Simple Ways to Make Your Home More Sustainable

Simple Ways to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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By Alex Levin

Green housing has become a hot topic recently. As gas prices continue to increase, the efficiency of electric cars have quickly morphed from simple want to vital need. With renewed focus on reducing the “carbon footprint,” Americans struggle to understand how to make more from less. With the controversial topic of global warming on our collective conscious, the question that remains is, how can I make my home more environmentally-sustainable?

What is a sustainable home?

A truly green (or sustainable) home is a living space that works in tandem with nature, rather than against. It’s a structure that nets zero energy, producing as much (or more) energy than it consumes; a property that doesn’t contribute any environmental waste. All its resources come from passive means, resulting in no pollution. In other words, a sustainable home is a “carbon-neutral” home; a house that doesn’t add (or adds fewer) C02 emissions to the environment. The goal is to build (or retrofit) a structure that works as nature does, using a process that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle, from design to demolition.

Sustainable Landscaping

A home isn’t just what’s on the inside, but it also includes its surrounding area, as well. It’s possible to landscape and garden with the environment in mind. It may seem odd; however, it’s possible to do more harm than good when working in the garden. Using the wrong fertilizer or by incorporating pesticides, you can place unnecessary chemicals into the environment. There are other holistic methods to employ to that will benefit nature and your home.

For example, start with a compost pile. A sustainable homeowner can soon become a sustainable farmer by making your own fertilizer. Mix everyday food waste (vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells) with paper debris and then combine it with dead leaves and yard trimmings to create a nutrient-rich fertilizer. If you really want to earn your gold star in composting, consider an upgrade to vermicomposting (composting utilizing various species of worms), or installing a composting toilet (a managed aerobic decomposition system that treats human waste with no water or small volumes of flush water).

When landscaping, consider using native plants, rather than the exotic bamboo tree. Local habitation involves less maintenance (watering, care) because they are naturally occurring and have adapted to the area weather. If you’re living in a temperate climate, consider planting deciduous shade trees to aide in shading your home, minimizing air conditioning bills. If you’re located in a more arid area, you can try “xeriscaping,” a method of landscape design that minimizes water use with drought-tolerant plant varieties. Xeriscaping can make a “green” house greener by limiting its water consumption.

Sustainability throughout the home

Rather than just shading the home from the outside, consider doing double-duty by shading it from the inside as well. You can dress your window treatments with an opaque material that will allow sun to come into your home when it’s cold, but deflect hot rays when it’s cool. In the winter, be sure to close curtains at dusk to stop heat from escaping at night.

Regarding heating water in the home, consider solar water heating–hot water heated by the sun. Solar water heating for washing and bathing is often the best use of this technology, mainly because supply and demand are better matched. Solar water is slower to heat. Often bathing, showering, and clothes-washing occur less frequently throughout the day as compared to the high demand of hot water during dishwashing, hand washing, or cooking. Solar water heating complements the demand of the lower frequency water needs.

Water Recycling

To recycle water, it’s fairly easy to outfit a system to reuse “grey water” (wastewater derived from laundry and bathrooms) and “black water” (wastewater from toilets and kitchen, human waste). Grey water makes up 50–80% of residential wastewater. A green housing plan can reuse for non-food producing plants, such as the area lawn, where potable water is not required. This is especially helpful if you’re in an arid desert-like region or landscape. However, there are methods to turn both grey and black water into hi-quality drinking water, by using water recycling systems or water purification systems.

Rainwater harvesting, often used in rainforest regions of the earth, can be wisely employed in our own backyards. Simply add a water tank to collect rainwater from your roof. You can then use the collected water for irrigation purposes and even pipe it into your home for use in your toilets. It’s not always 100% drinkable, but you can then employ your water purification system to take care of that.

Using the above techniques, you can quickly convert your home from an environmentally-consumptive to an environmentally-friendly and efficient property. You’ll be amazed at how many utility bills you can reduce and how much you can positively affect your surroundings. By modifying your lifestyle, you’ll be able to increase the lifecycle of our ecosystem.

Author Information

Alex Levin is a writer for Granite Transformations, the Orange County bathroom remodeling experts.

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