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7 Methods to Make Your Home More Sustainable

Take a few minutes to read these tips on making your home more sustainable and get the ball rolling towards a greener future.

The term carbon footprint refers to how much carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere caused by the consumption of fossil fuels by a person or entity. According to the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems, the average household in the United States has a carbon footprint of 48 metric tons of carbon emissions per year. This is dangerous since carbon emissions become trapped inside the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. It is the responsibility of every single person on the planet to do their part to reduce the amount of carbon emissions they produce and work towards a more sustainable future. This may feel like an impossible task, but by making small changes throughout your home, you can help to work towards a brighter future! 

Here are 7 changes you can make to your home to improve its sustainability. 

Energy Efficient Appliances

By definition, energy efficient appliances aid the environment by reducing the amount of electricity that is used. Compared to just a few decades ago, modern appliances use much less energy and there are countless more energy efficient options. When looking for options, always check to see if they are Energy Star certified. Energy Star is an organization that is run by both the US Environmental protection Agency and the Department of Energy. The program's website details their process of ensuring that approved appliances are indeed energy efficient. There is a wide variety of appliances available, from refrigerators to heat pumps. Of course, it would be incredibly expensive to replace every single appliance in your home with an energy efficient counterpart. Instead, the next time you have to replace an appliance, look for one that’s Energy Star approved. Alternatively, there are other ways to improve efficiency when it comes to appliances. For instance, making a meal using a small air fryer instead of the oven saves energy. 

Dual Pane Windows

Another great method for improving the sustainability of your home is by installing dual pane windows. This specific type of windows has two panes, as stated in their name, that are separated by some gas (usually argon), which helps with the insulation of your home. Improved insulation helps to regulate temperatures inside the home, preventing it from becoming too hot or too cold. Additionally, this keeps costs down for homeowners since the AC/ heating system is used less. This benefits the environment since less energy is consumed. Obviously, replacing all of the windows in your home is a huge commitment, so there are other, more affordable options. For instance, window treatments, such as shades or blinds, can keep rooms cooler in the warmer months and contribute to energy efficiency. 

Recycling and Composting

Recycling and composting are key in reducing pollution as well as conserving energy. According to the City of San Jose Environmental Services website, “recyclers across the country save the same amount of energy it would take to power 14 million homes for a full year.” It is very simple and important to have a recycling bin in your home to separate recyclables. Check with your local waste collection service to see what can and cannot be recycled. If for some reason your service does not collect recycling, there are local recycling centers located around the country. Although this involves more effort since you have to separate all of the recyclables yourself, it is an excellent way to give back to the environment. All you have to do to start, is separate your garbage from your recyclables. By making the small move of recycling, you are helping to work towards a zero-waste future. Check out this video to learn about how a small town in Japan is moving closer to achieving this goal. 

In addition to recycling, composting is a low-effort way to make your lifestyle more green. Instead of throwing away food scraps to be sent to a landfill, they can be saved and composted. You can compost in your backyard with a hole or bin, or even on your countertop. Countertop composters are growing in popularity due to their convenience (check out these countertop composters as an example). Even if you live in an apartment, you can easily compost. The main benefit of composting is the reduced carbon footprint. Using compost reduces the amount of methane gas that is released into the atmosphere. Furthermore, composting enriches soil by adding helpful nutrient-producing bacteria. Both composting and recycling are easy changes to implement to improve the sustainability of your home. Composting can seem like a disruptive lifestyle change, but it can be as simple as throwing your food scraps in the backyard for the birds instead of in the trash can. 

Solar Panels 

One of the best ways to conserve energy is by utilizing energy sources other than fossil fuels. Solar, hydroelectric, and wind energy are all common types of renewable energy that help reduce the amount of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Of these examples, solar energy is likely the easiest to implement in a home. Solar panels can be installed on the roof to convert sunlight into electricity that powers your home. It’s good to note, the process of adding solar panels can be expensive, usually between $10K-$20K. However, because solar panels can cut down energy costs by about $1K a year which means the investment will eventually pay for itself. If you live in an area where the power grid is unreliable, solar energy increases your energy security and decreases the chance of unexpected blackouts. Solar energy is not viable in every area due to the need for long periods of sun exposure. Changing energy sources is a time consuming process that is not viable for many homeowners at the moment. Instead, try to reduce your overall energy consumption by turning off lights and other electrical appliances when they are not being used. This will help save energy without breaking the bank. 

Insulation

Insulating your home is one of the most effective ways to increase energy efficiency. By just adding a layer of insulation throughout your home, the temperature inside is more regulated. This way, less energy is used to warm and/or cool the home. Insulating every area of your home is key for optimal energy savings. For instance, adding insulation to a garage will help maintain the temperature of the room(s) above it. There are several types of insulation that can be applied to floors, ceilings, and mainly unfinished walls. From foam boards to spray foam, there is sure to be a type of insulation that fits your home’s needs best. The majority of homes will already have some basic insulation, but be sure to look into additional areas that can be insulated to help make your home more environmentally friendly. One easy way to get started is to focus on one area of the house, like the attic. You’d be surprised how big a difference insulating just one room makes. 

Replace Light Bulbs 

One of the simpler ways to conserve energy in your home is by replacing light bulbs with more energy efficient options. LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, are some of the most energy efficient sources of lighting. Before LEDs, most homes and buildings used compact fluorescent (CFL) or incandescent light bulbs. Although LEDs can be slightly more expensive than alternatives, the energy savings will easily offset these costs. In addition, LED bulbs last much longer, so you will have to replace them less. It should not take long at all to move throughout your entire home replacing light bulbs, and by the end, you will be able to reap the benefits of a more energy efficient home. Use this website to determine how much money you can save by replacing your bulbs with LEDs.

Low Flow Faucets 

In addition to conserving energy, reducing water usage is essential for environmental protection. Low flow faucets are a useful tool in cutting down on water waste. They are fairly easy to install and depending on the style, many can just be screwed onto the end of faucets. One main concern with low flow faucets is that they will reduce water pressure. While this is possible, it is not always the case. Be sure to check reviews to find a faucet that conserves water while providing adequate water pressure. Even though installing low flow faucets on sinks and showers saves water, the main concern in many homes is the toilet. Low flow toilets have smaller tanks, and therefore, use less water than traditional toilets. Before one can be installed, you need to check if they will work with the plumbing system of your home. Like many other energy efficient products, low flow toilets are generally more expensive than their counterparts. However, this is a worthwhile investment due to all of the money that can be saved in the future. Start small by replacing the faucet on one appliance and see if you can notice the difference. 

Although many of the methods discussed above are big changes, there are countless small improvements you can make to improve the sustainability of your home. Start by calculating your own carbon footprint here. Then, use these and other tips to help change the world for the better!