Going green is “in”, but let’s be real: reducing your home’s ecological footprint and getting your family or roommates involved can require a huge amount of work. We see eco-friendly guides all over the web, but while they’re helpful, these tips are often unrealistic and overwhelming for most households. Not everyone has the time and resources to install solar panels or take public transportation daily, or even think about how to tackle the wealth of information. We think there are much more simple ways to go green with your home and family, so we devised a step-by-step guide to help you get started.
Step One: Love the Earth
The first step to being green in the home is to see and appreciate green outside. You’re much more likely to make your home and family eco-friendly if you recognize the beauty of the world around you. Take at least one weekend each month to walk in the woods, hike in the mountains, or explore coves and oceans together as a group. Regardless of whether you live in a city or smack-dab in a desert, nature is all around you when you go outside.
To bring this inside, add eco-friendly or energy-efficient home accessories and furnishings slowly into your dwelling. Try a bamboo screen, wooden candle holders, ceramic or glass dishes, or a wool blanket. A Satellite View with Cloud Cover or Natural Earth MOVA Globe, with its Earth-inspired motion, is a great example of a stylish home accent that’s eco-friendly and will remind you of the planet.
Step Two: Throw A Green Party
So you now know that the Earth is beautiful, but what comes next? We think the easiest way for your home to go green is to make the transition with others. This is where family comes in.
What You’ll Need for Your Party:
- A pack of compact fluorescent lights (CFLs)
- A few spider plants
- 3 to 5 Houseplants
- Any clothing/items you want to give away
- Energy Saving Power Strips
Invite friends and family over. Open up all the blinds and curtains in your home and let natural light come in. Have everyone work together to replace the incandescent bulbs, creatively scatter the spider plants and houseplants around your home, and then connect all plugged devices into energy saving power strips that will turn off electronics automatically by sensing when they are no longer being used. Let friends and family go through any clothing or items you plan to give away and see if they want them first.
So why this party itinerary? One, by switching to CFL bulbs from incandescent bulbs, you will start saving 66% more energy and prevent the emission of 400 pounds of greenhouse gases. Spider plants and houseplants purify the air in your home and allow you to literally be green. During colder months, staying warm in the company of many people is much more eco-friendly than cranking up the thermostat– in fact, each person can generate as much heat as a 100-watt heater. Using natural light instead of lighting can save 10% of energy. And of course, having your family and friends around makes the green party much more fun.
Step Three: Run House Checks
A lot of the energy drain and waste in your home can be remedied with either a simple fix or re-positioning. Check your house for the following:
- Your fridge should be at least 3 inches from the wall and out of the sunlight. This ensures proper airflow and cooling down of the fridge.
- Any leakys – these can waste 48 gallons of water per week
- Leaky toilets – these can waste 200 gallons each day
- The setting on your washing machine should be at most 86 degrees Fahrenheit. This setting uses 40% less energy than higher temperatures.
- Any drafts from windows. Chalking these cracks will prevent more cold from getting in and thus, lowering the need for more heat
Assign someone in your home to be the light monitor for each week. Have a jar in a designated area. The light monitor’s job is to catch any lights left and pinpoint the culprit. The house member at fault will have to put $1 (or a quarter, if you want to lower the stakes a bit) into the jar. This challenge may sound a little silly, but it’s fun and it gets the family to remember to not waste any electricity.
Step Four: Live by the three R’s
Now that you’ve starting “greening up” your home, next is an attitude adjustment. Incorporate the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) into your family culture and come up with a set of rules and principles for each so that everyone can keep each other accountable. Create teams for each ‘R’, where every person in that team is responsible for at least meeting their own rules.
Reduce: This is the mindset that you can cut down on resources in everything that you do, and think of creative ways while doing it. Some ideas:
- Turn off the water when brushing your teeth
- Have a cup of warm water to rinse your razor when shaving instead of using tap water
- Assign one person to be the designated driver each week and use just their car, alternating between your family members.
- Only wash laundry if your basket is up to a certain amount
- Hang your clothes to dry
- Multitask in the oven – use it to bake, roast, and warm up different meals at the same time.
This also extends to things that you can purchase – think about using items that are made in an environmentally-friendly way or that cut down on any toxic emissions. Organic sheets, vinegar (as a cleaning agent), concentrated detergents, eco-friendly packaging are a few examples.
Reuse: You can easily switch to items and accessories that you can use over and over:
- Using cloth napkins instead of paper towels or napkins
- Packing your lunches in glass containers
- Filling water in reusable water bottles
Recycle: Not everything can be thrown away in the same manner. Sort your waste into four categories and four bins:
- Regular trash
- Recyclables: paper, plastic, glass
- Compost: collect food scraps (except meat, dairy products, oil or grease) each day and throw them out into the garden or into your plants to provide nutrients
- Secondhand: work together to pass or sell unneeded items to friends or to donate them to charitable organizations
Step Five: Bigger Changes
Once you’ve mastered the simple tips above and incorporated green thinking into your home and family, you will be ready for more advanced changes. There are, of course, many tips and resources out there, but the ones that stood out most to us are:
- Investing in Energy-Star Qualified appliances (these can save up to 50% energy!)
- Replace shower heads and toilets with low-flow versions
- Planting native plants and landscaping into your yard
- Investing in a solar home battery
- Switching to locally grown and organic food
All of these options will take more time and effort, but at this stage of your green journey, it should feel like just another fun way to stay green.
As you can see, small things do make a big difference. Even if you only reach step three in the guide, you’ll be one step closer to creating a greener planet. The idea of an eco-friendly home or family may have sounded far-off, feasible for only select homes, and/or like a niche lifestyle, but we hope this guide shows you that going green can be fun, simple, cost-effective, and achievable by everyone in the family.