People tend to have a lot of misconceptions about living an eco-friendly lifestyle. Most think it’s expensive, time-consuming, inconvenient and may even require one to wear Birkenstocks. Simply put, they lament, “It’s not easy being green.” We’ve gathered some ideas that are truly worth it to the environment to implement. These suggestions can reduce your carbon footprint, create a healthier living environment and save you some money—indoors and out.
Remove your shoes when you enter your home.
It’s kind of like washing your hands. It prevents you from tracking lots of undesirables into your home like car exhaust, chemicals and pesticides. Doing so also means less clean-up, fewer pathogens that cause disease and improved indoor air quality (dirt embedded in carpet can become airborne when it’s walked on or vacuumed). If you just can’t seem to break the habit of wearing shoes in the house, at least have a long mat outside your door so that you enter with cleaner shoes. If there’s room to walk five steps before entering, you’ll cut way down on the amount of dirt tracking in. Like to have something on your feet? Leave a pair of slippers or house-only shoes by the door to step into when you come in.
Invest in a few indoor houseplants.
They can improve air quality in your home and add a natural touch to your décor.
Switch to green cleaners to reduce air pollution both indoors and out.
Doing so can minimize exposure to both asthma and allergy triggers as well as chemicals that can be harmful to your health. Look for plant-based products from companies that have a complete list of ingredients on their labels. Try natural alternatives to clean—baking soda, vinegar, salt, lemon juice and a little elbow grease can be used for a variety of cleaning tasks.
Use your dishwasher.
Here’s some good news—doing a full load in your machine is far more efficient than washing the same number of dishes by hand. This is especially true if you have an Energy Star dishwasher, which requires an average of 4 gallons of water per load, compared with the 24 gallons it takes to do them in the sink. Using one will save you 5,000 gallons of water, $40 in utility costs and 230 hours of your time each year.
Let the Sun Shine In.
Use sunny days to your advantage in the colder months. Open blinds or drapes to let in natural heat from the sun, then close them once the sun sets and you can reduce your heating bills by 10 percent. You can also cut your cooling costs by up to 33 percent in the summer by blocking out sunlight with exterior blinds, shutters or awnings.
Take your refrigerator’s temperature.
It should range between 37 and 40 degrees F; your freezer, between 0 and 5 degrees F. If either is too cold, adjust the setting. Keeping them even 10 degrees colder than necessary can boost your energy consumption (and your bill) by up to 25 percent.
Upgrade your insulation.
Adding insulation to ducts, walls, windows and doors can improve your home’s energy draw by 20 to 30 percent. Use thermal shades to block the sun in the summer and retain heat in the winter. Try a draft guard on your outside doors. It may not be high-tech, but it’s effective.
Microwave glass instead of plastic.
Heating plastics can cause leaching into food and many contain hormone-disrupting compounds. Plastics that are labeled “microwave-safe” can simply withstand a higher temperature before losing their shape. Stick with glass or microwave safe stoneware, as no plastic is really a safe plastic when it comes to the microwave.
Live by the adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
There are numerous environmental advantages to donating or selling unwanted items rather than simply trashing them. This practice prevents pollution by reducing the need to harvest new materials, reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, allows products to be used to their fullest extent, and saves energy and money. Take items to a thrift store or a charity that accepts donations to help reduce waste. Or list them on Craig’s List and put some green in your wallet.
Do a shower test.
Place a 1-gallon bucket under the running water, then see how long it takes for it to fill up. If it’s less than 20 seconds, replace the showerhead with one that sprays 1.5 gallons per minute. That could save as much as 14,600 gallons of water a year—especially if you can shower in under 10 minutes. It could also save you about $22 on your annual water bill and $150 per year on water heating.
Turn down the water temp.
Reducing your water heater’s temperature setting down from the standard 140 degrees F to 120 degrees will save you cash. You’ll also find that it slows down mineral buildup, corrosion and prolongs the life of your tank. Since a new water heater costs about $900 installed, each additional year of use saves you money as well.
Keep a sweater handy.
Adjusting your thermostat in the winter months (by just one degree for eight hours a day) could save you 1 percent on your monthly heating bills. Do it for 24 hours and save 3 percent. Try setting the temp at 70 degrees during the day and 62 at night during winter (and 78 or higher in the summer). Heating and air-conditioning account for nearly half the energy used in our homes, so every degree can really make a difference.