The Homeowners Guide to Living Greener

by : Drew Hartanov

It can be quite overwhelming for most of us to think about helping the environment; it's too big, too vague. But it is in all of our hands to make a difference, and there are very simple ways to do this. Start in your own home.

Homeowners can take small steps that will have a big impact on the environment. Start by shutting off lights when you leave the room. You'll lower your electricity bill and use up less of the world's limited power supply. It's also a great idea to change over to compact fluorescent light bulbs. They last longer and use up a lot less energy.

Unplug your appliances when they're not in use. Things like entertainment systems, fans, and coffee makers are only in use part of the time. Leaving them plugged in is just a waste.

When you leave your computer, put it on standby if you're only walking away for a while. Turn it off completely if you're done for the day. And don't forget to turn off the monitor; every bit of energy you can save, helps.

To save water, turn off the taps while brushing your teeth. Low-flow showerheads have been around for a while, but in the past they didn't have the water pressure that most homeowners needed. Today however, they produce a jet that is comparable to standard showerheads.

Consider purchasing a "low flush" toilet, which can save you one to four gallons per flush. If you're not in the market for a new toilet, but would still like to save water, try placing a couple of filled water bottles in your tank. Put a bit of sand or place a few stones in the bottom of the bottles before filling with water in order to weigh them down and reduce their buoyancy. Using this method, you can potentially reduce up to 30% of your toilet's water use.

Only use the washing machine when you have a full load, and if you're thinking about buying a new one, consider getting a front loading washer. Also be sure to hang clothes to dry whenever you can. Again, your power bill will thank you.

Surprisingly, running a full dishwasher uses about one sixth the amount of water that traditional hand washing does. Dishwashers are also being made to be as energy efficient as possible, so consider investing in one to save on power and energy. Your hands will also thank you!

During winter months, be sure to pick up an affordable weatherizing kit. These usually include weather stripping for doors, outlet covers, and shrink wrap for windows. Anything you can do to minimize heat loss will reduce heating bills, and provide for a much more comfortable home.

Purchasing a programmable thermostat is a smart move any time of year. It saves you the hassle of always adjusting the temperature, and prevents heat waste. Think of how many times you've forgotten to turn the heat off at night. Accidents like these send your heating costs through the roof.

In the summer, try to cook on the barbecue as much as possible. Not only will you be saving energy, but you'll also avoid heating up the house on warm days.

These steps are simple and affordable ways that you and your family can start living a greener lifestyle. You may ask "What's in it for me?" Lower utility bills for starters. Having an energy efficient home is good for your wallet. But there's also the benefit of knowing that you are doing your part to take care of the planet.

We take the earth for granted every day, yet it is our most precious commodity. Without clean air, we develop breathing problems. Unsanitary drinking water leads to a plethora of intestinal issues. The toxicity levels are rising, and if we don't all make some simple, cost-effective changes, our children and grandchildren will inherit a poisoned earth. Remember, this is the only home we've got.