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The world could benefit from us all making small changes to make our homes a little more green. Did you know that the economic loss due to the 2012 drought cost the United States an estimated \$20 Billion? It’s an astounding number, though nothing quite hits home like the images of thriving communities in Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, or even New Orleans that were turned desolate following major hurricanes.
Certainly, hurricanes and droughts are nothing new, but leading scientists believe the warming earth plays a large role in the seeming increase of catastrophic natural disasters. The economic losses due to weather catastrophes from 2017 through 2019 totaled a whopping \$943 Billion, far exceeding any three year total over even the preceding 20 years.
The good news is that there are simple things we can all do to make our homes greener. One simple solution that is often overlooked is to simply add some plants inside your house. Just as plants cleanse the air outside the house, they can do so as well inside. This is actually great news considering indoor air quality is actually up to 5X more polluted than outdoor air.
Beyond adding some actual greenery indoors, there are other small changes you can make over time to improve the efficiency of your home. You don’t have to be a leading scientist or politician to make a difference. You can make a difference based on the decisions you make in your own home. Here are 7 steps you can take to make your home green:
Step 1: Use Natural Cleaning Products
Traditional cleaning products are a bit of a double whammy. Not only are traditional cleaning products full of potentially harmful chemicals, but they come in single use plastics, which have a multi-faceted impact on the environment. Fortunately, there are some high quality alternatives to traditional cleaning products.
Glass Bottles Are The Green Alternative to Plastic
Let’s start with the container itself. Glass spray bottles are a fantastic alternative because they are easy to clean, durable, and can be used time and time again. These convenient glass bottles can be used for everything from cleaners to non-toxic bug spray to natural air fresheners, so once you get started you may want 5 or 6 for the various purposes they can serve.
From my personal experience I can say the only downside to using glass bottles is they are nondescript, and can be mixed up when not properly labeled, but that is a simple problem to solve for such a no-brainer solution to the single-use plastic predicament.
Natural Cleaning Products Are Versatile and Aromatic
Of course, these beautiful glass bottles wouldn’t do you much good without legitimate products to fill them with, but there are several natural cleaning products, such as Thieves Household Cleaner, that work fantastically. Thieves cleaning products can be used for everything from cleaning the kitchen counter to scrubbing the carpet.
It’s a plant-based essential oil formula, so not only is it an effective cleaning solution, but it smells warm and inviting too. If you are like me and my wife, once trying Thieves Household Cleaner, you will actually prefer it to the brands you previously bought from the big box stores, and that is a pretty good feeling. You don’t have to sacrifice quality or experience to help save the earth.
Making small changes, such as trading traditional household cleaners for greener alternatives, give us momentum. Based on this foundation of easy wins, we can then take progressively bigger steps toward an eco-friendly lifestyle, and a green home.
Step 2: Reduce Your Water Consumption
Would you believe the average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water every day? It is astounding to me that the average household uses that much water, but it’s true. The reality is that climate change has the potential to increase the frequency and severity of droughts worldwide, while causing severe water shortages in certain climates, so water conservation is an important consideration.
Smart Decisions Go A Long Way
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to save water. Some habits are easy to change. For example, if you choose to water your lawn, do so at night time so there is less evaporation than there might be during the heat of the day. You could also add programmable timers to your hoses or irrigation systems to more precisely plan your water usage.
Inside your home, changes such as faucet aerators, water-efficient shower heads, and even dual flush toilets can make a HUGE difference. Faucets, showers, and toilets account for over 60% of the average American household’s water consumption, so making changes in these three areas will go a long way toward a greener approach to water.
Once you have made these changes and are ready to go to the next level, consider rain barrels. I know. I know. Sounds totally hippie, but the reality is saving rain water is a fantastically efficient way to water your plants or home garden. If you are worried about having a big blue barrel in your backyard, you can actually buy one on Amazon that looks like a giant wicker basket. Very cool.
Step 3: Reduce Your Energy Consumption
If there is a positive narrative in the climate change story, it is that household energy in the United States has declined considerably over the last 40 years. Homes are often bigger than they used to be, so this is largely driven by better insulation and more efficient technologies. This is encouraging at a personal level, because it provides illustration that continual improvement is possible, and decisions make a difference.
How To Reduce Energy Usage at Home
There are several things we can do to proactively reduce energy consumption in our homes. We have all heard we should turn off lights when we aren’t using them, but beyond that, choosing to reduce your water heating costs and installing energy efficient windows are other great examples of how to save energy. To reduce your water heating costs, you can turn down the thermostat on your water heater or better insulate your water heater.
Installing a tankless water heater system is a savvy way to improve your home. Tankless water heater systems last longer than traditional models, sometimes twice as long, and still offer an endless supply of hot water. Just as importantly, tankless water heaters use less energy than traditional water heaters, which means they will lower your utility bill too.
Perhaps the most effective way to reduce energy consumption in your home is to install a smart thermostat. We are big fans of the Nest Learning Thermostat because it actually learns your habits and programs itself to match your habits. It’s also exceedingly easy to use because you can adjust by turning the dial or by setting the temperature from your phone.
When you install a Nest, a small green leaf will even appear when you choose a temperature that will save energy consumption. And when you aren’t home? Nest automatically adjusts the temperature when nobody’s home to avoid heating or cooling an empty house. Like other energy saving techniques, this will also reduce your monthly utility bill, making this investment a win-win.
Step 4: Reduce Household Waste
No one likes to send load after load of trash to the landfill, but in our convenience-focused consumerism society, that is exactly what we do. Perhaps we just don’t think about it, or perhaps we just don’t see any reasonable alternatives. No judgment. I do the same, but if you are trying to make incremental improvements in an eco-friendly direction, you have come to the right place.
This cycle can be harmful to the environment for a variety of reasons. Aside from the collection of massive amounts of non-biodegradable waste, landfills actually act as amplified sources of greenhouse gases (methane and CO2) because of the lack of oxygen flow deep into the landfills.
Reduce Waste With Earth-Friendly Thinking
The most basic step we can all take is to reconsider our purchasing habits. There are multiple layers to this new way of thinking. We already touched on the first layer, which is packaging, when we highlighted the dangers of single use plastics. The reality is we throw out packing daily, and sometimes hourly.
It’s inevitable really, when you consider we get our food from grocery stores and buy most of our household items online to be shipped to our front door. Gone are the days when you might consider growing your own food or making your own clothes. So what can we do?
Buy from companies that are sustainably focused and are considerate in the design of their products and packaging. The easiest path toward doing this is to be more aware in your daily shopping habits. Many companies focus on sustainability as part of their identity. One of my favorite clothing companies is Patagonia. Not only is Patagonia sustainably focused, but they also make quality products that will have to be replaced less often than cheaper alternatives.
Put Your Waste To Good Use
Of course, there is a whole world dedicated to repurposing waste, and while that sounds complicated and aspirational, you can make better use of your waste too through composting. There are countless resources on the web sharing how to do this.
The quick version is that you need to learn what to compost and what not to compost. Any animal byproducts (meats, milks, human and/or pet waste) should be avoided, partially because they will create strong smells attracting unwanted critters. For more information on the detailed how-tos, here is a quick guide.
When you are ready to get started, there are a few basic supplies you will need. We recommend investing in a good composting tumbler. Utilizing a tumbler system makes it much easier to turn your compost and keep it oxygenated. You may also want to consider an organic compost starter, which will speed up the composting process.
Step 5: Invest In More Efficient Appliances
Once you have completed the first four steps you will have made serious progress toward living in a greener home. The encouraging piece to this whole progression is that most of the steps are very doable, and very few are inconvenient. In fact, many of the options for creating a greener home are fun and exciting.
Who doesn’t want the hi-tech looking Nest Learning Thermostat installed on their walls as a symbol of beautiful forward thinking practicality? And if you have a garden or flower bed, using your home grown compost as fertilizer will make you the envy of the neighborhood. If you are ready to make some bigger investments, it’s time to reconsider your appliances.
What Are Energy Star Appliances
You have probably noticed the Energy Star badge on appliances and advertising before, but you might not really understand what it means. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets stringent guidelines for energy efficiency, and when appliances meet those guidelines they can be certified an Energy Star compliant.
The bottom line for you is that some appliances are more energy efficient than others, and if you want to save energy and money on your utility bills it would be wise to upgrade your house to appliances compliant with the strict Energy Star requirements. When I first think of Energy Star, I think of the washer and dryer, and the refrigerator, but they establish guidelines for almost any appliance you can think of. Here are a list of some of the appliances with available Energy Star guidelines:
- Air Purifiers (Cleaners)
- Clothes Dryers
- Clothes Washers
- Water Heaters
Make Your Home Earth-Friendly
This world gets a little crazy sometimes. Political leaders seem to create more chaos than unity, pandemics jump up out of nowhere and run wild, and the economy is shaky and unpredictable. Going for a hike or a swim is a fantastic way to level set about your priorities, and every now and then, nature will take your breath away with its beauty.
We have little control over geo-political forces impacting the climate, but we can control our actions, and we are confident that after implementing even a few of these strategies you will feel better about yourself and your future. Follow these five steps and you will be glad that you did.
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