8 gestures for a greener home
One small eco-friendly step for you; one eco-friendly leap for mankind. Here are eight ideas to green your home.
1. Stop air leaks
“We’re not paying to heat the outdoors, you know!” Who has never heard their parents say that? And how right they were.
Energy efficiency at home starts by excellent insulation, summer and winter alike.
Don’t forget to caulk. If insulation material comes into contact with the damp, it loses its ability to form an adequate airtight barrier.
Nothing beats a blower door test to check where warm air might be escaping and cold air getting in.
A well-insulated home is the first step towards reducing your winter heating bills.
2. Reduce water use
According to the OECD, Canada continues to be one of the world’s largest consumers of fresh water per capita, with the average household using 251 litres per day.
The following practices will help reduce you daily usage of this ‘blue gold’:
- Install low-flow toilets and flow regulators for the shower and bathtub.
- Turn the tap off while brushing teeth, washing hands and shaving.
- Install water saving aerators on faucets.
- Only run the dishwasher and washing machine with a full load.
- Repair appliances and pipework to avoid leaks.
- Collect rainwater to water your plants and yard.
- Water plants at nightfall to avoid evaporation.
- Plant drought-resistant plants and shrubs to reduce watering needs.
3. Pick ecological materials
Many companies offer an innovative range of durable, affordable and environmentally-sound construction materials.
You don’t need to aim for LEED® certification for your home, but you can still make worthwhile choices that reduce your ecological footprint even though they may cost slightly more.
One way to make your home eco-friendlier is to re-use and recover as much as possible. Choose materials with an environmentally responsible label and that are derived from renewable sources. Purchase local materials that help reduce the energy footprint left by transportation. Browse the Ecohome site for help making informed choices.
Also avoid products, such as paints, stains, varnishes, glue, etc. with a high volatile organic compound (VOC) content. Air quality has no price!
4. Make your own cleaning products
It is time to ban cleaning products that contain harmful VOCs and which are often sold in plastic containers.
To become an earth-friendly Mr. Spic or Ms. Span, all you need are a few products you probably already have in the cupboard:
- White vinegar
- Baking soda
- Washing soda
- Essential oils (not essential, but they leave a delicate scent in the house)
The Internet is awash with recipes for homemade cleaning products, but here are a couple that have proven effective:
Recipe for house cleaning solution
- 2 litres water
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ½ cup baking soda
- 5 drops of lemon or blood-orange essential oil
Some people add 2 tablespoons of olive oil which helps prevent the accumulation of dust.
Recipe for window cleaner
- 2 cups water
- ¼ cup rubbing alcohol
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
5. Recycle and compost
Most municipalities in Canada have the facilities for recycling and a large number of households contribute to the movement.
Did you know that organic matter makes up 44% of waste generated by each individual, i.e., about 184 kg a year?
Composting is therefore an obvious solution for reducing at source waste that ends up in landfill.
With or without a backyard, there are several ways to make your own compost without too much hassle.
After that, all you need to do is reap the benefits of your efforts and give your shrubs, flowerbeds and vegetables a fertilizing boost.
The same goes for grasscycling and leafcycling. When you mow the lawn, leave the grass clippings and shredded leaves on the ground. This reduces the need to water and your luxuriant lawn will be the envy of your neighbours.
6. To buy is to vote
Your consumer choices have an impact on the planet.
Minimize at source and buy only what you need. Buy local products. Try to buy second hand rather than new. Refuse to buy products with built-in obsolescence. Fix what can be fixed. Give used items to charities that collect them.
These are just a few of the umpteen consumer initiatives you can adopt every day to reduce your environmental footprint and make you home greener.
7. Light with LED
One LED white light is the equivalent of 25 incandescent light bulbs.
If the bulb bears the ENERGY STAR symbol and is used sensibly, a LED light can last at least 22 years (or 25,000 hours).
The new lighting technology might be more expensive at the outset, but it promises long-term savings and contains no mercury or lead.
8. Replace old electrical appliances
You might be fond of that old retro-style refrigerator you inherited from your grandma, but you should know that it’s a real energy guzzler.
To calculate the annual energy consumption of your electrical appliances, visit the Hydro-Québec website.
The data will help you decide whether it is better to repair or replace the appliance with an ENERGY STAR-certified one.