Going on a carbon diet? Planning a green domestic overhaul? If you are energy bill looks anything as mine did, it could be the smartest thing you do all year.
Researchers believe about a third of energy in buildings is wasted by inefficiency and pointless usage. At least as much money is being spent to subsidize these losses. As the cost of energy rises, ‘greening’ your home and property becomes ever more appealing.
Luckily, it has never been so easy to make the switch to an environmental mindset, especially on your own home territory. Just take it one-step at a time. Here, I’ve gathered six basic eco-friendly home improvements you can make in the short term that will help not only the environment, but your health and budget, too. Let’s take a look.
1. Tread Lightly
Got hardwood floors? All-natural bamboo is becoming a popular eco-friendly alternative to hardwood flooring. The problem with slow-maturing hard woods like oak and walnut, for instance, is they are difficult to replace in the natural environment.
Bamboo, a cherished symbol of simplicity, grows much faster than conventional timber and is a considerably more sustainable flooring choice. Famously durable, bamboo is better at repelling water than normal hardwood floors and it’s strikingly easy to refinish.
The versatile material costs about the same as hardwood, averaging $5 or $6 per square foot. Choosing natural bamboo over fragile old growth lumber is an effective way to tread more lightly on Mother Earth.
For more information why you should use Bamboo click here.
2. Green Your Ride
Since the largest single impact on the planet is transportation, there’s plenty of room for improvement in this area. While airplanes are the least green mode of transportation, the number one most efficient way to travel is by bicycle. Walking is also quite healthy for both you and the earth.
Cars and trucks? Not so much, although carpools, high MPG ratings and electric vehicles can help. If you must drive your own vehicle, it’s very important to keep its maintenance on schedule. An auto in poor working order is much worse for the environment.
Keep an eye on your tires’ air pressure in particular, topping off the air about once a month. Flabby tires waste fuel. So do older cars compared to newer ones. The latest vehicles are much better at minimizing inefficiency and harmful emissions. That said, avoiding personal automobiles altogether is by far the most eco-friendly choice.
Read Get Fit and Go Green.
3. Buy Local, Recycle Local
Recycling provides big benefits to the planet’s atmosphere by reducing overall materials consumption. No matter the material that is recycled, its production is likely to have required enormous amounts of energy to produce, process and ship. All this energy amounts to a huge carbon footprint.
The more we recycle, the more we lessen our negative impacts on the earth. For the same reason, it’s important not only to recycle, but to purchase goods from local sellers and producers in the first place. Buying and recycling locally is a great way to support your community and keep the earth clean and green.
Read this Recycling Guide.
4. Insulation of Champions
Insulation helps your house use energy more efficiently by decreasing the amount of hot and cold air lost to the outside atmosphere. Older homes frequently need more insulation, but even newer ones can get a cost-effective upgrade and see a positive return on investment. This year, insulation costs from about $1.30 to $1.70 per square foot.
Don’t forget that windows are major hotspots for insulation issues. Windows don’t just let light in and out; they also serve as escape hatches for your expensive heating and cooling. Even if you filled every draft with stuffing and caulk, the gains would quickly be wiped out in a house with poorly resistant windows.
How do you know the best windows to buy? I know how easy it is to get bogged down in the murky science of window efficiency. Unless you’re a true fenestration geek, I recommend the more straightforward solution, which is to ensure any new windows are marked with the blue ENERGY STAR logo.
The STAR means someone has already been paid to assess the product’s efficiency on your behalf, and they liked what they saw. The ENERGY STAR method is a simple shopping trick for identifying energy-efficient products without having to memorize a list of environmentally-friendly brands.
5. Fluorescence is Key
Speaking of ENERGY STAR, you can also use the ES label to guide your light bulb purchasing decisions. More people than ever know to look for the ENERGY STAR-rated curly-shaped CFLs, or compact fluorescent lamps, when their old light bulbs burn out.
Why all the fuss? CFLs help you minimize the amount of tribute you must make to the utility company. They’re more efficient and last ten times longer than their filament-based counterparts. It’s nothing against Thomas Edison; incandescence had a great century-long run, but the future belongs to cheaper and more eco-friendly fluorescence.
6. Baseload Sunshine
I think of my home’s lighting as a system that includes sunshine entering from the outdoors. Did you know you can use vitamin-rich sunlight to both light and warm your home’s interior during the daytime? Not only is sunlight free to all, it is conveyed straight from the sky to your threshold, carbon-free.
During the day, let in natural light first, and then top off as needed with artificial lighting. This principle works with cooling, too; when you want to keep the house cool, shut out major sun streams before you turn on the A/C.
Of course, the ultimate in solar efficiency and productivity would come from installing your own solar panel. The cost of photovoltaic cells has dramatically dropped in the last several years, so crunch the math and see how long it would take for a solar panel investment to pay for itself. It may be shorter than you think.
Rebecca Youse has a passion for help people find eco choices for their homes. Rebecca has 12 years’ experience and hopes to blog about her passion on a more regular basis.