How Green Is Your House?
An eco-friendly approach to home care
(Family Features) | 3/30/2015, 2 a.m. | Updated on 3/29/2015, 10:13 p.m.
Family Features Living an eco-friendly lifestyle starts at home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, residential use accounts for more than one-fifth of the nation's total energy consumption. Adopting an earth-first, energy saving mindset will let you make adjustments around your home so that you can feel good about your family's contributions to protect the environment.
Improving your home's energy efficiency is not only good for the planet, it's good for your wallet. After all, wasted energy is money lost in monthly utility bills. Numerous factors influence a home's energy efficiency, or lack thereof. Air leaks, outdated appliances or inefficient heating and cooling systems can all negatively impact your home's energy usage.
Correcting any structural issues can go a long way toward making your home more efficient. Give your home a thorough inspection to identify and repair leaks and cracks around windows, doors and duct work. Remember that poorly sealed attics and basements are also common culprits of energy loss.
Appliances and major systems
Upgrading your appliances and temperature control systems also helps drive more efficient energy use throughout the house. Look for ENERGY STAR-certified products, which are designed to save energy without sacrificing on performance. Where possible, make purchases that will perform double duty, such as high-efficiency washing machines that can save on both energy and water usage.
Choosing the right energy source can also help lessen your impact on the environment. For example, using propane-powered appliances in your home can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to a recent study sponsored by the Propane Education & Research Council, propane-powered furnaces emit 73 percent fewer greenhouse gases than electricity. Similarly, propane-powered storage water heaters emit approximately 39 percent less greenhouse gas than electric storage models.
For more information about using propane and propane-powered appliances in your home, visit www.propane.com.
Shopping smart to incorporate high-efficiency appliances and electronics into your home is just a first step. There are many other ways you can make such products even more sustainable:
- Rely on LED light bulbs, which use a fraction of the energy and last significantly longer than traditional bulbs.
- Use light timers to turn off lights when they aren't needed.
- Make a habit of powering off lights and other electronics when you leave the room.
- Set a programmable thermostat to adjust temperatures when you're away from home.
- Wash only full loads of laundry, and use cold water when possible.
- Air-dry dishes, rather than using the heated drying cycle of the dishwasher.
Understanding just what makes a product green can be confusing. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, greener products are those that are shown to have less health or environmental impacts than similar products that have the same function.
The EPA has made it easy to identify earth-friendly cleaning supplies by introducing a Design for the Environment label that designates products deemed safer for personal health and the environment.
Other categories of green products may be harder to identify. You can rely on EPA labeling programs such as ENERGY STAR for household items such as windows, doors and many major appliances, and WaterSense for water-specific products such as toilets, faucets and showerheads.
When evaluating whether a product is "green," be wary of eco-labels, which are not regulated and may contain misleading information designed to downplay a product's true impact. The Federal Trade Commission created the Green Guides to set standards for truth in advertising; however, there is broad scope and consumers may still need to do some research to understand why a package has a green message on its label.
Ultimately, it's important to consider all aspects of the product's development, from research and manufacturing to packaging and distribution. For example, an earth-friendly cleanser packaged in a bottle using recycled plastic is more green than one that is not.
Recycle Like a Pro
Living green isn't just about saving energy. Sustainable living also means putting earth-friendly practices in place throughout your home, such as recycling. With these tips you can make recycling easier for the whole family.
- Establish collection bins to make it easy to gather all your recycling in one place. The number of bins you need depends on your city's guidelines for sorting. If no sorting is required, a single bin will do. Otherwise, use different colored bins to make it simple to sort paper, aluminum, glass, etc.
- Most families find the kitchen is a primary source of recyclable goods. If space is at a premium, keep a smaller collection bin in the kitchen that can be easily transported to a sorting station in a larger area, such as the garage.
- Don't forget to recycle in other rooms, too. Many common bathroom items, such as shampoo and soap bottles, and even cardboard toilet paper tubes, can be recycled.
- Remember that recycling can also come in other forms, like donating unwanted clothing to charity or using leftover water to quench thirsty plants or freshen the dog's bowl.
- Be sure to rinse away any food or liquid residue from containers to manage odors and keep your recycling area tidy and odor free.
- Maximize your bin space by compressing cans and bottles.