6 DIY Ways to Make Your Home More Sustainable
Sustainability is a word on everyone’s lips. Faced with the realities of global warming and a doomy forecast for climate change there has emerged a real focus on what we, as individuals, families, and households, can do. Recycling has been the norm for some time, but more and more people are looking at what else they can do to cut down their carbon footprint. As with most changes, the place to start is at home. Without realizing it, our homes can be extremely wasteful and inefficient, which is putting a high tax on both our planet and our wallet. However, there are plenty of ways to make your home a sustainable place and believe me, the small changes do add up! Here are some ways to save some pennies and help save the Earth at the same time.
A huge percentage of the energy we use at home is spent on heating our houses and apartments. It is very easy, particularly during the winter months, to leave on the central heating for much longer than is necessary. If you live in an area where the temperature drops below freezing you may find yourself leaving the heating on when you are away from home to stop the pipes from freezing. In these situations, installing a smart meter will help reduce the costs and waste usually associated with heating your home. It can be programmed to switch the heating on and off at specific times, adjust the temperature and monitor your energy usage. You can also program it remotely so that the house can heat up before you arrive home, or so you can switch the heating off from work if you've forgotten.
First of all - do you need to have everything plugged in and on standby continuously? Unplugging our appliances and electronics when they are not in use can save an incredible amount of energy, year on year. Secondly - energy efficient (known as Energy Star) appliances are now becoming more and more prevalent in the marketplace. Usually, these are slightly more expensive, but an energy-efficient refrigerator, dishwasher, freezer or washing machine will save you money year on year and makes for a wise long-term investment. There are even energy-efficient air conditioning solutions to choose from. The initial investment seems completely justified, and you'll have peace of mind that you're helping the planet, too.
Another massive drain (quite literally) on our resources is the overuse of water. There are small changes you can make, such as not running the tap while you shave or brush your teeth, and if you can bear to, flush the toilet less. Other options that are growing in popularity include low-flow showerheads and faucets and smart water meters. Another wasteful part of our homes has traditionally been out back in the garden. Depending on the climate where you live, enforced water restrictions can play a factor and vary from place to place. If you do have a garden that needs maintenance, you should take steps to further reduce water consumption by watering the lawn and plants either in the morning or evening, as the midday sun will evaporate much of it before it has taken effect. Ask some advice from a gardener or in your local garden center on just how much your lawn needs watering - it may not need as much sprinkling as you think. It’s easy to conserve water in the garden - save rainwater in a butte for use later, and consider watering with a can rather than a hose or sprinkler.
We've all got cupboards full of chemical cleaning products in our bathrooms and kitchens. Many of these products are incredibly harmful to the environment, as they get washed back down the drain into the water supply, which subsequently needs to be purified again. It's a bad cycle. Happily, almost all household cleaning requirements can be met with natural products. There are myriad buying options in any good supermarket, although these can be pricey. Better still, make some yourself! Many regular household items can be used for cleaning - use vinegar, citric acid, and bicarbonate of soda instead of toxic, caustic chemicals such as bleach. Not only do these clean effectively, but they also leave more pleasant, natural odors rather than the sickly artificial smells left by regular cleaning products. Another great tip - switch to a steam cleaner - disinfect and kill germs with just water!
A seemingly small change that pays massive dividends. Once maligned for not being as bright as their energy thirsty cousins, things have indeed changed today. Advances in technology now mean that energy-efficient light bulbs are just as bright, almost as cheap and countless times as eco-friendly as traditional bulbs. They even look great outside, giving your garden a boost. And, they need replacing much less regularly, so are better for your monthly bill and for the environment.
Trying to make your heating system more efficient with a smart meter is all well and good, but unless your house is well insulated you won’t see or feel the real benefit. Many of our homes are literally leaking energy, so check your roof, your walls, and your windows. Attic space is a major culprit when it comes to bad insulation, as are basements in some older buildings. Once you've got your home properly insulated it will take less energy to heat, will warm up quicker, and stay warmer for longer. It's a no brainer, both for your carbon footprint and your energy bills!
Though many of the adjustments you can make in your house seem small, once combined they show that change really does start at home. We need to cut down our energy usage more than ever before, and it isn't much of a hassle to do so. The question then remains - why wait?