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22 Ways To Be a More Eco-Friendly Homeowner in 2023

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Guest Post

Edited by: Andrew Dunn

Written by: Amy Galloway

By adopting a more eco-friendly lifestyle, homeowners can make a big difference in the battle to help protect the planet.

But what does eco-friendly actually mean? To put it simply, being eco-friendly means causing no harm to the planet. For a homeowner, it means thoughtfully selecting and purchasing products that cause the least harm to the planet and creating new habits that promote a healthier lifestyle. 

We’ve researched nearly two dozen ways you can put your eco-friendly values into action as a homeowner this year. Some of these ideas are quick and easy and free. They simply require a shift in conventional thinking or change in habit to adopt a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Others are more involved – including a few home improvement projects that require a financial investment.

Eco-Friendly Home Improvements

Home warranty customers are generally up-to-speed on the improvements your home needs – and more likely to take on projects to help their home get even better. When you start a home improvement project, it’s smart to ask about eco-friendly products and options. 

Finding products that help preserve the planet’s resources go a long way toward living in a more eco-friendly home. Some eco-friendly improvements are easier than others to implement. Some are simple inexpensive do-it-yourself jobs while others require more research and the expertise of contractors.

1. Use a smart thermostat

Smart thermostats are a wise investment and a great way to kick off a more eco-friendly approach to home ownership. They are relatively inexpensive, readily available, and easy to install. Smart thermostats will also save you money on your heating and cooling bills. 

Smart thermostats, not to be confused with programmable thermostats, are WiFi-based devices that can be operated through your smartphone. They range in price from about $60 to $300 for high-end models. Using sensors or geo-fencing technology, they will adjust your settings while you’re away. A smart thermometer with Energy Star approval will save you about $50 per year – and even more in climates with extreme cold or heat.

2. Add solar panels

Adding solar panels to your home is an expensive endeavor, but definitely worth researching. Solar power is a renewable energy resource that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, significantly reducing our reliance on traditional fuel sources with a more substantial carbon footprint. 

Now is an especially good time to consider adding solar panels because of increased tax credits authorized through the Inflation Reduction Act. Through 2032, homeowners can receive a 30% tax credit, offsetting your total cost.

The average cost of solar system installation in the United States is about $25,000, according to experts at EcoWatch. That means the average time it takes to break even on your solar investment is eight to 10 years. 

3. Switch to LED lightbulbs

LED light bulbs are a quick, easy, and affordable way to improve your home’s eco-friendliness. These bulbs use 90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last 15 times longer. That’s a lifetime savings of $55 on a single bulb. 

If every U.S. household replaced just one incandescent bulb with an Energy Star-certified LED, the U.S. government estimates we’d save 7 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year – the same amount produced by 690,000 cars.  

Once criticized for their harsh bluish lighting, LED bulbs are now available in warmer tones. They are also sold in a wide variety of sizes to fit everything from desk lamps to candelabras. Prices now start at just $1.

4. Add double- or triple-glazed windows

Most modern homes have double-glazed windows, also known as double-pane windows. These windows are constructed with two pieces of glass with a cushion of insulation between them – typically argon gas. Triple-glazed, or triple-pane, windows are considered an upgrade, composed of three pieces of glass with insulating gas between each piece.

Older homes that have never had their windows replaced may have single-pane windows, which do not provide much protection from the heat or cold. Upgrading to double-pane windows is a smart idea, saving on heating and cooling, which are a huge drain on fossil fuels.

The case for upgrading to triple-pane windows is more nuanced. They may be a good fit for climates with extreme heat or cold, though how long you plan to stay in your home is another factor to take into consideration.

Now is a great time to replace windows because they are included in the 30 percent tax credit being offered by the federal government’s Inflation Reduction Act through 2032. Plug your ZIP code into the government’s Energy Star Rebate Finder to search for additional local and state rebates.

5. Switch to energy-efficient appliances

When it comes to appliances, the most eco-friendly choice is to use the appliances you have until it’s no longer feasible to repair them. That’s where home warranties can help out by defraying the cost of repairs and helping you get the most life out of your home appliances.

However, when it is time to replace an appliance, look for appliances with the Energy Star designation. Through 2032, Energy Star appliances are eligible for a 30% federal tax credit authorized through the Inflation Reduction Act. 

6. Get a water filter

Water filters are an eco-friendly way to curb the purchase of bottled water, a major source of damage to the planet. There are three basic styles of filters to consider: a whole-house filter, a single-source faucet style and a filtered pitcher. 

Before purchasing a filter, check your water supplier’s Consumer Confidence Report, which is a federally mandated report card on your water. It lists the contaminants that may be in your drinking water and the health risks they pose, which will better inform your choice of water filter system. Match the type of filter your purchase with the type of impurities you are most concerned about. 

A whole-house water filtration system is an investment, costing as much as $5,000 or more depending on type and brand. It filters all the water coming into your home. A faucet filter is far more affordable and filters the water coming from a single spigot, such as your kitchen sink. Prices range from $200 to $1,000. A filtered water pitcher is by far the cheapest option. Prices run in the $30 to $50 range.

7. Insulate your home

Insulation is another category of eco-friendly home improvement included in the federal government’s newly enhanced 30% tax credit. Consider insulating with some of the newer sustainable materials, such as denim, hemp and stone mineral wool, for an even greater boost to the environment. A word of caution: If you own an older home, make sure your contractor tests for asbestos, a cancer causing material formerly used in insulation, before beginning any project.

8. Install sustainable flooring

Eco-friendly flooring choices are a growing segment of the industry. Look for materials that are sustainable, recycled or reclaimed. Other things to consider, however, are manufacturing methods, chemicals necessary for adhering the material to your floors, transportation distances and longevity of the product. Stay away from materials that emit volatile organic compounds, known as VOCs, which can cause health problems.

One of the most popular sustainable options is bamboo, which is an easily grown and replenished resource. Reclaimed wood, cork and linoleum are other options to consider. If the mention of linoleum surprises you, it is indeed an eco-friendly product made of linseed oil and tree resins. Because of its natural properties, linoleum flooring is reemerging in popularity after being eclipsed by vinyl products in the 1960s and 70s. 

When replacing carpets, explore natural, sustainably grown fibers such as jute and wool. Avoid carpets that have been treated with chemicals.

9. Use eco-friendly paint and wallpaper

When painting your home, look for water-based paints that are labeled zero-VOC, which means they do not contain volatile organic compounds. VOCs emit potentially dangerous chemicals into the air, causing potential health risks, not to mention an overwhelming paint odor. 

When selecting paint, look for private sector certifications endorsed by the EPA, including Cradle to Cradle and Green Seal. As an alternative, consider eco-friendly chalk, milk and clay paints. Similar to paints, wallpapers can also emit VOCs. Avoid products containing polyvinyl chloride or PVC, which emit VOCs. Instead, look for wallpapers that are made from recycled or sustainable materials and use water-based inks instead of solvent-based.

10. Use an electric lawn mower instead of gas 

The most eco-friendly lawn mower is the old push reel mower. If you have a small, level yard, this might be a viable option. If not, electric mowers are the next best eco-friendly choice. 

Electric mowers have come a long way since their introduction and do not produce tail-pipe emissions as their gas-powered counterparts do. Gas-powered lawn mowers and other lawn-care equipment are a major source of pollution in the United States in the form of air pollution and spilled gasoline. Electric mowers, while not as powerful, are quieter, cheaper to run, and require less maintenance than their gas-fueled counterparts.  

11. Upgrade your toilet

Toilets are the single biggest source of water consumption in a home – nearly 30% – so it makes sense both environmentally and economically to replace older toilets.

Look for WaterSense-labeled toilets, which is an EPA designation given after testing both performance and efficiency. Don’t confuse these toilets with the first generation of water-saving toilets that often required double flushing. The WaterSense toilets reduce water consumption by  20% to 60%. If all toilets nationwide were replaced with WaterSense toilets, the EPA says, the U.S. would save 360 billion gallons of water – the same amount that flows over Niagara Falls in nine days.

12. Install a bidet

While more commonly found in Europe, bidets are gaining in popularity in the United States. Bidets save on the use of toilet paper and water used in the production of toilet paper. Bidets, which easily attach to your toilet, are relatively inexpensive, typically costing between $40 to $100.

13. Repair leaky plumbing

Save on your water bill and save a precious natural resource at the same time by repairing plumbing leaks as soon as possible. How can a few drips from a faucet be such a big deal? The EPA estimates water leaks nationwide amount to one trillion gallons of water lost. Per household, that’s nearly 10,000 gallons lost per year. 

Worn-out toilet flappers are a major cause of leaks and are a relatively simple do-it-yourself project. Worn out washers and gaskets are the guilty parties in faucet leaks. For shower head leaks, it might be time to tighten the connection between the pipe steam and the shower head. If you’re handy, watch a few online videos and tackle these projects yourself. If not, hire a plumber to check for leaks. Repair them all at once to save on service call fees.

Eco-friendly lifestyle changes 

Altering your everyday habits to reflect a more eco-friendly way of life can be a challenge, but well worth the effort when multiplied by millions of households across the planet. The bonus for being a good eco citizen is this: being green almost always means saving some green.

1. Wash clothes in cold water

Washing your clothes in cold water has multiple benefits. It conserves energy, and it’s gentler on your clothes – both of which are better for the planet. About 90% of the energy needed to run a load of laundry is used to heat the water. Less energy used means fewer carbon emissions.

According to the industry group Cold Water Saves, the average household that does 392 loads of laundry per year will spend only $20 on electricity using the cold cycle. The same household that uses the warm cycle will spend $220 on electricity. For households that use the hot/warm cycle, the cost is even higher: $280.

Hot water can also damage your clothes, causing them to prematurely end up in the landfill. Hot water is especially harsh on synthetics, weakening fibers and releasing microplastics into the water system, which is yet another danger to the planet.

2. Try reusable bags 

Single-use plastic bags, a petroleum-based product, are a major source of pollution. Governments have been slow to ban the bags, but corporate America is starting to lead the movement to phase out their use. Why not get ahead of the game?  

Not only do plastic bags take up precious energy resources to produce, but they are also a major threat to wildlife who mistakenly eat the bags, putting our food chain at risk. The World Wildlife Fund estimates people unknowingly ingest a credit card size amount of plastic every week.

If your intentions are good but you’re guilty of forgetting your reusable bags, make it a habit to keep a few in your vehicle. Many reusable bags now come in their own stuff sacks small enough to fit in your pocket. 

3. Recycle consistently and correctly

Americans overwhelmingly support recycling but don’t always recycle consistently or correctly. Check your recycling provider’s website for a list of accepted materials, which vary widely from town to town, often in the same county, depending on the market prices for recycling materials. If you’re not sure, throw the object out. Too much “wish-cycling” means the entire truckload of materials will be dumped at the landfill instead of recycled.

Go a step further and look for ways to recycle items beyond what’s offered curbside. Many locales accept electronics, paints, cleaning supplies, chemicals, textiles and batteries for recycling and proper disposal. Some shoe stores and clothing retailers offer textile recycling and give a discount on future purchases to promote their recycling efforts. Make a little money by taking scrap metals, such as your old appliances, to a scrap metal dealer.

4. Line-dry clothes

While a dryer is no doubt convenient, it’s a big drain on energy resources and hard on your clothing. All that lint you pull out of your dryer is fiber extracted from your clothing. Eventually, the clothing wears thin, ending up in the landfill. 

If you live in a neighborhood governed by a homeowners association, check the rules to see if a clothesline is permissible. If not, get creative. Use an indoor clothing rack set up near a ceiling fan or an open window. Hang quick-dry synthetics from a shower rod. When you must use the dryer, take advantage of sensor technology to limit drying times.

5. Use fewer paper towels 

Are you guilty of buying those giant bundles of paper towels because “you can never have too many”? It doesn’t have to be that way. Save your paper towels for those truly awful messes and use good old-fashioned rags for everything else. Unwanted T-shirts cut into squares make great clean-up rags. Wash and reuse them. Microfiber cloths are also a good substitute for paper towels. 

6. Try biodegradable household products

Household cleaners can be a source of harsh and potentially dangerous chemicals, but eco-friendly alternatives are available. Do your homework and don’t be fooled by the packaging. 

Product labels like “natural” or “green” may simply be advertising hype or green-washing. A good place to start your search for legitimate eco-friendly cleaning products is to look for certifications from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA runs two programs: Safer Choice and Design for the Environment. Both offer handy search engines. Seventh Generation, Ecos, Boulder, and even a select few Clorox and Lysol products have EPA certification.

Another thing to consider when purchasing household cleaners is their containers. The best choice is to look for products that are both EPA certified and come in reusable containers. A good example are Blueland products. Blueland cleaners come in tablet form that you dissolve in water in reusable glass spray bottles. 

A third avenue to consider is making your own cleaning products in reusable containers. There are multiple recipes available online using water, white vinegar, and baking soda. Citrus peel or essential oils work well to tone down the smell of the vinegar.

7. Compost your food scraps

Uneaten food is the single biggest contributor to our landfills, so why not divert all that waste by composting? Some areas of the country are starting to offer curbside composting services, just like recycling. 

Until that becomes more widespread, look for a compost drop-off site near you. Keep a kitchen compost bin on your counter or in your freezer until you’re ready to drop it off. 

If that sounds like too much work, look for a compost service that will pick up your food scraps on a weekly or semi-weekly basis. They provide the bucket. All you have to do is remember to set it out on pickup day. 

Backyard composting is an option for do-it-yourselfers. Set up a compost area in the back of your yard. You can build one with chicken wire to keep wildlife out or buy a ready-made container. 

8. Repair rather than buy new

Instead of immediately tossing things out and adding them to the landfill, consider mending or repairing items. 

Mending is a great way to extend the life of clothing. If your sewing skills are lacking, there’s a multitude of online videos to teach you. 

When something breaks, don’t automatically assume you need to replace it. Consider the age of the item and the estimated cost of the repair versus replacement. A quick online search may help with the diagnosis and suggested repairs. 

Community-based “Repair Cafes” are another resource. These volunteer-run groups offer free repairs on everything from Nerf guns to sewing machines. Visitors bring in their broken items and can use tools to fix items themselves or enlist the help of knowledgeable volunteers. While the bulk of the 2,500 cafes is in Europe, more than 100 operate in the United States.

9. Say no to single-use products

Think about how many items you use just once and throw away. Straws, water bottles, paper plates, plastic cutlery, zippered storage bags, foil, wax paper – and the list goes on. Eco-friendly swaps are available for all these items and many more. 

  • Stop purchasing bottled water and fill your own reusable bottle. 
  • Stainless steel, glass, bamboo, and silicone straws are great swaps for plastic straws. 
  • Use real dishes and cutlery instead of paper and plastic versions. 
  • Many substitutes are available for plastic bags and plastic food storage containers. 
  • Use a cloth, silicone, and stainless versions, or reuse glass jars that would normally be recycled. 
  • Keep a set of reusables in your vehicle so you can refuse single-use items in restaurants and drive-throughs. 
  • A set of bamboo cutlery is lightweight and doesn’t take up a lot of room. 
  • Bring your own container for leftovers.

Check Your carbon footprint 

Employing these tips to make your home more eco-friendly will reduce your carbon footprint. 

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gasses, including carbon dioxide, emitted by the actions of an individual, family, group, event or product. For example, your carbon footprint is the sum of emissions caused by your daily routine – how you get to work, what you eat, what you purchase, how much electricity you use, what you throw away, and so on. The more you consume, the larger your carbon footprint. 

Determining your exact carbon footprint is complex bu,t online carbon footprint calculators make it much easier to get an estimate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calculator is quick and easy. It asks for your ZIP code, the number of people in your household, and a few lifestyle questions such as how many miles you put on your vehicle per year, how many miles your vehicle gets per gallon of gas, how much you pay on average for electricity and what types of items you regularly recycle. It also compares your carbon footprint to the average family of your size and offers suggestions on how you can lower your carbon footprint.

Why your carbon footprint matters

Your carbon footprint is an important score to know because it gauges how your way of life is affecting the planet. Use it to inform your decisions on future purchases such as vehicles, appliances, and other large consumers of fossil fuels. It’s also a great motivator for trying new things such as buying local produce or growing your own, composting food scraps and curbing the purchase of single-use disposables. When you know better, you can do better.

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