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.
Extra-Mile Water Conservation Efforts Amidst Shortage
While some states are literally flooding due to heavy rains and run-off, others are struggling to get the moisture they need. States like Arizona and California have faced water emergencies for the last few years; water conserving efforts from citizens help keep them out of trouble.
If your area is experiencing a water shortage, there are a few things you can do to go the extra mile.
Repair and Maintain Appliances
Leaks around the house – think showerheads, toilets, dishwashers, and more – lead to wasted water. Beyond that, the constant flow of water will cause water damage to your floors and walls. Have repairs done as soon as you spot any problems.
Sometimes, a leak won’t be evident until it gets bad. For that reason, make appointments to have your appliances inspected and maintained at least once per year. This will extend the life of each machine as well as nip water loss in the bud.
When your appliances are beyond repair, look into Energy Star rated replacements. They’re designed to use the least amount of water and energy possible, without compromising on effectiveness.
Only Run Dishwasher and Washer When Full
It might be easier to do a load of laundry a day rather than doing it once per week, but you’ll waste a lot more water this way. Save up your piles of clothes until you have enough to fully load the washing machine. You could also invest in a washing machine that senses the volume of water needed according to the volume of clothes.
The same thing goes with the dishwasher. Don’t push start until you’ve filled it to capacity. If you have to wash dishes, don’t run the water while you’re washing. Fill the sink or a small bowl a quarter of the way full and use this to wash your dishes.
Recycle Water in Your Yard
Growing a garden in your backyard is a great way to cut down on energy and water waste from food growers and manufacturers, but it will require a lot more water on your part. Gardens must be watered, and this often leads to waste.
You can reduce this waste by participating in water recycling. Using things like a rain barrel, pebble filtering system, and other tools, you can save thousands of gallons a year and still keep your landscaping and garden beautiful and healthy.
Landscape with Drought-Resistant Plants
Recycling water in your yard is a great way to reduce your usage, but you can do even more by reducing the amount of water required to keep your yard looking great. The best drought-resistant plants are those that are native to the area. In California, for example, succulents grow very well, and varieties of cactus do well in states like Arizona or Texas.
Install Water-Saving Features
The average American household uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water every single day. You obviously can’t cut out things like showering or using the toilet, but you can install a few water-saving tools to make your water use more efficient.
There are low-flow showerheads, toilets, and faucet aerators. You could also use automatic shut-off nozzles, shower timers, and grey water diverters. Any of these water saving devices can easily cut your water usage in half.
Research Laws and Ordinances for Your City
Dry states like California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada must create certain laws to keep the water from running out. These laws are put into practice for the benefit of everyone, but they only work if you abide by the laws.
If you live in a state where drought is common, research your state and city’s laws. They might designate one day per week that you’re allowed to water your lawn or how full you can fill a pool. Many people are not well versed in the laws set by their states, and it would mean a lot to your community if you did your part.
Cyprus is the Forerunner for Ecotourism
When I was looking for a second citizenship, I happened to see One Visa’s offer on Cyprus Citizenship by investment program. I had heard about Cyprus being a beautiful country, but I did not know much else, so I decided to start my own research about this gem of a place.
After I did some research, I discovered that Cyprus is a popular destination for tourists. Unfortunately, heavy tourism and the associated development affected villages here and there, with some communities being slowly abandoned. To avoid this from happening any further, Cyprus went into ecotourism, and today, it is the forerunner in this arena. Let’s look in further detail at ecotourism in Cyprus here.
How was it started?
It all started in 2006 with the launch of the “Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative.” This program has the sole scope of promoting ecotourism developments in the tourism industry. It concentrates on those areas which require conservation and environmental safety. At the same time, it helps develop social, as well as economic statuses in the rural parts of Cyprus. Through this program, the government was able to acknowledge that ecotourism will play an essential role in the future of Cyprus, with the concept gaining momentum among tourists from all over the globe.
How to go about it?
So, now you are interested in going for an ecotourism vacation in Cyprus. How will you go about it? I would immediately say that everyone should visit the quaint Cypriot villages spread throughout the island. These communities have a smaller population, and not many tourists visit. They make for a great relaxing spot. Enjoy seeing the bustle of village life go by where simple pleasures abound. Most hamlets are linked by specific minibus tours which ferry tourists to these havens. These trips will have a regular schedule, aimed at promoting ecotourism further. Such tours will be regulated to ensure that while the villages can benefit and develop, they do not get overpopulated or overcrowded with tourists. Therefore, you can be sure to enjoy the beautiful sceneries that nature has to offer here.
If you are wondering if there are any activities to do here, my answer would be: “Yes, plenty.” You can go for some guided walks across various regions here. Here you will be able to explore the diversified natural beauty and wildlife of the area. Several agritourism activities and services are planned to open shortly. Once launched, you will be able to engage in picking olives, milking goats, and several other such events here.
What can be learned?
Although we are aware that natural resources need to be preserved, we do not always remember it in real life. When we go on tours such as these, we can realize the significance of protecting nature. Also, when more and more people visit these places, the concept of ecotourism will become popular among more people. Awareness about ecotourism is set to grow and spread throughout the world. Subsequently, sustainable tourism will gain popularity around the globe with Cyprus being the forerunner for ecotourism .