With more awareness and education surrounding humans’ ecological effect, it’s important to look closely at what we, as individuals, can do to lessen our carbon footprint and negative emissions. By implementing changes to your home, you can have a significant impact on your neighborhood’s ecosystem and natural resources. We’ll dive into different environmentally friendly changes you can make for your home and lifestyle, from every day habits to renovation projects.
HVAC, or heating, ventilating, and air conditioning, units are responsible for balancing indoor temperatures while providing adequate airflow. As HVAC systems succumb to regular use and age, the components begin to break down. While you can surely repair older systems, you will still be paying higher for energy costs than you would if you upgraded your system.
If your old HVAC system has worn out and you’re interested in alternatives, there are several new and improved technologies to consider. Geothermal pumps use natural, underground water sources to bring hot water into the home during cold weather or cool the water off in warmer weather. Whole house fans use vents to suck hot hair out of the house and draw cool air in. Ice powered air conditioners use hundreds of gallons of water and copper coils to push cool air into the home during the day while powering the compressor. This means your unit and compressor will be self-regulating without drawing as much power and energy. Remember to do thorough research and speak with professionals before deciding which is best for you.
Proper insulation helps your home remain a comfortable temperature and reduces the frequency of your heating and cooling system kicking on. While most insulation types offer eco-friendly features, experts say spray foam, blown-in, and cotton insulation offer more benefits than others.
As well as getting insulation professionally installed, you can also work to insulate certain rooms of your home. Does your home have hardwood floors? If there’s a room located above the garage, how much heat does that room get compared to other parts of the house? Before you consider filling your chilly rooms with space heaters, add area rugs and thick, woven tapestries to empty walls.
Replacing older or original windows and doors in your home will not only increase the curb appeal and value of your home but will also help reduce heating and cooling costs. Not only are there more aesthetic customizations for windows than ever before, the process of replacing old windows and doors may reduce your energy bills up to 20%.
Older windows are often less insulated than newer designs. Most older homes feature single-pane windows that do little to insulate against colder weather, wind, and other seasonal elements. Updating to double-pane windows help to keep outside weather out and the temperature you desire in.
Blackout curtains or shades in bedrooms are also helpful investments. They not only block unwanted light while sleeping, but they also give your windows an additional level of insulation.
If possible, using natural light during the day can decrease the energy you use as well as lower your electricity bill. According to Energy Star and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), LED bulbs offer the same brightness as incandescent bulbs but produce 70-90% less energy. These bulbs also last fifteen times longer and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, brightness, and color.
While solar panels are an expensive investment, applying for an Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) can help to cover costs. Solar panels convert sunlight into other energy, such as electricity production or water heating. Since panels generate their own power, you will lower your electricity bill while also reducing your carbon footprint and fossil fuel dependency. Plus, they don’t produce any emissions.
According to the EPA, food scraps and yard waste make up about 30% of materials sent to landfills. Composting significantly breaks this percentage down and reduces the costs and emissions it takes to transport and process those materials. While fertilizers and pesticides require fossil fuels for their production and shipping, the EPA notes that compost enriches soil naturally, helping your plants retain moisture while suppressing diseases and pests.
Composting contains three basic things: browns, greens, and water. Browns include dead leaves, branches, and twigs. Greens are most likely what you typically think of going into compost, such as grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, or coffee grounds. Brown materials provide carbon, green materials provide nitrogen, and water provides moisture to break down the organic matter. If you lack a backyard or enough green space to compost outside, there are special composting bins that can be used indoors. While compost piles have a reputation to be smelly, finding the best combination of brown and green materials will reduce smells and won’t attract pests or rodents.
Just as trees in a city help increase air quality, adding houseplants to your home space helps to purify and clean the air in your home. They also look beautiful and can remind us that we’re more connected to the natural world. If your green thumb is more blue than green and you have trouble keeping plants alive, there are several planted cuties that are easy to keep alive.
We have all most likely increased our use of cleaning products since the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, a lot of mainstream cleaning products contain toxic and harsh chemicals that aren’t great for us, animals, or the environment. When looking for eco-friendly products, look closely for Safer Choice or DfE labels. These are both certified by the EPA and have strict requirements. These two labels will protect you from accidentally purchasing “greenwashed” products, or products that are disguised as being eco-friendly as a marketing pull.
You can also easily make your own cleaning products and store them in reusable glass jars or spray bottles. Baking soda, white vinegar, natural soaps, and citric acid from citrus fruits are all wonderful foundations for products. Add your favorite essential oils to make everything smell fresh and clean.
Implementing more conscious changes into our day to day lives can also have a positive impact on the environment. Using cloth napkins instead of paper can save you money and room in your trash can. Your meals feel more dressed up and you’ll be tossing your napkins into the laundry instead of the trash.
In the same vein, cutting out plastic containers and switching to “naked” products or products with recyclable packaging has a larger impact than most of us realize. The Jambeck Research Group out of the University of Georgia released a report in 2015 that projects that by 2025, humans will collectively be adding 17.5 million metric tons of plastic per year into the environment. Think about all the different plastics you use in your home, such as shampoo and detergent bottles, water bottles, disposable cutlery from takeout food, and plastic bags.
Bringing your bag to the grocery store, using a reusable water bottle, and opting out of plastic straws and cutlery from restaurants are all small practices that save money and our environment.
Education and action are the two biggest things humans can do to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable. If you’re interested in learning more about Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) or Renovation Loan programs that may be right for you and your home, contact us today.
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