Sustainability at Home

Every day, each of us living on this beautiful planet can contribute in ways to reduce our carbon footprint – to preserve the clear blue skies, the sparkling turquoise waters, and the diverse animals. Living a sustainable life means using resources today in a way that will ensure they last for future generations to come – and it does not necessarily mean living without luxuries.

Our homes are often the place where we spend much of our time. And our home is a place to start taking small steps toward a sustainable life – for our own health and for the longtime health of our planet.

Here are ten ways to create sustainability at home.

1. Eat locally.

Buying food grown locally not only reduces the need for products to be shipped hundreds of miles, but it also tastes better. Check out the local farmers’ markets and see the abundant array of produce. When shopping in the store, look for local instead of imported products.

2. Grow your own.

If you have a small or big backyard or even if you live in a condo, you can plant seeds or starter plants to grow your own. Grab a shovel and some gardening gloves and loosen the soil. Pots can also be used – even on the lanai or near a window. If you have never grown plants before, these are some easy-to-grow plants for first-time gardeners:

  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Mint
  • Sunflowers
  • Radishes
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Zucchinis

Place some seeds in the soil, and something will grow. Gardening is a great way to experiment with different sunlight, water, or soil. And when you find the right combination for an abundant harvest, you can share with your community, creating more sustainability.

3. Reduce household energy use.

Those kitchen appliances, lights, TV, and Internet all use energy – whether electric, gas or another source. Consider powering your home with solar roof panels, which will not only reduce your electricity bill, but it can also heat your water and keep your lights on with a limitless source of energy – the sun. Often there are tax credits and rebates available when installing solar panels.

Here are some other energy-reducing tips:

  • Turn off lights when you are not using them. You could also consider installing timers or occupancy sensors.
  • Turn off your computer monitor after 20 minutes of non-use and turn off the computer completely if you are not using it for more than two hours.
  • Unplug appliances, like the coffee machine, the hairdryer, or fans, when not in use.
  • Install energy-efficient appliances.
  • Open the windows instead of turning on the air conditioner.
  • Use an electric water heater instead of a stovetop kettle to boil water.
  • Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). CFLs can save three-quarters of the electricity used by incandescent bulbs.

4. Recycle.

Sort the plastics and the cardboard and put them in the recycling bin. If your neighborhood or apartment does not offer a recycling service, find a drop-off location, or request service. Also, try to purchase products labeled post-consumer materials to show your support for recycling and to increase demand for companies to use recycled packaging and materials.

For batteries, cellphones, and other electronics, there are special recycling instructions. Goodwill is one organization that accepts electronics and responsibly recycles them.

5. Recycle the disposables – forever.

Plastic forks, Styrofoam cups, sign-use razors, plastic bags, food storage containers: these items did not exist a few decades ago. But these popular plastic items are now in abundant use for their cheapness and convenience. However, they are also unfortunately in abundance in our oceans and landfills. This trash releases toxins and harms habitats.

Next time you make a purchase, think about how long you will use it. Will it be used more than once, or will it end up in the trash and polluting the planet? Reusable products can also be cost-effective.

6. Donate or resell unused items.

Clear the clutter in your home and give clothes, furniture, or other items a chance to be treasured in another home. Whether you're living alone or have a family, you'd be surprised how decluttering and donating items can improve the morale in your home.

Also, when you are shopping for something new, think if you can buy it gently used. Do you need to buy a brand-new pressed-wood dresser, or could you buy a used real-wood dresser and refinish it yourself?

7. Drink water from the tap.

Bottled water adds millions of tons of plastic pollution into our Earth each year. However, most municipal water systems in the U.S. provide safe, clean, fresh water. In fact, many bottled waters originate from city water supplies! If you do not like the taste of the tap water, consider investing in a filtration system.

8. Save water.

Water-efficient toilets, water-efficient clothes washers and dishwashers, water-saving shower heads, and sink faucet aerators are items you can install in your home to invest in living more sustainably (and to lower your water bill). Other practical ways to save water are turning off the faucet when brushing teeth or washing hands, filling the sink with water to wash dishes instead of having the water running, and shortening showering times.

The water heater is also a place where energy efficiency can be found. Turn down the temperature of the water heater to a warm setting (120 degrees Fahrenheit), which will save energy and avoid burning your body. Also check if your water heater has an insulating blanket, which could pay for itself in one year or less.

9. Sustainably travel.

Gas and oil – nonrenewable resources – are not sustainable fossil fuels. Also, the exhaust from vehicles pollutes our planet. If possible, walk or bicycle. If the distance is further, consider taking public transportation. If you are in the market for a new car, consider a hybrid or electric vehicle.

10. Keep cool with trees.

Trees are an amazing plant that filters our air and keep it fresh for us to breathe. Consider planting fruit trees that add sustainable options to diets or large shade trees that provide natural air conditioning. Homes can reduce air conditioning use and costs by planting shrubs and shade trees around the perimeter – especially on the west side.

#Investinhome by investing in living a more sustainable life. Small alterations to our everyday actions can contribute to a more sustainable world – that people and animals can enjoy for generations to come.