Making your home a little greener doesn’t have to take a lot of time and effort. Some green methods are more expensive and time-consuming than others, of course (think solar panels), but there are plenty of options for the average environmentally-aware American.
Your insulation should be inspected every few years. If it gets too compressed, it won’t keep your house as protected as it could, which means you’ll be expending more energy to keep your house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Try planting trees or shrubs close to the house to act as natural insulation. Trees will block wind and trap heat closer to the house.
If your windows are old, consider replacing them or at least re-applying the seal around them. A lot of heat escapes through drafty windows, and shelling out the money to replace them will save you money in the long run. Check the seals around your outside doors for the same problem.
2. Turn it Off
Rule of thumb: if you’re not using it, turn it off. Electronics can pull energy from the wall even when they’re turned off, so to stop this “phantom energy drain,” turn off laptops, TVs, DVD players, and other electronics completely when you’re done with them. Even keeping them in “sleep” mode will use more energy than you might think.
When you leave a room, turn off the lights (and if you use florescent bulbs instead of incandescent, you’ll save energy and money in the long run). When you leave the house, turn down the heat or AC—it won’t take too long to get back to a comfortable temperature when you arrive home.
3. Grow a Garden
Growing a garden is probably the most time-consuming difficult item on this list, but it’s also the most obviously rewarding. Gardens reduce soil erosion and air pollution, get you and your family outside in the sunshine, and produce healthy, organic, fruits and vegetables that aren’t pumped full of hormones and chemicals.
If you have the time or need, go a step further and build a greenhouse or garden fence around your plants to keep them safe from the elements and animals that might find your vegetables as tasty as you do. If you choose the right kind of fencing (Calgary has some great options, if you’re in the area), you can keep every aspect of your garden green—use recycled plastic or reclaimed wood, and avoid the traditional materials that might not be as good for the environment.
4. Conserve Water
Teach your children (and maybe you need a reminder too!) to turn off the water while they’re brushing their teeth. You can save up to 5 gallons of water daily if you just turn off that tap while you’re scrubbing the sugar bugs away. Take showers instead of baths, and make a long, luxurious shower just that: a luxury. Keep your everyday showers short and sweet to conserve water.
Only run the washing machine and dishwasher when they’re full. Don’t waste a full cycle on half-loads—if you need to, wash those few dishes you need for dinner preparation by hand.
Check your toilets and faucets for leaks—it’s better to spend the money to replace a faulty pipe than waste the gallons of water lost with leaks.
Putting a layer of mulch around trees and in flowerbeds will slow the evaporation of water outdoors. Deep soak your lawn once or twice a week instead of a shallow watering every day. Position your sprinklers to hit the driest part of the lawn and avoid pavement or gravel altogether.
5. Recycle, Donate, Reduce
It’s easy to toss the empty green bean can in the garbage after dinner, or throw the t-shirt that doesn’t fit anymore into the dumpster, but making simple adjustments can make a world of difference. Instead of tossing metal and plastic in the trash, get a second receptacle for recyclable goods. Instead of throwing away your old clothes, donate them.
Reduce your dependency on plastic and aluminum by having your milk delivered by a milk man (yes, they still exist in some areas!). Consider using cloth diapers instead of disposable for your infants and toddlers. Find other ways to limit your use of environmentally harmful materials. And when you do use them, recycle.
It doesn’t take a lot to make your household a little greener. Just be conscious of any bad habits that you can change, good habits that you might be able to pick up, and lifestyle changes that will be worth the effort. If you keep your eyes open, you’ll be able to find a plethora of little ways you can go green—and before you know it, you won’t even remember living any differently.
Georgiah Cook has a passion for finance, education, and home improvement projects. She recommends Lynx Fence for outdoor projects—she loves anything to do with home décor and landscaping. She also enjoys biking, hiking, and people-watching at the beach.