Wednesday, June 17, 2009

10 Ways to "Green" Your Home

By Shireen Qudosi

Many people thinking "going green" in your home means added expense and hassle. However, incorporating a few eco-friendly habits in your home can not only easily done, but it can save you money and teach your kids valuable lessons on conservation.

1) Rethink Bottled Water

As the world's leading consumers of bottled water, statistics show Americans spent over $11 billion dollars on 8.3 billion gallons of bottled water in 2006 alone. It takes over 1.5 million barrels of oil to manufacture the amount of bottled water Americans consume each year. Add to that the fact that an estimated 38 billion water bottles end up in landfills each year where it takes an average of 700 years before they begin decomposing.

There are many bottled water facts that boggle the mind when we look into the nitty gritty data of this industry, and the simplest way to break this bad habit is to switch to tap water. With one of the best water purification systems in the world, our tap water is just as safe to drink as that bottled variety. However, if you're already twitching from bottle withdrawal, then get a reusable bottle and invest in a water filter that will work with your tap.

2) Alternative Cooling

With a scorching summer right around the corner, the average American household will spend $231.34 a month on cooling alone. Turning on the AC not only kicks up the cost to stay cool, but also does a number on the environment. A great way to keep your cooling cost down and do your part for cleaner air, is to limit central AC use and opt instead for portable air conditioners. Portable AC units cost pennies on the dollar to run - saving your family hundreds of dollars that can be either saved or better spent on family outings.

3) Green Cleaning

The type of cleaning product you use not only affect the environment but also have a huge impact on your family's health. Most cleaners are chemical based and each time you spray to clean, you release toxic chemicals into the air you breathe. Not wanting to poison their own homes, many moms are now cleaning their homes with non-toxic chemical free cleaners. These cleaners are relatively inexpensive and do just as good of a job as the brands you're already used to.

4) Unused Appliances

We all know that we should unplug unused appliances. But did you know that one of the biggest 'appliances' in your home is your computer? Our computers are usually always left plugged in, and turned on. According to EPA, powering down your computer each night (or at least setting it on 'sleep' mode) can reduce energy usage by up to 70%.

5) Good Old-Fashioned Recycling

When we think of going green, we think of recycling. And when we think of recycling, that age old picture comes to mind of separating paper and plastic, of running down to the local recycling center with our bottles and cans. There's no better way to start being green than by doing the things you're already familiar with. So start saving up cans and bottles, old newspapers and magazines, and make a weekly trip down to your local recycling center. This is a perfect "green" habit to get the kids involved with as well. Make them in charge of collecting recyclables during the week, and let them keep the money they earn from recycling each week.

6) Dryer Habits

There are a couple of good dryer habits to help make sure your appliance is performing optimally. First, get in the habit of cleaning the the lint from the filter. This not only helps with air flow, but it'll also help prevent any dryer fires. Next, think about adding a couple tennis balls or dyer balls to your dryer load. Dryer balls not only help keep your clothes from sticking to the sides of the dryer, but they make your clothes tumble around faster, which means they'll dry faster - which means you'll be using less energy.

7) Get Rid of Trunk Junk

Studies show that Americans spend about 233 hours of their life commuting. For a lot of people, their car is like their second home. That being the case, you may want to think about how you can take your green home habits and apply them to your car. One of the simplest ways to do this is to get rid of unwanted or unused good in your trunk. Open up your trunk and take a good look at what's in there. Do you need the extra set of dumbbells, or the pile of books, or even the heavy oversized bag of dog food? The more weight you have in your car, the lower your gas mileage is and the more pressure you put on your car because it has to work that much harder to run. So not only are you reducing your car's aerodynamics, you're also wasting fuel - which harms both the environment and your wallet.

8) "Green" Paint

Traditional paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that release pollutants into the air. However, you can shop around for low-VOC or no-VOC paints. A lot of companies now offer eco-friendly paint that comes in just as many colors and costs just the same as other brands. The plus side is that these 'green' paints don't have the same linger toxic order as older paints.

9) Eco-Friendly Lunches

The average child will produce about 67 pounds of garbage each year from lunch time paper bags, plastic bags, plastic containers, etc. This figure escalates to about 3.5 million nationwide, causing many "Green" moms to opt for "litter-less lunches". So instead of sending your kids to school with a lunch that will inevitably end up in a landfill, moms are now going back to good ole lunchboxes with reusable bottles, containers and utensils.

A few great sites considerations are Kleen Kanteen, Lunchopolis, and Greentainer. Getting your kids to start using reusables, and teaching them how they're doing their part, is a great way to ensure healthy green habits at an early age.

10) Print-out Possibilities

Aside from reusing unwanted print outs, little things like widening page margins to 0.75 can reduce the amount of paper used by about 5%. This small but effective habit can save over 6 million trees per year. Additionally, adjusting your print out settings to "draft", instead of "normal", will save you a considerable amount of ink. Ink may seem like no big deal, but if you consider the plastics it takes to make a cartridge, and the petroleum/oil needed to make plastic, you begin to start seeking how even the smallest tweaks can make a difference.

Going green is hardly ever just about one resource. If you consider all the resources it takes to make one resource, you start realizing the chain of conservation (or waste) involved. Green habits are really easy to develop - start with one or two that seem doable or assign one idea to each member of your family.

Shireen Qudosi is a green expert working with Air Conditioner Home A premier online retailer of residential/commercial cooling, Air Conditioner Home is dedicated to raising consumer awareness on green issues & promoting both air purification and eco-friendly cooling.

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