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Tips for Living Earth-Friendly Inside and Out
While you are considering building a new home and making decisions about what you do and do not want in your house, think about being green or earth-friendly. There are several things you can do to be conscious of the environment before, during and long after the building process is complete. You can start at the earliest stages of the building process and carry earth-conscious habits into the future. As you begin to live a green life, think of what you can teach your children, other family members, neighbors and friends about taking care of our planet. When it comes to being environmentally friendly, being a good global citizen can start with the building process. Now is a good time to change your frame of mind. Start being earth-friendly today, and you will continue to do so in the future. From recycling at home to minor changes in your lifestyle, there are plenty or real benefits in being earth-friendly. Look at building your new house as a fresh start on becoming more conscious of taking care of the earth. You will have numerous opportunities throughout the stages of construction. It is important to stay dedicated. Keep this in mind as you get started:
According to the National Institute of Health, the United States generates 208 million tons of solid waste a year. That is more that 4 pounds per person per day! Recycling just one glass bottle saves enough electricity to light a 100-watt light bulb for four hours!
Recycling is just one of the things you can do during the construction process to help cut down on waste and become more energy efficient. However, there are plenty of other ways you can take part in cutting energy costs and become more earth-friendly and energy efficient. Take a few minutes to review the tips below and consider doing what you can to help the environment and yourself before, during and after building your new house.
- Clearing Your lot - If you have to remove large trees from your lot, consider asking neighbors and friends if they would like any firewood. You will be able to get rid of the refuse and clear your lot while they save money on their heating bills using natural energy to heat their homes. Another option may be to sell logs to a lumber company for lumber. This will require a little research, but it could potentially put money back in your pocket. Also, consider chipping and mulching trees and underbrush from a wooded lot and use it for landscaping when your home is finished.
- Recycle What You Can - A residential construction site is full of recyclables. Make an effort to recycle what you can, but be certain to ask the contractors and subcontractors if the items you are about to recycle were going to be pitched. The last thing you want to do is recycle something that is still needed to finish construction. Pick up any plastic packaging, paper and cardboard boxes lying around the jobsite. Workers may leave plastic water and soda bottles at the site at the end of the day. Keep an eye out for aluminum cans, too. Pick up scraps from vinyl siding and plastic decking. Collect any metal scraps that are going to be thrown away. All of these items can be recycled. After you have moved in, take the time to break down moving boxes and recycle them rather than throw them away. While your home is under construction, begin planning the recycling strategy you will use when you move into your home. Decide where you will store your recycling receptacles. Will you need a separate one for each recyclable (plastic, paper, aluminum, and glass) or can you put them all in one container? Is there a recycling service available in your new neighborhood? Have your family start practicing now. Go through your trashcan and recycle as many items as possible. Your family will be well on its way to good recycling habits by the time you move into your new home.
- Save Water - Be sure to take measures that will save water in your new house, thus reducing your water bill. Install aerators on household faucets cutting your water consumption. If you had done this in the home you currently live in, you could have potentially reduced your water consumption by almost 50%. Check with your builder to ensure low-flow toilets will be installed in your new house. They use only 1.6 gallons of water per flush as compared to the 3.5 gallons of water per flush with older models. Water conservation should not stop here. Take this opportunity to make a few lifestyle changes you can continue once you have moved into your new home. Make an effort to turn the water off when brushing your teeth instead of letting the faucet run. This will save on average 4.5 gallons of water every time. Sweep your patio and porches off with a broom instead of turning on the hose. You can potentially save 50-80 gallons of water each time you decide to do a little outdoor cleaning. And, do you really need to take a 15-minute shower each day, or can you cut it down to 10 minutes? Cutting your shower time by just five minutes will save a considerable amount of water.
- Select Energy Efficient Lighting - The Earth Easy website reports 25% of your annual energy budget is spent on lighting. Consider using compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) in your new home. These bulbs use only 1/3 of the energy a standard incandescent light bulb uses and can last up to ten times longer. Even more surprising, choosing a 22-watt CFL instead of a 100-watt incandescent bulb will save you approximately $45.00 in energy costs over the lifetime of the bulb. Changing your behavior will also save you money in the long run. Get in the habit of turning the lights off when they are not being used. Be sure to turn TVs and stereos off when you are not home. Why pay for the electricity to run them if you are not there to enjoy them? Think about rooms in your new house that will have more than one lighting fixture. Maybe the family room is going to have overhead lighting, a spotlight over the fireplace and a couple of floor lamps. Get in the habit of tuning on only the lighting that is needed. If you are sitting in an armed chair near the lamp reading a book, it is not going to be necessary to have the spotlight above the fireplace turned on too.
- Hardwood Flooring - Hardwood floors offer a stylish and classic look in a new home and are very durable. They are one of today's most popular floor coverings. If you are considering hardwood floors, think about using bamboo. It is considered an environmentally friendly flooring material. Bamboo produces a high yield and replenishes at a relatively fast rate. It takes only four to six years for bamboo to mature as opposed to the other commonly used hardwoods that take over 50 years to mature. If you do select bamboo flooring, be sure to use non-toxic glue.
- Purchase Earth Friendly Appliances - If you have the means to purchase new appliances when you move into your new house, it may be well worth it. New energy efficient appliances can save on your pocket book. Getting rid of the old refrigerator in the basement or garage could save you nearly $150 per year in energy costs according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA recommends replacing appliances that are more than 10 years old with newer models bearing the Energy Star logo. The Energy Star website states Energy Star qualified appliances use 10-50% less energy than standard appliances. The average home spends about $1900 annually on energy costs. Using Energy Star appliances with reduce your energy costs while helping the environment. For more budget saving ideas, read Saving On Your Building Budget. Consider purchasing energy efficient appliances for your new home, including a clothes washer and dryer, dishwasher, water heater, freezer and refrigerator. There is no sense in moving an inefficient appliance into a new energy efficient home.
- Use Earth-Wise Cleaners - When it comes time for the final cleaning of your new home and after you have moved in, consider using natural cleaners that are safe for you and the environment instead of the typical household cleaners you usually buy. Read the labels on cleaning products that use earth-friendly ingredients. Better yet, skip the cleaning supply isle and purchase natural cleaning agents instead that will get the job done. These include plain soap and water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and borax. Not only are these items environmentally safe, but they are less expensive.
- Temperature Control - When you move into your new home it is necessary to be energy efficient when it comes to heating and cooling. Your new heating and cooling system will already meet many energy standards saving on your pocket book in the long run. But there are many other things you can do to save more energy and money. In colder weather, turn your thermostat down and in warmer weather turn it higher. Perform regular maintenance checks on your furnace and air conditioner. In the winter months, remember to clean your furnace's air filter on a regular basis during periods of heavy usage. During the warm summer months delay heat-generating activities such as running the dishwasher or clothes dryer until the evening hours when there is a natural cool down. Use ceiling or attic fans to circulate the air in your home instead of turning on the air conditioner whenever possible.
- Landscaping - The way you landscape the yard of your new home can be cost effective and energy efficient in the years to come. Consider planting shade trees near sides of the home that have several windows. Once they mature, they will provide valuable shade to your home lowering those summer cooling bills. Also, you may want to consider planting fir or pine trees on the sides of the home that could potentially experience strong wind gusts, especially if they adjoin a large open space. When these trees mature, they will serve as a windbreak reducing your winter heating bill. Planting drought-tolerant plants in your flowerbeds will be pleasing to the eye and easy on the water bill. For more landscaping tips, read Do-It-Yourself Landscaping Tips.
- Gardening - Gardening in your new backyard can be a relaxing hobby providing hours of enjoyment. Weather you prefer a vegetable garden or a flower garden, there are several earth-friendly things you can do that are simple and will save you money. Consider making your own compost to fertilize your garden. This costs you nothing more than your time to rake leaves in the yard and collect grass clippings when you mow. Starting a compost pile and maintaining it year round will ensure that you have the perfect balance of nutrients needed to fertilize your garden and grow healthy vegetables and flowers. The compost pile is the earth-healthy alternative to expensive synthetic fertilizers. When planting your flower garden, remember to use native plants. They have adapted over time to the local environment and will require less of your attention as well as support native animals. Also, these plants will require less water. If flower gardening is your primary interest, think about using perennials whenever possible. Since perennials live more than one year, you will save time and money because you will not have to make a trip to the local lawn and garden store every year. Watering flowers and vegetable gardens in the early morning hours or late in the evening will be more cost efficient and healthy for your plants. Watering during the cooler parts of summer days when the sun is not directly over head allows the water to soak into the ground revitalizing your plants. In the heat of the day, water evaporates quickly doing little good for your wilting plants and requires you to water more frequently to get the same results.
There are plenty of other things you can do to become more earth-friendly and energy efficient. Going green with your new home and continuing your green habits long after you have moved in will save money and energy. Plus, you will feel good about the contributions you have made to the environment.
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