Eco-Friendly Changes To Make At Home
Jeannette Baum6-Minute Read
August 19, 2020
Between news about the Great Barrier Reef dying and koalas going extinct due to the effects of global warming, it’s nearly impossible not to feel a sense of hopelessness when it comes to matters of the environment. Is there anything one single human can do that could actually make a difference?
The answer is an irrefutable “Yes.”
Personal conservation efforts are not only important for helping to reduce the impact on the environment, but they’re also essential. By stepping up and making changes to reduce our individual ecological footprints, we can collectively make huge strides toward a healthier future for our planet and for humanity. Oftentimes, these efforts aren’t even sacrifices, but simple changes we can make at home that hardly affect our everyday lives.
Here are a few eco-friendly changes you can make at home to reduce your ecological footprint.
It seems simple, but reusing single-use plastics, and using less plastic in general, can make a more of a difference than one might think. There is currently a patch of garbage floating off the coast of California that’s twice the size of Texas. It’s called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and it’s the largest accumulation zone of ocean plastic on the planet. This plastic is lethal to ocean wildlife and can contaminate our food sources, too.
Reduce, reuse, and when possible, eliminate plastic use altogether. Swap out plastic wrap for beeswax wrap. It’s reusable, compostable, and is made out of all-natural ingredients.
Trade plastic eating utensils for reusable metal ones. Switch plastic straws for those made out of natural materials. The best option for reusable straws is bamboo. Bamboo is an easily renewable crop and a natural material, making it biodegradable.
According to National Geographic, the equivalent of 270,000 trees is flushed down the toilet or tossed in landfills by humans every day. Trees clean our air and water from harmful toxins and let’s not forget, provide the oxygen we need to survive. Unfortunately, the softer and fluffier the toilet paper, the more trees that are used to make it. Although a bidet might sound like a last resort for many Americans, it’s a much better option for the environment. Plus, it’s a much more sanitary option. There are many people who “forget” to wash their hands after doing their business. With a bidet, your hands don’t have to get involved, reducing the spread of germs.
If you simply can’t see yourself getting sprinkled on the bottom every time you go, there’s another option still much better than the thick, fluffy toilet paper that most Americans choose. Opt for sustainable toilet paper. The more recycled materials that have gone into the toilet paper, the better. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Stand.earth did research on how toilet paper companies are destroying Canada’s boreal forest. They even released a report featuring a Toilet Paper Sustainability Scorecard. Make it a point to choose toilet paper options in the A column, the most sustainable group of TP available in today’s market.
When it comes to other paper products, consider swapping your paper plates and paper towels for reusable plates and washcloths.
“Green” home cleaning products are not only better for the environment, they’re better for our families. Many cleaning products contain toxic chemicals that can do serious damage to our eco-systems and our health when used long term. Unfortunately, many of these products are still advertised as “green.” There are lists of chemicals to avoid when searching for nontoxic, eco-friendly cleaning products. The United States has banned far fewer chemicals than most European countries, so Americans have to be extra diligent when choosing safe ingredients.
Look for products in sustainable, biodegradable packaging without harsh additives, or make your own cleaning products. Pinterest and other sites are loaded with recipes for DIY eco-friendly cleaning products. You can even find recipes for DIY eco-friendly laundry detergent.
One impactful swap to use at home to save on energy is to wash your clothes in cold water. Using hot water in your washing machine requires 75% more energy just to heat the water up. Using cold water is also much better for keeping the colors of your clothes from fading as quickly as if you used hot water.
Another laundry trick to save energy is to skip the dryer and use a drying rack instead. This is already popular in many countries around the world. And why not? While you may have to wait a bit longer before you can wear your freshly washed clothes, hanging them out will keep them looking newer for much longer than if you were to dry them in a clothes dryer. Plus, you never have to worry about accidentally shrinking your favorite cashmere sweater ever again.
Unplug anything when not in use, even when electronics are turned off. If they’re plugged in, they’re still drawing energy from the outlet. All the electronics you keep plugged in without realizing it can quickly pile up your energy use, as well as your energy costs.
Energy-efficient lightbulbs use up to 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and can last 10 times longer. Switching out lightbulbs is a quick, simple swap to make throughout the house that can save big time on your energy bill.
Do you feel like you’re constantly turning the heat up in your house in the winter or your air up in the summer? Consider implementing some sustainable energy hacks like beefing up your insulation. In many houses, especially older ones, there are little cracks and holes we can’t see. It’s through these holes that heat and cool air easily escape, running up your energy bills. You’d be amazed how much energy you can conserve when you insulate your house and refrain from accidentally heating the outside.
According to EPA.gov, one faucet that leaks at a rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year, which is enough to take more than 180 showers. Seal up the leaks in your home with a quick caulk and keep your hard-earned money and unused water from running down the drain.
Upgrade Your Toilet
Older toilets use significantly more water, about 7 gallons on average. Energy-efficient toilets use about 1.6 gallons on average. Even using a bidet with your energy-efficient toilet would use less water than an average older toilet. Spending the money on an energy-efficient toilet now will save you money and precious water in the future.
Whether you’re vegetarian or not, consider participating in Meatless Mondays. Animal agriculture is said to be worse for the environment, and a bigger contributor to greenhouse gases, than automobiles. Giving up meat one day a week can add up after a while and help reduce your ecological footprint significantly.
Composting reduces the amount of natural material you’re sending to the landfills, saving space and resources used to transport waste. It also adds nutrients to the soil, benefitting organisms like earthworms that provide a vital role in the health of your garden.
There are heaps of how-to videos online for taking your first steps toward composting. A great place to start is with a small bin and work your way up as you become more familiar with the process.
One place homeowners can be more sustainable that’s commonly overlooked is when decorating their homes. Some of us change decor with every season, and sometimes that means buying all new materials every few months. Yes, shopping for new decorations can be fun. But the more often you purchase new things, the worse it is for the environment. Consider saving season-specific or holiday decorations and reusing them a couple of times before switching them out.
When it comes to everyday home decor, try to purchase from companies that are known for being environmentally responsible. You can also choose to stray away from plastics, and purchase furniture and accessories made from recycled or easily renewable materials like bamboo, hemp and organic cotton.
Switching to a minimalist style can also help you buy less of the furniture and accessories you don’t really need that clutter up your home anyway. By purchasing only what you truly need for your home, you’re reducing the waste you’ll put out later in life, helping you make less of a negative impact on the environment
If you’re curious about how your personal ecological footprint makes a difference, footprintcalculator.org is a site that helps you calculate just that based on your current activities. It even allows you to compare with people in other countries around the world.
While saving the Earth is a collective effort, what we do individually is all we have complete control of. And it can arguably make the biggest impact. When we’re more intentional with swapping out current habits and materials in our home for more eco-friendly options, we can gain some peace of mind knowing we’re doing our part. If we each pitch in, we can make our way to a safer, greener home and hopefully make enough of an impact to save coral, koalas and humans alike.
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