Last year, we humans collectively burned through more than double the amount of resources that the Earth can sustain longterm. Experts fear if we don’t start changing our consumption habits, running out is inevitable. The good news? Every little effort to get greener counts, and the best place to start making a difference is in your own backyard (and within the walls of your own home).
We tapped Priscilla Short, author of Thrifty Green (Conari Press) and George Watt, a sustainable architect in Boulder, Colo., for simple tips on how to create a more energy-efficient house—without break ing the bank. In honor of Natural Health’s 40th anniversary, here are their 40 best ideas.
1. Turn off the lights. When your dad used to walk around the house flipping switches (a habit that likely made you roll your eyes), he was doing more than just saving on the family’s electric bill: Turning off what you’re not using can save up to 10 percent of your home’s total energy expenditure.
2. Unplug your appliances. We spend $1 billion a year powering our televisions, DVDs, microwaves and other electronics when they’re not in use. The solution: Plug everything into power strips so you can easily turn everything off.
3. Stop using paper towels. Sure, they’re (relatively) cheap and make life easier. But in one year, the average person uses 3,000 of them—which means adding tons of unnecessary paper towel waste to our landfills each day. Keep rags and old dish towels under your kitchen sink for quick cleanups; use cloth napkins for meals.
4. Put a brick in your toilet. The added weight decreases the amount of water your tank holds, so you’ll use less water with each flush. A simple way to make your old toilet work just like a new low-flow model.
5. Get an energy audit. Having a pro come into your home to look for the places where you’re unknowingly wasting energy can help you pinpoint the most important changes to make. Many cities are sponsoring auditing programs; even if yours isn’t, an audit will cost you anywhere from $100 to $200, an investment that will likely come back to you (and then some) in energy bill savings.
6. Clean your water. Skip those plastic water filter pitchers. Sure, they don’t cost a lot—but the plastic may leach bisphenol A (BPA) and will live forever in a landfill when you’re finished with it. Instead, invest in a filtration system that hooks up to your kitchen sink.