The topic of sustainability is in the news everyday, and for good reason. Humans are eating up natural resources faster than they are produced so it’s up to each of us to implement eco-friendly practices. January is the perfect time to set new goals, and if one of those goals is lowering your carbon footprint, we’ve got some ideas to keep in mind.
1. Create a Compost Pile
The benefits of a compost pile are numerous. Not only does it reduce the amount of food waste in your trash, but it’s good for your yard and nature. Compost is the best natural food for your garden soil and it’s easy to make. To start, find a large composter, build one from wood scraps, or simply make a pile of your compost ingredients. Evenly layer brown (paper or twigs), green (grass clippings and leaves), and organic (fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and egg shells) materials throughout the year. Make sure to spin or stir the pile occasionally to circulate the air. Your compost will break down the quickest in direct sunlight, but will also require a frequent dose of water. You can place your compost pile in a shady area, but it will take longer to break down and will not require as much added moisture.
2. Install Rain Barrels
Rain barrels are easy to install and a worthwhile water conservation effort. Purchase or build a water diverter. This device fits into the gutter downspout. Cut your downspout and fit top and bottom sections into the diverter. Follow the directions for your model. The paddle wheel inside the diverter will kick a portion of the water out the side and through a hose that connects it to the nearby rain barrels. Remember to place your rain barrels far enough off the ground that gravity will allow them to drain out the hose attached to the bottom when the time comes.
3. Remove Some Lawn
As you probably know, lawns are incredibly resource intensive. Many homeowners also look to toxic chemicals to help the grass thrive and to drive out weeds. Save yourself, and the planet, some water and toxins by taking out a portion or all of your grass in favor of less needy options. Install rock or cement pathways or choose to implement xeriscaping designs. Also look for native plants, which will generally grow quite well in the given environment without the need for extra food or water. If you do decide to continue with a lawn but it’s time to reseed, choose a variety with low water requirements, such as Eco-lawn.
4. Update Light Bulbs
For many years, the spotlight of home energy conservation has shined towards using the right types of light bulbs. If you still have incandescent bulbs in your home, it’s time to make the switch to LED (Light Emitting Diode) styles. LED bulbs use significantly less energy by requiring less wattage while producing the same amount of light as prior versions. Plus, they don’t contain mercury. While replacing old bulbs with LEDs remember to include the holiday lights and indoor decor strands. Outdoors, make sure your LEDs are rated for outdoor use. Better yet, switch to a solar option and eliminate the need for electricity all together.
5. Safely Dispose of Toxic Chemicals
Would you drink from a water pitcher that previously contained lawn chemicals or paint? Of course not. So be sure you’re not adding chemicals to everyone’s water supply. Think about the journey of that weed killer. Whether you’ve sprayed in onto the cracks of the sidewalk or thrown the container into the trash, it eventually will end up running to the the main water system. That means it dumps into the rivers and streams and circles back to the tap at your house. Consider alternatives in your home such as white vinegar to treat weeds, baking soda for many cleaning tasks, and low VOC paints. When it’s time to dispose of the chemicals you do have, contact your local waste removal service. Most will have chemical round-ups several time a year where you can responsibly drop your chemicals for free.
6. Reclaim Your Water
There are a variety of ways to reclaim the water that you use in your home. Here are few ideas:
Place a bucket in your shower to collect the water that runs from the faucet while warming it to your ideal temperature.
Cool water used to boil noodles or when canning and then dump it into the yard or use it to water indoor plants.
Save the water used for relatively clean tasks like washing lettuce. There’s no reason to let it go down the drain.
Don’t dump the drinking water either. Just because it’s been sitting around too long doesn’t mean it can’t be used elsewhere. Add it the dog’s bowl or give the plants a drink.
A more impactful, and also more effort-intensive option, is to install an in-home water-recycling system. This can be a highly-technical system that is installed to pull grey water from your dishwasher, laundry, shower, and sinks. It then pushes it through a filter and provides cleaner water for landscaping needs or toilets. Recycling home water could also be as easy as hooking a hose up to your washing machine drain system and running it directly to your flower bed. Remember to use earth-friendly soaps, shampoos, and detergents that will not harm plants.