Being more conscious of our impact on the environment is becoming increasingly important. With Earth Day on April 22, now may be the time to take small steps to become more environmentally friendly.
By making some simple changes in your household, you can begin to play a role in protecting the environment. And the best part? It doesn’t require spending a fortune.
"Living a green lifestyle doesn't need to be expensive. As the world goes through a green revolution, living a cleaner life becomes more affordable and easier to start,” says Matthias Alleckna, energy industry analyst for EnergyRates.ca, an energy comparison website.
Switching the light bulbs throughout your home to LED bulbs is one of the simplest ways to reduce your energy usage and your energy bill.
LED lights use 75% less energy and can last 25 times longer than incandescent light bulbs, said Alleckna. The average cost of an LED bulb is about $5 and they last about 25,000 hours, according to eartheasy.
“These numbers may not sound like much, but if you apply that calculation to every light bulb in your home, including the time each one of them is on every day, you will find surprising results,” he said.
Smart thermostats are another way to reduce your home's energy consumption. These thermostats are known for being able to automatically adjust the temperature of your home based on your preferences and behaviors.
“A smart thermostat will allow you to reduce up to 20% in heating or cooling expenses per year,” said Alleckna. (Here are some other ways to lower your heat bill.)
You also don’t have to spend a fortune to get a smart thermostat. Consumer Reports highlights on many options — from Ecobee, Honeywell and Nest — available for less than $200.
When it comes to making your house more environmentally friendly, you should include landscaping.
Cassy Aoyagi, board member of the Los Angeles chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, suggests planting native perennials.
“The annual flowers we plant each year cost both time and money and have an outsized ecological impact,” she said. “Native plants create habitat for fauna, eliminate the need for toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides, use less water and save money and time year over year.”
One of the most significant ways to make your home greener is by switching to solar. While it's not the cheapest option, it also doesn’t have to be prohibitive.
“There are a number of solar companies that offer programs where they foot the cost of installing solar on your rooftop and you simply pay them the monthly fee for your electric use rather than your usual local utility company,” said Maya van Rossum, author of The Green Amendment: Securing Our Right to a Healthy Environment.
There are an increasing number of state programs that support solar. The U.S. government also offers a 30% solar tax credit. You can learn more about going solar here.
Adopting the “reduce, reuse, recycle,” philosophy is perhaps one of the most important changes to make when creating a greener household.
“When you talk with people about environmentalism they often come back with ‘I recycle,’” says van Rossum. “Most people forget the first two and more important two Rs on the list – reduce and reuse.”
You can start adopting these measures by cutting down on the amount of plastic and disposables used. Think: reusable coffee cups, straws (like metal straws), cloth shopping bags, food storage bags and water bottles, to name just a few.
Need some inspiration to get started? Check out Tom Szaky’s story on how he created a company that “recycles the unrecyclable.”
Image: Ashes Sitoula
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