Some homeowners might think that being sustainable is an all-or-nothing proposition — that they must completely overhaul their lifestyle (and home). In reality, every small change can make a difference. Now that sustainability is top of mind for many of us year-round, here are my favorite tips to be eco-forward at home.
First, making eco-forward decisions doesn’t necessarily require a big cash outlay. While some sustainable features may have a higher upfront cost, they can lead to long-term savings through reduced energy and water bills and can increase the value of a home. If you’re looking to make an update without breaking the bank, try these easy options:
- Switch to LED light bulbs. Replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs is a smart investment to reduce energy consumption in your home. LED bulbs use up to 80% less energy than traditional bulbs and last up to 25 times longer.
- Use eco-friendly cleaning products. Switching to cleaning products without toxic chemicals, such as vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap, can reduce toxins in your home and minimize your impact on the environment.
- Install a programmable thermostat. A smart thermostat helps you to set your heating and cooling system to turn off or reduce energy consumption in off-peak hours or when you are away.
- Get a bidet. Bidets are a sustainable alternative to traditional toilets. They use water instead of paper, reducing the amount of waste generated, and can be a more hygienic option.
Putting eco-forward behaviors into practice doesn’t even have to require any cash out of pocket. If you’re looking for a lifestyle change, here are a few things you can do immediately:
- Use public transportation, bike, or walk. If you live in a suburban area, start small by picking one or two days a week to forgo your car. Try your local bus, bike, or walk to your destination, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.
- Reduce waste. Recycle, compost, and reduce single-use plastic by using reusable shopping bags, water bottles, and food containers.
- Shop second-hand. Shopping at second-hand marketplaces (thrift stores, consignment shops, neighborhood garage sales) reduces waste and avoids consuming new resources. When you buy used household goods or clothing, you’re lessening the volume of stuff that goes into landfills.
- Plant a garden. Planting a garden and growing your own fruits and vegetables helps to reduce carbon emissions and your reliance on store-bought produce that has been transported long distances.
- Wash clothes in cold water. Washing clothes in cold water uses less energy than hot water. Many detergents today are formulated to work just as effectively in cold water.
- Use a clothesline. Hanging your clothes outside instead of using a dryer saves energy and can extend the lifespan of fabrics. It’s also a great way to enjoy some fresh air while doing your laundry.
- Support eco-forward businesses. Supporting businesses that prioritize sustainability can have a big impact. Research and choose businesses that source products locally, use renewable energy and reduce waste.
How to find an eco-forward home
Whether you’re touring a home in person or virtually, there are things to look for to ensure it’s eco-forward:
- Energy efficiency. Look for homes that have features such as Energy Star-rated appliances, high-efficiency HVAC systems, and non-toxic, high-performance insulation. Ask about overall energy usage and look for energy-saving measures like LED lighting, programmable thermostats, and solar panels.
- Water efficiency. Look for homes that have low-flow toilets, showerheads, and faucets, as well as efficient irrigation systems for outdoor space. Ask about water usage and any water-saving measures like rainwater harvesting systems or greywater recycling.
- Building materials. Look for homes with eco-friendly building materials such as recycled or sustainably sourced wood, bamboo, or cork flooring, low-VOC paints, and natural insulation. Ask about green building certifications the home may have, such as LEED or Energy Star.
- Outdoor space. Look for homes with outdoor spaces that have been landscaped with native plants that don’t require excessive water use or chemical treatments. Look for evidence of composting, rain gardens, or other sustainable landscaping features.
- Walkability and bike-ability. Look for neighborhoods with well-designed sidewalks, bike lanes, trails, and easy access to public transportation as well as access to nearby parks, green spaces, and community gardens.
- Sustainable food options. Neighborhoods with farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture programs, and urban gardens offer access to fresh, locally grown food that’s sustainably produced.
- City commitment to RRR. Look for a city that has a commitment to reduce, reuse, and recycle (RRR), and offers curbside recycling and composting options.