20 Small Ways To Go Green At Home!
Ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lau Tzu wrote in the text Tao Te Ching
A tree as great as a man’s embrace springs from a small shoot;
A terrace nine stories high begins with a pile of earth;
A journey of a thousand miles starts under one’s feet.
Starting with this is important because I increasingly see commentary about people’s individual efforts not making a difference. There are so many things we can do to be more sustainable that may seem minor or insignificant – but those small changes and habits can blossom into a sustainable life for yourself and your community.
And while there are a lot of big things you can do (like building sustainably, installing energy-rated appliances, or investing in renewable energy for your home) – I wanted to give you options that don’t take up a lot of time and money that you can start putting into practice today. So this week is a crash course on 20 small ways you go green at home!
I’m not going to waste any time so let’s go!
20 Small Ways To Go Green At Home
Embrace washing with cold water
Hot water heating accounts for about 90 percent of a washing machine’s energy. Switching to a cold wash will help reduce energy usage and save you a little bit of money in the process! And if you’re like me and have fallen prey to the myth that hot water cleans clothes better – it’s not true!
The cold water helps your clothes last longer, prevents tough stains from setting in your clothes, and you don’t have to worry about shrinkage! Most detergents nowadays are made for low temperatures – so don’t feel like you’ve got to crank the heat to get clean.
Take shorter showers
Here’s a little breakdown: The Eco Guide reports, “A five-minute shower creates 2.25lbs of CO2 and a ten-minute shower 4.5 lbs of CO2. A survey by Ech2o from 2010 found that an average shower lasts 13 minutes. Taking only five-minute showers for the next 30 days would save 108 lbs of CO2, which is more than what a tree seedling grown for 10 years can sequester (1.27 times more, to be precise)!”
And a quick upgrade to your shower would be a low-flow shower head, so you use even less! The best part? If you have basic plumbing skills (or access to youtube), you can install your new low-flow head yourself or get someone else to do it for free (tip: ask your landlord).
Set back your thermostat
This is a small change that can make a big difference. Setting back your thermostat by 7-10 degrees from its normal setting for 8 hours a day can save you about 10% on heating and cooling bills while reducing your carbon footprint. If you’re able – switch to a smart thermostat that does this for you at regular intervals! This simple shift is a win-win for everyone!
Choose products with less packaging when possible.
As a rule, it’s best to buy products without any packaging. But if you buy something packaged, look for products that use recycled content or are packaged in paper instead of plastic, as it’s becoming increasingly popular. There is less waste for you to deal with and less environmental impact.
Start air drying your clothes.
Air drying your clothes is a great way to save energy. According to the Energy Saving Trust, your dryer is one of the biggest energy wasters in the home. If you don’t have room to hang out a clothesline in a backyard, try using a pop-up or window-mounted dryer rack!
You could also use the sun to dry your clothes—just find somewhere outside where they won’t blow away and leave them out to dry. I put my clothes on a rack in the spring/summer/fall and inside during the winter, and it works perfectly, I promise! If you use the dryer, be sure to use dryer balls instead of dryer sheets!
Switch to cloth napkins
I’ve been doing this in my own home for a few years now, and it’s one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your footprint. Instead of using disposable paper towels or napkins, switch to cloth ones that you can wash and reuse. You’ll save money on buying new paper products, plus they’re better for the environment because they don’t end up in a landfill. You can make them, buy them – either way, it’s worth the small investment!
Unplug – literally
Unplugging your appliances and devices when they’re not in use is a really easy way to save energy, money, and the environment. This is especially important for things like your TV, computer, and phone chargers. Do you really need them plugged in 24/7? Probably not!
On average, Americans lose $200 annually to unnecessary power loss – some refer to it as vampire energy. But most people don’t want to walk around their homes unplugging everything, so I recommend getting an energy-saving power strip! Adding a power strip and turning it off a night can reduce electricity usage by 20-48 percent!
Decorate with houseplants
You can purify the air in your home while making it look beautiful by adding some plants! Plants replace carbon dioxide with fresh oxygen and help to remove cancer-causing chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene from the air. But beyond that, they reduce stress, create an appreciation for plants, and improve an overall sense of wellbeing. Healthy humans = healthy planet – right? Any plants will help – but figs, succulents, aloe vera, and snake plants are a good start!
Start growing your food.
While you’re at it – keep that green thumb going by starting to grow your food. Something as simple as putting an old head of lettuce in water to let it regrow, to growing one simple herb on your windowsill, to a full-fledged garden! Growing your own food is one way to reduce waste all around and eat healthier. I have a hydroponic Farmstand from Lettuce Grow that stays in my house, which is incredibly easy, and a kind of pitful raised garden bed outside – just telling the truth here! There is no wrong way to start – and you’ll learn as you go and gain a deeper appreciation for the food you’re eating.
Tend to your refrigerator.
This makes me think of the old refrigerator joke – but you actually want your fridge to run as best as possible! Refrigerators account for about 20% of Household electricity use. Set your refrigerator temperature as close to 37 degrees and your freezer as close to 3 degrees as possible. Make sure that its energy saver switch is turned on if you’ve got it. Also, check the gaskets around your refrigerator/freezer doors to ensure they are clean and tightly sealed. And while you’re at it – keep your fridge coils clean with a brush so they function efficiently and keep your food colder!
Replace your air filter
This is something many people forget about completely – but it is super significant – clean or replace your air filters as recommended. Energy is lost when air conditioners and hot-air furnaces have to work harder to draw air through dirty filters. SCScourt.org reports, “Cleaning a dirty air conditioner filter can save 5 percent of energy. That could save 175 pounds of CO2 per year!”
Make a reuse/recycling station.
This makes a habit of recycling, reusing, and composting that much easier! Create a designated area with bins for the different functions, so you don’t have to think about it and potentially end up throwing things in the regular trash bins! Bonus points if you keep a pair of scissors nearby the plastic recycling to fill up eco-bricks with your used plastic, as we talked about last week!
Eat less meat
I will say this at every opportunity I get because it is so easy to do and is one of the most significant ways you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, soil degradation, land use, water use, and more. Just eat less meat! Try doing meatless Mondays or even meatless weekdays, or you can join me in being fully vegan or even plant-based! The planet and you will be so much healthier for it.
You can make this easy switch by simply reaching out to providers still sending you paper bills. Paperless Productivity says, “Turning a single tree into 17 reams of paper results in around 110 lbs of C02 being released into the atmosphere.” Eliminating paper bills also means less ink, plastic, fuel, waste, and more that goes into getting you a single piece of paper you’re likely to get rid of immediately.
Switch your toilet paper
While reducing your paper consumption – you should also consider switching your toilet paper to a greener option. I use Reel Toilet paper which utilizes fast-growing Bamboo instead of trees. Think about it – do you really want to cut down a tree so you can wipe your behind and flush it down the toilet? No! There are plenty of other options that use recycled paper and other unique methods out there that don’t use trees. And if you’re really feeling it – try looking into a bidet!
Don’t buy new (anything and everything)
You can reuse so many things in ways you might not have ever imagined around your home. If you need something, look inside your home for ideas first. If you want to get rid of something – just do a quick google search to see if you can use it in a new way. And, if you can’t (or don’t want to), be sure to donate it instead of throwing it out. Also, before buying anything new, check your local Craigslist, Freecycle, Facebook Marketplace, or even ask your neighbors to see what is out there!
This one is something I am planning on starting, and I’m honestly shocked I haven’t yet. If you’re in a home with gutters, you just put a barrel or water tank below the gutter spout, which you can use for irrigation. This is the simplest and most affordable way to harvest rainwater, but other fancier options are available. If you’re in an apartment with a balcony, you can just put containers near the edge, collect what you can, and use it to water your indoor plants!
Get Window treatments
Window coverings aren’t just for decoration or keeping out nosy neighbors – they also are essential for regulating the temperature inside your home, which we know equals energy efficiency. If you don’t have the room to shell out for high-energy-rated windows, upgrading your curtains and blinds is a small way to go green at home! And while you’re up close and personal with your windows, you can check to ensure there aren’t any leaks letting the air pass through!
Use your dishwasher
I think we’ve all been told at some point in the past that hand washing dishes is better – but Hand washing dishes uses more water than a small dishwasher load. If you have an energy star-certified dishwasher, running a load with as few as eight dishes can actually save water versus hand washing.
But to save time, resources, and energy, make sure it’s full before you run it, and better yet – run it during non-peak hours like the middle of the night (some have this setting) so you save yourself some money!
Switch your mindset
Ultimately switching your mindset from a fast-paced gotta-have-it-all mindset to a slower, pace mindful mindset will help you realize you need less, which means you’ll use less. Then going green at home will become easier and more manageable.
For additional tips, go back and listen to our episodes on composting, waste management, and more!
Something to grow on
Something to grow on
Hopefully, these tips will help you reduce your carbon footprint and make your home a beautiful and green place that you love being in!
For this week’s something to grow on, I challenge you to implement one of these changes today. When you’ve finished – tell someone about it so you can continue to plant those seeds for a sustainable community and, ultimately, a sustainable Hometown: Earth.
As always, I’m so proud of you!
Until next time, thanks for joining me, neighbor!
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