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Tips for a “Greener” home - January 11, 2015

“Green”, or more environmentally friendly, homes have become more than just a trend; the technology and information now available to us has led to improvements in building materials, energy and water efficiency and much more, forever improving our home building techniques. LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certified builders and contractors use new methods and materials to build communities, offices and houses that are more sustainable, more efficient and less wasteful. However, even if you do not own a LEED certified building or home, you can still be a “green” homeowner. 

One of the simplest actions that can make the biggest impacts, is recycling, e-cycling and composting. Recycling programs vary from city to city and county to county. Some areas on the eastern shore have curbside pick up and provide homeowners with recycling containers, while others have centralized or community based recycling drop off points or programs. Somethings are not recyclable, but are e-cycable, such as computers, laptops, and old cell phones. Many local counties provide e-cycling facilities or curbside pick-up depending on the object being recycled or where you live. Make sure to go online or call your local waste management organizations to see what recycling and e-cycling options are available to your community. 

Composting is another easy action to take to create less waste and “re-use” old food and scraps. You could create a compost heap in the backyard or, if you do not have very much room, buy a composting bin you can put on your back steps or in front of your apartment building. Composting used items like coffee grounds, kitchen scraps or yard waste can reduce the amount of trash you send to the landfills and provide you with free, nutrient rich topsoil for your house plants or outside garden. 

Another simple way to go “green”, is to plant native species and create a rain garden for your yard. A rain garden is a designed depression in your yard or garden that helps to capture local rain runoff. A rain garden can help by reducing and controlling flooding and absorbing nutrients or chemicals that runoff your yard. Using native plant species in the rain garden helps to provide habitat for local pollinators and birds and means less work for maintenance and upkeep because the plants are already adapted to your specific locations climate, rainfall, predators, etc. If you do not have outside space for plants or a rain garden, buy household plants. Apart from adding to your home or apartments aesthetics and decor, they also help to reduce stress and purify your households air, free of charge. 

To further reduce or control flooding, consider adding a rain barrel as well. These barrels are affixed to your gutters and collect rainwater that would otherwise run off your roof and end up in stormwater management systems. The best thing about rain barrels is that all the water they collect is “soft” water; water without chlorine, lime, calcium or other harmful chemicals. Because of this, you can use collected rain barrel water to water your gardens or plants, wash your car or windows or rinse off dirty equipment before bringing it inside. 

Another way to make your household “greener” is to save energy and use less water. There are a litany of different ways to do this, but the best plan of action is to cater towards your specific needs. Be creative and consider what you use on a daily or regular basis that takes up the most energy or water and then research ways to be more efficient. If you use your laptop a lot, keep it set to energy saver or low power mode so that it saves electricity and you do not have to charge it up as often. If you like to cook, put covers on pots of water you are boiling in order to save electricity. To save on energy bills, install a clothes line in a convenient location outside. By drying your clothes outside whenever possible, you can save on electricity being used by your dryer. 

A simple thing that every homeowner can do to save on electricity is unplug electronics that you are not using. Many electronics, such as TVs, gaming consoles, hairdryers and electric toothbrushes, continue to use electricity even if they are not turned on or being used, so by unplugging them when not in use, you can save on electricity.

To use less water and save on water consumption, consider changing over to low flow faucets and shower heads, as these use less water than the traditional faucets and shower heads and can save you money as well. You could also replace your old toilet with a dual flush toilet. Dual flush toilets use less water by having a two flush system; the first flush uses less water, usually under a gallon, while you can also flush a second time to use the full flush, usually around 1.5 – 2 gallons, when the situation calls for it. Compare this to other toilets, that use around 5 gallons every flush, and you can see how much water you could save, especially in a large family home. 

By taking some simple steps and actions, you can make your house more environmentally friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and save some serious money on your electricity and water bills as well. 

 

Harrison Jackson is the Coastal Stewards Coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

 


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