Being environmentally friendly at home doesn't have to mean sacrificing your sense of style. Smart choices can ensure that you do your part, all the while looking (and feeling!) good about your contribution to our planet's wellbeing. Here are 25 ways that you can live green at home and be a better friend to the environment.
1 Buy for the long-term. Save toward a quality sofa, for instance, rather than a series of cheapies that you'll be throwing out every five years. A well-made sofa can be recovered several times over the course of its decades-long life.
2 Pack a litter-less lunch. Make sure your food storage containers are free of harmful bisphenol.
3 Lower your thermostat a few more degrees and cosy up with your sweetie under an eco-friendly bamboo throw blanket!
4 Buy cotton mesh produce bags and take them to the market instead of using plastic bags for your fruit and veggies. They will help keep them fresh in your crisper drawer, too, and are washable when needed.
5 Renovating? Add character to your home with reclaimed and salvaged items. Top hits: re-plated chrome bath fixtures, re-enameled vintage bathtubs, reclaimed barn board flooring and salvaged architectural accents like columns, corbels and mantels.
6 Switch to eco-friendly cleaning products. Look for products that are biodegradable, phosphate-free and not tested on animals.
7 Or just check out your cupboards: Vinegar diluted with water is great on windows and floors; baking soda is great for gently scouring and deodorizing kitchen and bath surfaces.
8 Use reusable shopping bags when grocery shopping.
9 Reduce your use of paper towels. Use re-useable, washable cloths whenever possible.
10 Get an energy audit and find ways to improve your home's energy efficiency. Common to-dos include improving insulation, upgrading windows, installing weather stripping, trading up to a high-efficiency furnace and installing a programmable thermostat.
11 Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). If you really, really don't care for them, just change your porch light, laundry or utility room light to CFLs. You won't notice the difference, but CFLs use 75% less energy than standard bulbs.
12 Recycle and compost.
13 Consider reading your daily newspaper online instead of in paper form.
14 Plant a tree on your property. Or more, if you have space. Trees provide wildlife habitat and help cool the planet.
15 Help clean your indoor air with houseplants; studies have shown that they can clear toxins like benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde from the air (these baddies lurk in paint, varnishes, particle board, foam insulation, cleaning products and other common household materials). Philodendron, dracaena, spider plants and peace lilies are particularly good clearing the air.
16 Eat organic. Pesticide residues harm wildlife on land, and with rain, run off and pollute lakes and rivers. Fertilizers can produce fatal algae blooms that destroy fish stocks. Further, many common agricultural fertilizers are known to have negative effects on human health.
17 In the market for new appliances? Buy Energy-Star certified products.
18 Stash reusable shopping bags so you'll have them where you need them: in your bag or briefcase, at home, in the car, in your office desk, etc.
19 If your lawn languishes without lots of fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide and regular watering, consider letting it die and replacing it with moss or a drought-resistant ground cover like creeping thyme, clover, or a grass species native to your region.
20 Put a rain barrel by your downspout to collect rainwater to use in your garden later.
21 Eat local. Less travel equals fewer fossil fuels used for shipping. (And food tastes fresher, too!)
22 In the housing market? Consider a property within biking or walking distance of your office, so you're more likely to leave the car in the garage. (Look for good connections to public transit, too.)
23 Install aerators and low-flow showerheads so you can save water without sacrificing water pressure.
24 Put your dryer on vacation and use an outdoor clothes line or indoor drying rack whenever possible.
25 Eat better-quality meat (organic, hormone-free, free-range), but save money – and your heart – by eating it less frequently. Work vegetable protein into your diet with tofu, beans and nuts. Vegetable protein uses less water and land to produce than meat.