Written by KC Ogburn, PEA Fall 2023 Intern
“Greening” your home has many benefits for you and the environment, and it’s easier than you think! When considering a Green Home, saving energy, reducing waste, and preserving water are top priorities that support a healthier environment, reduce your carbon footprint, and lower your bills. When you add in other factors such as shopping habits, banking, landscaping, and the companies that you patronize, you are actively supporting your community, as well.
Here are some tips you can use to develop habits that conserve resources and create a sustainable, efficient Green Home.
One easy step to reduce your energy consumption is to unplug appliances and turn off lights when not in use. Appliances can be “energy vampires” – they suck energy even when turned off. You don’t have to unplug every appliance, but it’s not a hassle to unplug a toaster or hair dryer that is used occasionally; doing so will save energy and potentially increase the lifespan of your appliance. Plus, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that households can save $100 a year just by unplugging unnecessary devices. Turning off lights also saves energy; use natural light when possible, which reduces energy use and has health benefits, as well! Consider switching to LED bulbs that use 85% less electricity than traditional light bulbs. Over time, these small steps will improve efficiency and contribute to your home being green.
Composting and replacing single-use products with reusable items will reduce the waste produced in your home. Composting food scraps at home is a great way to reduce waste; it also promotes healthy soil in an aerobic environment, compared to sending organic waste to anaerobic landfills that create methane gas, which traps even more radiation. While you can compost at home, you can bring your organic waste to a nearby compost facility or drop-off site. Reusable or compostable cutlery, plates and other utensils will also reduce waste compared to single-use items.When you buy something, take a look at how it’s packaged – when possible, choose items in recyclable packaging or shop at stores with bulk bins where reusable containers are encouraged. Some coffee shops will allow you to bring your personal reusable cup to reduce the disposal of single-use cups. By following these methods, you will significantly reduce the environmental impact of your home.
Reduce water consumption and protect your storm drain from chemical run-off to preserve water in your home. A few simple ways to save water at home include turning off faucets when not in use, only running the dishwasher or washer with a full load, investing in a low-flow shower head and faucet aerators, fixing leaks, using dual flush or low flow toilets, or installing a rain barrel for watering plants. Additionally, it is important to prevent chemical runoff from going down nearby storm drains. You can do this by planting more vegetated areas, reducing the area of impermeable surfaces such as driveways and sidewalks, or consider using porous pavers. When you increase the amount of areas that allow water to soak into the soil and redirect water to these areas or areas with vegetation, you will prevent unfiltered water from entering your storm drain and allow roots and soil to filter pollutants for the use of plants. In return, this will benefit your community by reducing flooding, preventing water pollution, and protecting your drinking water. Implementing these options in your home will prevent the overuse of water and, over time, save you money.
Planning meals (including meat-free options) reduces food waste, excess packaging, and your carbon footprint–and encourages healthy eating! When grocery shopping, try to buy only what is needed for your planned meals and avoid unnecessary items that may go to waste in your fridge or pantry. As mentioned, utilize bulk bins for everyday ingredients to avoid excess packaging. Planning meals helps you avoid fast food, takeout meals, and food delivery. Fast food and takeout not only accumulate waste but also require transportation of the items, ultimately contributing to your carbon footprint. Another consideration to take into account is the amount of meat you eat; meat production consumes large quantities of water and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Some options for moving toward eating meat sustainably would be to choose alternative sources of protein or purchasing locally sourced, pasture raised, and less processed meats to ensure lower emissions and less water usage. Having meals planned out in advance will prevent wasted food, excess packaging, lengthy transportation, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Focus on farm-fresh produce and other products and support small and local businesses. Local products often go through a less extensive production process and require less transportation, which makes them preferable compared to nonlocal products with larger carbon footprints. Additionally, local businesses generally avoid over-packaging their products, leading to less waste. Shopping locally not only has environmental benefits but also supports local businesses and the local community, because when we shop locally, a larger portion of money is cycled back through the local economy. Support local businesses from PEA's Green Business Network to serve your green home and your community.
Shift Your Bank
Use a climate-responsible financial institution. There are many reasons why shifting your bank will contribute to your green home. Most people will notice a lot of mail from their banks. Opting for paperless billing and banking will reduce your accumulation of waste and ultimately support sustainable banking. It is also important to look for a climate-responsible financial institution. Look for financial institutions that support investments in renewable energies along with investments in non-invasive environmental solutions. Avoid institutions that finance fossil fuels. Supporting companies that have a sustainable focus and environmentally conscious goals will support an environmental cause. Investigating financial institutions aligned with these goals and shifting to a green bank will promote sustainability in your home.
Landscape with native plants for less work and more sustainability. The traditional green lawn is not sustainable; it requires the overuse of synthetic fertilizers and water. High nitrogen and phosphorus levels present in these synthetic fertilizers can lead to algae blooms in nearby bodies of water that threaten aquatic life, stimulate bacteria to consume more organic matter than plants are able to return to the soil, kill beneficial bacteria necessary for soil health, or cause a loss of key nutrients essential for plants. Not only do these fertilizers endanger plants, but pets and wildlife are also at a health risk if ingested. Alternatives to lawns include groundcovers such as herbs, clovers, perennials, or native grasses, which are low maintenance, eco-friendly, and are visually delightful. The National Wildlife Federation website has a free Native Plant Finder search tool that you can use to find out what vegetation is compatible in your area.
Working toward a healthy, sustainable community is a group effort that requires all of us. Become a Member and support PEA to be part of a vibrant local environmental movement. We hope you will volunteer or make a tax-deductible gift to help create a more resilient, just, and environmentally sustainable Piedmont Triad.