Does your home consume energy like it's at an all-you-can-eat buffet? Or, do you approach energy use like you're on Weight Watchers, and you're counting points at the salad bar? Chances are you fall somewhere in between.
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These days, most of us are aware that we need to cut down on our energy consumption for more energy efficient homes. In fact, you may have already made the switch to CFL bulbs or have your thermostat turned down a few extra degrees. If you're ready to do more, however, then kudos to you! Here's a list of relatively easy or painless changes you can make to further lower your home's carbon footprint.
1. Monitor Your Energy Use
Do you know how much that old fridge in the basement costs you in energy each year? Purchasing an energy monitoring device, like the Kill-A-Watt, can really open your eyes to how much energy your appliances are sucking down each month. If you discover that your old fridge (which is practically empty) costs you $20 per month to run, you might be inspired to donate it to someone who really needs it. On top of that, you will lower your energy consumption and reduce and save on your utility bills in the process.
2. Take On a Roommate
A new study by SMR Research has found that single-person households have grown over 350 percent since 1960. People who live alone use 18.4 percent more energy than two-person households, and 52.8 percent more than three-person households. If you're currently living alone, you can dramatically reduce your home carbon footprint by taking on a roommate and finding a cheap apartment for rent.
3. Compost Your Food Waste
Would you be surprised if I told you I have a vermicompost bin in my kitchen? Yep, I compost all my kitchen waste with worms. Nothing goes in the garbage. Composting your food waste makes a big difference. When food is disposed of in a landfill, it produces methane. This greenhouse gas is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The more food we keep out of our landfills, the less greenhouse gas we will emit. Awareness is slowly growing about the benefits of vermicomposting. It's easy, and when done right it, doesn't smell or draw rodents. In return, you get 100% organic compost and "worm tea" for your home garden. For more info, here's how to build a compost bin.
4. Plant Bamboo
Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants around, and it sucks up four times more CO2 than trees. If you need a windbreak in your yard, and you live in a favorable climate, opt for bamboo.
5. Rediscover Your Clothes Line
Getting rid of your dryer will not only save you an average of $20 per month on your electric bill, but it will also help keep hundreds of pounds of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Think line drying is a pain? Well, it's all in how you look at it. I line dry in my basement during the winter months, so my clothes do get a bit stiff. But in the summer, line drying is pure bliss. My clothes smell like fresh air, sunshine, and lazy afternoons.
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6. Reduce Your Dependence on Large Appliances
The average refrigerator in Europe is 9 cubic feet. Here in the US, it's a whopping 18 to 26 cubic feet. And, 26% of households have two refrigerators. Often, that second refrigerator is more than 15 years old, which means it's even more energy-inefficient. We love our big refrigerators. But these jumbo-sized appliances suck up a lot of energy. Your refrigerator counts for around 20% of your monthly utility bill. Switching to a small, Energy-Star rated fridge will really help minimize your home's carbon footprint. You don't need to make an extravagant effort to lower your home energy costs.
Hopefully, these tips will help you take little steps toward your goal. Do you have any other tips or suggestions?
Heather Levin, a top contributor for the personal finance blog Money Crashers, frequently writes about green topics to help save the environment while saving you money at the same time. Read more of her work at The Greenest Dollar.