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/.
In warmer months, it’s tempting to crank the AC or plant yourself in front of the nearest fan. But these aren’t the only tricks to keeping cool. It turns out there are plenty of ways to buffer your home from the heat without racking up your electric bill. And they’ll make you feel like a DIY champ, too.
Keep your cool, and…
1. Keep your blinds closed.
As simple as this tip may seem, Family Handyman notes that up to 30 percent of unwanted heat comes from your windows, and utilizing shades, curtains and the like can save you up to 7 percent on bills and lower indoor temperatures by up to 20 degrees. In other words, closing the blinds essentially prevents your home from becoming a miniature greenhouse, which is especially the case with south- and west-facing windows.
2. Better yet, invest in blackout curtains.
Blackout curtains block sunlight, naturally insulating the rooms in which they’re installed. Consumer Reports recommends neutral-colored curtains with white plastic backings to reduce heat gain by up to 33 percent.
3. Be smart about your doors.
Closing off unused rooms will prevent cool air from permeating these areas during the hottest part of the day. You’ll want to capitalize on the cooler night hours, too, letting air flow naturally through your home.
4. Hack a fan instead of turning on the A.C.
Not even an air conditioner can give off a faux sea breeze, but this simple trick can. Fill a mixing bowl with ice (or something equally cold, like an ice pack), and position it at an angle in front of a large fan so the air whips off the ice in an extra-chilled, extra-misty state. Trust us: It’s magic.
5. Swap your sheets.
Not only does seasonally switching your bedding freshen up a room, but it’s also a great way to keep cool. While textiles like flannel sheets and fleece blankets are fantastic for insulation, cotton is a smarter move this time of year as it breathes easier and stays cooler. As an added bonus, buy yourself a buckwheat pillow or two. Because buckwheat hulls have a naturally occurring air space between them, they won’t hold on to your body heat like conventional pillows, even when packed together in a pillow case.
6. Set your ceiling fans to rotate counter-clockwise.
You may not realize that your ceiling fan needs to be adjusted seasonally. Set to run counter-clockwise in the summer at a higher speed, the fan’s airflow will create a wind-chill breeze effect that will make you and your guests feel cooler.
7. Focus on the temperature in your body, not the house.
If your ancestors survived without air conditioning, so can you. From sipping tasty iced drinks to applying a cold cloth to strong-pulsed areas like your neck and wrists, cooling yourself from the inside out is not a bad idea. Other tricks include being smart about your clothing choices and telling your partner you won’t be cuddling until the leaves start changing color. Also try keeping a bowl of cool water by your bed and dipping your feet if you feel warm in the middle of the night.
8. Turn on your bathroom fans.
Or the exhaust fan in your kitchen, for that matter. Both pull the hot air that rises after you cook or take a steamy shower out of your house or apartment.
9. Heat-proof your bed.
Go straight to the source, and put a cool Chillow under your head while you sleep. For feet, fill a water bottle, and put it in the freezer before placing it at the foot of your bed. And it sounds strange, but slightly dampening your sheets or popping them in the freezer before bedtime will majorly help you chill out.
10. Sleep low.
Heat rises, so hit the downstairs couch or basement, or put your mattress on the floor if the air feels cooler down there.
11. Let the night air in.
During summer months, temperatures may drop during the night. If this is the case where you live, make the most of these refreshing hours by cracking the windows before you go to bed. You can even create a wind tunnel by strategically setting up your fans to force the perfect cross breeze. Just be sure to close the windows and blinds before things get too hot in the morning.
12. Hack your windows.
To create a cooling pressure current, open the top section of windows on the downwind side of your house, and open the bottom section of windows on the upwind side. Also consider facing a box fan out one window to push hot air out, and try wetting a sheet then hanging it in front of a second open window like a curtain for a chill-infused breeze.
13. Ditch the incandescent lights.
If you ever needed motivation to make the switch to CFLs, or compact fluorescent lamps, this is it. Incandescent bulbs waste about 90 percent of their energy in the heat they emit, so tossing them to the curb will make a small difference in cooling your home while lowering your electric bill.
14. Start grilling.
It’s obvious, but we’re going to say it anyway: Using your oven or stove in the summer will make your house hotter. If it already feels like 100 degrees in your home, the last thing you want to do is turn on a 400-degree oven. Besides, who doesn’t want to get more mileage out of their outdoor furniture and seasonal accessories?
15. Make a few long-term improvements.
If you’re really, really committed to the whole no-AC thing, you can make a couple changes to your home that will keep it cooler for seasons to come. Insulated window films, for example, are a smart purchase as they work similarly to blinds. And additions like awnings and planting trees or vines near light-facing windows will shield your home from the sun’s rays, reduce the amount of heat your home absorbs and make your investment even more worthwhile.
*Toscano, Samantha and Suzy Strutner (June 24, 2014). 15 Brilliant Ways To Keep Your Home Cool Without Air Conditioning. Retrieved from, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2017/07/28/ways-to-cool-your-home_n_5516182.html
Everything you need to do to keep your home and yard in tip-top shape this summer.
With the change of each season comes a new set of maintenance tasks for your home. Now that summer's here, you'll want to prepare your home and yard for the onslaught of summer heat. From air-conditioner upkeep to hanging a clothesline, these simple chores will help keep your home happy and healthy.
Check detectors. Check your home's smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they're working properly.
Inspect air-conditioners. If you haven't already, prep air conditioners and fans for their busiest season:
Clean your outdoor cooker. Give your grill a deep cleaning with these simple steps:
Analyze your deck. Look over your deck for signs of rotting and hammer in any nails that are poking up. Then, determine if your deck needs sealing. Sprinkle water on the deck's boards. If the water beads up, you're in good shape; but if it soaks right in, it's time to reseal that sucker.
Wash your windows. If you didn't tackle exterior window washing in the spring, now's the time to get your glass clean.
Make much ado about mulch. Add a layer of mulch to keep weeds down and help the ground retain its moisture in the heat. It'll give your plants a chance to grow.
Be a leak detective. Check your hoses and exterior faucets for leaks -- even a tiny drip can add up to a big waste of water. Pinhole leaks in hoses can be covered up by winding regular electrical tape around the (dry) hose in overlapping layers.
Primp your plants. Deadhead both perennials and annuals to keep them productive. If you have visible dead foliage from spring bulbs, pull it out to maintain a tidy look, but if the daffodil or tulip leaves are still green, leave them alone; they're busy nourishing the bulb to bloom again next year.
Plan your watering schedule. Train your garden to endure dry days by watering deeply a couple times a week, instead of watering lightly daily. This style of watering will promote the growth of deep, strong roots.
Stop dirt at the door. Keep summer's mud and muck outside with not one, but two doormats at your main entry door. Place a coarse mat at the exterior and a softer, cloth one on the interior to catch the most dirt. Better still, instruct family members to remove their shoes upon entering. If you live near a beach, a tub of water for sandy feet placed by the door works wonders for keeping sand outside where it belongs.
*Fenton, Laura (n.d.). The Ultimate Summer Home Maintenance Checklist. Retrieved from, https://www.thenest.com/content/summer-home-maintenance-checklist
When it comes to making eco-friendly changes these are the little ones that really add up to make a difference from the experts at Practically Green.
Swap Household CleanersSwitching to green cleaners reduces air pollution both indoors and out, minimizing exposure to both asthma and allergy triggers as well as chemicals that can be harmful to your health. Look for plant-based products from companies that have a complete list of ingredients on their labels.
Go Meatless on MondaysHaving pasta or a vegetarian soup on Mondays might not seem like a big deal, but adding one meat-free meal per week (for a family of four) has the same impact as driving a hybrid car. Raising livestock produces a large amount of greenhouse gases, so cutting back, even one night per week, makes a big difference.
Shop for Sustainably-Raised MeatWhile sustainable isn’t a term certified by the USDA like organic is, it generally means that the animal was given ample room to roam, and wasn’t treated with hormones or antibiotics. Look for labels like free-range and organic as well as no-hormone and no-antibiotic.
Upgrade Your InsulationAdding insulation to prevent leaky ducts, walls, windows, and doors can improve your home’s energy draw by 20 to 30 percent. If totally redoing your insulation isn’t in your budget, try thermal shades, which block the sun in the summer and retain heat in the winter, or even something as low tech as a draft guard on your outside doors.
Leave Your Shoes at the DoorThink of removing your shoes when you enter a home as the equivalent of washing your hands. First, it couldn’t be easier. And second, it prevents the outside gunk like car exhaust, chemicals, and pesticides from being tracked all over your home.
Microwave Glass, Never PlasticHeating plastics can cause leaching into food and many contain hormone-disrupting compounds (not just the much maligned versions made with bisphenol-A or BPA). Plastics that are labeled “microwave-safe” can simply withstand a higher temperature before losing their shape. So when popping anything in the microwave, opt for glass or microwave-safe ceramics.
Don’t Dump, DonateBy some estimates, for every item of clothing donated, 27 pounds of carbon emissions are reduced based on the fact that you don’t another item being produced while one is headed to the landfill. Take items to a thrift store, a charity that accepts donations, or list them on Freecycle.org.
Choose Safe Pots and PansThe materials you cook with do have an impact on your food. The three safest options are cast iron, enamel coated cast iron, and stainless steel. Non-stick pans, while convenient, can be problematic if you scrape the coating and it gets into your food.
Select Fragrance-Free ProductsConventional fragrances often contain chemicals believed to disrupt hormones, and they can be harmful to the ecosystem when washed down the drain. If you like perfumed soaps, cleaning products, or cosmetics, read labels to find those made with essential oils.
Reduce Use of Bug Sprays and PesticidesTo control pests, prevention is your best bet. Keeping your kitchen crumb-free and sealing any holes in the walls or cracks in the foundation means you won’t have to use harmful chemicals in your home. If you do require pest-control, reach for greener alternatives or home remedies first.
*Zissu, Alexandra (n.d.). 10 Painless Changes You Can Make for a Green Home. Retrieved from, https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/green-living/green-home.
For most people, your home is the largest purchase you will ever make. It’s also going to be where a significant percentage of your money goes on an on-going basis. A house needs upkeep, and there are a lot of working parts, so making sure everything is maintained properly can be a big job. And if you’re concerned about your impact on the environment, you’ll need to go a step further than basic mandatory maintenance making upgrades around the house to save energy, conserve water, and increase your property’s efficiency. While many eco-home maintenance projects can cost a pretty penny, the good news is you don’t need to do all of them at once to reduce your home’s eco-footprint – you CAN have an inexpensive sustainable home! Even better, there are steps you can take that can make a big impact for relatively little money – plus, they’ll save you money in the long run. Here are 10 of the cheapest eco-friendly upgrades for your home.
#1 HAVE AN ENERGY AUDIT DONE.Spending a little bit of money to have a professional energy use assessment done will help you prioritize what needs to be done to make your home more energy efficient. A professional auditor will do a blower door test to see how airtight the house is, as well as use thermographic scanning to see where you are losing heat to determine where you need to install more insulation. The average cost of an audit is about $400, but the potential energy savings simply from reducing drafts in a home can range from 5% to 30% per year meaning you’ll recoup the cost rather quickly. If you absolutely can’t afford the expense, you can do a more basic DIY home energy audit with help from Energy.gov.
#2 INSTALL INSULATION IN YOUR ATTIC.Properly insulating is the number one way to increase your home’s energy-efficiency –and you might be surprised to learn that it’s a job you can tackle by yourself. It might not be the most fun you’ve ever had on a weekend, but it will significantly affect your heating and cooling bills. In fact, the Department of Energy states that a properly insulated attic can reduce your bill by 10 to 50% – just the attic! To keep the job eco-friendly you can blow-in wool insulation with a blower rented from a hardware store. Rolling out batts of recycled cotton denim insulation is another good option.
#3 GLAZE AROUND OLD WINDOWS.If you have an older home, you might need to repair some of the cracked glazing around the window panes. This can be time consuming, but not a very difficult job that just requires a one-inch putty knife and some glazing material. If you live in an old Victorian home, this will have a huge impact on heating and cooling bills.
#4 SPRAY FOAM AROUND EXTERIOR WINDOW AND DOOR TRIM.If you have old wood siding on the home, check your windows from the exterior. If you have large gaps around your window trim, it’s like having holes in the wall welcoming drafts and ushering energy out. Buy small cans of spray foam found at a hardware store and fill in those gaps with the expandable foam. When it’s dry, use a utility knife to cut away the excess. If the cracks are small, you can use caulk to fill them.
#5 CAULK AROUND INTERIOR WINDOW AND DOOR TRIM.After addressing the exterior of your home, you should also check for cracks around the windows and doors in the interior of your home. Look for cracks and gaps between your walls and the window trim and use caulk to seal them. Make sure to buy paintable caulk (not silicone caulk), so you can paint over it when it’s done.
If you haven’t caught on to a theme here, it’s all about properly sealing and insulating your home to reduce energy use.
#6 PAINT WITH NO-VOC PAINTS.The average paint job lasts 7-10 years, so at some point in time, painting is going to pop up on your to-do list. Painting the exterior might be a bigger job than what you’d want to tackle alone, but painting interior walls is a task that almost anyone can do. Another way paint can cut costs on your eco-upgrades is by using it to reface instead of replacing things like cabinets and floors. With increased awareness about health risks associated with toxic chemicals, no-VOC paints and finishes are very commonplace and cost comparable to conventional paints – especially when you figure in better spread rates (coverage) and better durability (so you won’t be re-painting again as soon). Do some research about what paint company you want to purchase from beforehand (unbelievably, many no-VOC paints still contain VOCs) to ensure you’re protecting your indoor air quality.
#7 INSTALL FAUCET AERATORS.These inexpensive plumbing parts screw onto the end of most faucets and can reduce your home’s water consumption by nearly 50%! Yes, for just about five dollars per faucet you can save a ton of water (literally) without sacrificing good water pressure. It’s also really easy to do, so there’s no need to call a plumber.
#8 INSTALL LOW-FLOW SHOWERHEADS.According to Energy.gov, showerheads from 1992 or older could have a flow rate of 5.5 gallons per minute. A newer, low-flow showerhead can reduce the flow down to 2.5 gallons per minute or lower. Again, by switching them out, you can lower your water usage by more than 50%. This job is fairly easy, as well, but if you don’t feel comfortable trying it yourself, a handyman can get it done for you very quickly.
#9 DECONSTRUCT, DON’T DEMOLISH.This is a great tip from Jessica on Freshome. She says, “If you plan on tearing down walls or even knocking down entire rooms, walk around your home first to see what you can salvage and re-use beforehand. Not only is this eco-friendly, but it will save money in the end. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Most likely there is a ton of material you can salvage and re-use. Consider everything from light fixtures to flooring, tile, bricks, cabinets, and molding.”
#10 LOOK FOR USED AND FREE MATERIALS.Habitat for Humanity has a wonderful store called ReStore where you can purchase used home fixtures such as lighting, cabinetry, flooring, vanities, and nearly everything else you can think of that goes into a home. If you don’t have a ReStore in your area, you can always look online for materials that someone wants to get rid of. Most communities have an online free market that you could keep an eye on to see if the perfect thing for your house pops up. Finding creative ways to use something that someone else doesn’t need anymore can save you tons of money, and it’s also great for the earth because you’re not using new natural resources and you’re keeping materials from ending up in a landfill.
ECO-EASY PEASY, RIGHT? FOLLOW THESE TEN TIPS WHEN THE BUDGET’S TIGHT TO SAVE MONEY UP FRONT AND OVER TIME, WHILE ALSO HELPING SAVE THE PLANET!
*"10 of the Cheapest Ec0-Friendly Upgrades for Your Home". (n.d.). Elemental.Green. Retrieved from, https://elemental.green/10-of-the-cheapest-eco-friendly-upgrades-for-your-home/.