Just a few years ago, the term “green living” would have brought up visions of treehouse hippies gardening in the nude. But not anymore. Society seems to have finally accepted that we are responsible for the state of our planet and that it’s the only one we will ever have.
If you’re looking for ways to give back to Mother Nature, keep reading for environmentally friendly changes you can make to your home and lifestyle without sacrificing your quality of life.
If you’ve yet to make your home purchase, you’ll have more options than ever when it comes to buying a green home. The Huffington Post explains that your first priority is to determine the efficiency of your home’s heating and cooling system, which is what accounts for the vast majority of your energy consumption. If you’re looking for a home with solar power, discuss with the builder what types of materials have been used in each panel’s construction.
Many utilize heavy metals, which are soldered with a lead-based solution. These can’t be recycled, and if damaged or at the end of their life cycle, may do more harm to the environment than good. Alternate forms of renewable energy include wind power and hydroelectricity. Unfortunately, these technologies remain expensive for the standard consumer. A geothermal heat pump, according to Money Talks News at CBS, utilizes geothermal heat and can help keep your home cool and comfortable without severely impacting your local environment.
One of the most important features of an environmentally sustainable home is its location in proximity to community amenities and services you’ll use. If you are truly interested in lowering your carbon footprint, consider buying a home in a walkable location. By walking or biking to and from the grocery store, park, school and work, you will not only save money, but you’ll have zero negative effect on the atmosphere. As an added bonus, these activities are great for your cardiovascular health and may help you maintain a healthy weight.
When you already own your home, there are still numerous upgrades you can make, including installing energy-efficient appliances and windows that keep the outside elements where they belong. These, however, may be cost prohibitive for the environmentally aware homeowner on a budget. Redfin asserts that there are many other home improvements that that won’t break the bank – many, in fact, are free – that you can implement yourself without bringing in an expensive contractor. These include sprucing up your landscape with native plants and performing preventative maintenance on your hot water heater each year. Even simple things such as enrolling in paperless billing, switching your halogen light bulbs to LED or CFL lights, fixing leaky faucets and using a rain barrel to collect water for irrigation can have a big impact.
Your home’s insulation can also lower your utility bills and therefore your environmental footprint. Even if you upgrade to an energy-efficient HVAC system and keep it set to 68 degrees in the winter and 72 degrees in the summer, it will still work double time if your home can’t maintain its temperature. EnergyStar.gov explains that home improvements made to a typical home might include sealing air leaks and insulating to meet 2012 International Energy Conservation Code installation requirements.
The chemicals you use to clean your home every day can also burden the environment. LiveScience explains that certain chemicals, such as VOCs, are used to enhance these products, but can actually cause impaired neurological functions. When inhaled, these and other chemicals can affect the respiratory system.
While green cleaners, which are commonly touted as top-shelf products at your local grocery store, are an environmentally friendly option, they are not without their downfalls. They can be expensive and may require more work in the form of additional scrubbing to remove heavy stains. Many also don’t kill germs. A viable alternative for most household surfaces is to use a mixture of vinegar and citric acid, which will clean, disinfect and help reduce mold spore growth.
You can avoid tracking many potentially harmful germs and bacteria into your home, which will eliminate the need for harsh cleaners, by leaving your shoes at the door and washing your hands as soon as you arrive home.
There are numerous environmental impacts of growing your own food, and they are all good, assuming you avoid harmful pesticides and insecticides. While you have access to a vast array of fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, these items have likely traveled hundreds to thousands of miles via train, plane and truck to get to your local store shelf. Local produce, either sourced from the farmers market or grown in your own backyard, eliminates much of the emissions associated with food growth. As an added benefits, adding plants to your property where there previously were none will further help offset your carbon footprint by absorbing CO2 in the air.
More ways to go green
- Create a homemade compost bin
- Shop with reusable grocery bags or make your own out of repurposed T-shirts
- Avoid bottled water
- Use cold water for doing laundry
- Turn off the lights and water when you leave a room
- Better yet, avoid flipping the light switch up and utilize natural light
- If you must drive, go the speed limit and reduce your trips to as few as possible
- Shutdown electronics when not in use – sleep mode is still uses energy
- Contact your local energy company see if you qualify for green power incentives
- Opt out of unnecessary mailings, such as credit card offers
- Reuse office papers by allowing your children to draw on the back before recycling
- Switch to digital subscriptions for your magazines and periodicals
- Organize a community swapping event
- When you dine out, eat at local restaurants that source their food locally
- Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120 degrees or less
- Unplug phone and computer chargers when not in use
- Craft using recycled materials
- If you have a baby, switch to cloth diapers, which can prevent thousands of pounds of added landfill mass over the course of three years
As you can see, there are a myriad of ways to go green whether you’re buying, renovating or simply trying to be more aware of the environment. Even implementing a few of these changes will have a positive impact today and for future generations.