Don’t turn blue if your house isn’t as green as you’d like; it’s never too late to make your home more sustainable. A Denver landscape designer can come out and create a few plans to help you get started outdoors.
You don’t have to build a garden of prairie coneflowers or surrender your patio to the Colorado landscape, but there are some small but effective ways to make your property less of a burden on the environment that could result in some big changes.
Researchers from the University of Colorado have found that normal household chores like cooking, cleaning, and others “generate significant levels of volatile and particulate chemicals inside the average home, leading to indoor air quality levels on par with a polluted major city.”
And the pollutants always find a way to escape the home. Products like shampoo, cleaning spray, and perfume contribute to ozone and fine particle formation. The accumulation of these pollutants globally makes up a bigger source of atmospheric air pollution than even cars and trucks. But there are ways to combat your at-home pollution, save energy, and sleep better about your house’s effect on the environment. Below is a list of 10 easy ways to do just that.
Wash Your Clothes In Cold Water, Hang Dry
According to Energy Star, 90 percent of the energy your washing machine uses goes to heating water, so try using the cold setting in the future, and then hang dry to save even more energy, and prevent clothes from shrinking. And fill the washer up as much as possible, since washers largely use the same amount of energy no matter the load size. Some other quick laundry tips include:
- Avoid a ‘Sanitary Cycle’ – If your washer has this setting, it generally means the water will be scorching hot, in an effort to kill all excess germs possible. This will just use more energy to heat the water.
- Use A High Spin Speed Option, If Available – Spinning excess moisture from your clothes will make them dry faster.
- Use Sensor Drying Versus Time Drying – Often dryers will run longer than they need to if you time the drying versus using a sensory option. Though some dryers don’t offer this, it’s important to use it if available.
- Consider A Gas Dryer – Though 80 percent of U.S. dryers are electric, some are not. Consider using a gas dryer if you can, which will save you money and save energy.
- Low Heat Setting – This will use less energy and cut down on fire risk in the home.
Use LED Bulbs Over Regular Light Bulbs
LED, or light-emitting diode lights, are becoming more and more popular as research shows they use less electricity and save consumers money, as opposed to compact fluorescent (CFL) and incandescent lights. A 2013 study from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, observing the manufacturing, transport, use, and disposal of the three lights, found that LED lights have less negative environmental impact than both. Also:
- LEDs use less energy
- Lamp models in the study had levels of federally-regulated elements Below Most State Landfill Restrictions
- Components in the lamps that exceeded thresholds were: screw bases, drivers, ballasts, and wires or filaments.
Try Composting At Home
So you recycle and separate your landfill trash, which is a great start. But to take your at-home waste management to the next level, consider acquiring an at-home compost bin. Composting generally requires three basic components: browns (dead leaves, branches, etc.), greens (grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit or coffee grounds, and water. The EPA states composting has a slew of benefits, including:
- Enriches soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests.
- Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.
- Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.
What To Compost: fruits and vegetables, crushed eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, nut shells, shredded newspaper or cardboard or shredded paper, yard trimmings, grass clippings, houseplants, hay and straw, leaves, sawdust, wood chips, hair and fur, fireplace ashes
What Not To Compost, And Why:
- Black walnut tree leaves or twigs – Releases substances that might be harmful to plants
- Coal or charcoal ash – Might contain substances harmful to plants
- Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs* – Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
- Diseased or insect-ridden plants – Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants
- Fats, grease, lard, or oils* – Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
- Meat or fish bones and scraps* – Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
- Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)* – Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
- Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides – Might kill beneficial composting organisms
* Check with your local composting or recycling coordinator to see if these organics are accepted by your community curbside or drop-off composting program.
Be Selective & Aware In The Kitchen
If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, it’s important to develop sustainable and energy-saving habits to cut down on waste, create a more greenhouse, and save yourself some money. The Washington Post detailed 20 ways to greenerize your kitchen with some small but effective tweaks, including:
- Putting a lid on boiling water to limit heating time,
- Ditching plastic bags and paper towels, paper plates and silverware
- Running the dishwasher only if full, using microwaves, toasters, and air-fryers as opposed to ovens, etc.
- Using reusable coffee equipment
- Cutting down on meat and dairy consumption
While some of these seem rather obvious, like eliminating paper plates, other things can go unnoticed by the average home dweller, such as monitoring the temperature of the fridge (it should be 37 degrees) and cleaning the fridge’s coils (dust can harm the fridge’s energy efficiency.)
Full detail of the list and its components can be found here.
Use Natural, Homemade, Or Organic Cleaning Products
While cleaning and sanitizing your house is essential for having a fresh, healthy, and attractive indoor home, eliminating harmful dust and germs can have collateral effects on the environment considering the harmful chemicals innate to several household cleaning products.
Using green cleaning products can not only be healthier for you but can eliminate the negative effects on your home and the environment. Typical cleaning products are linked to environmental concerns such as:
- Cleaning products are released to the environment during normal use through evaporation of volatile components and rinsing down the drain of residual products from cleaned surfaces, sponges, etc.
- Certain ingredients in cleaning products can present hazard concerns to exposed populations (e.g., skin and eye irritation in workers) or toxicity to aquatic species in waters receiving inadequately treated wastes (note that standard sewage treatment effectively reduces or removes most cleaning product constituents).
- Many surfactants used in conventional products biodegrade slowly or biodegrade into more toxic, persistent, and bioaccumulative chemicals, threatening aquatic life.
- Ingredients containing phosphorus or nitrogen can contribute to nutrient-loading in water bodies, leading to adverse effects on water quality. These contributions, however, are typically small compared to other point and nonpoint sources.
- Volatile organic compounds (VOC) in cleaning products can affect indoor air quality and also contribute to smog formation in outdoor air.
When looking for greener solutions in cleaning, look for products certified by the EPA’s Safe Choice Program that contain safer ingredients for human health and the environment.
Adding different ground coverage to your front and back yard can create a more sustainable landscape. Reducing the need for sprinklers, fertilizer, and other less sustainable attributes will make your house better for the environment.