By Jeanne Roberts
It’s nice to own real estate, even nicer to own a home. But nicest of all is knowing that your home, which shelters all your loved ones has a small impact on the earth and the other creatures that also live here.
You’ve heard about one’s carbon footprint, those dark blots on the environment created by how much water you use, trash you produce, and the number of pounds of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) you burn to keep your home warm in winter and cool during the summer.
You can reduce your carbon footprint, cut pollution and make your way of living more green and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Nor will it be terribly painful, forcing you to give up all of your luxuries in order to save the planet. In fact, below are seven ways to shrink your carbon footprint without blowing your budget or shedding crocodile tears (though a few drops of sweat may be necessary).
1. Replace all the light bulbs in your ceiling fixtures with compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs. You know you want to, and the government says you have to – 100-watt bulbs after 2012, 75-watt bulbs after 2013 and 40 to 60-watt bulbs after 2014. You may feel even better if you buy slightly more expensive light-emitting diode, or LED bulbs, which contain no mercury.
Cost per 3-light fixture, $9. Cost for one LED, $13, with remote.
2. The average toilet requires 5 gallons of water to flush. Low-flow toilets still use about 2 gallons. There considered to be in harmony with green homes. Assuming your house was built more than a decade ago, and contains two bathrooms, you could be flushing up to 40 gallons of water daily. Curb that by filling a milk jug (or a large, plastic mayonnaise jar) with water and drop it in the toilet tank at the back. You can cut that water-waste figure by up to 16 gallons daily. Put your dishwashing machine on another water diet; wash only one load of dishes per day, typically after dinner. Cost to you, almost nothing.
3. New windows can cost a small fortune, but you can make your existing windows more energy efficient with the use of weatherstrip (see manufacturer’s instructions). Still have a few bucks to spare? Cover the inside of north-facing windows with energy-saving, metalized window film (also called “low-e”) that insulates against heat loss in winter and reflects sunlight in summer to keep your house cooler. Cool!
Cost to you for enough weatherstrip for two windows and a door; $7. Cost for a roll of 3’ X15’ window film, or enough to do two average windows, $35. Cost of two new low-e windows? Almost $1,000!
4. Recycle wherever possible to be in green homes style and pollute less. The earth is running out of resources like water to grow cotton and oil to make synthetic fabrics. How can you most efficiently recycle everything from used toothbrushes to diapers? Join Freecycle! There is now one in almost every city in the U.S., and joining is only as far away as your computer. You might even make some like-minded ecofriends! Cost to you, some time and maybe a half-gallon of gas when you find a deal.
5. Clean up the water you do discard down toilets and sinks by using ecofriendly cleaning supplies where possible. Baking soda and vinegar both work well in many instances – baking soda as a toothpaste, mouth freshener, facial scrub, exfoliant, insect bite remedy, and around the house as a basin, tub and tile cleaner, a pot scrubber (boil water with baking soda in it, makes the pot easier to clean), even a laundry detergent booster. Vinegar (the white kind) is good for cutting grease, removing mildew, getting salt stains off shoes, cleaning windows and cleaning computer components safely. Cost to you? $1.99 or less each.
6. You’ve heard of “energy vampires.” Curb them by buying a “smart” power strip, and you’ll be updated with the green homes standard. You can cut your energy bill by a tenth, and keep that dirty old coal in the ground where it belongs. Cost to you? About $15 per strip.
7. Now that you’re into recycling, think about recyclable lunches. Ditch the plastic sandwich and snack bags which are polluting earth’s environment, and buy a couple of plastic sandwich containers instead. Wash and reuse indefinitely. Also consider saving a tree by ditching the brown bag and investing in a lunch box or any other uber-cool small container. You could even choose a miniature picnic basket. Cost to you? About $7.