With the planet warming up at an alarming rate, living in a way that’s helpful rather than harmful to the environment should be a priority for each and every one of us.
The benefits aren’t just for the environment, of course, as greener living can end up saving you money. Making your home eco friendly doesn’t have to be expensive either because green living is more about being informed and making better choices than about spending a lot of money.
Not sure where to get started or just need some inspiration to keep moving forward? Here are a few practical ideas for setting up a more eco friendly household.
- Source eco-friendly and recycled building materials
If you’re planning to renovate your home, you’ll be in the unique position of being able to choose your own building materials and hire trades people whose practices are environmentally friendly.
Look for materials that have the lowest possible impact on the environment, such as reclaimed wood, hemp and timbercrete, mudbricks, bamboo and others. In order to reduce waste, you should also consider whether things like kitchen cabinets could be refurbished rather than replaced.
- Use non-toxic paints with natural pigments
Indoor air is known to be three times more polluted than outdoor air, and paint is one of biggest causes of indoor air pollution. Regular paints often contain everything from heavy metals to formaldehyde and other VOCs, which are not only harmful to the environment, but can also damage your health.
So if you want to liven up a room in your home by giving it a fresh coat of paint, look for non-toxic paints that use sustainable materials and natural pigments.
- Check your windows
Windows tend to be a weak point in many homes, and research shows that in the colder months, poorly insulated windows can lose up to 40% of a home’s heating, whereas in the summertime, simply using window treatments like awnings and blinds can prevent 75%-85% of solar heat gain.
Of course, installing high efficiency windows can be expensive, so if you can’t afford to change out your windows, you can make your current ones more efficient by checking for any rotting wood, gaps or leaks around the window frame and having them resealed if necessary.
- Upgrade old appliances
Older appliances may use as much as 50% more energy than newer models, so if you’re still using appliances that are more than 15 years old, you may want to consider changing them out.
If this seems expensive, remember that investing in energy-efficient appliances will save you money in the long run, and you don’t have to replace everything in one go either. Perhaps one month you could replace the old kettle and then two or three months later you could spring for a new refrigerator.
When getting rid of your old appliances, however, be sure to do your research to find out how you can dispose of them responsibly or locate a recycling company near you.
- Use appliances thoughtfully
Even if your appliances are energy-efficient, using them thoughtfully will help reduce the strain on the environment. For instance, if you place your refrigerator near a window that gets a lot of sun, it will have to work much harder to keep things cool, so it’s best to keep it in a shaded area.
Similarly, research shows that overfilling the kettle wastes millions of dollars each year, and the same goes for running the washing machine or dishwasher for only a few items.
- Install low flow toilets and showerheads
Aside from saving you money on your monthly water bills, low flow toilets and showerheads help to conserve one of the earth’s most precious resources.
When it comes to showerheads, those manufactured before 1992 use about 5.5 gallons a minute, whereas newer ones use only about 2.5 gallons. Low flow toilets are just as efficient as regular ones but use about half as much water.
If you can’t afford a new toilet just yet, though, it is possible to make your current one more efficient. Simply fill two one-liter water bottles with pebbles or gravel, flush the toilet and then put the bottles in the tank. This will save you two liters of water every time you flush.
- Start using natural cleaning products
Another reason the level of indoor air pollution is often so high is the use of cleaning products. Conventional cleaning products contain non-biodegradable and toxic chemicals that end up in our waterways where they damage plant and animal life.
So when shopping for household cleaning products and detergents, it’s best to look for products using natural ingredients such as borax or hydrogen peroxide. Alternatively, you can even make your own all-purpose cleaning products by using simple ingredients like vinegar, baking soda or lemon. If you’re interested in making your own non-toxic cleaning products, you can find out how to do so here.
Of course these aren’t the only things you can do to reduce your environmental footprint, but getting started in these small ways will help you become more eco-conscious in other areas of your life as well.
Marianne Stenger is a writer with Open Colleges. She covers everything from career development to life hacks and sustainable living. You can connect with her on Google+ and Twitter or find her latest articles here.
4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again
As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.
Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.
Jars and Containers
Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.
An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.
Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!
If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!
Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!
These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money
The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.
Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.
Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.
Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale
The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.
Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.
Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI
It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.
Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.
Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.
Implementing green changes without a plan
Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.
Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:
- How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
- How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
- How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
- How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?
The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.
Not considering the benefits of green printing
Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.
Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.
According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:
- They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
- They consume less energy than traditional printers.
- They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.
You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.
Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers
Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.
The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.
You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.
Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.
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