I am rhapsodizing this month about the fragility of our Earth as the constant and reckless depletion of our natural resources needs care from all of us. Here in Southern California, we are bombarded daily with warnings about our severe water shortage and admonished to conserve this precious resource to sustain and enrich life for the future. With little steps we all can help save our Planet, I have collected some easy tips to make your home a “greener” and a healthier home. Below are some quick and fun ways to surround yourself in green and I don’t really mean for you to create a “green house” à la “Kermit the Frog,” but to get yourself in a green frame of mind.
Whether you notice it or not, most houses are an electrical nightmare of plugs and wires and power cords. Avoid using phantom power – that means unplug all those appliances that are sucking up electricity when you are not using them. Toasters, heaters, coffee makers, hair dryers, fans and radios are all easy devices to unplug when not in use. Cell phone and iPad chargers are ubiquitous and can all be popped into a power cord; then just turn them all off with one swipe before you leave the house. Everything in an electrical outlet is mainlining power even when not in use. A few unplugged devices daily goes a long way to save electricity.
One clever item to remind you to unplug, is to get a few of these nifty outlet protectors, shaped to remind you of the magic of electricity and to nudge us to save some power for the future.
2. Go Barefoot
Yes, take your shoes off at the door. Every day you are walking on grimy office floors, grocery stores, on grass, dirt and pavement and your shoes are collecting not only dirt, but allergens and pollutants and then bringing them home to roost in your carpets, swirling into dust bunnies in the corners of your rooms. 85% of the dirt in our houses is tracked in on our shoes and clothes and our pet paws. A California Health Study found 22 pesticides harboring in the dust in our houses. In addition, toxic coal tar used as a sealant on driveways and potent lead are still prevalent; both of these heavy metals come in the door on our shoes. Whew–that alone is enough reason to toss the shoes at the doorway and go barefoot! Inside, banish tight shoes and those dreaded spiked high heels along with your running shoes and flip-flops and your house will be cleaner and healthier.
3. Plant a Garden
Nurture your body and your soul by planting a garden, even if just a small bowl of salad greens or herbs or at least some flowers. By growing some of your own food, you will reduce your dependence on grocery store foods and reduce your carbon footprint, by protecting our air and water quality. Growing organically reduces pesticides and unwanted chemicals in your food, in the soil and in the air, while avoiding the reliance on food that is imported many miles away. As a fun side note, reuse those old coffee grounds to fertilize your plants. Flowers such as hydrangeas and azaleas are particularly fond of the acid in coffee grounds. Anytime you get the chance to replenish the earth beneath your feet, your steps will be more purposeful.
Growing a garden does take time, energy and patience. At a bare minimum, buy a few houseplants to help remove air pollutants. Did you know that the average person spends 80% of the time indoors, so why not clean up our house air? A NASA study found that 85% of the pollutants in our homes can be neutralized with houseplants. Philodendrons love to suck up formaldehyde and are one of the easiest houseplants to grow, requiring very little light and love. Some of my favorite superhero houseplants are ivy, peace lilies and the rubber plant. Flowers, too, such as Gerber daisies and mums are fantastic neutralizers of benzene, a toxic element. Green plants and flowers naturally detox the air. How easy is that to go green?
4. Eat Locally
Support your local farmers and gardeners and buy the freshest food, grown near you, in native soil, harvested in season, full of flavor, bursting with color and goodness. Tended with love and care, these bright and succulent fruits and vegetables are soooo good for you and for our Earth.
5. Save a Tree
To conserve our forests, do just a little part by using cloth napkins and towels, and when you can, buy paper towels that are made from 100% recyclable materials. Anytime, you can reduce using paper products, the trees sway in appreciation. And, who doesn’t love a table set with cloth napkins? So many patterns and designs make any dinner, even a take-out night, more special. One of my favorite ways to set a table is using festive bandanas for napkins and a special bonus-they are 100% cotton.
6. Recycle Lint
There is never a shortage of lint from my dryer and I am always mystified as how it expands and fills up my lint trap. Instead of scooping it out and pitching it in the trash, gather it into a ball and tuck in the hollow of some tree branches for the birds to find to feather their nests. Many birds relish the softness and warmth to create a natural bottom layer for their eggs. Birds and their babies like to snuggle, too.
7. Keep It Full
Freezers work more efficiently when you keep it stocked with food. Don’t waste energy with a half-full freezer. Plus, just think how happy you will be when you open the freezer and discover a wonderland of snacks and dinners, ready to heat and serve. Even if you don’t have the time and patience to make home-made meals, Trader Joe’s has a veritable buffet of frozen choices to take home and stack up in the freezer. When you get the munchies, remember to keep the door open only as long as necessary, as much energy is lost on open refrigerator doors.
8. Love Your Windows
Give your windows the attention they deserve as drafty windows leak heat or coolness and drive up your energy bills. Really, grab a caulking gun and squirt around the window frames to prevent seepage. If that seems like too much work, I know a great place where you can find the best energy efficient window coverings to fix leaky windows and conserve energy for a more comfortable and green home. Check out our BG blog on “My Five Top Energy Efficient Window Treatments” for more ideas on which window treatments are the best energy savers. Your windows can be beautiful and work hard for you.
9. Save Water
We all know the simple techniques for conserving water but just as a reminder: fix leaky faucets- a dripping faucet that leaks one drop per second, wastes over 200 gallons per month. Turn off water when brushing your teeth or shaving- two minutes of running water while brushing, wastes up to 5 gallons of water per day. Only run a dishwasher when full as it only uses 1/2 the water. Now, that is three things we all can do!
10. Lighten Up
Swap out your lights with long-lasting compact fluorescent lights (CFL’s, or those twisty swirl lights of frosted glass) or use LED bulbs which use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than incandescent light bulbs. If you would swap out just one ordinary 60-watt light bulb for a CFL, the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million. Greenhouse gases are also drastically altered in terms of oil that is not burned; one bulb equals 1.3 million cars being taken off the road. If those numbers don’t knock your socks off, I don’t know what will. Lighten up now!
I know many of us are used to the soft, white glow of our old light bulbs but our homes can be just as comforting and beautiful without those energy eating dragons of the past. Your home can shine and be smart.