By minimizing your home’s carbon footprint, you can help not only the environment but save money too. And that doesn’t necessarily mean tearing down your home and rebuilding it with more sustainable materials, or even undertaking big, expensive renovations.
We know that climate change is real and our planet’s future depends upon hitting targets to reduce the amount of emissions from greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, which trap heat and make the planet warmer. While transportation accounts for the largest percentage of these, buildings (residential, commercial and industrial) account for 17% of Canada’s GHG emissions.
“Ultimately, we do need to get off fossil fuels, but in the immediate term it’s a bunch of small things that can add up,” says Gideon Forman, climate change and transportation policy analyst for The David Suzuki Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to protect the natural environment and help create a sustainable Canada. “You can start from where you are. You don’t need to have a lot of disposable income.”
Robert Pierson, development director from Ecohome.net, a Vancouver-based green building information resource for builders and renovators, agrees.
“The best way to live more sustainably and reduce our carbon footprint is to consume less, and greening homes to improve their efficiency does not necessarily mean a complete overhaul or expensive reno,” he says. “Do what is possible within budget and remember that the first steps are often the easy ones that pay back the quickest – like preventing drafts or not wasting hot water – which is the message Ecohome has been delivering for over 10 years now.”
Simple, Inexpensive Steps You Can Take Right Now
- Be more efficient with home heating and cooling.
- Use extra duvets and blankets during colder months, instead of having your furnace constantly pumping warm air during nighttime, and putting on an extra sweater to allow you to lower your thermostat are two quick actions you can take. “You want to heat the person rather than the space whenever possible,” Forman says. You can save 2% on your energy bills for every 1 degree Celsius you lower your thermostat.
- In the summer months, keep blinds down during the day and use fans to keep the heat out, as opposed to having the air conditioner constantly pumping.
- Prevent heat from escaping in your home weather-stripping around windows and doors and caulking gaps such as around electrical outlets, plumbing and built-in light fixtures. A simple trip to the hardware store for these inexpensive supplies can save 5% to 10% on your energy bill.
- Replace the furnace filter every three months during the heating season as it will improve your furnace’s performance and improve the air quality in your home.
- Maintain your appliances and use them wisely. Clean coils on your fridge to maintain air flow, clean the lint trap in your clothes dryer after each use, use cold water to wash your clothes and let dishes in your dishwasher air dry after the cleaning cycle is complete, and consider using your microwave more often as it not only is more energy-efficient than stoves and ovens, it produces fewer indoor pollutants.
- Watch your water usage. By installing inexpensive showerheads that use less water, you reduce the energy required to treat water and deliver it to your home. A bulk of emissions from water usage in the home comes down to the energy used to heat it. Unless you like to take very long, hot showers, opt for showers instead of baths. And avoid bottled water – producing it requires a lot of fossil fuels, many bottles end up in landfills and it’s about 3,000% more expensive than tap water.
- Be energy efficient with lighting and electricity use. When it’s time to change lightbulbs, switch those incandescent bulbs to energy-efficient LED lights, and only use lights when you need them. Don’t leave on appliances such as TVs when you’re not actually using them.
- Reduce waste in the home and recycle more. That helps cut down greenhouse gases into the atmosphere since a substantial source of them is the fossil fuels we use to process, manufacture, transport and dispose of everything we consume. Consider visiting vintage stores more often, swapping clothes and furniture with friends, shopping with reusable totes and using rags instead of paper towels.
- One last green tip. Plants are miraculous when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions, converting carbon dioxide from the air and converting it to oxygen. It’s also believed they can help to clean the indoor environment by removing toxins from the air we breathe. And when watering your indoor and outdoor plants, consider using used water from washing such things as vegetables and fruits or collecting rainwater in an outdoor container.
Disclaimer: This information and the opinions expressed in this blog are based on research and interviews with the authorities identified, conducted on behalf of Allstate Canada. They have been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.