You’ve just moved, so you want to start things off on a fresh slate with a brand new commitment to making your new place more environmentally-friendly. But after the torturous process of staging and selling, packing and unpacking, who wants to spend a bunch of time on complicated or pricey projects?
Luckily, many of the most beneficial home upgrades only require a few, easy-breezy changes —installing a new door or putting in a water filtration center, for instance. Let’s take a look at some of the simplest, fuss-free ways to give your home a green makeover.
Install a smart thermostat
Energy experts have long known that programmable thermostats could save homeowners beaucoup bucks — and plenty of energy to boot. The problem is they were often programmed incorrectly (or not at all!), so those energy savings wound up largely as missed opportunities. But now, many smart thermostats “learn” your behavior and tailor energy use to optimize efficiency while still keeping things comfortable, alerting you to fluctuations in temperatures in real-time that can affect energy expenses.
Why you should do it: It could save you a potential 1,785 kWh per year on your energy bills, according to initial industry estimates.
Swap out your front door
Homes lose a lot of energy to air leaks — and sometimes that energy escapes right out the front door, quite literally. Hollow metal and wooden exterior doors are far less efficient than their insulated steel or fiberglass counterparts, which have a polyurethane foam core that protects your home from the elements. That sturdy center keeps out the wind and chill, but it also moderates temperatures during the summer months as well, so you’ll save energy throughout the whole year. Plus, there’s nothing like a fresh new entryway to make a dramatic entrance into the next phase of your life.
Why you should do it: Not only do air leaks waste energy, they also allow more moisture to penetrate the frame, which could cause structural damage and even rotting!
Repaint using VOC-free products
If you’re planning on swapping out your home’s hues for a brand new shade, consider this: you may also be pouring toxic chemicals into the air you breathe every day. Many interior paints, thinners, and finishes contain what are known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which emit gasses that have been tentatively linked to a number of health problems, including asthma and even cancer, according to the EPA. Thankfully, many paint makers are now wise to this issue and offer VOC-free alternatives to their traditional offerings, so you can keep the air in your home clean and clear.
Why you should do it: Many states are already making moves to ban toxic chemicals like methylene chloride, perchloroethylene, and trichloroethylene, which may appear in paint thinners.
Set up a recycling center
An overstuffed bin waiting to be carried out to the curb definitely takes the thrill out of recycling, and it can be a real eyesore, too. Not exactly what you want your neighbors to see when you give them the tour! I love the idea of creating your own mini-recycling center in a drawer pullout below the counter — it will also save you some space if your kitchen is less than roomy, as well. No matter how you choose to do it, gussying up your recycling area with separate bins for sorting different materials will definitely help drum up the motivation to properly pitch your waste.
Why you should do it: According to Columbia University’s Earth Institute, only about 6.5 percent of the 33.6 million tons of plastic used annually by Americans is recycled.
Purchase a water filtration system
Americans are addicted to their water bottles. We each use an average 167 recyclable plastic bottles a year, and about 80 percent of those go into landfills, rather than recycling centers. But tap water doesn’t exactly have the best rep, either. Although the vast majority of tap water is considered safe, in small areas where public utilities are cash-strapped, water quality may not even meet the EPA’s federal requirements. If you have questions about your new water, you should always check with your public water system, but in most cases, our squeamishness over drinking from the tap is just a matter perception. Instead of opting for wasteful (and expensive!) water bottles, try installing a water filtration system on your sink so you can kick the plastic bottle habit for good.
Why you should do it: Not only are all those bottles piling up in our landfills, some of them are skipping the waste processing all together and ending up in our oceans — 10 metric tons of plastic are dragged into the Pacific each day, according to some estimates. That’s a lot of trash, but just by implementing a very small change, you can make sure at least some of that waste is diverted.
Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize.com, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.