Today, approximately 10% of homes under construction in the United States are considered green, compared with just 2% in 2005. They are built from toxin-free materials and have energy-efficient features that not only are environmentally friendly but save homeowners money in the long run. Green homes use 40% less energy than standard homes, according to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).
But what if you aren’t in the market for a new home? No matter where you live, there’s much you can do to create a healthier living place, be kind to the environment, and cut your energy costs.
Wash Full Loads
You’ll save at least 3,400 gallons of water a year if you wash only full loads of laundry, according to the USGBC.
Try Cold Water
About 90% of the energy used to wash clothes goes toward heating the water. Wash your clothes in cold water using a cold-water detergent whenever possible. You’ll not only save money by not heating the water, you’ll also lessen the CO2 emissions. Just think: If everyone in the US washed their clothes in cold water, it would reduce our nation’s CO2 emissions by 47 million tons per year!
By replacing five of your most frequently used incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), you’ll save over $100 a year. If every family in the US did this, greenhouse gas emissions would decline by 1 trillion pounds.
Flip the Switch
For the lights with incandescent bulbs, turn them off when they aren’t in use. Only 5 to 15% of the energy drawn by incandescent bulbs is used for light. The rest is just waste heat, says Harvey M. Sachs, PhD, senior fellow of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s Building Program, based in Washington, D.C.
Turn down thermostats when you aren’t at home or you’re sleeping, and you’ll save 10% on heating and cooling costs. What are the most efficient settings for summer and winter? The settings closest to the outdoor temperature that you can tolerate, Sachs says.
Stop Air Leaks
They are the biggest energy drain, and they also happen to be the easiest to fix. Weatherstripping and/or caulking will do the trick.
Try The DIY Approach
Instead of going through the nasty chemicals to some activities within and outside the house, try the homemade solution (otherwise known as “DIY approach”). Some things are easily dealt with and are much more effective. For example, instead of using harsh chemicals to clean your grout, try the vinegar and baking soda approach; instead of some hair aerosols, try shampoos and conditioners that effective and natural, such as that being reviewed by Andrea; instead of insect repellants in can, use a citronella candles or a solution made out essential oils.
Wipe Your Feet!
According to the Washington Toxics Coalition, using entryway mats can reduce the amount of toxic residues on carpets by 25% and dust on carpets by 33%. Homes where shoes are left at the door have 10 times less dust than homes where shoes are worn inside.
Choose Energy Star
Americans using Energy Star appliances, lights, and windows saved $12 billion in 2005, and enough energy to equal the emissions from 23 million cars.
Buy A Plant
Paints, varnishes, cleaning supplies, computer printers, and even air fresheners release pollutants called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Australian researchers have discovered that houseplants, specifically Janet Crain and Sweet Chico, reduce VOCs by up to 70%. Plants pull in pollutants floating in the air. The toxins travel to the roots, where soil breaks them down into nontoxic compounds that the plant then uses for food.
When electronics are turned off, they are in “standby” mode, which means they’re continuing to use energy. Almost any device in your home that has a remote control, continuous LED display, soft touch keypad, or external power source or that charges batteries is drawing standby energy. According to the US Department of Energy, 75% of the electricity that power appliances and electronics is used while they are turned off. In an average home, at least 20 devices use standby energy. So when you aren’t using electronics such as computers, printers, and AC adaptors, unplug them.