Today we are lucky to live in a world with amazing technologies, easy transportation, and megastores full of consumer products. However, this is also taking a toll on Mother Earth. Being a conscientious consumer will improve your carbon footprint, and probably even save you cash in the long run. Here is a list of our top ten things to make your home safer, greener, and more economical.
According to Google, knowing how much energy you use can save you 5%-15% on your monthly energy bill, and those households that reduce their electricity use by 10% in a year has the same carbon emission reduction value of a whole consumer car. Well, keeping yourself aware of your consumption rates is actually quite easy and cost-effective. Your average energy consumption monitor, such as the Kill A Watt Electrical Usage Power Meter, can retail between $30-$50, and accurately measure consumption within 0.02%. Place them in each room, and you’ll be able to monitor which appliance is your biggest energy sucker. Replacing an electricity-guzzling fridge with a newer, more efficient model could knock that 10% right off this year’s bill!
Surge protectors are invaluable in keeping your electronics safe from device-frying electrical surges. However, they are also handy in cutting down on energy consumption in your home. You see, anything that you have plugged in throughout the house is essentially “on” even when it is “off.” There is a phenomenon known as “phantom energy” at play. “Phantom energy” is the electricity that continues to be consumed by appliances when they are not in use, and it accounts for around 5% of a home’s energy consumption. However, running around unplugging everything is time consuming! Instead, plugging appliances into surge protectors is a great alternative. Simply clicking the “on” and “off” cuts down significantly on phantom energy use.
In the months of hot, sticky weather, it’s easy to crank up your air conditioning, which leads to tremendous energy output and high electric bills. However, a large part of the discomfort comes from increased humidity during the summer. Counteract this problem with some well-placed dehumidifiers. The Eva-Dry Petite Dehumidifier works wonders in medium sized rooms and barely takes up a corner. Combine this with an overhead or standing fan to significantly cut back on your AC reliance.
Do you ever get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, fumbling from room to room flipping on lights and squinting against the glare? Guess what, there is a better alternative. They are called tap lights – small lights that plug into wall outlets to illuminate your path. A superior option is the Lentek LED Motion Sensor Lights. Movement in the room triggers the light so it isn’t on all the time. Plus, it uses energy (and retina!) friendly LED bulbs for greater energy efficiency. The Lentek light also works great as a closet or garage light.
Bottled water is the single largest growth area in the beverage industry (MSNBC), and it’s showing up in our landfills. Less than 15% of plastic water bottles make it into recycling, which means there are millions of pounds of plastic waste just sitting in the landfills. However, there has been no tangible proof that drinking bottled water is healthier than tap water. In fact, most bottled water is tap water, and the industry is doing us far more harm than good. Do your part to cut out this unnecessary waste by drinking purified tap water out of reusable bottles. You can be sure that you aren’t ingesting anything you shouldn’t by using a water filter. One of the handiest is this Sports Bottle with a water filter. It holds 22 oz. of water, and comes with a replaceable filter. You can stay hydrated all day without harming the earth.
Oxygen is our life source, so we want to make sure that the air we breathe is clean. However, pollutants are unavoidable these days. Improve your home’s air quality by investing in some air purifiers. You can find them in all shapes and sizes, from the Air-in-Lite Air Purifier for just $69.00, to the most state-of-the-art, like the Airpura Microorganism Air Purifier. Also, keeping houseplants is a great natural air purifier, as plants “exhale” pure oxygen.
One of the least talked-about environmental issues is the use of petroleum products in soap, which is hazardous to both you and Mother Earth. Many mainstream soaps and cleaners are made with petroleum distillates, something the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recommends only be handled while wearing rubber gloves. Meaning, we are often using chemicals that the EPA considers volatile to clean our bodies. Plus, it is another way that we are tapping into our already dwindling supply of petroleum. Instead, use a vegetable based soap, such as Kirk’s Natural Soaps. Kirk’s makes both liquid and bar soaps, so there is something for every shower style.
Even harsher than your body soaps are your household cleaners. Most cleaners are made with volatile bleaches and ammonia that can be harmful to inhale or ingest, especially by small children who may put their mouths on surfaces with cleaner residue. Replacing harsh commercial cleaners with safe, non-toxic cleaners will significantly improve the air quality of your home. Bona Kemi makes a series of hardwood floor cleaners that work wonders on any hard surface, including glass. Plus, they are free of toxic chemicals and are completely neutral. They also make refills for their spray bottles, which helps cut down on packaging waste.
About seven trees are cut down per person per year, and up to one of those trees can be accounted for by the use of virgin fiber paper towels (meaning those not made form recycled materials). This quantity can be greatly reduced by using washable rags in place of paper towels for cleaning and wiping up spills. Old t-shirts or cloth diapers work fine, but you can also find inexpensive microfiber rags designed specifically for house cleaning. StarFiber makes cloths that are highly absorbent and have a scrubber side. Also, look into dust mops with reusable instead of disposable mop heads, such as the Bona Kemi Floor Mop. Not only will you significantly reduce waste, but it will also lighten the load on your pocketbook, as you won’t always be buying paper towels and dusters. Perhaps you will be inspired to use some of that savings to plant new trees to offset your contribution to deforestation even further!
One of the biggest energy gobblers in your home is the dryer. Whether run by electricity or gas, it is unnecessarily using up fossil fuels. So, when you can, line dry! It leaves your clothes smelling fresh, and you don’t have to worry about shrinking duds. Those that live in an apartment or a climate that is cold several months out of the year can always purchase an indoor drying rack, such as the Hamilton Beach 8 Garment Drying Station, which comes with an attached fan that uses less energy than a single light bulb.