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7 Easy Ways to Make Your Home More Eco Friendly



3D Green Home By Chris Potter Via Flickr

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.



Want to Connect With Nature? Start by Disconnecting From Busyness



Connect With Nature

Have you ever found yourself staring at one of your (many) devices and feeling slightly disgusted with how much time you waste on technology? If so, you aren’t alone. We all have moments like these and it’s important that we use them as motivation to change – especially if we want to be more connected with nature.

How Busyness Impacts Your Connection With Nature

Whether you realize it or not, you live an ultra connected life. Between smart phones, tablets, computers, and wearable devices, you’re never very far from some sort of technology that can connect you to the internet or put you in touch with other people. That’s just the world we live in.

While it could be argued that this sort of omnipresent connectivity is a positive thing, it’s also pretty clear that being permanently tethered to technology impacts our ability to strip away distractions and connect with nature.

When you’re always within arm’s reach of a device, you feel a sense of busyness.  Whether it’s browsing your social media feed, uploading a picture, reading the news, or responding to an email, there’s always something to do. As someone who wants to spend more time in nature, this is problematic.

4 Practical Ways to Disconnect

If you want to truly connect with nature and live a greener lifestyle, you have to be proactive about finding ways to disconnect. Here are a few practical suggestions:

1. Switch to a New Phone Plan

It’s not always practical to totally unplug from the world. Family and work responsibilities mean you can’t go off the grid and continue to fulfill your responsibilities. Having said that, there are some ways to scale back.

One suggestion is to switch to a prepaid phone plan. When you have a prepaid phone plan, you’re far less likely to spend hours and hours of your time making phone calls, sending texts, and surfing the web. It forces you to be more conscious of what you’re doing.

2. Get Rid of Social Media

Social media is one of the biggest time wasters for most people. Whether you realize it or not, it’s also a huge stressor. You’re constantly being exposed to the best snapshots of everyone else’s lives, which makes you feel like you’re missing out on something (even when you aren’t).

If you want to feel a sense of relief and free yourself up to spend more time in nature, get rid of social media. Don’t just delete the apps off your phone – actually disable your accounts. It’s a bold, yet necessary step.

3. Create Quiet Hours

If you aren’t able to get rid of social media and disable various online accounts, the next best thing you can do is establish quiet hours each day where you totally detach from technology. You should do this for a minimum of three hours per day for best results.

4. Build Community

Do you know why we’re drawn to social media and our devices? Whether consciously or subconsciously, it’s because we all want to be connected to other people. But do you know what’s better than connecting with people online? Connecting with them in person.

As you build real life, person-to-person relationships, you’ll feel less of a need to constantly have your eyes glued to a screen. Connect with other people who have an appreciation for nature and bond over your mutual interests.

Untether Your Life

If you find yourself constantly connected to a device, then this is probably a clear indicator that you aren’t living your best life. You certainly aren’t enjoying any sort of meaningful connection with nature. Now’s as good a time as any to untether your life and explore what a world free from cords, screens, and batteries is really like.

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6 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Move



Moving can be a stressful and challenging time. No matter how many times you’ve done it in the past, the process of packing up, transporting, and unpacking isn’t very fun. It’s also not very eco-friendly. As you prepare for your next move, there are things you can do to ensure you leave less of a footprint behind.

6 Tips for a Greener Move

Because of the stress and pressure felt when moving, it’s pretty common for people to rush through the process and focus on getting it done. In fact, a lot of people take an “at all costs” approach; they’ll do whatever it takes to make the process as cheap and fast as possible. Don’t be one of those people. It doesn’t take much effort to turn a standard move into an eco-friendly move.

1. Maximize Each Trip

When moving across town, it’s imperative that you make as few trips as possible. Each trip requires more gas, more emissions, and more waste, and more time.

If you’re taking your personal vehicle, consider pulling a trailer behind it. You’d be surprised how much stuff you can fit into a small trailer. Not only will it make your move greener, but it’ll also save you a lot of time.

2. Donate Things You Don’t Want to Keep

The longer you live somewhere, the more junk you accumulate. This isn’t always obvious until you start packing for a big move. Instead of bringing all of these things with you to your next home, get rid of the stuff you don’t need! If the items are useful, donate them. If the items don’t have much value, toss them.

3. Reuse Moving Boxes

Not only are moving boxes expensive, but they’re also wasteful. If you need a bunch of cardboard boxes, consider looking around on Craigslist, asking friends, or checking the dumpsters behind stores. You can usually find a bunch of recycled boxes of all different shapes and sizes. Here are 12 places you can get them for free.

4. Get Creative With Packing

Who says you need moving boxes? You may find that it’s possible to do most of your move without all that cardboard. Things like storage containers, trashcans, filing cabinets, buckets, and dressers can all store items. Blankets and sheets can be used in lieu of bubble wrap to prevent your items from getting damaged.

5. Use Green Cleaning Supplies

Once you arrive at your new place, resist the urge to pull out a bunch of harsh chemicals to clean the place. You can do yourself (and the planet) a favor by using green cleaning supplies instead. Ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and ammonia are great to start with.

6. Forward Your Mail ASAP

Don’t delay in forwarding your mail from your previous address to your new one. Not only is it wasteful for the Postal Service to route your mail to a place where you don’t live, but the next owner is probably just going to toss your letters in the trash.

Moving Doesn’t Have to be Wasteful

Most people only move once every few years. Some people will go a decade or more without a move. As a result, the process of moving often feels strange and new. The less experience you have with it, the less likely it is that you’ll be as efficient as you should. But instead of just diving into the process blind, take some time to learn about what an eco-friendly move looks like. That way, you can leave behind the smallest footprint possible.

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