Living a green lifestyle is incredibly trendy right now. It’s hard to log onto social media and avoid messages from celebrities and influencers about refusing plastic straws and separating recyclables properly. It’s popular to shame those who litter or push family and friends to investing in environmentally friendly products, especially organic produce and cleaning solutions.
However, the truth is that an individual consumer’s actions have only a minor impact on the health of the environment. Multiple studies have identified that 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions can be traced to just 100 companies, meaning that corporations are largely to blame for polluting the planet. While driving to work one fewer day per week and carrying around a metal straw might feel good, it doesn’t do that much to help the environment.
Yet, homeowners can make a more significant impact on the environment than the average person. Because homes are larger properties that consume more resources and produce more waste, homeowners have a responsibility to increase their sustainability as much as possible. Fortunately, doing so doesn’t have to inconvenience homeowners. Here are a few simple ways to reduce waste and enjoy a more environmentally friendly existence.
Use Sustainable Energy Sources
Most homes around the world enjoy energy from power plants, which often rely on oil or coal. Only about 13 percent of the world’s electricity is generated from renewable sources; even homeowners who live near noteworthy clean energy plants, like the Hoover Dam in Arizona or the U.K.’s Walney wind farm, rely at least partially on dirty, unsustainable energy.
However, homeowners don’t have to pull energy from the grid. There are a few ways homeowners can hook up to sustainable energy and avoid increasing their carbon footprints:
- Solar panels. These are among the easiest sustainable energy solutions to install and use. More efficient panels emerge every year, and Tesla offers solar roof tiles to blend seamlessly with a house’s architecture.
- Wind turbine. While an at-home turbine won’t produce enough energy to power an average home, it can relieve some dependence on oil and coal.
- Passive energy. Homeowners with the luxury of designing their homes might opt for passive energy options, like floor-to-ceiling windows on the south side or wind tunnels around the walls to control temperature. Additionally, skylights or sun tubes reduce the need for artificial light.
Install a Gray Water System
There are three types of water in a home: white water, which is clean, black water, which is dirty, and gray water, which is somewhere in between. Gray water is the byproduct of showers and bathroom sinks; it does not come into contact with solid waste, which means it can be reused in specific areas around the home, especially in landscape care. Gray water systems automatically channel water from drains into the sprinkler or drip system of the yard, so homeowners can enjoy a lush and beautiful landscape without worrying about water waste.
Maintain the HVAC
Regardless of where a home is located, heating and cooling is its main source of energy consumption. HVAC systems have become more efficient over the years, but even so, they account for almost half of all energy consumed in a modern home. Homeowners must be diligent with regards to HVAC maintenance to ensure their systems are running optimally and avoiding as much waste as possible. In places that require near-constant heating and cooling, like Detroit, HVAC contractors should visit properties twice per year to tune-up units and check for issues. Elsewhere, homeowners should have contractors visit annually and schedule DIY maintenance, like replacing air filters and cleaning vents.
Though not directly related to the HVAC, insulation is a vital element of a home’s exterior envelope, which helps regulate the temperature inside. Homeowners should check the level of insulation in the attic; about 15 inches is best. Additionally, if insulation in the walls is missing or old, homeowners should consider replacing that insulation during renovations with an eco-friendly insulation alternative, like ThermCork or recycled polystyrene.
Take Advantage of Smart Tech
Finally, homeowners might consider updating their homes with smart technologies designed to make a home function more efficiently. For example, a smart thermostat is easier to adjust from far away, ensuring that homeowners aren’t cooling or heating their homes unnecessarily. Smart lightbulbs offer similar advantages, and they tend to be high-efficiency LEDs. While adding too much tech to a home can increase its energy demand, adding the right appliances will give homeowners more control over their consumption.
Living green is trendy — but homeowners should know how which actions are merely trends and which will actually have a positive effect on the environment. By making smart choices with regards to energy, homeowners around the world can reduce waste and make the planet a healthier place.