Have you ever calculated your carbon footprint? It can be an eye-opening experience. Your carbon footprint is defined as the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that is produced through your activities over the course of a year.
If you drive a large SUV to work and back every day, for example, you are naturally going to have a larger carbon footprint than someone who bicycles or walks to work, driving a car only for infrequent shopping trips.
It may be disconcerting to learn just how great of an impact you and your family have on the planet, but there is good news — it is relatively easy to reduce your carbon footprint and live a greener life. Even small actions like taking reusable produce and grocery bags to the market, or choosing Energy Star certified appliances, can help.
Want to lower your carbon footprint even more? Here are eight green home improvements to consider.
8 Green Home Improvements to Lower Your Carbon Footprint
Whether you live in a beachside bungalow in California, a rambling Midwestern farmhouse, or a suburban ranch home in Florida, there are steps you can take to make your home greener.
Use Reclaimed Items
No matter what home improvement project you’re embarking on, you can make it greener by using building materials, fixtures, and furniture that have been reclaimed.
Sinks, tubs, doorknobs, light fixtures, kitchen cabinets, doors, fencing, even building materials like wood and bricks — you name it, you can probably find it used. Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores are a great resource, and similar, locally owned stores are popping up all over the country.
Not only can you feel great about recycling items rather than purchasing new, but many times you can find unique fixtures and hardware for a fraction of the big-box store price.
Choose an Energy-Efficient Garage Door
When considering green home improvements, many people forget about the garage. But since the garage door is usually the largest moving item in a home, it makes sense to go green when you need to replace it — every 15 to 20 years, on average.
Look for one that offers insulating properties. It’s also becoming easier than ever to find garage doors made from recycled steel and other eco-friendly materials.
Check Your Air Flow
The U.S. Department of Energy cautions that a whopping 20% of energy used to cool or heat a home escapes through doors, windows, vents, and ductwork. This means that you’re literally throwing money away. Given how big a bite your HVAC systems take out of your budget, it’s a problem worth addressing.
Replace old, ill-fitting, improperly insulated doors and windows. Use caulking to seal up any gaps around ductwork. Even using a draft dodger at the base of your exterior door can make a big difference.
You will likely recoup the money spent on replacing windows and doors within a few years, in the form of lowered energy bills.
Let the Sun Shine In
Particularly if you live in a sunny climate, you may have noticed your neighbors installing solar roof panels. Going full solar can have a tremendous impact on your electricity costs. In many cases, homeowners can generate enough solar power not just to fuel their entire home, but also to actually sell some back to the grid.
If an entire solar roof isn’t in the budget just yet, consider installing a solar hot water heater. It can save you an astonishing 80% of the cost incurred by a conventional hot water heater!
Catch Your Rainwater
While we’re on the topic of renewable resources that are provided by Mother Nature, let’s take a look at rainwater. Rain is going to fall anyway; why not collect it and use it to water your garden and lawn?
You can purchase a rain barrel at your local hardware or home improvement store, or you can DIY it. Either way, it’s an easy and inexpensive way to help you and your lawn be as green as possible!
Speaking of Lawns
When you think about it, Americans’ attachment to their lawns is a little ridiculous. We go to great lengths to cultivate and care for our grass, and it provides very little in return. Why not put your yard to work by turning it into a vegetable garden?
Another option to help lower your carbon footprint when it comes to your yard is to consider xeriscaping. Xeriscaping, which just means landscaping that requires little to no water, is perfect for areas that experience droughts — or for homeowners who want to conserve water.
Opt for Low-VOC Paint
There’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint to spruce up your home, but conventional paint contains volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. In most cases, “organic” is a good thing, but not here. These VOCs are incredibly toxic, to both humans and the environment.
The next time you decide to paint a room or two, look for low- or no-VOC paint.
Energy vampires, that is! Energy vampires are appliances and devices that are plugged in but continue to use energy even when they’re turned off or fully charged. About 20% of all the energy that is wasted by Americans annually can be traced back to these electricity-sucking devices.
You could eliminate these vampires by manually unplugging everything, but a worthwhile investment is a smart power strip. These sense energy demand and cut off the power supply to any device that’s still plugged in, but which has a full charge or is turned off.
Making green home improvements doesn’t necessarily have to be a drain on your finances — in fact, many of the steps that reduce your carbon footprint will save you money in the long run.
And the feeling you get from being a responsible steward of our planet is priceless.
Have you made any of these home improvements? How do you go green in your daily life? We’d love to hear all about it, so leave a comment below!