Greening your home is not as hard as you might think!
By Dawn Martinko
“It’s Not Easy Being Green” our old childhood friend Kermit always said. At first, I agreed with him, but is it really that hard? When I first set out to change my behaviors and become more environmentally friendly, I thought about my home and how I could I make a difference. Two questions immediately came to mind: how much additional time is this going to take me, and how expensive is it going to be? Life is busy, as we all know. If we are not running to work or a meeting, we are dropping one child off at baseball practice and the other off at cheerleading. Then there is the cost. I could only imagine how much solar panels and all new energy efficient windows would cost me. I soon found out that I didn’t need to make a huge financial investment or time commitment to make a difference. In fact, I found there are many little things that I can do in my home that combined, make a big difference.
Where to begin? I decided I would first look at what kinds of changes I could make to save energy. I did some research and was pleasantly surprised to find the many things I could easily change to make a difference. First, I made sure that my programmable thermostat was set appropriately. These can be found at your local hardware store and range from $25-$250 dollars depending on how smart you want your thermostat to be. It is suggested by Energy.gov that you set your temperature back 10 -15 degrees when you are out of the house or sleeping. By doing just this you could save around 10% off your yearly heating and cooling bill.
Next, I started to wash my clothes in cold water versus hot, and made sure to always have a full load. Not only could I save money by not having to warm the water, I would also keep my clothes from fading and/or shrinking. The next change I made had the biggest reward for me as a mom. I started to turn off my dishwasher after the rinse cycle and let my dishes air dry. This change not only saved on energy, I also got my dishes put away quicker. See, my kids would always use the excuse that they didn’t know the dishes were clean since the door was closed, but now they had no excuse because if the door was open, and the racks were out, the dishes were clean.
By far, the easiest change I made was to replace my old light bulbs with new ENERGY STAR® rated CFL, or LED bulbs. I realized rather quickly that I had a lot more bulbs to replace than I had first thought. These bulbs can cost a little more, but can last 3–25% longer. Since I had such a large number of bulbs to replace, and I didn’t want to incur that large expense all at one time, I started by replacing my most frequently used lights first, and then each month I changed a few more until they were all done. If you replace the top 5 most frequently used light bulbs in your home you can save around $75 a year. If I could save that on only 5 bulbs, just think of how much I would save once I replaced all of them.
I was excited about the changes I had made so far but knew I could still do more. I was now ready to tackle my water usage. I was already saving water by running the washing machine only when I had a full load, but what other things could you do? I recently joined an Eco Challenge and was amazed at how much water I wasted each day. I had no idea that for each minute I was in the shower I used around 2.5 gallons of water. If I turned the water off when I brushed my teeth I could save another 5 gallons each time. That is a lot of water and money down the drain! I needed to make some changes. I turned off the water when I brushed my teeth and decreased my shower to 5-minutes each day. To further decrease my usage, I purchased a low flow shower head which uses around half the amount of water as a standard shower head. I then took a walk around the house and checked to make sure all the toilets and faucets were working properly and there were no leaks. I was pretty good at doing this already because I had an issue with a leaking toilet in the past and, unfortunately, didn’t realize there was a problem until I received my bill. It is important to take a close look at your water bill each month to make sure there are no large unexplainable increases in your usage. You don’t want those leaks to go undetected.
As it turns out, it is not that hard to be green after all. Making just these small changes, mostly to my behavior, made a big difference. We get so used to doing things a certain way, we don’t stop to think if it is really the best and greenest way. This is just the tip of the iceberg for me, there are still so many things that I know I can change. I have set a goal for myself to try and change at least one thing each month to further green my home. I now challenge you to make a change!