Ways to make your home more environmentally sustainable
The farther humans move out into the galaxy, the more our own planet's uniqueness is highlighted. However, as the global population grows, along with pollution and resource use, our special planet is becoming less inhabitable. Resources that must be shared with future generations are being used up at alarming rates. The United Nations estimates that without a major change, the planet is only a decade away from irreversible ecological damage. Humans' main weapon against overconsumption and global warming is sustainable living. Sustainability is a lifestyle of using less, reusing more, and using renewable resources to help maintain the planet's limited materials and expel less pollution. While the problems of our global home are grand, small changes can allow anyone to minimize their environmental impact. By reducing energy consumption and waste, a huge part of each person's carbon footprint can be mitigated. There is no place where this type of action is more effective than in the microcosm of a home. Maximizing home sustainability makes a huge difference for the environment and in many cases saves money in the process. Making small changes at home can impact sustainability around the globe and allow the human race to continue thriving on this planet for millennia to come.
Creatively Use the Sun
Passive solar design incorporates home design elements that creatively use sunlight to heat or cool the home without energy-wasting air conditioning or heating equipment. Everything from window orientation to housing materials and intentional "sun spaces" can facilitate the warming or cooling of rooms. For instance, a room can be warmed by circulating sun-heated air with fans, or it can be kept cool with elements designed to reflect sunlight.
Replace Old Windows
Window technology has become increasingly efficient at fixing a top environmental weak point of homes: More than half of a house's energy is lost through the windows. Energy-efficient windows can improve a home's sustainability dramatically. Using specialty construction with non-conductive framing, advanced coatings, and air-tight manufacturing, these high-performance windows lower heating and cooling expenditures for the entire house. Modern windows' double- and triple-pane glazing creates pockets of air that insulate the inside of the house from outdoor temperatures. In warmer environments, low-solar-gain windows can reflect sunlight, pushing the sun's heat back outdoors. Cooler-climate windows can prevent heat loss with insulated framing and a tight fit.
Buy Modern Appliances
Replacing old appliances, especially large appliances like refrigerators and dryers, with energy-efficient models can greatly reduce a home's energy output (and its energy bill in the process). Modern appliances are typically more energy-efficient than older ones. However, pay specific attention to each model's yearly operating cost and energy efficiency numbers when purchasing.
Water the Yard and Plants With Drip Irrigation
Standard yard sprinklers lose 20 to 25 percent of their water to evaporation, wasting much of the water intended for plants. Drip irrigation, on the other hand, uses gravity to drip water directly on plants' roots at near-ground level. This eliminates evaporation and is more efficient at delivering hydration where it is most effective. As a secondary benefit, healthy plants can help to make the home cooler and can act as a windbreak.
Paint With Eco-Paints
Eco-paints are mixed specifically to be less toxic for consumers and more environmentally friendly to produce. They do this by swapping the standard harsh paint chemicals with less-harmful substitutions.
Add a Cool Roof
Not just named after their style, cool roofs help insulate a home from the sun's heat using a higher solar reflectance. This helps houses stay cool without any need to power up the energy-draining HVAC system, which conserves both money and energy.
Research Renewable Energy Options
Energy suppliers are slowly realizing the environmental and marketing benefits of green energy sources such as solar, wind, or hydropower. By researching local environmental energy options, homeowners can maximize a home's sustainably sourced power and put pressure on suppliers to invest in greener power sources.
Consult With a Sustainability Expert
If all of these sustainability steps are overwhelming, a sustainability expert may be able to help by performing an energy audit of your home. Professionals can point out trouble spots and recommend the latest of the ever-changing sustainable home technology. Solutions that may not have existed even months prior could help reduce a building's waste dramatically.
Recycle Materials During Construction
Everyone knows the benefits of recycling, but often, the deadlines and stress of construction result in waste being sent directly to a landfill. Instead, consider reusing old construction materials or selling them to a scrap yard for future use. This is good for the environment and can earn a construction project a few extra bucks for its budget.
Reduce Drafts in Doors and Windows
It's common sense that drafty windows and doors reduce a home's weather-tightness and cause higher heating and cooling costs. Drafts can be easily fixed by replacing old weatherstripping and using foam tape to cover any holes.
Curtains or blinds help insulate a home by reducing the amount of sunlight entering a room. Thermal curtains can keep heat out during the summer months and act as added insulation during the winter.
Improve a Home's Insulation
A home's walls, floor, and roof contain the largest surface area for heat and cooling loss. Old homes are particularly prone to being under-insulated. There are several methods of improving existing insulation, such as foam injections, that can dramatically reduce energy costs in your old or new house.
Produce Sustainable Energy With Solar Panels
Solar panels can often harness enough sustainable electricity to power all of the energy needs of a house. Not only will solar power reduce a home's energy cost, but it can also be eligible for tax credits and rebates. Solar panels are also clean and sustainable when compared to traditional energy sources.
Perform Basic Refrigerator Maintenance
Basic refrigerator maintenance like cleaning the condenser coils can keep it working efficiently. Even a biannual maintenance cleaning can prevent inefficient refrigerator power use and early failure.
Invest in Microplastic-Removing Water Filters
For water circulating in and out of the house, microplastic water filters are an important purchase. Microplastics in drinking water can be harmful for human health as well as the environment. And adding an outgoing filter on washing machines prevents the microplastics on clothes from entering the environment. The more filters that you use to trap microplastics, the less these dangerous particles will cause havoc in the water supply.
Swap Traditional Bulbs With LED or CFL Bulbs
LED or CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulbs use significantly less electricity and can last up to 20 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. LEDs and CFLs are both cost-efficient and more sustainable to produce (using fewer toxic chemicals) than standard bulbs, so there is no reason not to make the switch.
Regularly Clean the Clothes Dryer Filter
Your clothes dryer filter should be cleaned regularly to maximize dryer efficiency. When the filter becomes blocked with lint, the dryer must use more energy to push air through and the trapped lint can become a fire hazard. Luckily, most modern dryers have easy-access filters that can be scraped clean by hand.
Compost Food Scraps in a Homemade Compost Bin
Nutrient-rich soil can be created from leftover kitchen scraps using a simple, homemade compost bin. By composting organic waste, less makes its way to the landfill. The material produced by a compost bin can be used to enhance a garden or nourish your lawn.
Build a Green Garden
Combining drip irrigation and composting into an energy-efficient, green garden of indigenous plants can pays dividends. Not only are plants pleasing to view and great at helping to keep a home cool, but they can sometimes provide nutritious fruits and vegetables.
Save Electricity With Smart Power Strips
Smart power strips sense when a device is being actively used and reduce power use when it's not needed. This minimizes a home's energy consumption and prevents an unnecessary burden on the community's electrical grid.
Wash Clothes in Cold Water
Setting the washer to a cold temperature reduces the energy required for cleaning cycles. Modern washers and detergents can clean just as effectively in cold water, and washing with cold water prevents color fading, which keeps clothing looking new and lessens the need for wasteful replacements.
Purchase Recycled Goods
Buying products made from recycled materials is a great way to consume sustainably, since fewer base materials are required to produce them. Prioritizing these recycled materials encourages reusability on a global scale, as it creates a larger market for those goods.
Throw Dryer Balls in With a Dryer Load
Dryer balls were created to prevent laundry from clumping in the dryer, but they can also be a sustainable way of boosting a dryer's drying power. These little balls of wool, rubber, or vinyl reduce drying time (and the energy needed to complete each cycle) by creating space for the heated air to pass through and retaining heat that can help to dry the clothes faster.
Dry Clothes on a Line
Another way of reducing energy consumption is to avoid using the dryer altogether. Line-drying clothes saves money, is environmentally healthy, and can help remove strong odors. To smooth wrinkles, line-dried clothes can always be thrown into the dryer for a few minutes.
Clean With Natural Cleaning Products
Rather than spray strong chemicals over surfaces, clean with natural products to protect the environment and your own health. Pay close attention to labeling to confirm that a product is indeed eco-friendly, as labels can sometimes be deceiving.
The Kid Zone: Going Green
- Kids' Health: Be a Green Kid: This article explores ways for kids to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
- Ten Ways to Introduce Kids to Eco-Friendly Living: Anyone can pass on green habits to their children with these ten tips.
- Conservation for Kids: The Center for Biological Diversity explains conservation in this kid-friendly article.
- What Is Sustainability? Check out a fun video lesson on sustainability for ages 5 to 12, including kid-centric examples of being sustainable in daily life.
- Environmentally Friendly Actions for Kids: This article lists eight tips for kids who want to do their part for the environment.
- Eight Easy Life Changes to Teach Children About Going Green: A few simple actions can help set kids on the path to a green and sustainable life.
- 15 Eco-Friendly Games and Activities to Share With Kids at Home: Organized by age group, this article outlines fun games at home and activities designed to engage kids with green living.
- 50 Environmental Activities for Kids: In categories ranging from climate change to wildlife and conservation, these 50 activities can teach a child about sustainable living.
- Fun Earth Day Games for Kids: These five Earth Day games can be played any time of the year to teach kids about environmentalism.
- Recycling Waste: An interactive online game for young children teaches them about putting refuse in its proper compost, recycling, or waste bin.