Earth Day’s one of those holidays that we at Prestige Painting just love, but don’t think gets enough attention. It’s not that we want people to go all out and lose their minds over it (although that might be fun on second thought…), but we think it’d be great if people took a little bit of time each Earth Day to give back to themselves and the planet by sprucing up their home a little bit with a simple eco-friendly improvement.
Think about it: If we all did just one thing to make our houses more eco-friendly every Earth Day, in just a few years, we’d not only drastically reduce our collective damage on the environment, we could also save ourselves an almost incalculable amount of energy, which translates to a huge pile of saved money for us all!
If that sounds like something you’re into celebrating this Earth Day, here’s our list of the simplest home improvements that will not only cost just a small amount of time and money (for the most part), they’ll also end up saving you money in the long run, not to mention helping our fragile ecosystem stay healthy.
1. Reduce Your Water Use Through Better Fixtures
From low-flow toilets, to low-pressure showerheads to water aerators for faucets, there are now a large number of items out there that are built to use less water to do the same job. Most of these don’t cost much more than your traditional options, and since your water bill will be lower, they can pay for themselves over time! They’re also usually pretty easy to install, minus perhaps the toilet, for which we’d suggest a little pro help.
2. Replace More Bulbs with CFL Bulbs
This is the one you probably hear about all the time, but chances are you still have at least a few traditional bulbs in your house that are eating up all the energy (and your money!). Even replacing one or two old-fashioned bulbs here and there with compact fluorescent bulbs or LED bulbs ends up saving quite a lot of energy and cash (up to $83 per bulb over its life!).
3. Seal Your Home Better
Whether it’s caulking gaps in windows, painting over the edges of outlets (and installing plastic covers) or adding weather stripping to doors and other openings, a better sealed home is a home that spends less power and money on air conditioning and heating.
4. Make Your Windows More Energy Efficient
Besides just making sure they’re sealed tight, you can also replace windows with Energy Star rated versions that are much better for energy efficiency. This usually involves something such as glazed glass and/or multipane styles that are specifically designed to reduce the amount of heat that enters or escapes from the house, not to mention being better sealed from the get-go. Adding curtains and window covers is another excellent idea, as they add an even further layer of protection.
5. Use Non-Toxic Paint to Repaint
Now, don’t go painting rooms that don’t need it, but when you’re ready for a new coat, buy low or non VOC (volatile organic compound) paint. These are not only healthier to live around; they also release far fewer damaging elements into the environment, something which is actually a major issue (especially in places like California).
6. Use a Clothes Line When Possible
An easy and even kinda fun one! Go old-school when you can by installing and using a clothes line in the backyard. It looks adorable while saving water, power and money.
7. A Ceiling Fan in Every Room
Well, maybe not the closets, but every room you spend time in should definitely have one. Ceiling fans don’t just blow air onto you and cool you that way, they actually move air around in the room so that the coolest or hottest goes where you want it (such as toward or away from you). Most people don’t realize this, but ceiling fans can actually warm a room up as well as heat them, if they’re reversible. Look on your fan, and if it has a little switch on the actual fan (not the strings, but a switch), it’s probably reversible. Counter-clockwise spinning sends cold air down and warm up, while clockwise actually does the opposite! This means less money spent heating and warming through the central air, and less power used as well
8. Use Native Plants in the Yard
Instead of shilling out for that immaculate, expensive all-grass covering, try adding some pretty plants that are native to the area to your yard. These take a lot less water and energy to maintain, and plants like wildflowers can add a really cute personal touch to the look of your home.
9. Buy Eco-Friendly Replacement Furniture
When you need a new piece, try something eco-friendly. You can do this in two ways: buy a piece of used furniture, such as a vintage or antique item, or do a little research and find the companies that use eco-friendly production methods. This way, your room’s new look doesn’t come at the cost of the environment!
10. Install a Digital or Smart Thermostat
This is one we just can’t recommend enough. Those old “dial” type thermostats simply aren’t very accurate, and they can’t be programmed. This means you constantly have to readjust your thermostat, which means it’s turning off and on all the time and using a ton of power. It also means that, when you’re not at home, you have to manually set your thermostat off and turn it back on when you return if you’re trying to save power that way. Digital thermostats make all of this a breeze, while “smart” thermostats go a lot farther and can even control the flow of electricity to all the appliances in your home. These are a bit more expensive than digital and trickier to install, but they’ll cut your electric bill down tremendously and are well worth the effort and expense.
Minus the actual trip to the store to purchase these things (and excepting a couple of the more tricky improvements, like the low-flow toilet and smart thermostat), none of these improvements should cost you very much time or money to install this Earth Day. Give them a few months to a year, and almost all should pay themselves off handsomely, eventually even putting money back in your pocket through savings! We think if there’s anything we can all agree on, it’s that saving a few bucks while making the planet a happier, healthier place is a win for everyone. Happy Earth Day, everyone!