This Green House

Jennifer McGregor

Living a more sustainable life doesn't have to impede on your day to day life. Making small changes can have a big impact, and eventually, they become second nature. There are things to do in public, like saying no to plastic straws and taking public transportation, but don't forget about what makes the biggest impact in your carbon footprint: your home. Whether you live in a studio apartment or a McMansion, you can make adjustments to reduce waste, preserve energy, and generally help protect the environment.

Edit Your Mail

Does anybody even like junk mail? We didn't think so-- that's what makes this green tip so enjoyable! Save paper and space by opting out of junk mail. From credit card offers to supermarket pages, all of that stuff wastes paper made from the decimation of oxygen-producing forests. In addition to taking yourself off of junk mail lists, contact your bank, utilities companies, and other businesses about switching to paperless billing. You'll get alerts digitally instead of through the mail, which reduces waste and is easier to organize.

Clean Up Your Cleaning Supplies

Volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) are hazardous chemicals found in (among other things) paint, air fresheners, and cleaning supplies that can damage the respiratory system, eyesight, and the nervous system. These chemicals are harmful to the body and pollute the air. To keep your home safe and healthy, buy supplies that are free of VOCs or learn to make your own non-toxic cleaning products.

Switch to Energy Efficient Light Bulbs

Light emitting diode (LED) and compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs use 75% less energy than regular light bulbs, which means your home uses less fuel for energy and you save money on your electric bill. Both kinds of bulbs also last longer, so you contribute less to landfills and you don't have to buy new ones as often. Your utilities company may even offer rebates for replacing your old bulbs with new, energy efficient ones. There really are no drawbacks here!

Seal Up Doors and Windows

If your doorways or windows have tiny gaps, you are paying for hot air in the winter and cold air in the summer that you don't use. Seal up these gaps with weather stripping to prevent energy loss, keeping your home more comfortable while saving you money on your energy bills. Reducing energy waste helps cut down carbon emissions and the environmental damage that they cause.

Lose Your Head (in the Shower)

Old, outdated showerheads release at least five gallons of water per minute. Not only is this wasteful, all of that usage puts your water heater through extra work which affects your energy usage. A low-flow showerhead can reduce your water usage in half at a rate of 2.5 gallons per minute. There are two basic types of low-flow showerheads: aerating heads mix air and water for high pressure with less water while laminar flow heads create individual streams of water. If you live in a home with an older bathroom, test your shower to see how much water it uses and consider replacing the head to something more efficient.

Update Your Water Heater

Updating your water heater is critically important to making your home more sustainable. According to Redfin, "Old water heaters use gas to heat 50 to 70 gallons of water at all times, even when you're most likely not using it. If you turn it down a few degrees, from 110 to 105, and put an insulating wrap around it, you will save a lot of energy. A tankless water heater is a better option; it only heats water when you need it, using electricity only when it's engaged. And because it's electric, it will work well with solar panels."

Reducing your impact on the environment helps preserve what we have left on this earth. The changes you can make to do this don't have to be drastic. Little things you can do at home add up. For instance, removing yourself from junk mail lists and opting for paperless billing helps protect forests. Using all-natural cleaning supplies keeps the air clean and safe, while sealing up your doors and windows keeps that clean air indoors where you want it. Even little investments like switching to a low-flow showerhead can make a difference. Once you start with these simple tasks, you can move forward and find bigger ways to help protect the environment.