Making changes to your home is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint, here are 50+ Ways To Green Every Room In Your Home!
For this blog post I take you into five keys areas of your home (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living and laundry room) and provide you with tips and tricks to transform your home into a thoughtful place, one that not only takes care of the people inside but the world around it too. Oh, and we’ll save some money along the way as well!
The transition to a more eco-friendly lifestyle can be daunting, but I don’t want it to be for you. You’ve got to start small and do what you can. All good things take time, right? If I have learned anything over the last 20 years it’s that patience is key, trial and error are important and being aware of our impact make travelling the green mile an easier one.
The Laundry Room
Get a wash load of saving in your laundry room! The most important thing in the laundry room is to get longevity in your clothes. You can do that in a number of ways.
Retire the iron
Did you know that your iron uses a lot of energy? Irons use about 1800k w of electricity. If you line dry your clothes or take them out of the dryer when they are hot, you’ll have fewer wrinkles. The best way to solve the problem is to shop for sustainable fabrics that do not have to be ironed.
Dryer Scene equals common sense!
Dryer sheets are filled with toxic chemicals that are carcinogens. You want to reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals in your home as much as you can. This is a great place to start. I love Nellie's Wool Balls. They reduce drying time by 40% per load, are made with 100% wool and reduce static cling. It doesn’t get any better. The other option is to make your own.
If static is a big issue for you, remove the clothing just before it’s completely dry and hang it on a clothesline. If you put on a skirt and it sticks to your tush, spray some water and walk through it, it should solve the problem.
Your dryer costs you about $85 a year to run! Dryers have also not come very far over the last few years. Using a clothesline is the greenest option. You can also have a look a the washer-dryer combo units, such as Innovative Washing’s EdgeStar units or LG’s All-in-Ones.
Keep in mind though that high-efficiency washers get most of the water out of your clothes when on the spin cycle. Using a newer washer means less water and therefore less drying time is needed. Choose a dryer with a moisture sensor that will shut off your machine when clothes are dry. An air-dry feature, which dries clothes with cold air, reduces energy use and wrinkles.
Lint be gone!
Proper maintenance of your washing machine and dryer will save you money in the long run. Keeping your lint trap clean will save you about $35 a year in energy costs. A clogged filter will restrict flow and reduce dryer performance.
Reduce, reuse, re-wear!
A few years ago the United Nations Environment Program conducted a series of research and found that we can consume up to five times less energy by wearing our jeans more than once. Three times to be exact. This does not apply to socks and panties though. Washing your jeans in cold water and skipping the dryer saves energy and money too.
Just say no to bleach. When it gets into our waterways it can lead to high levels of dioxins. Dioxins are environmental pollutants. They belong to a group of dangerous chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants. Bleach is also toxic to humans and animals if ingested. If the words “poison” or “hazardous” appears on a product, it’s time to rethink that buy. Also avoid phosphates, ammonia, glycol ethers, parabens, acids and chlorine. Always read the label, but keep in mind that even eco cleaners can contain some of these harsh ingredients. Do your homework, talk to the manufacturers, ask questions.
To be really green you make your own, this Homemade Bleach Alternative is the bomb. And, if you are looking for a kick A$$ laundry booster this is the easiest one to make at home. It’s much safer than bleach and works just as well. Good for you and good for the planet.
Drop a load.
It’s really key to choose a washing machine that meets the need of your family. Again, do your homework, this website offers reviews on almost all of the machines on the market. Washers range in capacity too, so if your loads are small, go with a smaller model that uses less water and energy. Shop for energy star rated machines. Always set your machine for one rinse cycle, it’ll save you some cash because you are not using as much energy.
Good to the last drop.
90% of the energy used when washing your clothes is waiting for the water to heat up. Cut down on that by washing in warm or cold water.
A wash load of savings!
For detergent, again eco options are best. Conventional soaps contain a list of toxic ingredients that should be avoided. Pay close attention to the amount of soap that is recommended on the washing machine, there is no need to go over that. This will save you money, about $60 over a year. Using too much soap also forces the machine to work harder and in some cases, you may get residue on your clothes. It’s happened to me! That soapy mess can cause skin irritations and allergies.
Some of the best laundry detergents are Nature Clean, Nellie’s and Eco Nuts.
Dry cleaning, a stain on the planet?
There are a number of dry cleaners that claim to be green, natural and organic. Problem is, there are no regulations in place that guarantee that a cleaner is in fact using non-toxic alternatives. If you must dry clean your clothes, I recommend “wet cleaning”, silicone-based cleaning and carbon dioxide cleaning. If your clearer is using PERC, stay away. PERC or Perchloroethylene is harmful to our health and the health of the planet. There’s a lot of controversy with the subject of dry cleaning and everyone surely has an opinion. For me, less is more.
Tips to avoid frequent trips to the dry cleaners:
Throw your clothes in the dryer for about 10 minutes with a small damp towel, this acts as a steamer.
Invest in a good steamer. For men, this is a great way to get extra wear out of your shirts. Ladies, this is great for expensive dresses etc.
In the winter wear an undergarment, this will help with sweat stains and odour.
Tackle a stain as soon as it happens.
These easy tips will help you save time and money.
A few simple shifts will have you cooking up an eco-kitchen in no time. With 70 percent of your home’s trash going to landfill instead of being composed, it’s easy to see where we need to begin. If you don’t compost, I hope you will after reading this.
Take a look at my IG page for the low-waste kitchen challenge, so many great tips.
Compost….Everything To Can!
When you compost you are actively making a difference in the city where you live. You are reducing the volume of waste heading to the landfill, you’re decreasing the amount of methane gas being released into the atmosphere (which causes air pollution) and you are creating the BEST soil that is full of nutrients and is used to grow food in abundance.
Food waste has become a major issue in Canada, but there are communities implementing innovative waste-free programs all over the country.
In Scarborough, a 25-year-old condominium with 1,000 residents is generating only one dumpster of garbage per month. The residents of Mayfair on the Green are reducing, reusing, recycling and composting over 85% of their waste, far above the average high-rise building that diverts only 26%.
The food you eat and where it comes from is super important. Buy local wherever you can!
Food miles count and the fewer miles from farm to table the better. Pineapple might taste amazing in the cold winter months. But think of the pollution to fly it here, not to mention all the preservatives, biocides (both used to keep the foods from spoiling before they arrive) and other crapola found in foods that travel to us. If you can, try to support community-supported agriculture (CSA) co-ops, farmers' markets or the farm itself.
Reduce excessive packaging in the home by shopping with your own bags, buying fresh, unwrapped produce and avoiding oversized portions. If you are throwing away food on a regular basis you are either buying or cooking too much. I used to shop once a week, but have found over time that I was wasting a lot of food. If you can get to the grocery store twice a week and plan all my meals in advance, I end up using all the food I buy and wasting less and less. Bulk cooking is another way to ensure you eat all the food in the home…leftovers, anyone?
Reuse glass jars for storage and make sure you have lots of reusable bags on hand. If you are buying goods that are packaged, always recycle!
PRO TIP: When shopping at a grocery store, approach it as if you were shopping at your local farmers market. At a market, the packaging is usually minimal and you almost always need to bring your own bags. Think of the grocery store in the same way, yes you may get a funny look here and there. But who cares? Right?
For non-perishables, buy in bulk, you’ll make fewer trips to the grocery store and save money in the long run too.
PRO TIP: Buy bulk packages of cloths or towels used to clean and detail cars. Just use them in the kitchen. Same clothes, just cheaper and sturdier cause they are in the car section.
Break-Up With Toxic Chemicals!
I want you to run into your kitchen and get rid of all your harsh cleaners right now. They are harming you, me and the environment.
Have you tried to DIY, it’s fun, easy and cheap? These simple, effective, homemade recipes with clean and disinfect your kitchen, safely!
Be Water Wise!
One of the cheapest ways to go green in the kitchen is by installing a low-flow aerator. We tend to waste so much water when cooking and preparing foods, this simple step will save you water by regulating the flow but without changing the pressure. You can also use your kitchen more efficiently by being mindful of how you cook and use the stove.
Run the dishwasher on a full load and let the dishes air dry. I just leave the door open slightly and they are dry within an hour. If you are purchasing a new appliance for the kitchen go with Energy Star certified, they typically use 50% less energy (and about $40/ year on bills), this will help reduce your monthly energy bill as well.
Non-Stick = No Way!
Non-stick pots and pans are coated with PFOAs, nasty chemicals that have been linked to cancer. Health Canada does note that polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a specific kind on PFOA can give off poisonous fumes at very high temps. If you are buying titanium, they may contain PTFE, so best to ask or avoid it if you are not sure.
Ceramic, touted as the best in “eco” pans are not all they are cracked up to be. Many of the ones I have used get scratched easily or just don’t deliver the “non-stick” promise. There have also been reports that show high levels of lead and cadmium in the glazes of these pots and pans.
Stainless steel is better, they are very durable but they can leach nickel and chromium into your food. So if you opt for steel, try carbon steel instead.
By far the best choice is cast iron. Keep these things in mind though: they are expensive, heavy and need to be cleaner and prepared properly, or they will get ruined. But I figure it’s still worth it as what we put in our bodies is key to optimal health.
Choosing eco-friendly cookware is easier today!
Choosing tools that last and perform well is a good way to start on your green journey. If you are cooking for two for example, perhaps invest in a slow cooker or toaster oven, these are effective, affordable and will use way less energy (up to 30% less) than your oven, lessening your carbon footprint.
If you want your fridge/freezer to run more effectively make sure they are full. Where your fridge is concerned, if it’s over ten years old, it’s time to replace it. It’s costing you about one hundred and fifty bucks a year and wasting tons of energy. Don’t stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open for long periods of time, it wastes a ton of energy.
Eat Red Meat Less Often
The production and feeding of cattle are one of the most detrimental aspects of climate change. When a cow belches, it releases methane gas, which is 23 times more potent at trapping heat in our atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Transitioning to a plant-based diet can be hard, but there are simple things you can do to help along the way.
Not to mention the raising and eating of livestock not only pollutes water, air, and soil, it’s responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions — a higher share than transportation emissions. If you don’t want to cut it out completely, you can cut it out at least one to two times per week.
THE LIVING ROOM
The living room is the place in the house where we hang out, talk, watch TV and even eat dinner. So it’s key that this room is a green, clean oasis. Here’s how:
In the winter let the sunshine in. Keeping your drapes open during the day will help warm the room in the winter. At night, close your drapes. And make sure you have heavy insulating drapes, have a look at www.cozycurtains.com. Heavy drapes act as insulation and will keep the heat in the room, instead of it sneaking out of a crack in the window.
You already know about indoor air pollution in the home. But did you know that the largest surfaces in your home (the floors and walls) affect your air quality the most? Like the bedroom, if you have carpet, you may want to find alternatives. Hardwood floors that are locally sourced and come from well-managed forests are the best. Look for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo to be sure. If you are painting, look for no or low VOCs.
We all love the romantic feel that a candle gives to a room. Make sure your candles are soy or beeswax-based! Conventional candles are made using paraffin derived from petroleum, not good. They also off-gas. This is a comprehensive guide on how to pick sustainable candles.
If you absolutely must have carpets, go with natural fibres instead of synthetic ones. And nail them down instead of using glues and adhesives. Both of these contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that off-gases in your home. Jute and Sisal are fabulous.
Refresh and Reuse!
Don’t buy new furniture for your living room. Make your old couch look new again by reupholstering it. Even better, source used furniture online or check out your local garage sales, you never know what treasure you may find! if you are looking to buy new, I highly recommend shopping local and making sure the woods that are used are from well-managed forests.
Good windows will save you money fast. There is a ton of alternatives, wood, aluminum, PVC etc. If you are looking for the greenest option, go with fibreglass. You can check out: www.duxtonwindows.com and www.inlinefiberglass.com.
If you can’t invest in windows caulking and weather stripping will save you time and money. Keep in mind that a lot of energy is lost through your windows, a window insulation kit will help you reduce that loss by keeping the warm air in and the cold drafts out. If you are doing any renovations around the house, then it's perfect timing to get this done.
Standby the environment by turning your electronics off. All electronics sit on standby mode, unplugging your TV at the end of the night will save you almost $60.00 a year. If you have too many things to unplug consider a smart strip. It’ll allow you to put all your electronics on a timer, switching them off at a time you choose. www.saveonenergy.ca offers coupons on a great deal of cool green stuff.
Switch to LEDs and keep your living room doors shut during winter months to stop heat escaping from the room you want it in.
For your TV itself, LCD models are more eco-friendly than plasmas. Did you know your electronics contain flame retardants? And yes, none of us want our TV’s or VCR going up in smoke, but it’s important to understand that fire retardants or PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) are highly toxic to your health. PBDEs have been linked to hyperactivity, learning difficulties and decreased sperm counts.
In the USA studies have found this stuff in breast milk and bloodstreams. PBDEs are found in household dust that accumulates around electronics like your TV. Vacuuming often and turning your electronics off when they are not in use will help. Sony is one company that does not use deca-BDEs (used mostly in electronics). In Canada, PBDEs are being phased out but if you are buying imported furniture, there is still a chance they may contain this crapola.
Your home and your health will do better if you:
Ventilate it regularly;
Vacuum twice a week;
Replace your filter on your heating and cooling system once every three months;
Install a humidifier;
The bottom line is to think about the kinds of toxins you are bringing into your home, choosing greener alternatives will save you money.
The bathroom can be a hot spot for water waste, toxic chemicals and excessive paper use. But that’s doesn’t mean that we can’t turn it into a green haven.
The average Canadian uses 329 litres of water per day – more than twice that of Europeans – and a lot of that comes from the bathroom. The shower uses 21 percent of household water and the toilet a whopping 27 percent (more than any other appliance).
The following tips will help you save money, reduce water use and get rid of some of the toxins that lurk in your bathroom!
Be Water Wise
Check for leaks and fix them immediately. A leaky faucet can waste 55 liters of water every 24 hours. Install an energy-efficient fan to pull moist air from the room and replace it with dry air. This combats mould, a common allergen that can affect air quality.
Invest in a low-flow toilet if you live in an older home. Some cities give rebates for these, so check with your municipality. A “normal” toilet uses about 13.6 litres per flush, compared to a low-flow that only uses 6 litres per flush. Not to mention that depending on the model you choose, the savings on your water bill could be up to $90 every year. If you can’t afford to make the investment, you can use an old milk bottle, fill it with water and place it in the tank. This will displace the amount of water used per flush. Or take a look at a dual flush converter, super easy to install and only costs just over twenty bucks!
Another tip is to avoid using your toilet as a garbage can. Paper waste definitely shouldn’t be deposed of in this way. Also, if you or your family takes long showers, consider a low-flow showerhead. You’ll save water and the energy used to heat that water, and save money in the long run. And if you want to go the extra green mile, change the lightbulbs and get motion sensor taps and aerators on taps!
Clean Up Your Act
If you aren’t using green cleaners in your bathroom, you could be exposing yourself and your family to a toxic concoction of nasty synthetic chemicals that pollute your indoor air and cause severe allergies.
When it comes to the towels, keep in mind that not all “sustainable” options are created equal. Bamboo is a great alternative to pesticide laded cotton, but the process of turning bamboo or organic cotton into a towel can be a chemically laded one, so it's important to ask the manufacturer how the towels are produced.
The upside of buying more sustainable products has a much larger implication; you’re indirectly assisting farmers and fair-trade organizations that support ethical business practices. A little goes a long way!
But you’ll also want to read the labels on cleaning products closely. Current legislation does not require companies to be transparent about ingredients in their products and in most cases, these chemicals do more harm than good. If a product claims to be green, the following should appear on the label:
A third party eco-certification like EcoLogo;
A full list of the ingredients, including what falls under “parfum” or “fragrance” (again no legislation is in place to protect the consumer, these two terms are used to hide over 3000 chemicals);
The company contact information;
My Bathroom Bliss Tile and Tub Scrub and Cleanser really get the job done.
Baking soda and castile soap work very well together. Baking soda is an effective cleaning agent, it’s cheap and helps to rid the bathroom of smells and build up.
Castile soap is one of the best multipurpose cleaners on the planet. I use it in almost all of my cleaning recipes. I hope you’ll give this one a try!
Raise the Curtain
If your shower curtain is made from PVC (Poly-Vinyl Chloride) it’s time to toss it. PVC gives off volatile organic compounds or VOCs. VOCs are air borne particles that are the building blocks of smog. Who wants that in their home? For a safer alternative try PEVA (polyethylene vinyl acetate). The ultimate green alternative is hemp, which naturally resists mildew and is biodegradable. Organic cotton and jute work well too.
Did you know? Americans could save more than 400,000 trees if each family bought a roll of recycled toilet paper—just once. Recycled tissue products help protect ancient forests, clean water, and wildlife habitat. The most important thing you can do in your bathroom is to stop using virgin disposable tissue paper products. For tissues, use a hanky and for paper towels, use a microfiber cloth. They’re reusable and wash up really well.
Chose natural fibre bath mats, as most conventional ones have a PVC backing. Launder your mat once a week to keep mould from growing.
In my experience, the bedroom often gets overlooked but is probably one of the most important areas in your home to make the green transition. Since we spend about a third of our lives in bed, getting a good night’s sleep is such an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
I could write a book on eco pillows – seriously – there is so much to consider. First off, almost all the pillows in your home are most likely made from synthetic materials that give off gases when you sleep. Yep, you heard that right! Off-gassing refers to the Volatile Organic Compounds found in a lot of bedding and furniture we use in the home and nooooo one wants to sleep on that, right? These little airborne particles float around and cause asthma and allergies and in some extreme cases, cancer. It’s pretty scary stuff, but there are lots you can do to prevent this from happening.
Get used reading labels when you shop for anything! And when choosing pillows, try to opt for natural fibres instead of synthesis ones.
Buckwheat pillows are environmentally friendly, hypoallergenic and won’t attract dust mites. I always prefer to support “made in Canada” small business.
Organic wool is environmentally friendly, resistant to dust mites and grown without harmful pesticides. Make sure if they are claiming to be organic they have third-party certification to prove it.
Organic cotton pillows: Cotton is the MOST pesticide-laden crop on the planet. It has an enormous impact on the environment and the health of the people who work in cotton fields. If you are buying organic cotton, again make sure there is a third party certification and that the factories that are producing the products are not using formaldehyde in the process of wrinkle-proofing fabrics.
Natural Rubber is biodegradable, renewable, antibacterial, hypoallergenic and dust mite repellent. Make sure no herbicides are used in the rubber tree operation.
Down. Like fur, this is a contentious and controversial material. I’ll just say that a lot of down and feathers used to make everything from jackets to pillows come from live birds and to make matter worse, some of the feathers are sterilized with formaldehyde. There are groups like the Down Association of Canada that randomly test down products for quality, cleanliness and labelling. For me though, if you want to have a mindful home, pick one of the options mentions above. And don't forget that disposing of old pillows can be challenging, there are a few things to keep in mind.
The Big Guy
A good mattress is a BIG investment. But for me, it’s the most important green investment you can make. Remember those VOCs I referred to? A synthetic mattress will have you breathing in a toxic concoction of nasties.
Like pillows, always opt for natural fibres like wool, hemp, organic cotton or natural latex and rubber. And always opt-out of mattresses that are treated with stain-guard and fire-resistant chemicals, known as PBDEs. Good news, these are not produced in Canada but may be lurking in imported consumer items.
If you are worried about your bed catching fire, then go with wool. It’s a natural fire retardant and also repels dust mites. There are a ton of certifications for mattresses too.
Between the sheets
I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but natural fibres are always better and the same tips apply for the fabrics. When shopping for organic bedding your first line of defence is to look for third party certifications.
Plant good seeds
In the ’80s NASA discovered that house plants can absorb harmful toxins from the air and since indoor air pollution can be five times higher than outdoor air pollution (those dreaded VOCs again) they are an excellent addition to the home. Plants can also increase mood and productivity, enhance concentration and memory, reduce stress and fatigue. If you have pets, make sure the plant is safe for them too.
Say NO to fragrance
I know you want your abode to smell beautiful, but at what cost? Conventional candles and air-fresheners contain phthalates, allergens and wait for it…VOCs. A diffuser is a much healthier alternative. I don’t like to recommend placing candles in the bedroom. An air purifier works well and for the furnace, always use a HEPA filter.
Don’t use harmful chemicals cleaning agents to clean any room in your home. Ecover and Bio-vert are two of my top picks and a good addition to any home.
A few additional tips:
For paint always go with low or no VOCs.
Pick formaldehyde-free furnishings
Try upcycled or vintage bed frames
Get rid of the clutter
Keep tech out for a restful sleep
Well, there you have it over 50+ tips to turn your home into a green hub. I'd love to hear from you. Did you find these tips valuable?