14 Easy Ways to Have an Eco‑Friendly House
The Beatles once sang, “Well, you know, we all want to change the world,” and that has never been more true than today. Most people understand that there are changes we can make that will make our lives and planet healthier and happier. A lot of those changes seem overwhelming, but the truth is that they don’t have to be.
In honor of the “Fresh Takeover: 14 Days of Fresh” campaign by Choose Cartons, I’ve put together 14 easy ways you can help your home and the environment be a little more green. And trust me, some of these ideas are beyond simple!
- Use your blinds and curtains. You know how you chose the perfect blinds and curtains for each room? Well, their purpose is not just decorative. Opening your blinds and curtains lets in more heat and light, reducing the need for heating and artificial light. And closing the curtains in the summertime to block direct sunlight can reduce air conditioning needs. (See how easy this is going to be?)
- Add rugs. Other items you often use for decorative purposes are rugs. Since wall-to-wall carpeting is less common these days, use throw rugs on your hardwood floors to reduce energy costs by up to 6 percent. (See, still pretty easy.)
- Recycle. It’s so obvious, but many of us don’t recycle because we think it takes too much effort. But the great thing about paperboard cartons is that they’re recyclable.* So make sure you put those cartons in the recycle bin!
- Don’t waste food. Did you know that a third of the world’s food is spoiled or wasted before it is consumed+? In 2013, in fact, I understand that the U.S. threw away 37 million tons of food++! So, when grocery shopping, I try to look for refrigerated beverages that are ultra-pasteurized, because I know beverages processed like this hit the “sweet spot” for freshness. They’ll last longer in the refrigerator (but be sure to check the code date), and they still should have the great nutrients and taste you’d expect from the ingredients.
- Get your kids in the shower. If your kids are of the age to take advantage of showers versus the bathtub, do it! Showers use 14 percent less water than baths.
- Buy carton packaging. Not all packaging is created equal when it comes to protecting food freshness, which is why I try to buy products packaged in cartons when I can. Paperboard cartons can help protect the product inside from light and moisture, which can negatively impact the nutrients and taste. They help keep foods fresh, are made from a renewable resource (trees) and are recyclable. Win, win, win! Cartons are such an easy way to make a positive impact on the environment!
- Compost. This one is a little more challenging, but composting is a great way to reduce landfills and, if you garden, save money. Many municipalities now offer composting programs that keep you from having to learn about “turning” and other composting methods. If your city doesn’t offer this service, though, composting can be a great science lesson for kids.
- Wash clothes in cold water. It’s just a matter of pressing the cold button on your washing machine. Interestingly enough, most clothes really don’t need to be washed in warm or hot water. Using cold water will reduce monthly energy costs and help your clothes last longer.
- Clean with vinegar and other natural products. You’d be amazed at how many things simple white vinegar can clean in your home. In addition to vinegar, I often create a scrub with lemon juice and baking soda. When my kids were little (and still helpful), they loved to watch it bubble as they scrubbed the bathtub for me. It was a fun activity for them, and I didn’t have to worry about harmful chemical residue in the bathtub.
- Turn off the computer. No, not right now. Ha! But in general, if you’re stepping away from your computer, don’t just let it “sleep.” Turn it off completely to save energy.
- Don’t heat or cool an empty house. Even if you don’t have a programmable thermostat, you can still turn down the heat or turn up the air conditioning when you leave the house — and especially overnight.
- Use tap water. Stop using bottled water and try reusable bottles that you can filter and refill. And if you really don’t want to drink from the tap or buy a filter, try buying water in cartons instead. Paperboard cartons are made from renewable materials and are recyclable.*
- Turn off the water. I know, I just said to drink tap water. But if you’re not filling a glass for a drink of water, turn it off — especially when you’re brushing your teeth! And be sure to check that you don’t have any leaky faucets or toilets, which can increase water usage unnecessarily.
- Meatless Monday. It’s a thing for a reason. Raising livestock creates a lot of greenhouse gases. Having just one meatless meal a week (for a family of four) may have the same effect on the environment as driving a hybrid car. Don’t forget, when you’re purchasing your ingredients for your meatless meal, think fresh, healthy and local.
There you have it. Fourteen easy changes to make your house a little more planet-friendly! That it wasn’t so hard, was it?
*Recyclable only where facilities exist. Visit www.recyclecartons.com to see if you can recycle in your area.
+Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
++US EPA Sustainable Management of Food Program