Go Green At Home And Reap Big Rewards

Gus Stewart

Going green is a term tossed around in TV ads trying to sell expensive "eco-friendly" cars and cleaning products. But most people don't really know what it means. It's simple really. "Going green" is learning to treat the environment with respect.

Here are a few ways you can save resources now for the benefit of future generations.

A green thumb

Gardening is one of the most "green" things you can do and something our ancestors relied on for survival. For one, growing your own food will reduce your carbon footprint since you will not be relying on planes, trains and automobiles to deliver your food to the grocery store. If you employ organic gardening methods, you're also keeping the soil clean and not contributing to landfill waste. If that's not enough, planting ornamental gardens also creates a habitat for bees and other pollinators. Your garden will utilize the nutrients in the soil, rain and sunshine to create a bountiful harvest of food you can share with your neighbors.

Solar services

Speaking of the sun, that giant ball of gas in the sky can do more than grow food. Adding solar panels to your home is also a great way to harvest renewable energy. While it is a relatively hefty upfront investment – the average homeowner spends $19,510 to install solar panels – it's one of the few home improvements you can make that actually pays for itself over time, usually between four and six years. You'll enjoy lower electric bills while easing the burden on your local power plant.

Why windows?

Energy.gov notes that windows provide our homes with ventilation, warmth, and light. But outdated or damaged windows can actually have a negative effect on a home's overall energy efficiency. It's possible to improve your existing windows by fixing chipped caulk and using weather-stripping, but adding new, energy-efficient windows is one of the quickest ways to reduce air leakage and infiltration. Like installing solar panels, new windows will save on your heating and cooling costs, which will offset your investment after a few years.

The carpool rules

It's no doubt that riding with your friends to school or work is a more enjoyable way to get where you're going. However, you might not realize that carpooling has a positive benefit on the environment, even if you're only going a short distance. The EPA estimates that the typical passenger vehicle emits 411 grams of CO2 each mile driven. This may not sound like a lot, but ridesharing a few times a week can significantly cut down on your carbon footprint. Carpooling also saves money on gas and can reduce local traffic congestion. Talk to your friends and family about combining commutes or, better yet, start a community initiative to help connect people that happen to be going the same place.

Small improvements, big impact

Even if you rarely leave the house and don't have the money to invest in solar panels or new windows, there are numerous affordable ways to reduce your family's impact on the environment. Here are just a few:

  • Insulate your home's attic and crawlspace
  • Turn your thermostat to 68° or lower in the winter and 72° or higher in the summer
  • Use the one-hour setting on the dishwasher
  • Set your hot water heater to less than 120°
  • Buy refill packs of common household cleaners and soaps to reduce the amount of plastic in landfills
  • Never leave your car running unattended
  • Avoid pesticides, which can harm local wildlife
  • Shop thrift stores for second hand merchandise when possible

Today's actions will have a significant impact on the world of tomorrow. And considering that's the world where our children and grandchildren will grow up, anything we can do to preserve our finite resources is a gift that will be enjoyed for generations. You don't have to spend thousands of dollars to have a big impact but large projects, such as new windows and solar panels, will provide benefits you can reap today.