Taking care of the planet starts at home. From using eco-friendly cleaning materials to recycling your trash, there are many minor changes which can add up to big benefits for the Earth. Here are ten ways you can take care of the environment—and your own health, too.
- Use “green” appliances. That garage refrigerator might be a handy place to store your extra drinks, but getting rid of it could save you $150 per year or more. The average home spends about 18% of its energy bill on appliances, and the refrigerator is one of the biggest offenders. If one of your appliances is over a decade old, replace it with an Energy Star certified one. They use up to 50% less power and water, making them an excellent eco-friendly choice.
- Mind your thermostat. Up to half your home’s energy is consumed by its cooling and heating system. Turn your thermostat down when it’s cold, and up when it’s warm. Every degree below 68 during winter saves between 3 and 5% energy, and keeping it set at 78 during warmer months will save a similar amount. Invest in a programmable thermostat, and you won’t even have to think about making those changes.
- Conserve water. You can cut your water consumption by up to half each year by putting aerators on all your faucets; it’s also a good idea to install low flow toilets. Simple behavioural changes can add up too—using a broom to tidy up your driveway instead of hosing it off can save up to eighty gallons of water. Turning the tap off when you’re brushing your teeth can save almost 5 gallons every time.
- Use green cleaners. Read labels and choose products with eco-friendly ingredients like grain alcohol and plant oils, or just make your own with things like baking soda, water, plain soap and washing soda.
- Buy some green lighting and use rechargeable batteries. CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) use two-thirds less energy when compared with the average incandescent bulb. Instead of buying conventional batteries, buy rechargeables and a good charger; the Ansmann charger is popular choice. It might cost a bit more up front, but you’ll save every time you don’t have to run out and buy new batteries.
- Cut down on paper use. You can buy 100% post consumer products; everything from stationery to bathroom tissue is available. High-post-consumer-content products use less new pulp, and they also keep paper out of the landfill. Remove your name from bulk mail lists, and bring your own bags to the grocery store.
- Choose sustainably-sourced flooring for your home. Bamboo is an ideal choice because of its fast rate of growth and high yield. It only takes four years for bamboo to mature, compared to up to 100 years for the average hardwood. Be sure to choose formaldehyde-free adhesives.
- Reduce plastic use. Every year, we throw away over 100 billion plastic bags; they’re convenient but they’re also made from petroleum, a major contributor to global warming. Reuse and recycle plastics wherever you can.
- Use eco-friendly paint. Regular paint contains solvents and VOCs (volatile organic compounds). These can cause poor indoor air quality, ozone depletion and smog, and they’re released while you are painting, while the paint is drying and even afterward. Choose low- or zero-VOC paint; it’s widely available from a variety of manufacturers.
- Green up your garden. Use compost rather than conventional fertilizers; it provides the right nutrient balance to maintain your soil. Healthy soil means fewer weeds and healthier plants—and lesser need for pesticides.
Written by Crispin Jones for Tool Orders. Crispin enjoys living green and advising others to lead a more sustainable life.