Sustainability is much more than a hot topic and trendy buzzword. Here in Oregon, one of the greenest states in the US, sustainability is becoming a way of life. Yet, we still have a ways to go when it comes to protecting the environment and promoting social and economic development on our planet. Making a positive change in the world starts in the home.
There are many ways to support sustainability in the home–and all of them are really exciting from a design perspective. Not only does sustainable home design provide some much-needed relief for mother earth, it also looks fabulous, is relatively simple to implement, and will give you more pride in your home.
Below I’ve compiled 7 practical and beautiful ways to promote sustainability in your home.
Replace Your Bulbs
Making the switch to light emitting diodes, or LEDs, is an easy yet effective first step toward a more sustainable home.
A traditional incandescent light bulb turns just 10 percent of its consumed energy into light, the other 90 percent is wasted. LED bulbs, on the other hand, covert 95% of energy into light. LEDs also utilize much less power than traditional lighting and last for 6 times longer.
Another reason for switching to LEDs is their lack of toxic elements. Fluorescent lights, for example, contain harmful mercury chemicals and thus require special disposal procedures. Not only do LED lights make a positive move toward a healthier environment, they also help you avoid the time and money required for compliant light bulb disposals.
Beyond environmental implications, LEDs simply look better in your home. LEDs have a similar appearance to traditional bulbs but emit a cleaner, whiter light. In fact, the light is so much better, it often results in needing fewer lights in your home, overall.
Put Your Windows To Work
If you have old windows in your house, it’s likely some of your heating and cooling costs are floating right out those windows. The most effective way to ensure your windows are hurting your energy consumption is by installing new, energy-efficient windows.
However, If you’re not up for an expensive undertaking, there are other, more affordable ways to combat drafty old windows.
Improving the energy efficiency of your existing windows can be achieved through a few simple methods:
- Caulking and weather stripping around your windows will reduce air leakage.
- Curtains and blinds can help reduce heat loss in the winter and keep your house cooler in the summer.
- Storm windows reduce air leakage and improve comfort during the winter months.
A final note about your windows–make an effort to keep your electricity use to a minimum by utilizing natural light from your windows as much as possible. Keeping your lights off and your curtains open when possible is a great eco-friendly habit to adopt in your home.
Install Low-Flow Shower Heads
Did you know showers account for 17% of residential indoor water use? That adds up to nearly 1.2 trillion gallons of shower water a year! By swapping out your shower head with a low-flow option, you can save a considerable amount of this water.
Some people worry switching to a low-flow shower head will ruin their showers!. Avoid this by choosing a high pressure, low-flow shower head. While you’ll likely notice a decrease in overall water flow, it won’t take away from or hurt your overall shower experience.
When shopping for a new shower head, look for a WaterSense label to know you’re getting a eco-friendly option. You’ll probably be surprised by how many options you have!
Use Non-Toxic Cleaners
Today’s modern home is full of toxic and air polluting cleaning solutions. The Environmental Protection Agency ranks indoor pollution–much of which comes from common cleaning products–among the top environmental dangers.
Luckily, there are alternative ways to keep your home fresh and sanitary. Try creating homemade cleaning products. Not only is a homemade solution more affordable, it will also protect the environment and cut down on packaging waste.
If making your own cleaner isn’t in your future, stay away from products with the following ingredients:
- Butyl glycol, ethylene glycol, and monobutyl
- Chlorine bleach
- Petroleum solvents
The cost of these chemicals on your health and on the environment just isn’t worth it.
Move Your Fridge
This sustainability idea is probably more suited to someone who is remodeling their kitchen, but if you have the option, evaluate the location of your fridge. If the sun is directly hitting your fridge, it will have to work harder (use more energy) to keep itself cool.
If possible, situate your fridge in a shaded area of your kitchen without much direct sunlight. You’ll save on energy costs in your home.
Other energy-saving tips for your fridge include checking the seal to make sure the doors can close properly, waiting until a dish has cooled down before putting it in the fridge, and limiting the number of times you open your fridge during the day.
Use Paint Low In VOCs
Conventional paints typically include formaldehyde, heavy metals, and a class of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds–VOCs for short. As expected, VOC chemicals have short and long-term negative health effects on you and your family. The worst part is, those VOCs can linger in your home for up to five years after you’ve painted your home!
Whether you’re about to redesign or remodel your home or are just thinking of freshening up your house with a new coat of paint, consider using eco paint. Eco paint has lower VOC levels and is a much safer option for your home.
Eco paints can be used pretty much anywhere you would use conventional paint and come in a wide range of finishes. Eco paint also tends to perform just as well if not better than other brand leaders.
Use Smart Irrigation Techniques
Here in Portland, we’re no strangers to rain. Even so, keeping your plants and yard looking great during the warm summer months can require a costly amount of water.
Finding the balance between not wasting too much water, but maintaining your landscaping can be tricky, but there are a few eco-friendly ways to make it happen.
Use A Hose
The most efficient way to water your garden, plants, and yard is manually, with a hose. Doing so will result in 33 percent less water usage than an automatic irrigation system. If you have a large yard, this probably isn’t an option. In that case, make sure you choose water-efficient sprinkler spray heads.
Install Rain or Soil Sensors
Rain sensors are a great idea here in Portland. These sensors prevent your sprinkler system from turning on when it rains. Another option is soil sensors–these activate your sprinklers only when the soil is feeling dry and needs to be watered.
Rainwater Collection Barrel
Installing a rainwater collection barrel can be a great solution during the summer months. You’ll have to hire a professional to redirect your gutter into the barrel. From there, you can attach a hose to the barrel for easy watering.
Is Your Home An Eco-Friendly Oasis?
What are your tricks and tips for encouraging sustainability within your home? Let us know in the comments below!