Five Steps You Can Take Toward a Greener, More Eco-Friendly Home

When it comes to conserving energy and doing our part to save the environment, many people may believe that only major, sweeping changes can make a difference. While these efforts are indeed important, there are plenty of simple adjustments you can make right at home to reduce your carbon footprint, cut back on waste, and conserve resources. Taking care of our Earth has never been a more vital initiative and the urgency is felt around the globe. By starting at home, you can contribute to a bigger movement that triggers widespread change and conservation.


Today, let’s take a look at five things you can consider today to make your home greener tomorrow.


1. Improve your air quality.

You might not think it makes much of an impact on the environment when you light your favorite candle at the end of a long day. However, did you know that most candles are made out of paraffin wax? This isn’t much of an issue when the candles are just sitting under your bathroom counter. Yet, when you burn them, the paraffin wax releases chemicals known as benzene and toluene, both of which are highly toxic carcinogens with the same level of potency as the fumes expelled from diesel fumes.


Thus, candles are a major source of indoor air pollution, and over time, can diminish the quality of the air in your home. Make the switch to all-natural air purifying products, such as organic candles or essential oil diffusers. While you’re in the process of that transition, consider also the benefits of adding more plants to your indoor living spaces. Natural air purifiers, they go a long way in improving your home’s air quality and can add a pretty punch of color in the process. Here’s a handy list of air-cleaning houseplants that also have the advantage of being hearty and difficult to kill.


2. Reduce how much waste you create.

Every year, the United States alone generates 230 million tons of trash. If you do the math, that equals around 4.6 pounds per person, per day. Take a look at the trash cans in your home. Are they stuffed to capacity? Does that figure sound about right to you? If so, it’s time for a major overhaul in the way your family generates and disposes of waste.


Start by learning how to properly recycle. Research the regulations in your area to determine what you can and can’t recycle and how to properly setting up your home to do so. You should aim to use reusable packaging as much as possible when you can, but recycling is a great way to eliminate tons of the trash in your wastebasket from ending up in a massive pile at the local landfill.


Next, make the switch from plastic bags to reusable ones and devote yourself to using them whenever possible while you’re out shopping. Studies show that Americans use about 380 billion plastic bags each year. Those take a whopping 12 million barrels of oil to create, so imagine the benefit if everyone began to ditch the plastic and opted for reusable options instead. With so many options available on the market today, you can easily find such a shopping bag that fits your style, so you’ll want to carry it with you time and again.


Don’t just stop at physical waste. Also devote to making a meal plan and only buying what you need to ensure that your food waste production is as low as possible.


3. Conserve energy and pay less.

You know that shortening your average shower time by only two minutes can save 10 gallons of water, right? Other resource-saving efforts include turning off the lights in rooms you’re not using and turning the thermostat down when you’re gone for eight hours or more.


While these simple measures sound small and simple to implement, they can add up to some major changes over time. An eco-friendly lifestyle is one built around the notion of only using the resources you need, so it only makes sense to conserve them as much as possible. If you’re already unplugging, adjusting, and conserving as much as possible and you’re still hit with a sky-high utility bill every month, consider making at least a partial switch to renewable energy solutions. From rooftop solar panels to ground source heating and small wind turbines, do a little research to determine how much power each solution produces, then compare those figures against your average monthly usage statistics. You might be surprised to find that you could garner some pretty significant savings by making the switch -- and cut your power bill in the process.


4. Replace energy-draining appliances.

That old toaster you got for your wedding 20 years ago might still be working great, but chances are it’s pulling a ton of power from your home each time you crank it up. The same likely goes for that clunky old refrigerator, or the 70s-era ice chest you have plugged in down in the basement.


Like people, appliances have a general life expectancy. While it’s not comprehensive, here is a list of how long you can expect your major appliances to last. Of course, factors including the amount of use, condition you purchased the item in, and the model and manufacturer might affect the accuracy of this timeline. Still, it’s a rough estimate and an important one to follow. Old and outdated models can be major power wasters. Once you’ve identified the ones you need to replace, resist the urge to go out and buy the biggest, shiniest new model on the market.


Instead, invest in energy-efficient models that can get the job done while using a fraction of the power of their industry counterparts. When possible, look for ones affixed with the EnergyStar rating. These appliances are designed to use as little energy as possible. Moreover, most are made utilizing responsible design practices and feature recyclable materials.


5. Insulate wherever possible.

A green home is one that uses as little energy as possible and conserves the small amount that is generated. If you’re constantly losing heat or air through openings in your home, even the super tiny ones, you’re literally throwing money out the window.

To help mitigate this occurrence, make sure your home is properly insulated. Common sources of leakage include the areas around your hot water tank, heat pipes, roof, and wall cavities. You can also lose air from underneath or around your doorways and windows. Install double-glazed windows or doors whenever possible and apply an extra layer of caulk around these structures if you’re still feeling a draft.

Of course, insulation today looks a lot different than it did only 10 years ago. That means you’re not limited to the pink kind akin to cotton candy. That wool fiberglass material is wrought with safety and health concerns that range from eye irritation to breathing difficulties. Instead, look for green and eco-friendly insulation alternatives that do the job just as well without adding extra irritants to your home. Top options include sheep’s wool, cotton, aerogel and more.

Making a positive change for the environment starts at home. These simple-to-implement tricks can get you off on the right foot when it comes to going green, saving energy, and conserving resources. So get the whole family involved and make it a group effort for change!