The phrase “hindsight is 20/20” is a look at the past. But in the year 2020 and beyond, we're looking at the future, and the future is green.
Greening your home or finding eco-friendly ways to update the house and landscaping protect the treasures of planet Earth. Consider upgrading your home with today’s technology and products that can protect our natural resources.
The next time you shop for household items, consider things that were previously owned. Typically, these pieces have been well-cared-for. Repurposing things such as glassware, dishes, tools, linens, and utensils keeps treasures from ending up in landfills, and it lessens the toll on natural resources. Antique store furniture has a lot of life left in it, and you may be lucky enough to discover its history. Reuse wood by building bookshelves, coffee tables, or end pieces.
With all the latest lighting gadgets on the market, you can save money and energy at the same time. Energy-efficient lighting for the kitchen and bathrooms is better than those old heat-emitting incandescent bulbs. LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs are brighter, and they don’t use as much juice or throw off as much heat. If you’re building a new room onto the house, consider adding a skylight to bring in more sunshine and heat.
Finally, it’s time to replace that old washer and dryer set. Or maybe it’s time for a new refrigerator or dishwasher. Energy Star appliances are noted by a bright yellow label that shows electricity savings and the cost of operating the unit.
Replacing faucets, toilet flushers, and showerheads with units that use less water cuts down on waste and reduces your utility bill. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates a savings of $90 per year. Low-flush toilets use about 1.3 gallons of water per use, instead of 1.6 gallons for standard toilets. The EPA’s WaterSense label is a national program and can help you choose the right products for your home.
Plants and flowers say “nature” whenever you walk into the room. Think aloe vera, snake, English ivy, and lady palm. According to some, plants help enhance your mood, memory, concentration, and productivity and can reduce fatigue and stress. A warning to pet owners: When choosing plants, check to see whether they're harmful to dogs and cats.
Puttering around in the yard and garden is a given for any homeowner. Organic fertilizers such as minced leaves, wood shreds and chips, grass clippings, animal manure, and decomposed vegetation feed the soil without burning the grass. Natural fertilizers take longer to absorb than chemical products, but they won’t damage nearby watersheds.
Native plants can handle the environment around them. They don’t require as much water or fertilizer, and they are disease- and pest-resistant. Native flowers, shrubs, and trees control erosion and filter stormwater. Composting, installing a rain barrel, and reducing concrete are ways to pump up the landscaping.
When using natural herbicides against weeds in your yard and garden, there are a few things to remember. One is that weeds don’t ever really go away. Chemical fertilizers kill earthworms and microbes, but organic products won’t harm the worms that aerate the soil. Organic weed killers are available and good for spot control on annual growth. Try adding corn gluten meal on weeds — it adds nitrogen to the soil and prevents seeds from germinating. Homemade weed killers made from vinegar and hot water are also somewhat effective.
Getting started in small and subtle ways will help you move toward a more environmentally sound way of living. Every step forward is a step toward the future.
Bob Pitkins is an environmental journalist who reports on sustainability efforts around the country. He enjoys trying out new vegan restaurants and visiting second-hand stores in every city he visits.