By Maria Galizia
When it comes to conservation, let’s just say that the average American can use a little help. For example, a family of four generally uses 400 gallons of water per day!
But, with a few changes — small changes — we can be on our way to a greener lifestyle. Fortunately, for those of us who don’t have the discipline of a hippie, there are smaller steps to going green.
Going green will help to incrementally save energy and water, not to mention the wonderful effect it will have on your wallet. Here we will give you some options that will allow you to take one small step at a time to greening your lifestyle, then possibly a larger one.
Let’s start with preserving water. Using this pie chart, we can see where all of our water goes:
Simply turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth can save a lot of water. To put it in perspective, if you brush your teeth for the recommended 2 minutes (and we all know you do), five gallons of water are being used with the average faucet. So, turning it off could save more than 1,820 gallons per year. Same goes for filling the sink with water to wash the dishes instead of leaving it running.
These are changes that can be made without spending a single dollar. And if kids are taught the same thing (remember the “Don’t Waste Water” Sesame Street song?), imagine how the future will change.
If you do have a few dollars to spend, here are some examples of appliances that lessen water consumption:
Not only does this innovative faucet look awesome, it uses 15 percent less water than other models. That means the average person can save 876 gallons per year.
Or, you can buy a WaterSense-labeled showerhead that use less than two gallons of water per minute. The average showerhead uses two to two-and-a-half gallons per minute, so, you can save five to 10 gallons of water per shower with a WaterSense certified showerhead. That’s up to 3,650 gallons saved per year.
Using drought-resistant or area-specific landscaping can also make a difference in not only water consumption, but in environmental sustainability and pollution. Check out our article, “Tips to Save Water — and Money — All Year Long,” to learn more about how native landscaping can help you save water.
“Using regionally specific plants means that less fertilizers and other amendments need to be used in these gardens as the plants are accustomed to the native soils,” says Morgan Vondrak, a certified sustainable landscape designer in the San Francisco Bay area. “This translates to less fertilizer and chemical runoff polluting our waterways.”
This next step is composting. We know — composting gets a bad rep due to the sometimes funky odors that may arise. However, composting is an incredibly resourceful way to reuse old vegetables and paper. The result is an organic enhancement that you can add to your soil for a strong and healthy garden or lawn.
One of the easiest things that can be done when going green is air drying your clothes. This may not work during winter (unless you air dry inside), but air drying when possible can make quite a difference in your energy use. If you can’t, or don’t want to hang clothes outside, buy a clothing rack that can be used in the home. As an added bonus, your clothes will last longer since they won’t be subjected to extreme heat that can warp, shrink or otherwise damage your clothes.
Any openings or cracks in your home, such as along doors, windows and attic doors, lets out cool or warm air and, therefore, wastes precious energy. This can be easily — and inexpensively — avoided.
“Most houses literally lose up to 30 percent of the cold air or heat in the attic leaking from the ducts,” explains John Wilder, a certified energy auditor. “The simple answer is to seal up the ducts with mastic sealant that will never leak and it is cheap in tubes, and can be applied with a caulk gun.” Wilder also advises sealing up the trusses against the top of your roof with foam panels and installing solar screens over windows to lessen the amount of heat that homes let in.
Get crafty! Instead of buying brand-new furniture, repaint your old stuff or buy gently used. You’ll save money and scarce resources at the same time.
You can also save money in the long run by purchasing fewer paper towels and using reusable wash rags instead. And, keep linen grocery bags in the car so you’ll remember to use those while clothes or grocery shopping.
Obviously we should recycle glass, plastic or cardboard, but there are further steps that can be used to recycle household items for your own purposes.
Maria Moser, who works for a reusable diaper company, states it plainly: “Before you trash or recycle anything, ask yourself how you can reuse it.” We understand that reusable diapers are not for everyone (understandably), but there are plenty of other things that can be reused or re-purposed. Take a plastic butter tub or a yogurt container, for example. These plastic containers can be used to store leftovers or you can used them to store small items, like bobby pins. A butter tub is the perfect size for small painting projects too. Reusing items — especially plastic ones — is a great way to keep things from entering the landfill and to stay organized too.
Any small steps to going green that you take are steps in the right direction, so keep making changes and see how quickly and easily it all adds up.
Maria Galizia is a digital content intern for New Home Source.