Sustainability in the Home

    What does it mean to be sustainable? 

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    The basic definition of sustainability is the ability of something to be maintained at a certain rate or level. 

    The environmental definition is maintaining an ecological balance while not depleting natural resources.

    You also commonly hear the term associated with agriculture. Sustainable agriculture is a farming system that can provide for the needs of current and future generations while conserving natural resources.

    What does it mean for a home to be sustainable?

    It is a state where the home functions and is maintained while conserving resources.

    A sustainable home can:

    • Reduce costs
    • Save energy
    • Save water
    • Reduce maintenance
    • Create a healthier environment

    To see how this can be done, let’s examine the 3 Pillars of Sustainability:

    Profit– on a larger scale this is the economy

    People– or a larger society

    Planet– our environment

    These three pillars can be shrunk down to your home.

    Profit- your personal finances, and how much money you spend and save on things like utilities and groceries

    People- you and your family

    Planet- your home (can also include your local community)

    So, having a sustainable home means living within your financial means to keep up a certain standard of living for you and your family while also creating a healthy environment.

    These are some of the things you can do to make your current home more sustainable:

    • Replace windows for better energy efficiency for your climate – You will have to spend some money up front, but you will make it up with lower monthly utility bills.
    • Energy efficient appliances- The production and use of these appliances have a very low carbon footprint.
    • Maintain appliances by regularly cleaning filters and checking for leaks- this will reduce the energy needed to run the appliances as well as expanding their lives.
    • Use cold water to wash clothes- A lot of energy is required to heat water. Most clothes will get just as clean in cold water as in hot water.
    • Use a Drip Irrigation system for your yard and gardens- uses gravity to deliver water, thereby reducing the use of electric pumps. It is also a more efficient method than traditional sprinklers. The water is delivered directly to the roots of the plants, reducing evaporation and overall water usage.
    • Eco-friendly paints- They reduce pollution in use and production. The next time you update your decor, choose better paints.
    • Solar Panels- Solar energy is not just good for the environment, but a great way to save on monthly utility bills.
    • Draft proof doors and windows- Sometimes it just takes a little caulking, or a snake under a door to stop a draft. Small improvements can make a big difference in energy usage.
    • Make sure your home has proper insulation- If there are wide temperature differences in areas of your home, it might be due to a lack of proper insulation.
    • Use water filters- If you live in an area with unreliable potable water, consider installing water filters in your taps, over buying bottled water. 
    • Replace fluorescent light bulbs with LED or CFL bulbs- these energy savings bulbs are widely available and affordable.
    • Start a vegetable garden- It is not only more economical to grow your own food, but good for the environment. There is an environmental cost with shipping produce to grocery stores, especially when it is not locally sourced.
    • Compost- Keep as much organic matter as you can out of landfills. The decomposed matter is a great source of nutrients for a garden. 
    • Line Dry clothing- Clothes dryers use an incredible amount of energy. Line drying uses none.
    • Use natural cleaning products- Most cleaning products contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Environmentally sound cleaning products is a growing industry, so there are lots of alternative options for sale, but you can also make your own cleaning products with simple ingredients like vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.
    • Be water wise- SImply be mindful of how much water you are using. Shut the tap when not in use, or try to recapture waste water to reuse.

    If you are fortunate enough to build a new house from the foundation up, there are many more construction options available to make a fully sustainable home. 

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