Are you interested in improving your own home’s impact on our environment? Here are some ideas that can help you to live in your home in a more environmentally-friendly way:
1. Green up your appliances. Getting rid of that old/second refrigerator in the house could save you a lot every year. Appliance use comprises about 18% of a typical home’s total energy bill, with the fridge being one of the biggest energy hogs. If any of your appliances is more than 10 years old, the EPA suggests replacing them with energy-efficient models that bear their “Energy Star” logo. Energy Star-qualified appliances use 10%-50% less energy and water than standard models. According to the Energy Star site, if just one in 10 homes used energy-efficient appliances, it would be equivalent to planting 1.7 million new acres of trees.Also, consider what you put in that energy-efficient refrigerator. Pesticides, transportation and packaging are all things to consider when stocking up. Buying local cuts down on the fossil fuels burned to get the food to you while organic foods are produced without potentially harmful pesticides and fertilizers.
2. Watch the temperature. Almost half a home’s energy consumption is due to heating and cooling. Turn down the thermostat in cold weather and keep it higher in warm weather. Each degree below 20°C(68°F) during colder weather saves 3%-5% more heating energy, while keeping your thermostat at 25°C(78°F) in warmer weather will save you energy and money. A programmable thermostat will make these temperature changes for you automatically.To keep your cool in warmer weather, shade your east and west windows and delay heat-generating activities until evening. Use ceiling fans instead of air conditioners. Light clothing in summer is typically comfortable between 72°F and 78°F. But moving air feels cooler, so a slow-moving fan easily can extend the comfort range to 82°F.
3. Save water. The Web site “Water — Use it Wisely,” created by a group of Arizona cities, lists 100 simple ways to save water. Here are a couple suggestions:
Put an aerator on all household faucets and cut your annual water consumption by 50%.
Install a low-flow toilet. If you have an older model, adjust your float valve to admit less water into the toilet’s tank.
Of course, you don’t need products to save water — behavioral changes also add up quickly: using a broom instead of the garden hose to clean your garden can save a lot of water and turning the water off when you brush your teeth will save 5 litres each time.
4. Clean green. Stop buying household cleaners that are potentially toxic to both you and the environment. Use alcohol instead of toxic butyl cellosolve, commonly found in carpet cleaner and some window cleaners as a solvent; coconut or other plant oils rather than petroleum in detergents; and plant-oil disinfectants such as eucalyptus, rosemary or sage rather than triclosan, an antifungal agent found in soaps and deodorant. Or, skip buying altogether and make your own cleaning products. Use simple ingredients such as plain soap, water, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), vinegar, washing soda (sodium carbonate), lemon juice and borax and save money at the same time.
5. Let there be energy-efficient light. Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) use 66% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and last up to 10 times longer. Replacing a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a 32-watt CFL can save Rs.1200($30 approx) in energy costs over the life of the bulb.
6. Save a tree, use less paper. You can buy “tree-free” 100% post-consumer recycled paper for everything from greeting cards to toilet paper. Paper with a high post-consumer waste content uses less virgin pulp and keeps more waste paper out of landfills. Other Ideas:
Opt out of credit card or insurance mailing offers and use the e-mail service to get your credit card statements.
Buy unbleached paper. Many paper products, including some made from recycled fibers, are bleached with chlorine. The bleaching process can create harmful byproducts, including dioxins, which accumulate in our air, water and soil over time.
Finally, here’s a third answer to the old “paper or plastic” question: No thanks. Carry your own cloth bags to the store to avoid using store bags.
7. Want wooden floors? Opt for bamboo. Bamboo is considered an environmentally friendly flooring material due to its high yield and the relatively fast rate at which it replenishes itself. It takes just four to six years for bamboo to mature, compared to 50-100 years for typical hardwoods. Just be sure to look for sources that use formaldehyde-free glues.
8. Reduce plastics, reduce global warming. Each year, we throw away some 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags — from grocery and trash bags to those ultra-convenient sandwich bags. Unfortunately, plastics are made from petroleum — the processing and burning of which is considered one of the main contributors to global warming. In addition, sending plastics to the landfill also increases greenhouse gases. Reduce, re-use and recycle your plastics for one of the best ways to combat global warming.
9. Use healthier paint. Conventional paints contain solvents, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause smog, ozone pollution and indoor air quality problems with negative health effects. These unhealthy ingredients are released into the air while you’re painting, while the paint dries and even after the paints are completely dry. Opt instead for zero- or low-VOC paint, made by most major paint manufacturers today.
10. Garden green. First, use compost instead of synthetic fertilizers. Compost provides a full complement of soil organisms and the balance of nutrients needed to maintain the soil’s well-being without the chemicals of synthetic fertilizers. And healthy soil minimizes weeds and is key to producing healthy plants, which in turn can prevent many pest problems from developing to begin with.