10 Steps To Sustainability at Home

So you took the big plunge – you bought a PV (photovoltaic solar energy) system for your home…and now you’re wondering, what next? Well, there are a few things you can add to your green repertoire that, while important won’t break your bank or pinch your pocketbook. Why not try these on for size:

1. Unplug Your Appliances. If you aren’t doing this already and you have a PV system, and even if you don’t have a PV system, pull the plug on all of those appliances that you are not currently using. Even if the appliance is not “ON,” if its plugged in, its pulling electricity and that is costing you money, not to mention adding to your carbon footprint. Try leaving appliances unplugged, or plugging them into power-strips so when you flip the switch the power is really “OFF.”

2. Paper or Plastic? Neither. While paper and plastic bags may be reusable a time or two, they are certainly not sustainable. Many cities around the globe are banning plastic bags becuase of the amount of garbage they generate. Its’ easy to choose canvas or bamboo bags these days. These bags are reusable for groceries, library books, even to carry your towel down to the beach. Store them in your car trunk so that you will be sure to have them whenever you stop by the store.

3. No More Disposable Water Bottles. Eight out of ten water bottles end up in landfills and are never recycled. Plastic itself takes over 1,000 years to photodegrade, meaning that every piece of plastic ever produced is still out in the environment in some form. Read that sentence again. That’s quite an impact when you consider we are still generating and tossing plastic every single day. Instead, bring a Nalgene, Klean Kanteen, Sigg or other reusable bottle and fill it with your favorite beverages. Many restaurants and coffee shops will give you a discount if you bring your own container.

4. Take It Slow. For every mile per hour over 55 mph that you drive, you lose 2% fuel efficiency. That begins to add up when you are driving 80mph down the freeway throughout Southern California at $4/gallon for gasoline. Slowing down saves you gas and is safer for you and your passengers. Regular maintenance, like changing air filters and oil changes, can increase your mpg up to 25%.

5. Buy Less. Each American throws away over 68 pounds of textiles and clothing each year. And if you really think about it, there is no “away.” Garbage just ends up in a landfill in someone’s backyard. Instead, see if you can find the item used or just think through whether you need one more gadget.

6. Take Shorter Showers. Most Americans use more than 1,000 gallons of water a day, and this is particularly important in Southern California where water is scarce. Try switching to low-flow showerheads or try a “navy shower” where you only turn shower water on to rinse off. This will not only save water, but will save money as well.

7. Frequent Farmers Markets. The average fresh food item travels 1,500 miles before it lands on your dinner table. That’s a lot of resources and pollution generated. Instead, purchase more food from local farmers markets and cooperatives. This keeps money in the community, reduces the carbon footprint of your food and the food tends to be healthier as local farmers tend to be less chemically aggressive as factory farmers.

8. No More Pesticides. Pesticides are likely responsible for the drop in honeybees, the increase in frogs with extra legs/eyes and the annual death of 67 million birds. 14 million people in the US regularly drink water contaminated with pesticides and 90% of municipal facilities are not equipped to deal with this. 7 of the 15 pesticides used in cotton are “known,” “probable,” “possible,” or “likely” carcinogens, and the list goes on. Instead learn to love the flora that develops in your yard, and plant species that wildlife will enjoy or drought tolerant species that require minimal work. You can also plant alternative crops to ward off pests.

9. Turn Down the Heat. Turning your thermostat down each degree Celsius saves 10% on your energy use. Also make sure to seal cracks before winter,as over half the heat produced to warm the average American home is wasted. A timer might also be helpful to warm your house up right before you wake up and keep it at moderate temperature when you’re not around.

10. Replace Those Bulbs. Last but not least, it may seem obvious but if you haven’t done it already, change those lightbulbs. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) use 25% the energy of a regular lightbulb and last 10 times as long. If you’re already paying for solar panels, you might as well use the electricity they produce to power your electric car rather than wasting it on outdated lightbulbs. Note: CFLs contain mercury, so make sure you dispose of (recycle) bulbs properly.

See you in the field,