Making steps toward living a more eco-friendly life will not only benefit the environment, but can have a lasting and meaningful impact on your family as well. Read below to learn about five different ways in which you and your family can transition into a greener lifestyle.
Switch to Green Energy
Perhaps the most effective way to reduce your own carbon footprint and to make your home more eco-friendly is by switching to green energy. A great first step is to learn more about green energy, the types of green energy available, the benefits of using green energy and why these energy sources are beneficial to the environment as well as to people all over the world.
What is green energy?
The term green energy refers to any energy source which produces energy or power from natural resources instead of from damaging fossil fuels, including coal, gas and oil. These green energy sources do not substantially contribute to the pollutants harming our environment. To switch to clean energy, you generally will not have to change energy providers, making this transition an easy one for you and your family.
Why choose green energy?
Many people who choose to switch to green energy do so for its zero emissions profile and its role in helping to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint. Although any form of energy production will emit some level of pollutants, green energy’s toxic output is far lower than other energy forms. There have been decades of research to show the negative effects that fossil fuels have on our planet’s environment, including their role in polluting our water, air and the ground itself. Choosing green energy is one way that you and your family can have a positive impact on our environment as you help to make the planet a safer, cleaner and more prosperous place for future generations.
What are the benefits of using green energy?
There are countless benefits of choosing to use green energy in your home. One of these benefits is that green energy services are often times more dependable than traditional forms of energy. This is because when using energy sources such as solar or wind power, it is less likely that there will be large-scale outages as is found with energy derived from coal or oil. Green energy sources such as those mentioned above are distributed over a larger area using multiple pieces of equipment to produce the power. Due to this, it is less likely that bad weather or issues with a single piece of equipment will effect energy service to a whole region. This benefit extends to not only the environment, but also to the convenience and comfort of your family.
Another advantage of green energy is that it is creating more jobs for people all over the world. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, or IRENA, it is estimated that the development of green energy created 7.7 million new jobs across the world in 2014. At this rate, IRENA estimates that by the year 2030, green energy production could help to create over 16 million new jobs. Additionally, using green energy as an alternative to traditional energy sources will help to improve public health and lower healthcare costs overall. This is because fossil fuels that cause air and water pollution will consequently cause cancer, breathing issues, heart attacks and other major health problems to those who are exposed.
When we produce our own green energy from within the United States, we are achieving greater energy independence. Using green energy helps to increase America’s autonomy and decreases our reliance on other countries for foreign imports, such as oil. Finally, green energy sources are renewable which means that they can be restored naturally. Traditional sources of energy, like oil and coal are finite and will not last forever. Adversely, natural energy sources like sunlight, wind or water are infinite, unlimited and in ongoing supply. It is believed that these natural energy sources could potentially provide more than what is required to meet all of America’s energy demands.
Common Types of Green Energy Sources
Perhaps the most familiar source of green energy is solar power. Solar power uses specialized panels to convert sunlight into electricity. This source of energy has been used for purposes such as heating water since ancient times, but has only been commonly used for alternative purposes since 1973. Today, solar power is successfully used in cars, homes, industry and agriculture.
Wind energy is another common source of green energy available to consumers across the world. This form of energy works by using a large number of windmills on wind farms to capture the strength of the wind that is then channeled to generators that make electricity. These wind farms are often privately owned and will sell the wind energy to utility companies who then provide the energy to consumers. Wind energy is advantageous to our environment because it does not give off pollutants and is diverse in the ways that it can be used.
Hydropower refers to power or energy that is generated by water and also dates back to ancient times where it was used in a variety of different ways. This green energy source uses moving water, such as that from rivers or streams, to spin turbines which then generate energy. Hydropower is superior to traditional energy sources, however, there is some concern over the impact that it might have on water quality and wildlife.
Reduce Water Usage in Your Home
A second way that you can help to make your home more eco-friendly is by reducing the amount of water you and your family use at home. There are several different ways in which you can cut down on how much water you use, all of which will positively impact the environment and help to cut costs on your family’s water bill.
Don’t Let Faucets Run When You Are Not Using Them
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, running water faucets dump approximately two gallons of water per minute. Many times, we will leave faucets running while we are brushing our teeth, doing dishes or washing our hands and face. This can result in tens of gallons of water wasted multiple times per day. To prevent this unnecessary waste of water, turn off your faucet any time you are not actively using the running water.
Consider Using a Smaller Dishwasher
There is a great selection of efficient dishwashers on the market which can drastically help reduce the amount of water and energy you are using in your home. If you usually only have small loads of dishes to wash, it might be worth investing in a double-drawer dishwasher model. This type of dishwasher features two separate dish drawers where dishes can be washed in two independent loads. By using a double drawer dishwasher, you can help to cut down on your water, detergent and energy use, as you will not need to run an entire full size dishwasher to wash only a small load of dishes. Each drawer uses only two gallons of water each which is a drastic improvement from the six gallons of water used per cycle by standard dishwashers.
Invest in a High-Efficiency Clothes Washer
On average, American families will wash approximately 300 loads of laundry every year. This household chore accounts for over 20 percent of the water we use in our homes which is why investing in a high-efficiency washing machine will substantially reduce the amount of water we use. Generally, washing machines which load from the front will use less water than top-loading washing machines. However, if you prefer a top-loading machine, you can still shop for models that will help you to cut down on your water usage. Energy-Star certified washing machines, whether front or top-loading, will use around 40 percent less water and 25 percent less energy than a standard washer. Instead of filling up your washing machine with water and gyrating your clothes to clean them, Energy-Star certified machines use streams of water and high-pressure sprays to wash your clothes.
Take Shorter Showers
Every year in the United States, 1.2 trillion gallons of water are used to shower, which accounts for 17 percent of total indoor water use. Cutting down your shower time is not only beneficial for our environment as you conserve water, but is also a great way to shave dollars off of your water and energy bills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if all Americans decreased their shower time by just one minute every time, it would conserve an astounding 165 billion gallons of water each year. Setting a five minute timer on your phone while you are showering is a great way to help yourself remember when it is time to turn the water off.
Water Your Plants and Garden By Hand
If you have a small garden, consider watering your plants by hand instead of with a sprinkler system, as hand watering can cut down your water usage by 33 percent. Another way to even further reduce how much water you use in your home is by collecting rainwater to water your plants and garden. You can use a rainwater drum to collect water runoff from your roof, gutters and downspouts. But do not forget to properly cover your water barrels, as these barrels offer the perfect environment for female mosquitos to lay their eggs.
Switch to LED or CFL Lights
Another step you can take to make your home more eco-friendly and more energy efficient is to switch to LED or CFL lightbulbs. Approximately twelve percent of the energy you use in your home comes from lighting. Switching to LED (light emitting diodes) and CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) lights is an easy and affordable way to reduce your carbon footprint as well as your energy bill. These lightbulbs will use 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent lightbulbs and last up to 25 times longer meaning that fewer of these bulbs will end up as waste in landfills. Additionally, LED and CFL lights produce less heat which will make it easier and less expensive for your air conditioning system to cool off your home in the summer months.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
The largest contributor to the cost of your energy bill is your heating and air conditioning system. A programmable thermostat will make your home more energy efficient while also helping to cut back the cost of your energy bill. Thermostats with programmable capabilities allow you to schedule times when you want your air conditioning or heater to stay on or turn off. For instance, you can program your air conditioner to run at a higher temperature while you are at work and at a cooler temperature when you are home in the evening. Using temperature schedules like these has benefits for the environment as well as your family’s finances.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Recycling waste is one of the most seemingly obvious ways to ensure that you and your family are doing your part at home to benefit the earth’s environment. When you recycle, you are helping to preserve finite fossil fuels which allows the earth to heal from the damage that has been caused by using these fossil fuels as a source of energy. Today, less than 25 percent of waste produced by the population is being recycled while we have the potential to recycle over 70 percent of this waste. Almost any item you use everyday in your home can be recycled. Aluminum cans, aluminum foil, bake ware, tin cans, cardboard, magazines, newspapers, phone books, plastic bottles, glass bottles, batteries, lightbulbs, electronics and even food are just a few items which can be recycled or reused to help protect the environment. If only half of Americans regularly recycled, the effect on greenhouse emissions would be the same as removing 25 million cars from the road. This is a huge impact for such a simple and accessible task. Finally, one commonly overlooked benefit of recycling is that it can also help to create American jobs in the manufacturing and recycling industries.
By implementing these suggestions into your every day life, you and your family can have a profound impact on the environment and the quality of life for your future generations. If practicing all of these ideas at once seems unrealistic for your family, then try starting with just one. Any step toward a greener, more eco-friendly life is a step in the right direction.