Image Source: Stock.Xchng. By: Moweryg.

When it comes to making your home more green or sustainable, most articles will make the same suggestions. They’ll tell you to install solar panels, to re-do a room with sustainable materials, to upgrade to a programmable thermostat, or to change your doors, windows, and water heaters to something more energy efficient. Most of these things aren’t exactly cheap and given the number of people still unemployed, they are also unaffordable for most at this time.

The good news is there are things you can start doing around the home that are either cheap or absolutely free and although the impact may seem small at first, it will be noticeable before long. Check out the list:

Bathroom:

When you are in the shower, turn the water Off while you are bathing and only turn it On to rinse. Also, take shorter showers—up to 5 gallons of water can flow out of a non-conserving showerhead every minute!

Turn the water off while you are brushing your teeth or shaving.

Don’t use your toilet as a trash can. However, if you do, leave the trash there and don’t flush it until the toilet is actually used.

Make sure all drains have a strainer to catch hair and other debris so drain clogs are prevented. However, if you do have a slow drain, just pour ½ cup of baking soda down the drain followed by ½ cup of white vinegar. Let this sit for about 30 minutes. Then, pour 2 quarts of boiling water down the drain.

Use a cheese grater to turn soap bar scraps into decorative, usable pieces.

Cleaning and Laundry

Save those old towels and clothes and use them as cleaning rags.

Make your own cleaners. Many homemade cleaners include common ingredients found in the kitchen, such as vinegar, baking soda, and cooking oil. Search online or check out your local library for recipes on homemade cleaners.

Don’t run the water while cleaning showers/bathtubs or sinks. Instead, fill a bucket with water and a general all-purpose cleaner, and scrub down the sink and shower walls. To rinse the shower, pour water along the top of the wall so the water will flow down and wash everything away.

Only wash full loads of laundry and make sure you use the warm/cold setting—it will cut energy usage by nearly 85%!

In the warmer months, dry your laundry on a clothesline. If you don’t have a clothesline, all you need is a long piece of rope, 2 objects to tie it around outside (such as 2 posts or 2 trees) and some clothes pins.

Kitchen:

Make sure your refrigerator is full, but don’t overstuff it. Air circulation is needed to control the cooling and humidity, but if there is too much empty space, your fridge will be working overtime to keep things cool. To boost efficiency, clean the refrigerator gaskets regularly and vacuum the condenser coils twice a year. This will also decrease electrical use!

Also, on the matter of cooling things in the fridge, make sure the temperature is set at 37 F and the freezer temperature is 3 F. You can stick a weather thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer to check the temperature and then adjust the settings accordingly.

For cooking, use a microwave oven in place of the stove top and use a toaster oven for smaller jobs instead of a full-sized oven. However, if you must use a full-sized oven, turn it Off 10 to 15 minutes before the cooking time is done. This way, your food can still cook and you won’t need to use as much electricity. Oh, and be sure to cover pots and pans while cooking—this way, less energy will be used and the cooking is done faster.

When it’s time to put leftovers in the fridge, let the food cool down first—hot or warm food will raise the internal temperature of the fridge (and we don’t want that). However, you should not leave meat or egg products out for more than 1 hour.

Use the booster heater on your dishwasher (if you have one) and also use the “no-heat” dry setting. The booster heater will heat water at the source, while the “no-heat” dry setting is useful because heat drying is not necessary after a hot-wash cycle. Instead, you can use an air-dry setting or simply open the door of the dishwasher and air-dry the dishes that way.

Also, only wash full loads in the dishwasher. If you don’t have that many dishes to wash, do them by hand.

Reuse glass jars and plastic tubs (such as cleaned out butter/margarine containers) for storage.

Wash fruit and vegetables in a bowl filled with cold water, rather than under a running faucet. Also, only use the cold water when using the sink for brief periods; running the hot water (or waiting for it to heat up for a minor purpose) wastes a lot of energy.

Reuse leftover water, such as from washing fruit and veggies or cooking pasta, to water your plants and garden. You can also use certain food scraps for garden compost.

That’s all for the first part of the list. Next week, I’ll cover the office, the outdoors (lawn and garden), and general home improvements. Be sure to check back then for more Go Green tips!