Easy Ways to Go Green in Every Room in Your Home
Want to live a more eco-friendly life, but aren't sure where to start? Check out these 25 small tweaks you can easily implement all over the house, from your laundry room to your garage
Kitchen: Eat 'Real' Food
Kitchen: Ditch the Pods
Experts estimate that the number of single-use coffee pods currently in landfills could circle the Earth more than 10 times. "Switch to another method, like a French press or a classic drip coffeemaker," suggests Kathryn Kellogg, founder of goingzerowaste.com.
Kitchen: Throw in the (Paper) Towel
Americans use an estimated 13 billion lbs. of paper towels each year, resulting in 3,000 tons of waste. "Instead, keep a basket of small, folded towels by the sink, then wash them on cold," advises Reisman. "I bought 30 for a dollar apiece, and
I smile every time I reach for one."
Kitchen: Save Your Scraps
Recycling is a must, but to further reduce your trash, start composting. "Thirty percent of a household's trash is organic matter that could be composted," says Kellogg. "Return those scraps to the earth, and you'll cut your garbage by 25 percent and reduce methane emissions from landfills."
Buy It! Bamboozle bamboo compost bin, $40; food52.com
Kitchen: Eliminate Single-Use Plastic
Kitchen: Get a Greener Clean
"Use natural, 100 percent readily biodegradable, phosphate-free cleaning supplies," advises Sacha Dunn, founder of Common Good, a plant-based line of household products. Alternatively, make your own all-purpose solution in a spray bottle with a half cup of white vinegar, 2 tablespoons of baking soda and water.
Laundry: Wash the 'Right' Way
"Things like polyester shed microplastics in our waterways," says Kellogg. "Microplastics are found in 82 percent of drinking water worldwide, per a recent study." Trap them by tossing a microplastic catcher or a "guppy" bag ($35; patagonia.com) in each load. Always wash in cold water, and line-dry whenever possible.
Laundry: Try an Eco-Friendly Detergent
"Those huge jugs of detergent-which contain mostly water-don't biodegrade, and a lot of carbon is expended in shipping them," says David. "Switch to laundry sheets or strips or detergent pods made from plant-based materials instead of plastics."
Buy It! TruEarth laundry strips, $20; tru.earth
Bathroom: Buy a Bidet
"The average American uses as much as three rolls of toilet paper a week," says Kellogg. That's 27,000 trees down the toilet every day. "A $50 bidet attachment is greener, cleaner, and saves money." (Try Tushy, a brand making the bidet cool!)
Bathroom: Rethink Your Toilet Paper
"Buy toilet paper that is 100 percent postconsumer recycled material or renewable material like bamboo," says Dunn. "These brands also come packed in paper, not plastic, and most donate to good causes, like improving hygiene in developing nations."
Buy It! Cloud Paper, $28 for 24 rolls; cloudpaper.co
Bathroom: Reduce Your Water Usage
"The amount of water available to us is limited," says Reisman, "and the problem will only grow as Earth gets hotter." On average, every minute of shower time uses two gallons of water. Reducing an eight-minute shower by 60 seconds will save 60 gallons per month.
Bedroom: Give Your Bed a Makeover
The most sustainable thing you can do is to use what bedding you already have, but if you need to replace yours, choose organic cotton, bamboo or eucalyptus, says Dunn. "It avoids the pesticide and fertilizer pollution created by traditional cottons." (Not sure where to start? Oprah loves the bamboo sheets from Cozy Earth.)
Bedroom: Dial It Down
"Turn the thermostatdown to 68 degrees or lower when you're sleeping," advises Dunn. "Lower temperatures are more conducive to restful sleep and conserve energy, which is often supplied by a power plant using nonrenewable resources."
Bedroom: Weatherize Your Windows
"Reduce the amount of energy wasted by making sure windows, doors and walls are well-insulated against the cold," says Dunn. It could save you 15 percent in heating and cooling costs.
Bedroom: Bring the Outside In
"Consider growing a few houseplants as natural air purifiers," says Christine Liu, author of Sustainable Home. Fiddle-leaf figs and snake plants, which produce lots of oxygen, are popular and attractive options.
Bedroom: Limit Fast Fashion
"One pair of jeans uses cotton that needs 1,800 gallons of water to produce," says Dunn. "That cotton also uses fertilizer and pesticides that are toxic to aquatic life. Instead of buying a cheap piece of clothing for one season and then tossing it, invest in pieces you'll wear for years or buy vintage."
Garden: Get Growing
"There's a social movement called Food Not Lawns that encourages using your green space to create food self-sufficiency," explains Kellogg. "Growing your own vegetables is important because the carbon footprint of getting food to your plate is high." Don't have a green thumb? Start with an herb garden, and add to your repertoire as you learn more.
Garden: Use Your Rainwater
"Only 0.007 percent of the water on our planet is available for drinking," says Kellogg. "There's no reason to use fresh water for your lawn and flowers. Capture rain in barrels and use that gray water." A DC Urban Gardeners survey estimates you'll save $35 on your water bill during summer months.
Garden: Be Friendly to Bees
Weed killers, insecticides and other chemicals wreak havoc on the bee population, which is responsible for 80 percent of crop pollination worldwide. "We can become advocates for them instead of letting them die," says David, who suggests planting milkweed and brightly colored flowers to attract bees.
Garden: Pass on Grass
"Lawns require a lot of water, pesticides and fertilizer to thrive in most environments," says Dunn. Consider replacing or reducing yours: "Native ground covers, shrubs and flowers remove the need for chemicals- and mowing-creating a bird- and bee-friendly garden that requires much less water."
Garage: Find a New Way to Roll
Make sure your garage is well-insulated-extreme cold or heat can transfer to your house and affect your energy usage. And as for the car you park there? It's burning fossil fuels, also known as greenhouse gases, and releasing them into the air, says Dunn. "These gases build up and trap heat in the atmosphere-the basis of climate change. Instead of driving, ride a bike. If you have to drive, try to carpool." Says Kellogg: "I like to implement a 30-minute rule. If it's less than a 30-minute walk, I walk or bike."
Living Room: Invest in Sustainable Furniture
"Traditional furniture uses renewable and nonrenewable resources, as well
as a host of toxic chemicals like polyurethane, glues, paint, flame-retardant and stain-resistant coatings," says Dunn. "Those can end up in the environment for many years. Look for manufacturers who use sustainable raw materials, do not contribute to deforestation and avoid toxic chemicals."
Living Room: Find a Better Bulb
Replace traditional light bulbs with LED bulbs. "Not only do LED bulbs last up to 40 times longer than incandescents, but they are also 60 percent to 75 percent more energy efficient," says Dunn.
Living Room: Beware of Vampire Power
"Unplug devices when you're not using them," says Kellogg. "Ten percent of home electricity costs are a result of phantom power drawn by items that are plugged in but not in use." Anything with a glowing "standby" light is a culprit.
Living Room: Monitor Your Mail
"Start your own personal junk mail war," says Johnson. "Cancel your phone directories and sign up for e-bills and statements." Recycle the rest to help limit the 5.6 million tons of mail that ends up in landfills annually.