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Cheat Sheet

Green Your Home All-in-One For Dummies

Make small eco-friendly adjustments in your daily routine to make your home more green. Start by using natural cleaning products instead of commercially-produced cleaners. If you’re looking for new appliances, analyze their energy efficiency before buying. If you need supplies for building or remodeling your home, look for green building materials to reduce your carbon footprint.

Easy Steps to a Greener Home Life

Your home is the best place to start making green living choices and small changes add up to big differences if you’re looking for a greener lifestyle. Turn these simple, super-quick tips into habits around your home:

  • In winter, throw on a sweater and turn down the thermostat on your furnace to approximately 68°F. In summer, take off your sweater and turn up the thermostat on your air conditioning to about 78°F.

  • Unplug chargers for cellphones and other small or portable electronic devices when they’re not in use.

  • Turn off electrical appliances at the wall (or on a power strip) rather than leaving them on standby.

  • Turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth and wash your face.

  • Take showers instead of baths and keep them to five minutes or less.

  • Get the whole family involved in making green changes. Make it fun!

  • Switch to energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.

  • Recycle as much household waste as possible.

  • Give away things that you no longer need instead of throwing them out.

  • Choose plants that are well suited to your growing conditions — they need less watering and are more pest-resistant.

Green Cleaning Supplies

One way to create a greener home environment is to steer clear of commercially formulated cleaning products, which all basically contain the same unhealthy ingredients. Keep these green cleaning alternatives in your house instead:

  • Baking soda: Sodium bicarbonate cleans up after acidic stains and messes, works as a mild abrasive, shines up aluminum, chrome, silver, and other metals, and unclogs and cleans drains. It cuts grease and dirt and also deodorizes.

  • Borax: Another member of the sodium family (sodium borate), this natural mineral is a disinfectant and is sold at drugstores, supermarkets, and hardware and supply stores.

  • Castor oil: The colorless or sometimes yellowish oil, from the castor plant, is a fine lubricant and a worthy ingredient in wood cleaners or polishes.

  • Cornstarch: Just as its name implies, this mild and absorbent cleaner is a starch derived from corn.

  • Cornmeal: Set aside some the next time you’re making corn muffins: This mildly abrasive substance makes easy work of grease stains.

  • Club soda: Have a big bottle of bubbly on hand for cleaning glass or tackling wine spills on carpet.

  • Cream of tartar: This white crystalline powder sold in the spice section of supermarkets whips up impressive meringue and makes a great paste for scrubbing cookware.

  • Essential oils: Tea tree, peppermint, grapefruit, and other oils (found in health-food or craft stores) not only smell great, but they have disinfecting properties, as well.

  • Glycerin: This common ingredient in hand-wash and dish liquid is an oil that provides lubrication and is often used in milder cleaners.

  • Hydrogen peroxide: An oxygen bleach that doesn’t have the harmful properties of chlorine bleach, this mild acid is used as an antiseptic for minor wounds and kills germs when it’s used as a cleaning agent, too.

  • Lemon juice: This citric acid bleaches, disinfects, deodorizes, and cuts grease. Use the real thing — or bottled concentrate.

  • Liquid castile soap: This vegetable-based soap, found in grocery or health-food stores, is a mild and versatile cleaning agent.

  • Salt: Another member of the sodium family, sodium chloride — or common table salt — is a natural scrubbing agent.

  • Washing soda: Also known as sodium carbonate, this stronger iteration of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) looks similar and is sometimes available in the laundry section of the supermarket or hardware store.

  • White distilled vinegar: Count on this wonder cleaner for deodorizing, cutting through grease, removing stains, and freshening.

Analyzing Household Product Efficiency before Making Purchases

When investing in appliances or home improvements, consider the life expectancy and other environmentally-friendly factors that contribute to a greener home. In order to ensure good payback, your choice should be focused and deliberate, so answer these questions for every option you’re considering:

  1. How long will the appliance last?

  2. How does the pollution output vary over time?

  3. Will the energy efficiency decrease over time (the answer is almost always yes because parts wear out, friction increases, and so on), and if so, by how much?

  4. How much maintenance will be required over time, and will you be able to do the labor and maintenance in subsequent years?

  5. How long is the warranty, and how much will unwarranted repairs cost?

  6. Who will be doing the service, and where do parts come from?

  7. How will the future costs of energy affect the financial efficiencies?

  8. What are the financing costs, and are there tax advantages now? Will there be tax advantages in the future that aren’t available now?

Locating Green Building Materials

Green materials are great for building and remodeling because they reduce the impact on the environment. Given the new popularity of green building, finding green materials is easy. Besides talking to sales reps in product showrooms, try these places to start your search:

  • BuildingGreen: The publishers of the Environmental Building News and GreenSpec have put all their unbiased and perfectly presented information together in a wonderfully straightforward site at www.buildinggreen.com.

  • Green Home Guide: Although targeted at homeowners, Green Home Guide provides reviews and descriptions of green products by the real professionals using them. Its know-how sections provide all the information you need for greening a kitchen, bathroom, nursery, bedroom, and even your lawn. Check it out at www.greenhomeguide.com.

  • American Institute of Architects (AIA): The AIA provides resources and case studies for homeowners to use to green their homes. Contact your local chapter of the AIA (you can find it in the phone book or at www.aia.org) and ask about its green resources.

  • United States Green Building Council (USGBC): The USGBC is a valuable source for data on green building, great for making the argument to skeptical developers and city officials. You can point to its combined experience and knowledge to find hundreds of reports and case studies. Visit the USGBC online at www.usgbc.org.

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