Six simple tips for greener living By Rachel Kelly
Caring for our environment goes both ways. When we care for our surroundings then we thrive from an environment that returns that care in abundance. When we are responsible with our resources, we will always have what we need. It can be overwhelming, within our current circumstances, to know exactly how to be responsible with our resources. The problem can seem too big. We do have to live after all, and we would preferably like to live in comfort. This means that we use resources. We are a valuable part of the environment, and so it stands to reason that we would also use the environment's resources. The question is how to do so responsibly? Taking what we need and giving back what we don’t? When talking about sustainability, it all adds up. Every step, every bit, counts. At times, our decisions have positive global consequences. Especially when our daily decisions are a normal part of the everyday way of living life. Here are a few steps to make your home and energy use count.
Step One: Think Temperature. The largest use of energy in any home is usually heating and cooling. Switching how we think of temperature can reduce our energy use and bring down that energy bill. It would be great if everyone could utilize solar (sun) or turbine (water) power, however, that’s not always accessible. The easiest way to bring down costs is proper insulation and ventilation. So, this means updated windows and vents, and added insulation in the walls. Simple inexpensive installations such as a dormer fan put ventilation to work for you by moving air. This only costs a few hundred dollars but saves you several times that every year.
Step Two: Rethink Lighting. There’s no reason to reduce the amount of lighting that you have or are used to. Rethinking how you get it though reduces your energy usage while making a more pleasant environment. Additional windows in closed spaces is the most obvious renovation but is not always possible. However, the use of LED light bulbs is incredibly inexpensive and saves money every time you turn on the switch. Another easy change is installing dimmer switches in heavily used areas for customizable lighting. There are other slight modifications too, such as solar-charging outdoor lighting (they turn on automatically!) or the placement of tea lights in dark hallways.
Step Three: Hack Your Lifestyle. Part of a greener, more sustainable lifestyle means making small changes to everyday life. There are lots of simple changes that we can bring about in the day to day that make big differences in our local ecosystem. Simple non-toxic cleaners such as anti-bacterial vinegar water (sometimes with a few drops of essential oil) and baking soda scrub clean just as well, and sometimes better, than mainstream cleaners, and at a quarter of the cost. Laundry strips instead of jugs of detergent keep plastic out of the ocean. Whatever the damage, there’s always an easier, cheaper alternative that preserves our natural resources.
Step Four: Outdoor Water. We use a lot of water to keep our homes looking nice, and a manicured look doesn’t have to be sacrificed for the sake of “living green.” An overhaul of our yards to greenery that resembles our environment would be the logical step, but such a change requires time and money. An easy sustainable step would be the re-use of water that we all already possess. A rain barrel can collect water from drains and can be filled with a simple filtration system to recycle gray water. While the water from the rain barrel isn’t drinkable, it is usable in the yard and garden.
Step Five: Indoor Water. It’s difficult to use less water, especially if you have a family. In the past, each family member would wash in the same water to limit the number of times one individual would have to re-heat the water. I think we'd all like to avoid that extreme. Simple ways to be more sustainable with our indoor water use is to install a faucet filter to cut down on water bottles. There are also shower heads and faucet heads that can be installed that reduce water usage, as well as the low-cost installation of a dual-flush conversion kit for the toilets. Reduce rather than reuse is the strategy for indoor water use.
Step Six: Awareness. This may seem like a simple concept, but awareness of where our products come from and the kind of lifestyle we live can lead to global change. Simple things like recycling plastic wrap through local services, or cutting down on the use of plastic wrap all together by using foil, sticky paper or bees wrap. Changes like the willingness to buy clothing from thrift stores cuts down on waste from an industry that causes entire cities to suffer from toxic pollution. These small changes pay off in global benefits and are an easy way to make lasting change. All those small steps really do add up.