Maybe you’ve resolved to take better care of yourself, up the ante at work, or reduce overall negativity in your life. Perhaps you’d like to add a more meaningful level of community and give back in a way that resonates on a global level.
Then again, you may just be ready to resolve against resolutions altogether.
How about a no-brainer that requires only as much effort as you’re ready to give, yet results in lasting gain? Consider making your home green in the new year. You’ll be surprised by how many personal goal boxes the process checks off along the way.
Below, we’ve compiled tried-and-true strategies to make your home more eco-friendly, along with methods to save valuable resources at each step.
Photo by Adobe Stock/bearinmind
A perfect way to start shedding a bit more light on the project at hand is to switch out household bulbs methodically. Take a look at CFLs — compact fluorescent lamps — you’ve no doubt noticed their distinctive spiral shape and bright emission. ENERGY STAR-qualified CFL bulbs use 70 percent less energy than traditional incandescents and are available in hues from warm to cool.
CFL bulbs are sensitive to temperature, so installation requires a bit of preplanning. You don’t want to place CFL bulbs in a tightly enclosed or recessed fixture where reflected heat will quickly build up. Look for open indoor fixtures, and research CFL lanterns or globes that offer protective, decorative covering for outdoor use.
Another green option worth consideration is LED — light-emitting diode — bulbs. LEDs last up to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use only 20-25 percent of the energy. Unlike CFLs, LED lights can safely be used both indoors and outdoors without undue concern for temperature fluctuation.
LEDs emit light in one direction only. They are great for reading nooks and workspaces such as kitchen countertops or a home office.
Install a programmable thermostat and forget about having to keep track of indoor climate. For maximum efficiency and comfort this season, set cooler temperatures during weekdays when no one is home and after bedtime.
Keep an eye out for new, cutting-edge models that intuit temperature adjustment based on past patterns of preference.
No matter how smart your thermostat is, if your home has air leaks, the HVAC system will have to work harder than necessary to maintain a comfortable climate. Save yourself money, resources, and aggravation by assuring a tight structural seal.
Caulking around windows is a simple DIY project that can be completed in one day. If you don’t own a caulk gun, consider borrowing one from a friend. Chances are excellent that you’ll quickly glean its value on a year-to-year basis and end up a proud owner yourself.
To air-seal persistently opened components you’ll want to check into weatherstripping options. With the proper material, installation can be as basic as measuring, cutting and pasting. Main doors, such as the kitchen and front, will likely benefit from an insulated bottom sweep. In a pinch, a rolled-up bath towel works well too.
By far the largest moving component of consideration, and most continuously used for exit or entrance year-round, is the garage door. It covers up to one-third the area of your home’s perimeter, so assuring your garage door is well-insulated and maintains an airtight seal is of paramount concern.
Do you know updated garage doors can be green above and beyond obvious energy-efficiency? Made with sustainable materials, eco-friendly options not only add curb appeal but also prove a level of durability that minimizes repair and maintenance costs over an extended lifespan.
Go Low or No
Have you been debating adding a pop of bold wall color or switching out worn draperies? These seemingly decorative touches have the potential to carry considerable environmental weight, as well. Whether you’re researching paints, textiles or upholstery, go with low or no VOC — volatile organic compound — material bases.
VOCs are gases emitted from chemicals commonly found in paint, treated fabric, and furnishings. Many have adverse long- and short-term health effects, including headache, nausea, respiratory irritation, loss of coordination, central nervous system impairment, and liver and kidney damage.
Reducing the pollutant level of your home decreases the overall content of harmful greenhouse gases in the atmosphere — never mind the supportive boost it lends your immune system and general health.
Does attention to indoor air quality have you scrutinizing air purifiers and dehumidifiers? Make sure you look for ENERGY STAR-certified products, and while you’re at it, consider switching out other household appliances that may be ready for an overhaul.
When comparing models, efficiency and pricing, don’t forget to factor in possible rebates offered in your area as well as predicted savings over time.
Reduce Water Use
From deceptively small flow changes to the possibility of a major rainwater recycle addition, every drop of water saved carries a ripple effect of environmental benefit. Consider placing aerators on your faucets and installing low-flow shower heads. If you feel any difference in water pressure at all, it will be minimal — but the savings in your pocket won’t be.
Do you have a roof with a marked slope? Not only does a steep incline aid water drainage and help keep your home mold-free, it might also be conducive to installation of a rudimentary rainwater recycle system. Reusing rainwater in toilets and washing machines decreases the rate of household consumption significantly, and boiled rainwater is even safe to drink in a pinch.
Decomposing food in our landfills releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. You can do your part to minimize this effect by starting a compost heap at home. All you need is kitchen waste, soil, water, grass clippings, or dead leaves and an open container. Organic microbes break waste down into simple components that are readily reabsorbed and add nutrients to the soil, without the release of adverse gases.
Going green can be full circle whether you go slow or all out. The process in and of itself helps you take care, reduce toxicity and connect meaningfully on a universal level.