Switch your shower head
If yours is old it likely rates at 5.5 gallons per minute(gpm) or more. Newer ones can be as low as 1.5 gpm. Look for a model that's at least lower than 2.5 gpm. That's approximately 45 gallons of water saved per 15 minute shower. Think about all the hot water you're not having to heat.
Check your faucet aerators
Installing low-flow faucet aerators is the single most effective water conservation savings you can do for your home. Plus, they are cheap and easy to switch.
Speed up hot water
If you wait for more than 30 seconds for hot water at any faucet in your home, install a recirculation pump to stop wasting water. Some pumps can be installed by a savvy do-it-yourselfer, but if in doubt hire a licensed electrician. Consider this: 3 minute wait for hot water equals 7.5 gallons wasted times 2-times a day equals 15 gallons down the drain a day or over 5,000 gallons of wasted per year. You're paying for that! Check out three of our favorite pumps at www.grundfos.com, www.autocirc.com and www.wattspremier.com.
Swap the toilet
Some newer toilets don't just use less water, they have dual flushing systems to use less water for liquid waste and more for solid. Check out the Aquia™ Dual Flush Toilet at www.totousa.com for one of our favorites.
Pack the Dishwasher
You'll wash more dishes with less water in the dishwasher over hand washing. To be even more sensitive to the environment, consider using a reduced phosphate, or phosphate-free dishwasher detergent.
An in ground cistern plumbed directly to your irrigation system would be a dream, but also very expensive. Try augmenting your outdoor water supply by installing a rain barrel or two fitted to your downspouts. A favorite of ours is at www.gardeners.com.
Swap your bulbs
You've likely heard about compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) by now. We say don't switch just because, do it as your other bulbs burn out. And don't feel like you have to put them everywhere. You might still like an incandescent by the bed or a reading chair. Look to put CFLs in lights that stay on for longer periods of time. Studies have shown that flipping CFLs on and off shorten their life.
Clean filters and screens
Dirty air filters reduce the efficiency of your furnace, just as a dirty lint screen reduces the efficiency of your clothes dryer. Check furnace filters at least monthly, and clean your lint screen every time you use your dryer.
Add Ceiling Fans
They may not be able to cool or heat a room, but they do mix air keeping you from having to adjust the thermostat.
Don't heat and cool unnecessarily.
Many homes lose a great deal of their conditioned air to leaky and inefficient duct work before it reaches the intended destination. Have a licensed HVAC contractor check and fix any bad ducts.
Program Your Home
Switching to a digital thermostat will ensure a more accurate indoor temperature. A programmable thermostat that adjusts throughout the day will be more efficient. However, if you stay or work at home, opt for a simple non-programmable digital model. A few of our favorites can be found www.carrier.com and www.lennox.com. Check with your local HVAC contractor to find the best one for you.
Don't over condition one room to make another comfortable. Have a licensed HVAC contractor balance your system so that every room remains a relatively constant temperature. This may cost a bit, but you'll be paid back in not just energy saved, but comfort.
Just Good Ideas
Install a small recycling center in the kitchen, mud room, or garage to handle items that can be recycled. Don't take a bag when you only buy a couple of items at the grocery, and try to buy just what you need.
Have an energy audit
Not as painful as another type of audit. Visit hes.lbl.gov to conduct a self-directed energy audit. You'll get immediate and realistic information about what you can do to make your home more efficient. For more through, in person energy audit, check out www.hometuneup.com to see if there's an inspector near you. They can come in and check for air leaks, see what areas of your home may be under insulated, and recommend some quick fixes to lower your energy bills.
Planting trees and shrubs in a few choice locations on the south and west sides of your home can reduce your energy bill. Plus, studies have shown that a nice landscape helps raise property values.
You probably have antiques of some sort in your home. They are the ultimate example of reuse and recycle, but if you are building or renovating, try using reclaimed or rapidly renewing materials for your flooring, siding, and roofing.
Ban the bottle
Stop drinking water from a bottle. Get a favorite cup or bottle and add a water cooler or filter to your house. Our favorite bottle is from www.mysigg.com. For a water cooler, check out www.island sky.com for a new water machine that makes fresh, potable water from the humidity in the air. Not bad for the long, humid Southern summers.
Try reusable bags
The petroleum used to make 14 traditional plastic grocery bags is enough to drive a car a mile. The 380 billion plastic bags that Americans throw away each year are made from millions of barrels of petroleum, contributing to global warming, depleting oil supplies, and driving up costs of petroleum-based products like gasoline and energy for our homes.
Switch to reusable bags and reduce this waste. Also, reusable bags are generally larger than traditional plastic shopping bags making the grocery store trip just a little easier.
*Belden, Derick (n.d.). 21 Real Life Ways to Go Green. Retrieved from, https://www.southernliving.com/healthy-living/going-green/20-real-life-ways-go-green#reusable-grocery-sack.
Transform your space with these easy, practical ideas and see how small changes add up to big benefits for our planet.
Trash Matters - Recycle
In many neighborhoods, Green living begins just outside the front door with curbside recycling. Paper, plastic, and aluminum account for 85% of packaging materials, and each is recyclable. Aside from produce, most grocery items are packaged in containers made to be recycled. If your family plows through a pantry full of groceries every week like we do here, start recycling. You’ll be amazed at how much trash and precious resources you’ll save from going into landfills. When we began a voluntary recycling program, the news spread quickly, and from the inspiration of one kitchen, we’re now kicking off a pilot recycling program for our entire company!
Crack the code by checking with local recycling centers for a listing of what can and cannot be recycled in your neighborhood. Before you begin, simplify sorting by designating colored containers or bags for easy separation and collection.
The checkout line dilemma--paper or plastic? Neither is acceptable for environmentally savvy shoppers. Paper bags generate an extreme amount of air and water pollution during production, and plastic bags pose serious threats to wildlife because they do not decompose. The solution is simple: Choose reusable cloth bags made from lightweight canvas, nylon, or recycled cotton. Eco-bags, as they are often called, are durable, budget-friendly alternatives for transporting groceries. Bags can be purchased in most supermarkets, online, and at local farmer’s markets. Select those that compress easily for storage, and stash several in your car.
Choosing to reuse helps decrease our consumption of precious natural resources and minimizes the volume of nonbiodegradable materials in our landfills. By making the switch, our Test Kitchens Professionals prevent an estimated 312 bags each per year from ending up in public landfills.
Going Green, One Kitchen at a Time
Everywhere you turn, Green is the word. Grasping the basics begins by cutting our daily production of household waste. An average kitchen contributes more than 200 pounds of waste each year, making it the ideal place to reduce our environmental impact. Take the challenge, and go Green with the Southern LivingTest Kitchens as we reduce, reuse, and recycle our way into an eco-friendly kitchen.
3 Simple Steps:
Green Kitchen Guide
Going Green in the kitchen has never been so simple. With little effort, your small changes will add up to big benefits. Before you begin, consider starting a home composting program to help reduce food and yard waste.
Check out the links we’ve included to help you transform your kitchen and monitor your eco-impact. Visit www.thegreenguide.com and www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ind_calculator.html. You’ll be amazed at the lasting impact made by one environmentally friendly kitchen!
Composting―Benefits Beyond the Kitchen
Three squares a day plus snacks create waste that adds up quickly, especially among larger families. It’s estimated that we could prevent 38% of our discarded food from going into landfills by composting. Use nature’s decomposition process to recycle raw food scraps and chemical-free yard clippings into rich organic soil. Take a load off your garbage disposal, and begin a home composting program that benefits the environment and your garden.
Getting started is easy. First, choose a kitchen and outdoor compost bin that’s right for you. In our Test Kitchens, we collect raw food scraps in ceramic crocks. We have found that lining the collection bins with biodegradable cellulose- or corn-based bags makes for a no-mess transfer to our outdoor compost bin. (The bags are available from www.cleanairgardening.com.) Next, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the type of food scraps that can and cannot be used in compost bins. As a general rule, all raw fruit and vegetable materials can be composted. Materials to avoid include meat-, fish-, and dairy-based foods as well as any food prepared with fats including oils, butter, dressings, and sauces.
Good Composting Materials: Fruit rinds and pulp, vegetable peels and stalks, nut shells, tea bags, coffee grinds and paper filters, crushed eggshells, grass clippings.
Check out these helpful resources for starting your own home composting program:
Follow the links below, and crack the recycling code:
Looking for reuseable cloth bags? Try one of these Web sites: www.reusablebags.com or www.cleangreenbags.com.
*Crowe PH.D, Kristi Michele (n.d.). Eco-Friendly Kitchen. Retrieved from, https://www.southernliving.com/healthy-living/going-green/eco-friendly-kitchen.
This will convince you to finally spring for that farmhouse sink.
Even though the last episode of Fixer Upper has already aired, the influence of Joanna Gaines's signature modern farmhouse style shows no signs of stopping. If you've considered adding shiplap to your kitchen walls or debated installing a farmhouse sink any time in the past few years, the HGTV stars probably had something to do with it. And now a new report from RealEstate.com is giving us another reason to want to add farmhouse touches to our homes: It may actually boost it's sale price.
According to the report, which analyzed 1.9 million home sales between 2016 and 2017, home listings that included traditional farmhouse-inspired details tended to sell for higher prices. The report looked particularly at entry-level homes (or those in the lower-third value tier), and found that certain key terms did correlate with higher premiums. While "solar panels" correlated with the highest sales premium for entry-level homes, after energy concerns, buyers were all about Joanna Gaines-inspired style. Listings with the term "craftsman" saw an average 34 percent sales premium, "coffered ceiling" and "clawfoot tub" both saw 29 percent, while "farmhouse sink," "wainscot," and "exposed beams" all saw 26 percent premiums. Listings that mentioned "barn door" and "butcher block" also saw higher sales prices.
Clearly, entry-level home buyers are gravitating towards the modern farmhouse aesthetic—and we have a feeling Fixer Upper has something to do with it. After bingeing five seasons of the show, it's no surprise that the appeal of wood paneling and exposed wood beams is rubbing off on home decor trends. And now we know that besides being one of the most popular looks of the moment, you could even make some money off of it if you plan to sell your home soon. Like all trends, this look won't last forever, but if you were searching for an excuse to finally splurge on that farmhouse sink, well, you just found it.
*Holdefehr, Katie (n.d.). How the "Joanna Gaines Real Estate Effect" Could Help You Sell Your Home for More. Retrieved from, https://www.southernliving.com/syndication/joanna-gaines-real-estate-prices
You know the material and style you want, but make sure you consider how the new flooring will fit in your space—literally.
One of the most prioritized, and often most expensive, elements to update in a home is the flooring. Floors are given a lot of decor responsibility, from designating the purpose of each room to defining different living spaces within a larger room, to creating an overarching, cohesive design aesthetic in a house.
Flooring trends certainly come and go—shag carpeting and linoleum tile anyone?—so it’s likely that you will take on a flooring project at least once or twice in your home-owner lifetime. If you’re currently planning a renovation, you might be tempted by the newest take on light stained hardwood floors, or the newly popular light gray shade of hardwoods. Or perhaps the colorful, patterned Moroccan floor tiles that have grown in popularity over the last few years have caught your eye.
Because there’s so much to consider when choosing a flooring material—from the price to the durability of the material, not to mention the style—it can be easy to overlook one of the most important practical elements of your choice: Will it fit in the space where you’re planning to install it? And we don’t mean the square footage, though that’s obviously important. When the new floor is installed, will the doors still have enough height clearance to open and close without scraping anything? If you are redoing the floor of one room, and not the adjacent rooms, will there be a height difference between the two floors?
Floors are unique in that you don’t always need to fully remove the existing floor before installing a new one, so it’s possible you won’t be starting from scratch. (Just think about how many times Chip and Joanna Gaines have confidently pulled up dated carpet and found original hardwoods in one of their fixer-uppers.) And since every home and its history of past floors is different, height is not really something flooring manufacturers can standardize or advertise in a way that will be meaningful to every homeowner.
It’s important to consider what your existing floor height is (not only the distance to the subfloor but also in comparison to any adjacent rooms, your baseboards, and doors) and get a good idea of the condition of every layer before you make any decisions about new flooring. If you’re working with a contractor, they should advise you on this and the materials you’ve chosen, but it could be ignored in the interest of saving time and money, so make sure you raise this concern if your contractor does not.
If you don’t take the proper precautions and the new flooring you install is a significantly different height, it’s likely you’ll end up with a tripping hazard in a doorway or baseboards that have to be reinstalled, both of which would be frustrating realizations to come to after all the hard work has been done. It might be the least of your concerns when you’re first researching and shopping for floors, but don’t make the mistake of writing off the vertical specs of that tile before clicking “add to cart.”
*Burch, Maggie (n.d.). The One Thing I Wish I Knew Before Picking New Flooring. Retrieved from, https://www.southernliving.com/home/remodel/installing-new-floors-height-clearance.
There’s literally no room for error in tiny cooking spaces…
Petite kitchens definitely have their perks: they clean up quick, and you have everything you need within arms reach. You won’t feel like you've sprinted all over an industrial restaurant-style kitchen after preparing one bowl of scrambled eggs. There’s also a reason folks build out gigantic, sprawling kitchens when the opportunity presents itself. But fear not, even in the tiniest of cooking zones, there can be a space for everything. Here are a few things to ditch to make room for the real necessities.
The Silverware Drawer
. Hear us out. I wrote recently about how taking my silverware out of the drawer and putting it onto the counter made all the difference in my ONE drawer kitchen. Now unwieldy kitchen gadgets can live in the drawer, and my silverware is tidily organized on the counter in pencil holders. (Inexpensive, too!)
Paper Towels on the Counter
Now that you’ve got silverware on the counter, it might be time to rethink paper towels on the counter. For families that use them frequently and in large quantities, their place on the counter may be priority. But if you don’t use many, consider a behind-the-door or under-the-counter holder to save on prep space.
Superfluous, Incredibly Niche, Single-Task Gadgets
Why do I have an avocado cuber, an avocado knife, and an avocado spoon? I eat maybe one avocado a week. A butter knife works just fine. Another example: those tiny pans made for one egg. Maybe a bit redundant if you ask me.
Major Clutter Culprits: Mugs and Tupperware
Mugs make for qiuppy, cute, and useful gifts. And while I appreciate them, and would love to actually use all of them, there are about two I stick with. They tend to not stack well, and simply take up a lot of unnecessary room. And Tupperware? We’re all familiar with the cabinet of misfit plastic containers. Toss any pieces that seem to be permanently separated from their lid or vice-versa.
Multiple measuring spoons.
I have a spoon that is adjustable from a teaspoon to a tablespoon. And boy oh boy. Is it a game changer when you only have ONE kitchen drawer. This is a must have for tiny kitchens. Ditch the bulky, multi-piece sets. Every square inch of space counts after all.
With a just a little rearranging, smart organization, and clever swaps, a tiny kitchen can be just as organized as any kitchen with endless cabinets and prep space.
Tell us: what are your favorite ways to work around tiny drawers and minimal cabinet space?
*Owen, Katherine (n.d.). 5 Things To Get Ride of in a Small Kitchen. Retrieved from, https://www.southernliving.com/home/organization/things-to-get-rid-of-small-kitchen.
It’s officially summer, which means it’s time to take your living outside, and spend as many days enjoying your outdoor space as possible. It’s also the perfect time to give your outdoor area an upgrade—whether it’s a porch, patio, or terrace. Living in the South, we’re lucky to enjoy moderate temperatures that allow almost year-round use of those outdoor living areas, so these are updates you’ll enjoy for many months to come. We’ve rounded up 5 easy ideas to update your outdoor space this season that’ll make a big impact without breaking the bank.
Get Creative With Your PlantersShop the Dollar Store for any kind of plastic containers you’d like to turn into a planter, no matter the color. Think: large storage baskets, beach buckets, even trash cans. Then spray paint your plastic planters with whatever color strikes your fancy—whether you’re trying to emulate terra cotta, gray stone, or just want them to coordinate with the rest of your decor, there’s a spray paint shade out there for you.
Cover Your CushionsIf you already have a full set of cushions and pillows for your outdoor furniture, but would like to refresh the colors and patterns, you don’t need to start from scratch. Wayfair, Ikea, and even H&M Home have plenty of cushion and pillow cover options at prices that’ll make you want to redo your deck every year.
Look UpIf you have a covered deck area or porch, utilize the vertical space if you aren’t already. Install hanging planters, drape bistro lights across the ceiling (or create a ceiling with string lights if one isn’t already there), or even hang outdoor curtains to make your outdoor space feel more like a living room.
Now Look DownJust as they do indoors, rugs can have a big impact on your outdoor living area, so even if that’s the only change you make this summer, your space will feel distinctly different. Because of the materials they’re made out of, outdoor rugs are often much cheaper than those made for indoors. But if you’re looking for an even more budget-friendly idea or can’t find a rug you like, DIY your own! You can brush or spray paint a border or other patterns on a plain rug to make a bold statement in your space.
Add LightSometimes all a space needs is an ambiance refresh. Depending on how exposed your outdoor space is, you can get really creative with the lighting sources. We already mentioned hanging pretty string lights, but we’re also big fans of oversized lanterns and stone hurricanes for candles, which always provide the best lighting for evening gatherings. If your porch is covered, you could even bring a couple table lamps outside.
*Burch, Maggie (n.d.). 5 Easy and Affordable Upgrades You Can Make to Your Outdoor Space This Summer. Retrieved from, https://www.southernliving.com/home/porch/summer-outdoor-space-updates
Green is in! Environmentally conscious buildings reduce their carbon footprint and lower the greenhouse gas emissions that have been tied to global warming. Not only that, but these homes also result in reduced energy use, which lowers your energy costs. Green building is also very popular — especially with millennials — and that demand can potentially raise the resale value of your house when the time comes to sell it.
If you aren’t currently in a green home, you can still make your home as green as possible. Most homeowners upgrade every now and then. Just make a plan so your annual upgrades are eco-friendly. Here are eight ideas.
1. Use Reclaimed Wood for Remodeling and New BuildingRe-purposing is one of the key tenets of eco-friendly building. Cutting down additional forests contributes to global warming. Trees do a great deal to recycle air and reduce pollution, as well. Not only that but tear-downs and remodeled homes often have reclaimed wood available.
So, if you’re planning a new addition, or remodeling your kitchen countertops, consider doing it with reclaimed wood. It’s a great design choice, too!
2. Consider Pre-Owned ItemsOn the reclamation and re-purposing front, purchasing pre-owned, rather than new home additions, is another great way to do that. While we often think of “eco-friendly” as being energy-related, it also concerns holding off on ordering brand-new, virgin materials unless absolutely necessary.
Thinking of new kitchen furniture or a new sofa? Check out local thrift shops or Habitat for Humanity stores. They often have gently used merchandise that looks good and wears well.
3. Buy an Energy-Efficient Garage DoorGarage doors often get left out of the eco-friendly discussion. They shouldn’t! Garage doors need to be replaced every 15 to 20 years, on average. They’re the largest moving part in most homes. Their ability to create energy efficiency that leaves heat in and cold out is therefore very significant in regulating the temperature inside your home and reducing your energy expenditure.
Many doors also use re-purposed natural resources. Recycled steel is often used, for example, which reduces the amount of material that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
4. Install Larger, More Energy-Efficient WindowsEco-friendly homes heat as much as possible with the sun. The more sunshine you have streaming into your house, the less you’ll need to burn fossil fuels for energy. One great method for getting sun in your house is larger windows. South-facing exposure is best, but larger windows on all sides will contribute to using a natural source for heat and light.
Then, when you purchase the windows, make sure they have the most energy-efficient sealing and insulation possible.
5. Maximize Your Air FlowAir flow causes at least 20 percent of your home’s heating and cooling energy to escape. If it’s cold outside, heat can escape through doors, basement walls, and windows. And if it’s hot outside, cool air can dissipate through attics, doors, and windows. Energy can also leave through ducts or around electrical switches.
Make a thorough inspection of possible air flow leaks. Fixing some may require caulking or other materials to impede the drafts under doors or weather seals.
6. Make Your Yard Eco-FriendlyThe maintenance of lawns and gardens is not necessarily environmentally friendly. If you live in a hot climate and have a rose garden and a vibrant green lawn, for example, you may be overusing water. Water is a precious natural resource in short supply in many areas of the country. Lawns and gardens also use pesticides, which use chemicals that can be toxic to some plants and wildlife, like squirrels and deer, plus garden pollinators like birds and bees.
Consider planting your yard with wildflowers native to your area. They require a minimal amount of water and upkeep and are beautiful and vibrant.
7. Catch Rainwater for Your Lawn and GardenAlthough you should strive to make your lawn and garden use as little water as possible, most yards need at least some. Catching rainwater is a perfectly eco-friendly method to obtain what you need.
You can purchase a rainwater barrel at most home and garden stores, or simply use an existing barrel. Harvesting water is simple: You leave the barrel out when rain is forecast. Then, you use it to water your garden and lawn. One word of caution: Standing water can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which can be a health hazard. Use it up as quickly as possible, and keep it covered when you can.
8. Install a Solar Hot Water HeaterLike garage doors, hot water heaters need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years. If this year is a replacement year, consider a solar hot water heater. They save on energy and add considerably to the resale value of your home. They’re easier to install than other eco-friendly moves, such as solar roof panels, because they simply pump solar-heated water.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that a solar hot water heater will save 50 to 80 percent of the cost to heat your water.
Eco-friendly upgrades like these eight will lower your carbon footprint and your bills, and increase the eventual resale value of your home. Best of all, they are incremental projects and not major renovations. You can continue to enjoy your home while it becomes better and better for the environment.
*Wild, Megan (Feb. 15, 2017). 8 Eco-Friendly Home Upgrades To Make This Year. Retrieved from, https://www.homes.com/blog/2017/02/8-eco-friendly-home-upgrades-make-year/.