Green Living

With the west coast on fire and multiple states breathing highly polluted air, what better time than now to consider some steps towards living a more eco-friendly life? While it may seem a bit overwhelming, changing a few key aspects of your lifestyle can have a big impact on the environment. Since all you can control is yourself, here are a few ways you can live a more eco-friendly life by making some simple changes to your home.

Are you wasting energy when you’re not home?

There are a bunch of home upgrades you can invest in that will make an impact on your energy. For example, sustainable thermostats, like ecobee SmartThermostats, can pay for themselves in under two years by keeping energy use low when no one is home. If you can cut corners on your energy bill, you might as well enjoy saving that money. Using less energy overall is better for the environment as well as your bank account.

What about your windows?

Another way you can reduce your energy usage in the home is by investing in new windows. About a third of the home’s heating and cooling seep outside through leaks in your windows. Investing in eco-friendly windows is a simple way to ensure you keep the temperature stable within your home. Similarly, switching your light bulbs to LED lights will also help you to use less energy. These bulbs will also last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, making the price tag worth it.

Change up your routine

Additionally, changes to your normal routines may be necessary. For example, the morning routine of the average American uses 20 gallons of water. That is a lot of water, and much of it is getting wasted in the process. Between leaving the faucet running while brushing your teeth and spending too long in the shower, we’re simply not using water as efficiently as we could. Luckily, you can reuse water for many different things. Consider this scenario: you cooked pasta and are straining the water out. Can you use it for another dish? If you’re not up for that, consider taking shorter and colder showers. You can also install a greywater system to use water more efficiently. If you’re serious about investing in eco-friendly habits, consider being more intentional about your water usage.

Often times, people consider eco-friendly lifestyles and healthier lifestyles to be one and the same. While this isn’t necessarily 100% true, it does hold some merit. For example, reducing your meat consumption typically results in a healthier diet and is single-handedly the most impactful way to reduce your individual carbon footprint. If you’re thinking about making a change like this, according to Houzz, one-third of homeowners say they change to a healthier lifestyle after remodeling their kitchen. Perhaps a kitchen remodel is exactly what you need to start eating less meat!

There are dozens of ways you can live a more eco-friendly lifestyle that aren’t listed here, but this is a good place to start. At the end of the day, any changes you can make will have a difference on the environment.

Everyone loves to experience a good glow-up, but it can seem challenging to make a noticeable improvement in your appearance in a short amount of time. It’ll be a year before your exercise routine and healthy food choices make an impact on your body even if you can personally feel the change.

So how can you give yourself a noticeable glow-up in a shorter amount of time while still being kind to yourself and without introducing any bad chemicals to your body to “detox”? Here are five easy ways to give yourself that glow-up you’ve been looking for.

Drink more water

This might seem like a cop-out when it comes to giving yourself a glow-up, but really? It works. In the words of Pete Davidson in Tan France’s YouTube series Dressing Funny, “Apparently drinking Mountain Dew all day is not good for you.” Staying hydrated helps to keep your skin looking great from the inside out. What’s more, hydration also helps you feel better because it keeps your body in great working order.

Wear sunscreen

Speaking of skincare, sunscreen is crucial for more than just keeping wrinkles at bay. Sunscreen is vital for preventing sun damage and reducing your risk of skin cancer, which is the fifth most common cancer in the United States. Using an SPF 30 every day and a higher SPF for longer times outdoors will help to prevent sun damage. And remember, UV rays can cause serious harm whether your skin is dark or light.

Eat more apples

About 32% of people say they’re concerned by the look of their teeth. But it turns out an apple a day keeps the dentist away. You heard that right. Apples are considered a natural toothbrush and their fibrous texture helps to stimulate your gums, reduce bacteria, and increase the slow of saliva to fight back against cavities. Eating other fruit like strawberries can also help to naturally whiten your teeth for a brilliant smile without any chemicals.

Use olive oil for a natural hair mask

The average person loses about 100 strands of hair every day, but if stress is causing you to lose a little more hair than usual or your hair is losing its luster, you may want to try a hair mask. Fortunately, if you have some extra virgin olive oil in the cupboard, you’re already set and ready to go. The ancient Greeks used to use olive oil as a natural way to enhance their locks and this natural substance still works today. Just add a little olive oil to the parts of your hair that are a little dry and wait 15 to 20 minutes before rinsing the oil out.

Season your vegetables

Vegetables contain a lot of vital vitamins and nutrients we need to stay happy and healthy. But did you know that you’re actually less likely to absorb those nutrients if what you’re eating doesn’t taste good? According to a study on nutrient absorption, people who enjoy the healthy food they’re eating absorb 50% more of the nutrients in that food than those who don’t.

That said, if you’re trying to eat healthy but you’re putting yourself through the misery of eating unseasoned, steamed vegetables, do yourself a favor and learn how to season your veggies with more than just salt and pepper. Not only will you enjoy your vegetables more, but your body will absorb more nutrients to give you that glow-up you’ve been looking for.

We all want to go green in this day and age. Global warming and climate change, in general, have been named among the greatest threats to the coming generations. But sometimes, it can be difficult to know where to begin. If you’re in the midst of planning your wedding, you may not yet be aware that there are ways in which you can marry your eco-consciousness with your wedding plans. The fact is that a wedding is going to be a big event in your life, and it could easily be environmentally harmful. A lot of people struggle with the fact that wedding planning is overwhelming, and brides and grooms tend to forget that they’re creating an event meant to celebrate their love. In fact, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that between 40 and 50% of American marriages end in divorce. How can a marriage get a good start if the planning process is so stressful?

With that being said, why not take some time to find a way to make your wedding a bit greener? A lot of the time, sustainable, green solutions for weddings are actually better for the bride, the groom, and the guests while at the same time being much easier to apply than their less environmentally friendly alternatives. Below are some of the best ways in which brides and grooms can make their weddings greener and more sustainable.

1. Go Small

In a post-pandemic world, there are several benefits to choosing a smaller wedding, at a smaller venue. Already, it’s considered much healthier for people to gather in smaller groups, in a space where they can easily socially distance. There has also been a lot of economic strain caused by the pandemic, and if you’re attempting to throw a more affordable wedding, a smaller guest list and smaller venue is a good move. You’ll be able to stretch your budget for food, decor, and favors much further if you have fewer guests, making it easier to maintain the level of quality you’ll want for your wedding. But most importantly, the smaller your guest list, the greener the wedding. More people consume more resources, including water, food, and energy. While you might think that it’s traditional to have a huge wedding, inviting hundreds of people to your wedding comes with a price, both literally and in terms of sustainability.

2. Skip The Cars Whenever Possible

When an entire guest list full of people takes individual cars to a wedding, pollution is a major consequence. It might be tempting to travel to your wedding in a limo, but keep in mind that with limo drivers averaging around 105 trips per week, it’s not always the most environmentally friendly option. You can’t control how your guests will travel, but you can control how you travel. So, what are the alternatives? If you’re close enough to your venue and favoring an earthier style, you could very well walk to your venue. Some wedding parties even make this something of a feature of the wedding, creating a kind of parade for the bride and groom. A similar, yet more dramatic choice is to travel by horseback or take a horse-drawn carriage. Rickshaws are also popular, particularly in the city, and boats for a beachside wedding make as a splash as well. You can also consider arriving by electric car, as opposed to the typical limo. Another thing for you to think about is advising that your guests rideshare, both saving energy and money in the long term. Again, you can’t control what they do, but you can make a gentle request.

3. Choose A Sustainable Caterer

Most people do have their weddings catered in this day and age. However, many brides and grooms don’t realize that some caterers are more sustainable than others. Sustainable caterers will, for one thing, take measures to prevent the waste of water, and source their water sustainably. With over 13 million households relying on private wells for drinking water, caterers can be sustainable in their water usage as well. They can also choose food that was grown close to home, ideally organically. But you may also want to think about having a vegan or vegetarian menu. While there’s no guarantee that all of your guests will eat meat, a vegan menu, in particular, accommodates everyone, while at the same time being more environmentally friendly than a menu with animal products. It might push some people out of their comfort zones, but you can also take the time to support independent producers. Try not to buy too much food, with that being said, so that you can prevent waste. If you do have excess food or unused paper or plastic cutlery, you should donate that to a nearby charity; or for that matter, ask your guests if they want leftovers.

4. Go Sustainable With Your Wedding Favors

Wedding favors are a popular key to the event today; guests can home with a goody bag or a special gift to remind them of your big day. But you don’t have to order those from a big retailer, and it’s not too difficult to make them yourself. Consider choosing edible favors, as they’re typically more sustainable than things that will just be thrown away. A preserve, cookies, or fair trade food products are great options. Other options include plants, or seeds that can be used to grow plants; or perhaps something like an eco-friendly bird feeder. If you don’t want something immediately usable, you could also choose something that can be used over time. Eco-friendly candles, natural beauty products or skincare, and similarly useful, eco-friendly products are fantastic options.

There are a lot of issues that can crop up during a wedding, and it’s easy to forget that it’s supposed to be a fun, even beautiful day. But by taking steps to be more sustainable, you can feel better about your green wedding while at the same time getting the day you’ve always dreamed of.

As the global climate crisis is on the rise, it’s worth considering the benefits of solar energy. Every two years, NATO produces a report projecting the future security of the environment, which most recently honed in on the importance of awareness of the climate crisis. For that reason, let’s talk about one of the most environmentally friendly energy sources.

Background

Renewable energy has been observed as one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, with solar energy projected to account for nearly half of total renewable energy usage by 2050. However, solar energy only accounts for 1.6% of total U.S. electricity generation. While this is relatively low, it means there is room for growth.

Historically, coal, gas, and oil have been the dominant source of energy. This is largely a direct result of the cost. These energy sources are cheap to produce but they are also incredibly damaging to the environment. Unfortunately, the price continues to outweigh environmentalists’ concerns. Solar energy, on the other hand, does not have a large impact on water, carbon emissions, and other concerns. As such, it’s been heralded as a green energy source.

Benefits to Solar Energy

Environmental benefits aside, there are considerable benefits to solar energy.  For example, solar energy (even without subsidies) is far cheaper in terms of price per kilowatt-hour as opposed to fossil fuels. Essentially, more solar energy can be produced for the same amount of money as energy derived from fossil fuels. And the trend is only increasing. Each year, studies show solar energy becoming more and more affordable with technological advancements.

Solar energy is also a renewable energy, unlike gas, coal, or oil, which means it will not run out. We will always be able to draw energy from the sun, whereas fossil fuels will eventually become tapped out.

It also is worth noting that solar energy itself is not a fuel, it is a technology. This furthers the point that it is not reliable on a single fuel, but largely on technological advancements. This is a huge benefit when it comes to expanding the solar energy industry. After all, its advancement would help the economy grow as we invest in new technologies.

Not only is it an investment in the environment, but it’s also an investment in your property. The average homeowner can see a return on investment for solar panels up to 20% or more when it comes time to sell. Aside from that, adding solar panels to your home will result in lower monthly energy bills, also saving you money.

Disadvantages

However, only over 2 million solar panel systems have been installed in the United States. This is, in part, because not all roofs are designed to accommodate the addition of solar panels. As a result, this further limits who can and can’t adopt a more sustainable lifestyle through solar energy. This is a great start but there’s a lot of work to be done if we want it to become a leading energy source.

While adding solar power to your home does increase the value of your property, it also isn’t an immediate return. It takes the average homeowner about seven years to pay off their purchase. However, the cost is becoming cheaper and cheaper, so be sure to consider this investment.

But the cost is not the main concern associated with solar energy. An overwhelming population of people does not believe the science behind global warming. As a result, they have no real interest in changing where they get their energy from. Despite the evidence showing otherwise, a lack of understanding and awareness of the current climate crisis has resulted in the desire for solar energy to increase more slowly.

Though the cost of solar energy is dropping, the price we will have to pay for our disregard for environmental safety will only rise. Until more widespread environmental change occurs, the best we can do is invest in renewable energies where we can.

When you need more space, it often makes sense to move to a new home. In fact, 32 million people throughout the U.S. did just that in 2018. But embracing a new environment isn’t the solution to every problem. And as we grow older, many of us want to avoid that scenario entirely.

To that end, 90% of seniors say they want to stay in their homes as they age. This is becoming a more popular option — and with increased demand for aging in place, older Americans now have options for making their homes more comfortable, convenient, and safe as their needs evolve.

But with 58% of homeowners saying they plan to spend money on home improvements this year, there’s another consideration that many want to keep in mind. As more Americans make the move to embrace greener practices, eco-conscious adjustments are becoming more prevalent in many homes — including those of seniors planning to age in place. Here are just a few tips that will allow you to address all of your needs as you age while doing your part to protect the planet.

Opt For Energy and Water Conservation

As we age, it’s important to keep an eye on our expenditures. Since you might find yourself on a stricter budget as you move into retirement, you’ll want to do everything you can to keep your monthly costs as low as possible. One way to do that — while going green at the same time — is to take steps to conserve both energy and water usage. Whether that means upgrading your kitchen appliances to Energy Star models while you add safety and accessibility features or you install low-flow toilets and showerheads while you add grab bars to the bathroom, you’ll end up saving money and precious resources. Even something small like using LED lightbulbs in existing fixtures can make a big difference. Not only do these bulbs last longer and waste less energy, but they actually produce a brighter light — and that can help to prevent slips and falls at home. When it comes time to make aging-in-place improvements, remember to factor in energy-efficient and water-saving features.

Improve Indoor Air Quality

Having proper ventilation and superior indoor air quality is important for residents of any age, but seniors are especially vulnerable to the effects of indoor air pollution. Older people who have conditions like asthma, chronic immune diseases, or lung diseases may suffer the most in these situations. It’s important to prevent and address mold, volatile organic compounds, and other irritants by taking steps to improve indoor air quality. This may involve discontinuing the use of harsh cleaning products, installing HEPA air filters, and ensuring your HVAC systems are running as efficiently as possible. Remember that by improving the air quality in your home, you’ll likely improve the state of the world, as well.

Choose Low-Maintenance Landscaping

For many seniors, exterior property maintenance can be one of the main barriers to aging in place. In senior living communities, many of these tasks are taken care of for you — but when you remain at home, you’ll either have to do it yourself or hire a service to ensure your property remains in excellent shape and that your safety won’t be compromised by your surroundings. Still, you won’t want to remove healthy trees and plants just for the sake of convenience, as this won’t be beneficial to the eco-system. Instead, consider using native plants that will support local wildlife but that won’t require a lot of extra effort to maintain. Rain gardens can be constructed to make sue of natural rainwater while improving the look of a property. As a side note, make sure not to use harmful chemicals for gardening and landscaping. The ultimate goal should be a yard that requires minimal upkeep but that can still provide a tranquil environment for both you and local animal life.

Preparing to age in place isn’t the easiest task — and adding the extra wrinkle of environmental responsibility can feel like a massive challenge. But in the end, many green principles are actually just common sense. What’s more, they’ll often improve your own health while keeping the health of the earth at the forefront.

When energy use in the U.S. is doubling every 20 years, it becomes apparent that we all need to do our part to reduce our energy consumption. Fortunately, reducing your energy use and improving your home can go hand in hand. Here are a few home improvement projects that will help you reduce your energy use this year.

Invest in a New Roof

Investing in a new roof is definitely a big investment upfront, but the reality is that your investment could last your upwards of 50 years and significantly reduce your energy usage. With a normal asphalt shingle roof, you’ll need inspections twice annually and you can expect your roof to last about 20 years. But if you choose to invest in a cool metal roof, you could be looking at a roof that lasts three times as long and helps you save energy. Metal roofing deflects up to 85% of the sun’s rays, which means your house stays cooler during the hot summer months. As a result, this means that you’ll have to spend less on cooling your home. Not to mention that a metal roof just looks cool on your house. And you’ll be able to choose from a wide selection of colors so you’re not sacrificing any aesthetic value when you invest.

Add an Extra Layer of Insulation in the Attic

If you’re investing in a new roof, you might as well address your attic at the same time. In truth, something as simple as an extra layer of insulation in your attic can help you maintain a more consistent temperature in your home all year round. When there’s more insulation, hot or cool air is less likely to escape through any nooks and crannies that exist between your attic and roof. If you’re not sure what condition your attic’s insulation is in, make sure you have a professional come and take a look for you. Based on their inspection, they may be able to recommend a certain type of insulation or a plan for adding insulation moving forward.

Upgrade Your Appliances

Whether you like it or not, a good chunk of your energy usage comes from your appliances. And if they’re a little bit past their prime, it could be time to invest in some replacements. Some good appliances to replace for energy efficiency include the dishwasher, refrigerator, oven, and microwave. When you’re shopping to replace these items, make sure you’re looking for the newest energy-efficient models. And whenever possible, make sure you’re looking for Energy Star-approved appliances to install in your home. Once you have these new appliances installed, make sure you’re taking good care of them. If the dishwasher manufacturer recommends maintenance every two years, then do that! It will help ensure that your new appliances continue to be energy efficient for a long time.

Plant Trees Around Your Home

Landscaping comes with a whole host of benefits. Not only can good landscaping make your home a more enjoyable place to live and enhance curb appeal, but it can also help you save energy. In fact, a few well-placed trees around your home could reduce your air conditioning needs by almost 30%. Of course, you’ll want a landscaping company to help you with this. While planting trees on your own can certainly make you feel great, it’s easy to plant a tree too close to your house if you’re not careful! When you work with a landscaping company, you’re investing in the expertise needed to make sure your energy-efficient dreams come true.

Using less energy at home can be as simple as turning the thermostat up a few degrees during the summer months, but a little home improvement could help you take that even further. Which of these home improvements will you make to save on energy use this year?

It’s no secret the tiny house movement has taken off in recent years. Tiny houses appeal to several factors sought after by millennial homebuyers: affordability, eco-friendliness, and reduced living space for smaller families.

But just how eco-friendly is tiny house living? And does living in a home 500 square feet or less help you consume less energy? According to a new study from Virginia Tech, tiny homes live up to the hype.

Tiny house living significantly cuts back on carbon

Maria Saxton, a Ph.D. Candidate in environmental planning and design at Virginia Tech, spent a year analyzing the environmental impact of 80 people who moved into tiny homes. On average, homeowners who moved into a tiny house reduced their energy consumption by up to 45% and only needed 9.5 acres of resources to sustain themselves for a year.

People living in tiny houses were more likely to recycle more, Saxton says, and more likely to grow their food. Tiny homeowners also generate less trash and bought fewer things.

What are the benefits of going modular?

Needless to say, there’s a major ecological advantage to buying a tiny house. But tiny house living isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for a little more square footage, but still want an alternative to a single-family home, modular housing makes for a great housing option with a similarly reduced carbon footprint.

Here are a few key benefits of going tiny or modular if you’re looking for an alternative to a single-family home:

  • They’re more affordable. Whether you’re building a modular home or a tiny home, modular construction itself can reduce construction costs by 9% to 20%. This is because the structure is built inside of a warehouse so there’s no need for additional equipment or materials. Lower construction costs help to make the entire structure more affordable. Compare a $60,000 modular home to the $1.9 million condos in Manhattan.
  • They’re easy to move. The average tiny house weighs approximately 10,000 pounds and an 800-square foot modular home weighs approximately 40,000. That’s less than the weight of a refrigerated trailer, which is capable of carrying 44,000 pounds. Because these houses are easy to move, you don’t need to sweat over figuring out where you want to settle down. You can always pack up your house and move onto the next adventure.
  • They reduce your energy use. With a single-family home, your mortgage is only part of your monthly expenses. Utility costs can get expensive with each additional square footage. With tiny homes and modular houses, you don’t need to worry about high utility bills. These smaller spaces use fewer resources for electricity, heating and cooling, and water usage.

Many people dream of owning a home, but may not be able to afford the hefty down payment necessary to get a good mortgage on the houses available on the market. Tiny houses and modular homes offer alternative housing for home buyers looking for a more affordable, eco-friendly option.

When you’re throwing a birthday party for your teen, it can be tough to know how to do it exactly right. But regardless of your teen’s age or how perfect you want the party to be, there are always ways to make a birthday party more eco-friendly. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Buy Fresh Instead of Packaged

There are hundreds of details to organize in preparation for any kind of party. Fortunately, food is one of the fun ones. And there’s a simple way you can make your party snacks more eco-friendly! Whether it’s a fruit tray or an assortment of veggies, try to buy fresh instead of opting for packaged. If your teen wants watermelon at their party, buy a whole watermelon and spend a few extra minutes cutting it up in your own kitchen. Make a cake from scratch instead of buying a pre-packaged one or using a pre-packaged mix. Head to your local butcher to purchase burgers and hot dogs, if that’s your vibe. The biggest eco-friendly reason to do this is that you’re cutting down on the amount of waste you produce. Buying fresh and local can often help cut down on plastic and other non-biodegradable materials that only end up in the landfill

Make it a Backyard Party

When you host a birthday party in your house, you’re inevitably going to use more energy than you would if it was just your family inside. During the hot summer months, your air conditioning has to work much harder to keep more bodies cool when everyone’s inside. And unfortunately, buildings including houses consume almost 40% of the primary energy in the United States already. To cut down on AC strain and energy usage, consider making your teen’s birthday party an outdoor affair. When you’re hosting parties during the summer, a backyard is a perfect venue. And if you have a grill set up or a fire pit, making s’mores can be a perfect way to end the night. Say goodbye to high energy usage because you had a bunch of teenagers in your house for a few hours.

Keep the Gifts All Natural

Beyond skipping the wrapping paper, make sure your gifts for your teen are all-natural and ethically produced. If a modern lab can screen ingredients to 0.1% and lower, the ingredients list on a new skincare product should be extremely accurate. In addition, try to invest in gifts that will be useful for your teen for years to come. If they love writing and reading, consider a journal made of recycled paper. Or if your teen is particularly passionate about an environmental cause, ask guests to bring gifts in the form of proof that they donated to your teen’s cause. Not only is this gift incredibly thoughtful, but it’s utilizing the resources we have to do good elsewhere in the global community. And if you absolutely have to wrap a present, consider using old wrapping paper or a reusable bag. Little changes can make a big difference!

Planning a birthday party for a teenager can feel overwhelming at times. But when eco-friendliness is an important value in your family, it only takes a few simple changes to make sure you’re minimizing your impact on the environment and making ethical choices.