Living and making simple everyday choices inadvertently creates an effect to the environment, the climate and other living things. We may be using up a lot of natural resources and leaving an environmental footprint, but there are a lot of things we can do to reduce it and create a sustainable living atmosphere for the plants, animals and the next generation. Sustainability means meeting current needs without depleting the needs of the future generations. And to keep the world livable for many years to come, sustainability should start with the home.
You may not be able to change your house’s layout and construction to make your home sustainable, but here are some other things you can do to live more sustainably:
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle.
These 3Rs may feel so cliché, but it’s still just as important today as when it was first coined. Every product we buy has an environmental footprint. Buy more stuff only if you really need them. Choose reusable materials (like ceramic plates and glass) over disposable items (like paper plates and cups). Instead of tossing plastic items in the trash, use them to store a number of household items. Reuse paper and plastic bags, folders, envelopes and baggies as much as possible. Create DIY crafts with your old tire, tin cans and plastic bottles. Repair broken items and clothes instead of tossing them away. As much as possible, try giving a new look for your old furniture instead of buying a new one.
- Make wise choices when shopping.
As a consumer, your choices greatly affect the sustainability of your home. Make sure that your purchases – especially big purchases – have environmental benefits. In choosing a new car, look for a fuel-efficient model. You won’t only save gas and money, but you can also help reduce your carbon footprint over the years. When buying a new appliance, say a new fridge, washing machine or dryer, choose those with Energy Star label to ensure your appliances make use of energy efficiently. Pick rechargeable batteries to limit waste that can’t be recycled. Choose paper products like tissues and napkins that are made from recycled materials, or better yet, opt for washable cloth instead. Use biodegradable plastic bags because they dissolve over time.
- Conserve water.
Water is a precious resource, so don’t waste it. Water conservation is very important as the world faces increased demand and unprecedented droughts. Choose water-efficient appliances and fixtures, such as water pressure-limiting devices, water-saving showerheads and recirculating water pumps. Use low-flow toilets that uses less water every flush, and water aerators for faucets and shower heads that pumps air into the water so you don’t need to run the tap at full blast. Quickly fix any dripping faucets and leaky toilets. Consider using a rainwater tank to accumulate rainwater for use in gardens, laundry and toilets. Better shower rather than take a bath. And never leave tap water running when not in use.
- Avoid using plastic when there are other alternatives.
Plastic doesn’t just disintegrate and decompose. It is durable and stays for a long period of time, so when they make their way into the landfills, they can leach toxic substances and chemicals to the land. Seabirds and marine animals end up getting killed after ingesting plastic or after being suffocated in it. Cut down on plastic by bringing reusable bags whenever you shop, choose reusable tumblers instead of plastic water bottles, and avoid products packaged in or made from plastic as much as possible.
- Be energy-efficient with appliances and electronics.
Think green! Don’t underestimate the amount of energy and electricity consumed by your appliances and electronics. When buying them, be aware of the amount of watts and energy they can consume. Always switch off lights that are not in use. Don’t just turn off electronic devices; switch them off from the socket itself to stop unnecessary electricity consumption. During the summer, set your air conditioner’s temperature to 24 degrees Celsius, while during the winter, set your radiator into 19 degrees – each degree down adds around 9% to your electric bill. For the refrigerator, set it around 2 to 4 degrees Celsius, while the freezer can be set at -18 degrees for optimum coldness. Make sure to always close the fridge doors to avoid wasting a lot of energy.
- Consider LED lights.
Your best bet for getting energy efficient lights is to go for LED bulbs. LED lights are becoming more and more an ideal choice as an energy efficient home feature. These lights save electricity, lasts longer, and helps keep your home cooler in the summer. They might be costlier than other bulb types, but the savings you are going to get from your energy bill and the constant replacement will make LED lighting worth it.
- Manage the shading indoors.
During summertime when it’s hot, add shade to the windows to prevent too much heat from entering inside. Adding curtains or blinds can help decrease the need for a higher temperature in your AC. Adding houseplants can also add shade to your indoors, plus they help cleanse the air.
- Draft proof your home.
Draft proofing, or draught proofing, is one of the cheapest and easiest way to reduce energy costs on the home. It stops cold air from coming in and prevents warm air form escaping, keeping your home warmer in the winter. Your home might seem well-sealed, but air is very sneaky. And when it leaks in and out, it affects your home temperature. Check out if there are gaps and cracks around your house and be sure to draft proof all external doors, construction gaps, exhausts and windows. This will help save energy.
- Drive less.
Yes, you have a car, but it doesn’t mean you have to bring it every time you go out. Adjusting and lessening your driving habits can reduce your carbon footprint. Walk or bike when going to nearby places. Use public transportation whenever possible, especially when going to places where it’s hard to find a parking space. Carpool with your neighbors or friends when going to places along the same direction. When using your car to run some errands, combine it with your other agendas to make fewer trips. Also remember to keep your vehicle/s in shape with regular tire inflations and tune-ups to increase fuel efficiency.
- Go for renewable energy.
Fossil fuel is a very precious resource and it is depleting through time, so it’s best to find alternative energy sources as early as possible. If your state allows you to choose your electricity supplier, select a Green-e certified company, since they use alternative energy sources like solar and wind energy. If you can afford to, explore options for installing solar panels for your roof or solar water heating for your home. It might can be expensive upfront, but it will benefit your family and the environment in the long run.
- Grow your own produce.
Even if you are short on real estate space, there is no reason to lack space even for just a couple of plants. There are some herbs and vegetables that are easy to grow, even indoors. If you don’t have a garden, try using pots. But if you really don’t have the horizontal space, try vertical gardening outside or inside your home. In your own home, you can harvest your own basil, parsley, cilantro, tomatoes, cucumbers and even potatoes. Having your own garden lessens the need to shop for some types of food, which also lessens the amount of packaging waste you will bring to your home.
- Choose non-toxic substances.
Substances like cleaners and bath and beauty products contains chemicals and substances that are synthetic and ends up causing harm to landfills and the health of consumers themselves. There are many cleaners on the market, and some have synthetic fragrances that end up mixing with our water supply. It’s good that we now have organic options which are made from plant-based materials. Also, try making your own cleaners out of household items. Vinegar and baking soda are naturally capable deodorizers and killers of bacteria and molds. Lemon extract is another powerful cleanser from nature. For your beauty regimen, try using natural products – or better yet, use raw materials themselves. Aloe vera lotion is good, but it’s a wonder to use real aloe vera leaves. For a facial scrub, try oatmeal and milk or coconut oil and ground coffee concoctions.