How to go green at home
What's your foot size?
Do you know how big your carbon footprint is, or what a carbon footprint is exactly? And if you happened to measure it, could you give Bigfoot a run for his money? In this case, bigger is definitely not better. Your carbon footprint increases every time you turn down the air conditioning in your house, drink from plastic water bottles or drive your SUV to the grocery store to pick up junk food.
Why Your Carbon Footprint is Important
Carbon footprints are measured as the effect of human activities on the environment in units of carbon dioxide (CO2). Ordinary activities such as using electricity and driving to work produce CO2, which gets released into the atmosphere. Because CO2 is the greenhouse gas mostly responsible for global warming, your everyday activities—directly or indirectly—have a global impact.
Earth's natural resources are not unlimited. Statistics show that as an average American, you produce around 22 tons of CO2 each year. With over 300 million people in the United States, it becomes easy to see how quickly we're using up our limited resources. You can shrink, or offset, your carbon footprint by going green. Using alternative sources of energy, consuming organic products and making improvements in your lifestyle all help you reduce harmful emissions. And, it's easier than you think.
Going Green Saves You Green
Most people don't realize that even though going green may require an upfront investment in some cases, using green methods actually saves you money. Replacing electrical power with solar energy in your house, for example, can turn your home into its own power plant. There are numerous homeowners around the country now selling energy back to their local utility company by using solar or wind power. They are actually profiting from going green.
How to Go Green at Home
Because 70 percent of America's electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, it's one of the biggest sources of CO2. Reducing your electricity usage is one way you can lessen harmful emissions, become more efficient and decrease your carbon footprint:
- Adjust your thermostat by a few degrees up in summer and down in the winter.
- Replace inefficient appliances such as washing machines or refrigerators with gas or battery-powered (DC) appliances.
- Power small appliances and electronics with rechargeable solar batteries.
- Replace regular incandescent bulbs with lower energy, longer-lasting compact fluorescent bulbs.
Another small measure you can do to reduce your power consumption is to use power strips for electronics such as phone chargers, printers, stereos and TVs that are continually plugged in but not being used. These numerous electronics, even though they're not on, are still pulling electricity. This can use up to two months worth of energy over a year's time. You can save hundreds of dollars per year just by flipping off your power strips every night.
Eating organic foods free of pesticides provides you with more nutrients while reducing toxins, chemicals and bad hormones in your system. Even though consumers are aware of the health benefits, many people believe organic foods are too expensive. However, statistics have shown the average family spends five times more on junk food and take-out than on fruits and vegetables.
If you still feel eating organic foods is out of your budget, start with small but significant healthier choices:
- Choose fruits and vegetables that are known to hold the least pesticides, such as berries, peaches, lettuce and zucchini.
- Use organic milk and other dairy products.
- Grow your own produce when possible or use local farmers and markets to reduce the amount of fuel burned for transporting goods to your grocery store.
Studies have found that organic oranges, although smaller and paler than conventional ones, have 30 percent more vitamin C.
Easy, Small Improvements to Go Green
- Stop using plastics so landfills will last longer. Plastic water bottles are known to leach toxic chemicals into the contents of the bottle, especially after repeated uses or getting hot. Using filtered tap water is not only much cheaper, it's potentially much safer. Use cloth sacks to tote groceries, or reuse the plastic ones you already have.
- Recycle aluminum, paper and plastics. Did you know the electricity saved by recycling a single aluminum can is enough to run a TV for six hours?
- Use more Earth-friendly cleaning products such as baking soda, vinegar and borax in place of harmful chlorine bleaches and other toxic chemicals.
Build or redecorate with renewable, lower impact materials such as natural flooring like bamboo and sisal. Carpeting is usually made from petroleum-based resources and chemicals that scientists say can cause asthma and other respiratory problems.
Use re-usable grocery bags when doing your shopping. These bags can be re-used and will cause little waste.
- Keep your home clean, dust-free and well-ventilated. The air inside your home can be two to five times dirtier than the air outside, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Dust holds pesticides and other toxins in your home which can build up in your system and cause health problems.
If you want more ideas on how to go green at home, there are many organizations such as Buying Green and Alliance to Save Energy that you can draw tips from and learn how to save even more money. The IRS even gives tax credits you may already be eligible for by using green power or products.
Although saving money is important, cash comes and goes. Our resources don't. Even in small measures, going green saves Earth's rapidly disappearing resources that you need, your kids need and their kids will need. Not to mention, you won't stomp around the planet making gargantuan carbon footprints.