sure to visit next week for part 6 in the going green series.