Greening your home in a couple of simple steps

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Saving energy and money, lowering your environmental footprint and impact, and conserving natural resources does not have to be a major project. There are a number of small steps that you can take tight now that will do just that and small steps can lead to bigger ones, and many small steps combined a journey make.

Experiment with them one at a time and don't, necessarily, try to run before you can walk. If you try to take on and tackle all these projects all at once, you will get overwhelmed and discouraged and come to the conclusion so many reach, namely that they cannot do it and that it costs a great deal of money; it done not (have to).

Start by replacing your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). While CFLs may not be the be all and end all of light bulbs, especially as they contain a small amount of mercury – they are, after all, a kind of mercury vapor lamp – that do save energy and recently have been so cheap in many stores here in the UK that I must say I rather stocked up on them and will do so again when the price is right.

According to research compact fluorescent bulbs use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer compared to an ordinary Edison light bulb. CFLs also produce less heat, thus the cooling costs in summer could be reduced. They are most effective in rooms that are used often, such as kitchen and living areas, or where lights are on more than 15 minutes at a time, at least the older version of them that needed some time to start up properly first. The newer versions of them are on immediately and thus there is no longer a problem with that.

Some communities are banning incandescent bulbs, so now is the time to get used to the change. In fact in many countries of Europe the incandescent light bulb, the Edison one, is banned already from sale and talk is even of making the use of them illegal. Now it would be fun to see how they wish to enforce that ban on use.

Buy energy efficient appliances when it’s time to replace them but Do NOT go out and buy green appliances (or anything, for that matter) just to be eco-conscious. That is unnecessary energy use and waste, and it’s the opposite of what you want to accomplish. Wait until something needs replacing, then research the most efficient and eco-friendly according to your needs.

All new white goods and also electric kettles and such like now come, more often than not, with an Energy Star rating, or such like. Look at the charts available and chose the most efficient for the price range that you can afford. Again, don't spend more than you can afford, as that also would be a waste; a waste of your hard-earned cash in this case.

Some vendors try their very best to get you to buy this and that eco appliance and gadget to save you money, be that as regards to energy or water or whatever else but, yet again, unless you are aiming to replace something then that would be a waste yet again to buy the things just because they are “green”.

On the other hand if it is a small gadget to fit into your shower or such to reduce the water usage, or something to put into your toilet cistern to reduce the amount of water that you use per flush then that is something worth thinking about. At times those gadgets are, actually, been given away, in the UK at least, by manufacturers, vendors and even energy and water utility companies. Look out for those.

Collect rainwater from your roof. This can be an elaborate system of catchment and filtering for indoor use, or as simple as 5-gallon buckets for watering outside. For domestic water, install gutters along the edge of the roof, and place downspouts on the corners. They lead to an underground cistern, then a pump sends the water through a filtering system in the house. This water needs to be tested regularly for human consumption.

Please, however, note that in many US states and localities the harvesting of rainwater is, in fact, illegal and constitutes a criminal act. Check your local ordinances before falling foul of the law.

While I certainly agree that that such laws laws are stupid the fact is that it, nevertheless, such are the laws and thus breaking them may lead to problems.

Insulate your ceiling. Heat rises, and the first place it will leave your house is through the ceiling and roof thus increasing your heating costs. It is estimated that 45% of your heat can be lost through a ceiling with no insulation. Summer sun beating on the roof can heat up your house increasing your cooling bills. Ceiling insulation will keep you comfortable and keep your energy bills low year round. Consider using cellulose insulation, which is shredded newspaper that is blown in. This is a great way to recycle and there are no chemicals to contend with or the prickly glass fiber or rock wool so often used.

Install window coverings to keep heat indoors in winter and outside in summer. The Eastern Europeans and those in the South of France and elsewhere in the Mediterranean know why they have shutters on the outside of their windows. In Northern, Central and Eastern Europe this is to keep the cold out and the heat in during the cold winters and in the Mediterranean countries it is to keep the heat out in summer and that is why you will see those shutters closed during the middle of the day in Italy, South of France, etc. Time we learned from those old ideas and put them back into practice.

Use heavy drapes to pull across your windows at night. This keeps the heat in, and use those in addition to double- or triple-glazing even (if you can install such windows). Heavy drapes, on their own, already, can really reduce the heating bill. The point is to create an air space between your room and the window. Even energy efficient windows need to be covered at night.

And stop those drafts: The drafts I am speaking of here are those that come through especially under the doors into the house and every room. Use a “snake” or similar cushion kind of thing.

There are, obviously, still a lot of other things that you can do, but it all depends on whether you actually can do it due to ordinances or finances. It would be silly to get yourself into (serious) dept in order to go green and to save energy. The idea is to save money not throw it out of the window.

Other things you can do are much smaller things, as in money impact, and they are to reuse and upcycle and to think of a second life for each and every item of waste – especially in way of packaging waste – that comes your way before you even ever think about putting it into the recycling bin.

A clean empty tin can makes a great pencil bin for the desk, and cans can also make great cutlery bins for your kitchen counter. A tin can also makes for a great scoop for chicken feed or other such stuffs. In fact most people would not believe what empty tin cans can be used for all.

Never feel like you are not doing enough. If you replace one incandescent bulb with a CFL, you can save ½ ton of CO2 from going into the atmosphere. You don’t need to do a lot, small steps are most important. Every little helps and if everyone would do just a little bit it would already be an awful lot.

© 2011