“Green” and “sustainable” are hot topics these days, as more and more Americans are trying to live a healthier life and do their part to save the planet. In fact, 74% of us say we should do whatever it takes to protect the environment.
Going green doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t need to convert your home to solar or shell out thousands of dollars for a pricey hybrid vehicle.
We’ve rounded up nine things sustainable houses have that you can incorporate into yours right now.
1. Replace Your Light Bulbs
Those old incandescent bulbs are energy hogs and cost more over time because they need to be replaced fairly often. If you haven’t already, swap them out for light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.
LED bulbs use at least 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. You’ll save money on your electric bill, and you won’t have to replace them nearly as often.
2. Check for Water Leaks
Here’s a stat that might blow your mind. Leaky faucets and appliances waste nearly 900 billion gallons of water every year.
It’s hard to imagine a leaky faucet can waste so much water, but consider this. One drip every second adds up to five gallons a day.
Here’s a quick tip if you suspect your toilet may be leaking. Put a couple drops of food coloring in the tank. Wait for an hour or two and take a look. If any color has seeped into the toilet bowl, you have a leak.
As you repair or replace leaky appliances, look for the Energy Star rating to make sure you’re buying the most energy-efficient ones.
3. Buy Rechargeable Batteries
Believe it or not, Americans throw out nearly 180,000 tons of batteries every year. All those batteries wind up in landfills. They don’t decompose, but they do leak. That can poison the groundwater and soil.
By using rechargeable batteries for your electronics, you’ll keep batteries out of the landfills and ultimately save money. When you need to replace your rechargeable batteries, recycle them. Don’t toss them in the garbage.
4. Use Reusable Bottles, Not Plastic
You may have heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s the largest accumulation of plastic in the world, and it’s floating somewhere between Hawaii and California. It’s made up of plastic bottles and other debris that wound up in the ocean.
Plastic water bottles take more than 1,000 years to bio-degrade. 80 percent of all single-use water bottles in the U.S. are tossed in the trash. In fact, landfills are packed with two million tons of water bottles.
Sustainable homes have ditched single-use plastic water bottles in favor of refillable ones. If you don’t like the taste of tap water, buy a water pitcher with a filter and keep in the fridge. Refill your water bottle from that.
5. Replace Old Appliances
No one expects you to run out and replace your appliances right now. That’s an expensive project. But, as your appliances wear out, look for energy-efficient ones. Those are the ones with that Energy Star rating.
Why is that important? Your dryer alone uses more energy than the refrigerator, the washer and the dishwasher. Buying an energy-efficient one can cut down on your energy use.
If you aren’t in the market for a new dryer right now, one simple change can make a huge difference. Buy a clothesline or drying rack. Line drying your clothes can reduce energy usage by as much as one-third.
6. Conserve Water
Earlier in this article, we learned how much water a simple leak can waste. We can save even more money and conserve water by making a few changes around the house.
- Turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth. That’ll save you as much as four gallons a minute. That’s 200 gallons a week for a family of four.
- Upgrade your toilet. Toilets account for 30 percent of the average household’s water usage. Older ones use as much as six gallons a flush. Upgrade yours to an EPA-certified WaterSense model and save as much as 13,000 gallons of water per year.
- Turn off your ice maker. The average ice machine increases energy use by up to 20 percent when it’s running constantly. It’s also using more water than you need.
7. Upgrade or Adjust Thermostat
Did you know more than half of every household’s annual energy consumption is used for heating and air conditioning?
You can save a bundle on your electric bill and reduce your consumption by upgrading your thermostat to a programmable one. That will allow you to adjust the temperature automatically during the times when you’re not home.
If you aren’t able to buy a new thermostat right now, you can manually adjust the temperature before you leave the house and reset it when you get home.
You should also inspect your home’s insulation once a year and change your air filters at least every three months. That will help your HVAC system work more efficiently.
8. Unplug Electronics When Not in Use
You may have heard the term “energy vampires”. All those electronics use energy and drain power, even when you’re not using them. In fact, they can account for as much as 20% of your electric bill.
It’s challenging to keep track of every device that’s plugged in, so you can use a power strip for appliances that are located near each other. That way, you can turn off the power strip without having to unplug the coffee machine, the tablets and the phone individually.
9. Use Recycled or Renewable Materials When Building Sustainable Houses
Sustainable building materials can include recycled, reclaimed or re-purposed resources like wood, aluminum, stone, glass and bricks. Builders are increasingly using materials like bamboo that can be quickly replenished because it grows so fast. You can learn more about sustainable materials in this article by SMI Composites.
Homeowners can also help reduce our carbon footprint by buying and using left-over materials from other homes or construction projects. Unused material from construction and renovation accounts for as much as 30 percent of the waste produced each year in the U.S.
Sustainable houses also make good use of food scraps by composting. Food waste in landfills is one of the leading causes of methane gas. So, instead of pitching your leftovers in the garbage, toss them into the compost pile instead.
If you would like to read more about green initiatives, click here for our article on renewable energy.