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The Ultimate Guide to Green Living at Home

Find out what you can do today to make your home an eco-friendly oasis, whether you’re a sustainability pro or just getting started on your green-living journey.


Table of Contents

  1. Level One: Quick, Low-Cost Changes to Ease You Into Green Living
  2. Level Two: Commit to Sustainable Lifestyle Changes
  3. Level Three: Invest in an Environmentally-Friendly Home

Creating an environmentally-friendly home is becoming more popular and more attainable than ever before. Over the past several years, public concern about the environment has been high: 44 percent of Americans worry a great deal about it. In response, more people want to help improve the environment, but many don’t know where to begin. A recent study showed that 48 percent of consumers felt sustainable living was just too hard for several reasons. 

If you’re interested in making your home green, it’s important to remember that sustainable living is a marathon, not a sprint. It can be difficult and discouraging to try to make many significant changes in your lifestyle at once. Instead, try making small changes throughout your home over time. Even small swaps can make a big difference for the earth!

Some items in this guide are simple, such as using reusable bags and shopping for seasonal products. Other actions require a long-term commitment, like installing more efficient windows or buying an electric car.

No matter where you are in your journey to living more sustainably, these 45+ tips will help you make eco-friendly choices, reduce your carbon footprint, and probably save you money.

Quick, Low-Cost Changes to Ease You Into Green Living

Start living sustainably at home with a few simple steps.

Cook at home to reduce food waste

Cooking your meals isn’t only a healthier option for you; it’s also a better choice for the environment. During the pandemic, people began cooking at home more frequently. The result? 168 million tons of prevented food waste. Additionally, planning your meals before shopping can help reduce the amount of food in the trash. 

Ditch plastic water bottles

Disposable water bottle waste washes into the ocean and kills 1.1 million marine creatures each year. Single-use water bottles also cost the average person more than $1,000annually! Buy a reusable water bottle (preferably made of metal or glass) and install a water filter at home. You will save money and prevent plastics from ending up in landfills and seas.

Donate or resell old clothing and linens

Roughly 86 percent of our clothes end up in landfills or are burned. Once in a landfill, clothes and linens can take hundreds of years to decompose and release greenhouse gases as they break down. If you have old clothes in good condition, consider giving them to a friend, donating to a charity, or reselling them to give them a second life.

Shop secondhand and embrace “slow” fashion

On that same note, manufacturers are also a big part of the clothing waste problem. At least 13 million tons of textiles end up in landfills every year. If you can afford it, purchase clothing from brands prioritizing sustainable and ethical production. If you choose and maintain your garments carefully (think classic pieces over trendier items), they can last for many years! Shopping secondhand is a more affordable alternative to some ethical clothing brands. Try visiting a thrift or consignment store, or shop for used clothes in excellent condition using apps like Poshmark, Mercari, or thredUP. 

Bring reusable bags to stores

Globally, people use one trillion single-use plastic bags each year. Adopting reusable bags for groceries and shopping is one of the quickest and easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Keep a few in your car and by your door to ensure they’re on hand when needed. If you do use plastic grocery bags, give them a second life as trash can liners, lunch bags, or bags for picking up after your dog. 

Unplug your electronics when not in use

Even if your electronics are turned off, they’re still using energy. In fact, 75 percent of all electricity used to power consumer electronics is consumed after the products are turned off. Use a power strip to organize your electronics and unplug them when not in use. 

Still, we can’t unplug ALL of our electronics when not in use (your fridge, or internet modem, for example). However, your video game console, printer, and computer can be unplugged. To avoid phantom power losses from forgetting to plug and unplug your devices, upgrade your power strips to smart ones that let you control energy output.

Switch to paperless billing

Going paperless reduces your impact on forests and decreases the amount of waste dumped into landfills. Switch all your bills to paperless for a quick way to live more sustainably. As a bonus, you’ll never lose documents in the mail or around the house if they’re all stored digitally.

Wash your clothes in cold water

Close to 90 percent of the energy used by your washing machine goes towardheating the water. Skip the heating process and adjust your machine to cold water settings. This way, you reduce carbon emissions and extend the life of your clothes (especially brightly colored garments).

Skip the clothes dryer when possible

Your dryer machine uses five to 10 times more power than your washing machine. When the weather allows, opt for air drying your clothes instead of using the dryer to conserve energy. 

Do less laundry

For maximum efficiency, only do your laundry when you have enough dirty clothing for a full load. This can save a great deal of energy and water. Also, remember that many clothing items can be worn multiple times before washing. Re-wearing clothes like jeans, jackets, and sweaters can help reduce the loads you have to wash.

Upcycle items around your home

While the end goal of sustainability is to reach a zero waste lifestyle, that’s easier said than done. However, with creativity, you can upcycle products that have served their original purpose. Try upcycling a used candle jar into a container or an old tin into a cute planter. You can also cut up old towels and turn them into cloths for cleaning up around the house.

Stop lining your trash bins with plastic bags

Plastic garbage bags take anywhere between 10 to 20 years to decompose. Skip the garbage bag and instead periodically wash and rinse your trash can. 

Ask your utility company about renewable electricity

Most energy companies offer consumers the option to get their electricity from renewable resources. Call your utility company and ask how you can make the switch today. Some companies can also give you a report to help you understand how your energy use compares to your neighbors and when you use the most power. 

Monitor your water use

A smart water monitor can help you detect leaks and allow you to shut off the water to your house remotely. Monitoring your water lets you understand your water use patterns to prevent wasting water. Household leaks can waste more than onetrillion gallons annually nationwide. Repair leaks as soon as you identify them and save up to 10 percent on your water bill. Another way to save water is to reduce the time spent in the shower. The average shower uses around 20 gallons of water, so use a timer to help you know when it’s time to get out of the shower.

Make your own cleaning products

Thousands of chemicals from traditional cleaning products are washed into streams and rivers yearly. This can disrupt ecosystems and hurt wildlife. Reduce the environmental harm caused by these chemicals by making your own cleaning products. You often only need vinegar, baking soda, soap, and water, which are earth-friendly ingredients. When you cannot make your own, choose products made with natural and biodegradable materials. 

Switch to rechargeable batteries

On average, U.S. households use 47 batteries per year. As batteries corrode, their chemicals soak into the soil and contaminate our waters. Alternatively, you could buy 12 rechargeable batteries lasting over four years.

Order takeout responsibly

If you’re getting delivery, skip the plastic cutlery, chopsticks, plastic straws, styrofoam, paper napkins, or plastic containers. Use the silverware and plates you have at home (and keep a set in your bag or car for impromptu drive-through meals). 

Skip the one-day shipping

Although one-day shipping is convenient, it’s hard on the environment. Transportation activities account for 17 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Over the next decade, there could be 36 percent more delivery vehicles on the streets. The number of packages couriers drop per mile has significantly decreased, leading to more trucks on the road and higher greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of one-day delivery, wait a little longer, and try bundling your orders to arrive in as few packages and trips as possible.

Be mindful of your thermostat

If everyone in the United States adjusted their thermostat by one degree, it would reduce annual carbon emissions by 7.2 teragrams, or the equivalent of the amount of carbon released by over 1.4 million people. Put on another layer of clothes in the winter and turn on the fans in the summer to reduce the energy used by your heating and A/C systems

Commit to Sustainable Lifestyle Changes

After you’ve mastered the basics above, make lifestyle changes that help you develop environmentally-friendly habits over time.

Shop seasonally and choose locally-grown ingredients

Choosing seasonal and locally sourced ingredients can improve the sustainability of your diet. When food travels fewer miles to get to your plate, it significantly reduces the greenhouse emissions transport trucks generate and usually tastes better, too! You can find out what produce is in season year-round in your area by using a tool like Seasonal Food Guide.

Replace traditional light bulbs with LED bulbs

Yes, standard incandescent light bulbs are cheaper than LED bulbs. But, LED bulbs can operate for up to 100,000 operating hours - or up to ten years. Not to mention they use 75 percent less energy than traditional light bulbs. 

Try dairy alternatives

Dairy farming is one of the most significant sources of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. Dairy alternatives like nut- or soy-based dairy products require less land, water, and energy to produce. They also taste great and are healthier for people with lactose intolerance.

Cut out meat from your diet (at least once a week!)

Like dairy, meat production generates greenhouse gases like methane, CO2, and nitrous oxide, which contribute to climate change. Participating in Meatless Mondays can help reduce your carbon footprint by eight pounds. If you commit to Meatless Mondays for a year, it would have the same impact on greenhouse emissions as taking 240 million cars off the road.

Choose eco-friendly paints and wallpapers

When it’s time to update your interiors, look for new eco-friendly products. Choosing “green” paints and coatings can help reduce toxic and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that affect indoor air quality. 

Learn to compost and recycle

Food waste is a given in most households. A compost bin helps you cut down on food waste and gives you free fertilizer you can use to maintain your plants – it’s a win-win! At the same time, recycling can help prevent wasteful plastics and other materials from ending up in landfills. Find a recycling center near you and see what materials are accepted for recycling.

Reduce kitchen plastics and single-use disposables

Single-use plastics end up in landfills and release harmful chemicals into the surrounding soils, seeping into groundwater and the ecosystem. Look around your kitchen and avoid using single-use straws, cutlery, plates, cups, and napkins.  Once you run out of single-use products, replace them with reusable versions. Nowadays, you can find silicone sandwich bags, beeswax wraps and covers, glass containers, and more.

Use washable cloths instead of paper towels and napkins

Say no to paper napkins and paper towels. They contribute to landfills, global warming, and deforestation. Choose washable cloths that you can reuse over and over again. Initially, it may be an adjustment, but you will enjoy the savings from not buying paper towels!

Switch to eco-friendly hygiene and beauty products

The beauty industry is one of the most significant contributors to pollution. At least 120 billion units end up in landfills every year. Millions of tons of plastic enter the ocean from some beauty products and soaps, which can sometimes contain plastic microbeads. When shopping for personal hygiene and beauty products, opt for those that prioritize ethically and responsibly sourced ingredients, packaging, and practices. 

In addition, many companies today offer zero-waste toiletries free of plastic packaging. Often, they come in bar forms, such as shampoo bars, lotion bars, and even hair conditioner bars. There are also many options for waste-free menstrual products on the market today. While switching to these products can be a bit of an adjustment, they can help reduce the amount of plastic and trash that ends up in landfills. Additionally, using refillable hand soap and dish soap containers can reduce single-use plastics in your home. 

Plant an herb or veggie garden

You don’t need much space to harvest veggies and herbs at home. You have enough room to grow a garden if you have a sunny balcony, patio, or patch of grass. Vegetable gardens reduce carbon emissions, and you get to be in control of any pesticides you use. Plus, no plastic packaging is required when picking up veggies from your garden! Seeds and seedlings are often less expensive than produce at the store, and you will get a lot more food for your money. Try partnering with others in your neighborhood to grow and share produce together. 

Skip pesticides and chemicals on the lawn

If you use pesticides and chemicals to care for your lawn, reconsider which ones you use. Pesticide toxins can leak into nearby waters and harm the environment and ecosystem, and some, like Roundup, are known to cause cancer in people and pets. Soap, stinging nettles, and rhubarbs are excellent eco-friendly alternatives to pesticides

Landscape wisely

Water used on lawns consumes nearly three trillion gallons of water a year. When landscaping your home, pick appropriate trees and plants for your local climate. When you choose plants native to your area, they tend to require fewer resources to thrive. Likewise, be mindful about how you spend water. Avoid watering your plants during the days after it rained. Schedule your sprinklers to set off at night instead of in the afternoon to maximize the water’s power. 

Clean or replace HVAC filters regularly

Dirty filters in your air conditioner or heater make the system work harder and waste more energy. Add a reminder to your calendar to service your HVAC systems and replace filters at least every three to four months. 

Use public transportation

If it’s available, use public transportation as much as possible, especially for your daily commute. Compared with driving, taking public transit reduces CO2 emissions by 45 percent. Also, ask to work from home whenever possible. One day of remote work per week can significantly lower your carbon footprint. 

Reduce the amount you fly

Passenger planes emit carbon dioxide, water vapor, aerosols, and nitrogen oxides with each trip. Around 2.4 percent of global CO2 emissions come from the aviation industry. Choose other transportation methods like taking a train or even driving! Sometimes, choosing carbon-neutral flights is possible; check with your go-to airline to see their offerings.

Invest in an Environmentally-Friendly Home

These long-term changes to your home will positively impact the environment today, tomorrow, and for years to come.

Insulate your house

Insulating your home is the next big step for those living a more sustainable lifestyle. Adding insulation to the walls and windows prevents air from escaping and heat from penetrating, allowing you to improve your temperature control and energy efficiency.

Get energy-efficient appliances

Switching to energy-efficient appliances can reduce your household’s carbon footprint, lower greenhouse emissions, and decrease water use. Energy-efficient appliances also lower your utility bills. 

Upgrade your air conditioner

Your heating and cooling systems can consume 47 percent of the energy used in your home. An energy-efficient air conditioner reduces your carbon footprint, lowers energy use, and consequently lowers your bills! 

Invest in solar panels

Solar panels are a clean and alternative energy source for those who are ready to make a significant investment in sustainable living. Solar energy can also improve air quality and reduce water use from energy production. Many states and the federal government offer tax cuts and incentives to make solar installations more affordable. Over several years, these systems can almost pay for themselves. 

Install high-efficiency windows

Roughly 40 percent of the heating energy produced in your home is lost through gaps in windows, doors, and floors. High-performance windows can reduce heat escaping by up to 50 percent. These windows also prevent excessive heat from getting through the house during sunnier and warmer months. 

Install a smart thermostat

One of the most accessible eco-friendly home solutions is installing a smart thermostat. Smart thermostats can help users identify wasted energy and change behaviors to save on energy. Smart thermostats could save their owners an estimated $640 billion on utility bills in 2050.

Install water filters

Invest in a water filter that removes microbeads and microplastics from your water. These can usually be installed in washing and drying machines to ensure you don’t leak microplastics into the environment. Similarly, water filters for tap water can prevent microplastics and other harmful contaminants from getting into your drinking water. 

Switch to low-flow toilets and faucets

By switching to low-flow toilets, showers, and faucets, your household can save thousands of gallons of water a year. Switching to low-flow toilets alone can save up to 13,000 gallons of water a year. And taking a 10-minute shower with a low-flow shower head can save over $145 in electricity each year.

Install a greywater system

Speaking of water, if you have the opportunity, install a greywater system in your house. These systems can reduce your water consumption by 50 percent, saving up to 50,000 gallons per year. Gray water systems filter water from your washing machine and shower so it can be reused for irrigation or to flush your toilets. 

Gather rainwater in a rain barrel

With the proper setup, rainwater can be used to water outdoor plants, wash your car, flush the toilet, and even clean laundry. Start by gathering rainwater in a large barrel (check to see if your city gives these away for free) and attach a hose or rig up a filtration system. If you place the barrel under a gutter spout or rain chain, you can collect hundreds of gallons of water in one rain storm. 

Consider an electric car (or keep your current car running longer)

A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Making the switch to electric cars is a long-term commitment that can significantly impact the environment. 

The average new car stays with its first owner from one to eight years and has a lifespan of up to 13 years. However, producing new vehicles forces companies to pump out more harmful emissions as they meet the demand for more cars (even electric ones). Keeping your older fuel-efficient car for longer reduces more CO2 emissions than speeding up the switch to electric vehicles.

Sustainable living isn’t as challenging as you think.

Most people have already taken steps to become more sustainable – 83 percent recycle, 57 percent use reusable bags, and 45 percent avoid single-use plastics. These stats show that many people have started their journey towards creating a more sustainable home and life. Making small changes today can help you prepare for larger investments. With a long-term mindset, you can adopt an environmentally-friendly lifestyle for years and help care for the earth.

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