Earth Day 2021 is upon us — and this year, the theme is “Restore Our Earth.” The goal is simple: It’s time to educate everybody about the small changes they can make that will help put the ecological world back in balance.
Homeowners have more than one reason to get on board with the “green” movement: Just one or two eco-friendly changes can improve a home’s energy efficiency and lower your overall utility costs.
So, what can you do that will make your home more energy-efficient and green? Here are some ideas — many of which can be accomplished quite easily:
1. Seal Your Windows
It’s estimated that about 20% of home energy costs are the product of air leaks — which means you’re literally letting money (in the form of cold air in the summer and warm air in the winter) fly out the windows.
While air leaks can occur in various places in your home, your windows are probably the biggest source of problems. Weatherstripping and caulk are inexpensive and simple to apply, and they can help seal off any drafts that are wasting your energy.
2. Unplug the Electronics and Cords
How many charges do you have permanently plugged into your walls even when none of your electronics are attached? How often do you leave a fully charged electronic device plugged into the charger? These items alone could be adding an extra 10% to your electric bill.
According to Energy.gov, that cellular phone charger is eating up about .26 watts of energy even when it’s just sitting there, plugged into the wall but not in use. Even worse, when you leave your phone sitting on the charger even though the battery is at 100%, you’re wasting about 2.24 watts.
While that doesn’t sound like a lot, it adds up over time — especially in modern households where there are often several laptops, game stations, cell phones, e-readers and tablets throughout the home. Unplugging items after they are charged and disconnecting the cords can make a remarkable difference.
3. Use Cold Water on Your Wash
It’s not practical in the modern world to hand wash your clothes and hang them on the line to dry, but you can still lower your energy loss without sacrificing clean clothes. All you have to do is set your washing machine on “cold” instead of “hot” or “warm.”
Only about 10% of the energy your washer uses is actually related to the mechanics of the machine itself — the rest goes toward heating up your water. With today’s detergents and the average lifestyle, that heat is mostly wasted (and it wears your clothing out faster).
Just washing most of your clothes in cold water will help you create a more eco-friendly home, but you don’t have to stop there: You can also switch to a phosphate-free, vegetable-based laundry detergent that’s healthier for the planet (and better for your skin) just to be a little extra “green.”
4. Get a Programmable Thermostat
It may take you the better part of an afternoon to replace your old, manual thermostat with a high-tech programmable thermostat — but it’s worth it when you realize that you can save up to 10% of your heating and cooling bill over the next year.
Programmable thermostats make it effortless to adjust the temperature of your home according to how you use your space. For example, if you aren’t home all day, all that warm air in winter and cool air in the summer your HVAC unit puts out is largely wasted — but you also don’t want to return to a house that feels like either an icebox or a furnace every evening.
With a programmable thermostat, you can make sure that the temperature in your home starts to self-adjust well before you walk through the door and eliminate the wasted energy expenditures on an empty house.
5. Install a Water Filter on the Kitchen Sink
If you’re like many Americans, you prefer bottled water over tap water because you’re worried about impurities in the public water supply. Over time, those plastic water bottles can really pile up — and single-use plastic bottles are a major source of planet-wide pollution.
While recycling your plastic bottles helps, there’s a better option: Installing a water filter right on your sink will allow you and your family to use the water from the tap worry-free and eliminate the household expense that comes from buying bottled water all the time.
You may also want to consider buying some multi-use water bottles a filtration core. These are great if you like to carry water with you when you’re outside and need the convenience of a bottle. They can make single-use water bottles completely unnecessary — which is a win-win scenario for your wallet and the earth.
6. Get Energy-Efficient Showerheads and Toilets
This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s easier than you probably realize to swap old showerheads and toilets out with newer, greener versions. Low-flow showerheads can help you reduce the amount of water usage in your household considerably — especially if you have household members who take epic showers every night.
Upgrading your toilets can be even more important. Your toilets are responsible for roughly 30%-40% of the water use in your home. Replacing an old toilet with a low-flow model (which uses only about 1.6 gallons per flush compared to the standard 3.5 gallons) can help you save up to 12,000 gallons of water in a year.
If you’re concerned about how well a low-flow toilet will work, you can opt for a dual-flush toilet (which allows you to adjust the amount of water used to flush as needed) or a vacuum-assist toilet that uses suction action to help its processes.
Naturally, these aren’t the only things you can do to transform your home into an eco-friendly, earth-conscious environment, but they’re a good start. None of them require a lot of money to get started or a major remodeling effort. And, where the environment is concerned, every little bit can help!