Make Your Home More Green
“Green” is the theme of the millennium. Why? The population is growing faster by the minute – it’s expected to be about 9 million by 2050 — and there just aren’t enough resources to go around. Not to mention that going green is often better for your health (you’ll avoid nasty petrochemicals and manufactured toxins), you’ll be helping to save the earth by putting less carbon dioxide into the air and reusing items so that they don’t get thrown into landfills (some of which could take millions of years to decompose). As an added bonus, you’ll save money in the long run, too, by using up less energy.
So how does one “go green,” exactly? Here are easy ten ways to make your home more green:
Don’t know where to start for your green home improvement project? Independent, private sector energy companies (or your local energy conversation department) can help by auditing your home to determine where you can cut costs and save energy. The audit usually results in a report wherein given energy is shown for a year, and the impact of suggested improvements to the home on energy costs and efficiency. An interview of the homeowner is also often conducted to measure the impact of user behavior on energy usage.
Use CFL Light Bulbs
CFLs, or Compact Fluorescent Lights, use 75% less energy than regular incandescent light bulbs and last ten times as long. Though they can cost as much as $7 each, they also save $60 in utility bills over their lifetimes (and, in some cases, their use is subsidized by the utility company.) Some lights have multiple levels of intensity. High-temperature CFLs can mimic the brightness of incandescent lights — with half the energy usage.
Reduce Plastic Usage
This is a hard one — after all, most store-bought items come wrapped in plastic, and let’s not even get started on plastic water bottles. Made of petroleum, a non-renewable resource, the production of plastics releases toxic chemicals into the environment. Still, it might be near impossible to completely eliminate plastics from your home, but using canvas bags for grocery-shopping, or stainless steel reusable canteens instead of water bottles is a great way to cut down your use significantly. Invest in a filter for your faucet instead of buying it in large quantities. And lastly, use metal kitchenware if possible.
Use Green Cleaning Agents
Using non-toxic solutions to clean surfaces in your home is probably a better idea (for your own personal health, and the health of your home) than making use of the nearly 17,000 petrochemicals (only 30% of which have been tested for human and environmental exposure) available on the market. Use a brand that contains natural ingredients — like Clorox Greenworks — or make your own using vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, etc.
Regular old industrial paint has the second most emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) after automobiles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Milk, mineral, and lime-based paints are the least toxic around, though they may be difficult to locate. Anna Sova, Green Planet Paints, and Mythic Paint should all be online if not in stores.
Upgrade Your Machinery
Home appliances suck tons of energy out of our homes everyday. Making them “smarter” could help. For example, “smart thermostats” allow you to program the temperature in your house while you’re away so as not to waste precious heat or cool air (some even allow you to do it online.) Also, look for the Energy Star label on refrigerators, washing machines, and dryers — they use 20% less energy than the industry standard (and might earn you a tax credit).
“Energy vampires” like televisions, toasters, computers, cell phone chargers, and other items that usually remained plugged into a socket even when you’re not using it cost Americans $1 billion a year in energy costs. The solution? A power strip: Just flick the switch to “off” once you’re done for the night.
Reinforcing your insulation can save you nearly 25% in annual heating and cooling costs, as well as protect you from respiratory ailments like asthma that can infect unsuspecting inhabitants. You’ll need to find out what kind of insulation you have, and how thick it is, first. Attics, unfinished walls, basements, crawl spaces, and floors above unheated garages are the kind of spaces that usually need new or extra insulation (an energy auditor will go in detail regarding the specifics of your home).
Going paperless is a great way to green your home — and, in our increasingly digital world, at lot more easy! Get your bank statements online rather than sent to your home (and pay your bills online, too.) If you have a number of computers, use multiple screens when working instead of printing out temporary copies of documents. If you must print, try to use recycled paper and print on both sides. Lastly, remove yourself from any junk mail lists.
Use Less Water
“Low-flow” shower heads can cut your water bill up to 10% (”low-flow” will release less than 2.5 gallons of water a minute). Aqua Helix and Neco are popular, reputable brands to try (at opposite ends of the flow spectrum — the Helix uses half a gallon per minute, while the Neco supposedly mimics uncontrolled, conventional showerheads in terms of flow). The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that showers account for 17% of total household water use. Similarly, low-flow toilets can maximize money and energy savings by using less than 1.5 gallons of water per flush. And front-loading washing machines use almost half as much as conventional top-loading ones.
Recycling reduces the amount of material that goes into landfills, and it’s a good idea to get into the habit of separating your recycling (cans, plastics, paper, glass) if possible. First, figure out if there’s a processing center in your area. Get appropriate bins, keep them in your garage (or kitchen, if you have room) and label them for convenience. If you’re not sure what can be recycled, check the item’s packaging: some products have a small “recycle” symbol printed on them.
About the Author: James Rice is a freelance writer for SunRun. SunRun is the simple and affordable option for homeowners who want to switch to home solar power. SunRun pioneered affordable solar installation with the first residential power purchase agreement in 2007, and is the best at it today.