In today’s high-consumption world, more and more resources are being wasted each year. Instead of adding to the negative impact on the environment, you can take steps now to create a more eco-friendly home. Start by changing your fluorescent light bulbs to LED, use thermal cotton curtains to keep cold and hot air out, and use towels and bedding made from sustainably-sourced materials.
Energy-Saving Electricity Tips
Of all the energy produced each year, roughly 58% is wasted, mostly from heat waste (heat produced from light bulbs). To save on energy and cut down on electricity bills, replace light bulbs with LED lights, install solar panels and ceiling fans, and use energy-efficient appliances. Also, simply switching off a light switch or unplugging unused appliances or electronic devices can help save energy.
To save on energy, switch out those old fluorescent light bulbs with LED bulbs instead. LED stands for “Light-Emitting Diode”— these energy-efficient bulbs produce more light using less energy, saving consumers up to 75 percent on usage in their electric bills.
Another great way to save energy and money is incorporating solar panels into your home. Solar panels absorb light particles, or photons (sunlight) and convert them into electricity. To fully power a 1500 square-foot home requires only 16 solar panels. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory offers a calculator you can use to determine your solar needs.
Solar panels are also used to store and use heat, collecting solar heat during the day and transferring it to hot water tanks.
Installing a ceiling fan can circulate air throughout the house. In fact, running a ceiling fan costs less than an AC unit— a ceiling fan can save you 4-8% of cooling costs each year.
Major appliances like refrigerators and ovens use a lot of energy to operate. Appliances approved by Energy Star use 10 to 50% less energy than their counterparts. Check their site at energystar.gov to see which appliances meet their energy-efficient standards.
Unplug or Turn Off
Even when turned off, you may notice a small green or red light emitting from your TV or computer. It shows that the device is not completely off, and is actually still using electricity. Known as “phantom load,” an appliance or electronic device left running wastes up to 5% of the household’s energy. When not in use, turn off any light switches and unplug any appliances— investing in a smart power strip and turning off the power at its source can save energy.
Eco-Friendly Flooring Updates
Eco-friendly flooring is made of sustainably-sourced, all-natural materials manufactured with minimal environmental impact. These materials, including wood, bamboo, and wool, may regulate temperature and provide stylish flooring to any living space.
Wood, bamboo, cork, and concrete are excellent hard flooring materials, perfect for any area of the home. Bamboo, in particular, is just as strong as oak, but grows much faster— bamboo is fully grown in 3 years, while oak trees take almost 20 years to reach their full maturity.
Compared to wood, cork comes from just the bark and doesn’t require the whole tree to be cut down.
Concrete is a mixture of aggregate (rock, sand, or gravel), water, and cement. Concrete flooring is durable and a great insulator, cutting down on heating bills and lasting for years.
Carpet made from natural fibers like wool and cotton, with little or no chemical treatment are great soft flooring options. Also, make sure your carpet has a natural-fiber backing and non-toxic adhesives.
Area rugs not only add style to any room, but they can also help insulate hard flooring, preventing air from coming in through the cracks. Choose area rugs made from sustainably-sourced materials, like cotton and wool.
Ideas for Walls and Windows
Paint, curtains, and windows can reduce exposure to hot and cold air and add personality to a room. These features further keep your home at an even, comfortable temperature without wasting energy.
Most commercial paints are created using Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) like benzene and naphthalene, which leave behind non-recyclable waste. Eco-friendly paints produce little to no VOCs and have a minimal negative impact on the environment.
Thermal cotton curtains regulate temperature by blocking heat in the summer and forming a barrier between the window and the room during the winter— they also absorb and evenly disperse heat to keep the room warm during the colder months.
If able, switch out old windows with new, energy-efficient windows for better insulation. These window types are able to block up to 95% of UV rays, and because they use more than one window pane, they are able to regulate temperature better by keeping out the cold and heat.
Decorating a room includes choosing what type of furniture will work best. Furniture made from sustainably-sourced materials or purchased from a second-hand store are great additions to any room; additionally, second-hand furniture can save you from the high cost of brand names.
Sustainably-Sourced and Organic
Furniture created from sustainably-sourced materials is much better for the environment. These materials are continuously reused, taken apart, then reused again, reducing the environmental impact and preserving soil fertility.
Furniture made from natural and organic materials can also cut down on negative environmental impact because it’s made without materials that contain pesticides.
Purchasing gently-used furniture instead of brand new pieces cuts down on the amount of new furniture being made, and thus more materials being used. Depending on the materials, second-hand furniture can be high-quality and often one-of-a-kind.
Water-Saving Plumbing Checklist
Water is another commonly wasted source— up to 90 billion gallons of water per year is wasted in the United States. Water waste can be reduced by installing aerators in faucets and showerheads, recirculating water pumps, installing low-flow toilets, and repairing leaks. Something as simple as turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth can also save water.
Turn It Off
About 2 gallons of water is used just from brushing your teeth. To save on water, turn off the faucet while brushing, and only turn it on when rinsing your mouth and toothbrush. The same rule applies to shaving— turn the water on only when you’re done and need to rinse out your razor. Following this practice could save up to 3 to 4 gallons of water per person per day.
Installing an aerator in the kitchen or bathroom faucet will allow you to experience the full blast of water without waste. Aerators add streams of air to the water stream to maintain pressure without wasting water.
Aerating isn’t just for faucets; an aerated showerhead uses less water without loss of pressure. An aerated showerhead uses 1.5 to 2 gallons of water a minute— a typical showerhead uses more than 4 to 6 gallons of water a minute.
Recirculating Water Pump
A recirculation pump continually circulates hot water in the pipes, so it’s instantly available when the faucet is turned on. This cuts back on wasted water while you wait for the water to heat up.
Another way to save on water consumption is by purchasing low-flow toilets. Low-flow toilets use less water per flush, about 1.6 gallons compared to the 3.5 gallons basic toilets use per flush.
It may seem minor, but a dripping faucet wastes water and could increase your water bill. A faucet that drips 60 times per minute wastes 5 gallons of water per day— that’s 2,082 gallons per year! A leaking faucet or showerhead could also be a sign of a bigger plumbing problem. Get it fixed immediately to save money.
Other Eco-Friendly Solutions
Beyond water and energy conservation, you can take other small steps to make your home more eco-friendly. Use towels and bedding made from sustainably-sourced materials; switch out your soaps, lotions, and cleaning products with all-natural alternatives; add houseplants to a living area; install a programmable thermostat, or use excess food as compost.
Using towels made from organic cotton or linen are great options for any bathroom and kitchen— they absorb moisture and dry quickly. Plus, they’re biodegradable, so even after they become worn out, they can be recycled into something else.
Choose bedding made from organic, sustainably-sourced materials, which are treated with non-toxic, water-based dyes to cut down on negative environmental impact. What’s more, bedding made from all-natural materials typically won’t aggravate allergies.
Choose a high quality mattress that’s also eco-friendly and made from sustainably-sourced, all-natural materials to reduce environmental impact and encourage better sleep. Eco-friendly mattresses contain natural latex, plant-based memory foam, recycled steel coils, and organic cotton.
Soaps and Lotions
Plant-based or all-natural soaps and lotions clean and pamper your skin without the use of harsh, synthetic chemicals, like sulfate. These chemicals can also strip the hair and skin of naturally-produced oils meant to protect your body and encourage healthy growth.
Eco-friendly cleaning products prevent the release of harmful chemicals into the air, which can irritate the sinuses. Several green cleaning products are available and just as effective, if not more so than chemical cleaners.
Adding plants inside the house can purify the air and increase oxygen production inside the home. A spider plant is a great choice because of its low-maintenance and its ability to purify the air— perfect for bathrooms.
Washing your clothes in a cold cycle uses less energy to warm up the water and is just as effective at cleaning clothes— heat can set stains and make it harder to remove, while cold water gently removes stains.
Incorporating a programmable thermostat can save you up to 10% on your heating bill. Programming your thermostat to stay at a certain temperature when no one is home or setting it to automatically lower temperature at a specific time of day saves energy.
Don’t toss vegetation, kitchen scraps, and fruit peelings in the garbage! Instead, place them in a compost bin to create rich compost to feed your garden or outdoor plants and trees.
Eco-Friendly in a High-Consumption World
By paying attention to how many resources we consume, we can make eco-friendly decisions to cut back on waste and reduce our environmental footprint. Simple steps like turning off the faucet and replacing harsh chemical cleaners with natural cleaning products are small things we can do today to care for our planet.
What changes have you found to be the most impactful in your home? Share in the comments!