While the eco-movement has focused attention on the value of sustainability, they occasionally trip over the unsustainability of their own message. There’s a wealth of articles and tips about what we can do to go green, but for many of us, follow-through remains a challenge. Many environmental measures require changing our behaviour, spending extra time, making a special trip, or giving up convenience. Our intentions may be good, but our track-records are spotty. We’re busy, tired and forgetful. We intend to do it. We just don’t.
So instead of another plea to get to work saving the planet, we’re going to show you concrete methods of conserving energy in your home – while conserving some of your own energy. These tips to make your house greener are not only environmentally friendly, they also don’t require you to change habits or give up anything. Buy it. Put it in place. You’re done. Now relax and enjoy saving resources and money.
A substantial amount of air and light pass through your windows. Having well-insulated windows, frames and blinds will keep heat out in the summer and cold out in the winter, offering major savings on your utility bills.
Material is important – window frames made from wood or vinyl are low-transfer, meaning less leakage of heat. Fibreglass frames are the gold standard but can be expensive. For the windows themselves, look for insulated, glazed, or Low-E (low emission) glass for better thermal efficiency and reduced UV radiation. Cheaper options include film you can apply to existing windows for an added layer of insulation.
Quality window blinds are not only aesthetic, they also block UV light and can provide insulation. For the insulation properties of blinds, look for the R-value (a measure of thermal resistance). Some good environmental materials for blinds are bamboo, hemp, and cotton, which are sustainably harvested and can be pesticide-free.
2. Wash In Cold Water
Simply switching the temperature to “Cold” when washing your clothes can make a big difference in energy consumption and the longevity of your clothes. Heating the water represents between 75 to 90% of the total energy used by a washing machine. Washing in cold water also reduces the shedding of microfibers from synthetic fabrics, a pollutant that’s released into our water supply.
Cold water is better for your clothes. It maintains colour better, reduces shrinkage, and can even reduce wrinkles, saving you time and energy ironing. Cold water is also just as effective for removing stains from grass or makeup.
FYI, most modern washing machines are designed for cold water, and most detergents work just as well in temperatures as low as 15C. Reserve the hot water for sanitizing clothes or bedding when someone is sick. And always check the label for special washing instructions – certain fabrics do best in warm water.
3. LED Light Bulbs
LED bulbs use 80% less energy than filament bulbs, plus they don’t burn out as often. LED’s cost slightly more, but that up-front cost is offset by their longer lifespan and by the monthly savings on your utility bill. LED bulbs produce light up to 90% more efficiently than incandescent bulbs and require less wattage. They also don’t burn out completely, but gradually lose brightness over time, allowing you to extend their life a little longer.
Adding plants around your home is a natural way to improve air quality. They require a small amount of care and give back a large amount of oxygen. There’s also evidence that plants reduce stress and improve overall mood. Studies have shown measurable reductions in anxiety and stress, and a boost in creativity when plants were introduced to the office space. Our brains appear to be wired to respond positively to natural environments.
5. Refrigerator Planning
Put simply, when it comes to our refrigerator, we eat what we see and ignore what’s in the back until it desperately needs to be thrown out. You buy more yogurt without realizing the yogurt your spouse bought last week is hidden behind last week’s leftover salmon, which lies under the pizza you were going to eat last weekend. A substantial amount of good food is thrown out every week because we don’t keep track of what is stored where.
Rather than shove and crowd food randomly into your refrigerator, arrange it. Yes, technically, arranging means effort, which we said we wouldn’t impose on you. However, the payoff is keeping food fresher for longer and enjoying leftovers days later. At the end of the week, you’ve made fewer trips to the grocery store and spent less time cooking new meals.
The simple rule is to ensure expiring food is visible, which improves the odds of it becoming a meal rather than trash. That requires a little shifting around so that today’s groceries can wait their turn behind last week’s food. Expiry dates that are due in a few days should be up front. Store leftovers in transparent containers so you can see what’s in there. A mystery item wrapped in tinfoil may never be noticed. Ideally, place all leftovers together for greater visibility and access. Reserve the back of your fridge for non-perishables.
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