If you want to start living green, begin with your home.
Other than the workplace, the next place you’d spend half your lifetime in is probably your home. It’s the place where you sleep, rest, and recharge. It’s also where you spend time with family and close friends, bonding and relaxing after a hectic day. Others like to entertain, inviting friends and colleagues every other weekend. Some of us do love to spend time at home; thus perhaps the best way to begin our green habits starts from where the heart is – the home.
Why go through the hassle, you might say? Well, by being green, we help the environment. When we reduce energy consumption or utilise more natural energy, we help to reduce carbon footprint, which plays a part in conserving the environment and at the same time in building a more sustainable living.
Reduced energy consumption also means reduced utility bills; thus making it more cost-efficient to maintaining our homes. When we adopt green home habits, it would entail spurning toxic chemicals in home products that are harmful to environment; in turn creating a healthier and more pleasing indoor space that enhances our personal well-being as well.
We depend on appliances to run our homes smoothly – water heaters, washing machines, air cons. There is no way we can go back to the primitive days of running around garb-less to deal with the intense heat (not that we want to although it’s our own house after all) lest we end up with a fine or worse, in the news; hence we’ve to continue to rely on appliances.
What we can do, however, is to purchase electrical appliances that are energy-efficient. Household appliances now have energy labels slapped on them, ranging from 1 to 4 ticks – 1 tick being least efficient as compared to 4 ticks. Buying appliances with a 4-tick label can bring about significant savings in yearly electricity bills.
Air cons for example can chalk up utility bills quite heftily. Try getting a model with energy saving features and technology because it works in keeping costs down. Also keep the temperature at 25 degrees Celsius when you turn on the air con. Another way is to set a timer, especially when you wake up in the morning; getting an auto cut-off prevents over-use, helping you to keep your utility bills in check. Get the air cons regularly maintained to keep them running efficiently.
An extreme measure (for most of us) could be to banish air cons altogether and use fans such as ceiling fans instead. Some fan designs and models focus on enhancing air flow and ventilation, keeping the indoor air quality sublimely cool and healthy.
What you use for your lighting also makes a difference. Replace incandescent and halogen lights with compact fluorescent or LED lamps that produce lesser heat and use lesser energy. They also last significantly longer, doing away with frequent replacements. If the harsh lighting from these energy saving lamps are less than ideal, then install them in places like the store rooms or as supplemental lighting for the hallways for example.
To cut down cost, use task lighting like reading lights for light reading rather than lighting up the entire room. Consider getting lighting timers or sensors that lit up when you step into a room and will automatically power off when the room is vacated for a certain period of time.
No sensors? Then get into the habit of turning off the lights when you step out of the room. Ingrain good habits in your children so that they can start practising when young. A little effort often adds up quite a bit in the long term.
Also during the day time, get in loads of day lighting rather than depend on electric lighting by opening those windows wider. Concerned about the sun glare and heat? Get double glazed windows to keep the indoor temperature cool; especially during the day when you’ve your air con turned on as it keeps the room cool without taxing on the air con.
I know it’s bad but I’ve always enjoyed the feel of water gushing furiously (and wastefully) down my hands whenever it’s my turn to wash the dishes. And when I changed to a low-flow faucet, I’d a hard time adjusting. But low-flow faucets, showerheads and toilets can save up gallons of water especially when you’re a big family. Buy water fittings, such as flushing cisterns, showers, and taps with the “Water Efficiency Label” to cut costs. On top of that, opt for washing machines and dishwashers that are water-efficient to conserve water.
For other household cleaning like general cleaning of the house, we can choose to be selective too. Rather than using paper towels or wet wipes, consider using cloths that can be recycled for cleaning. Recycle old tee-shirts or buy cheap cloth towels such as microfibre towels that, in my opinion, clean like a dream.
For cleaning supplies, consider switching to organic natural cleansers. These products do not harm the environment during manufacture and are made from natural or organic sources such as plant extracts or components like cocoa butter and glycerine. Unlike common household products, which are manufactured from toxic chemicals that may harm the environment.
When we’re out on the streets, we’d see recycling bins for our litter. Similarly there’re recycling facilities near our home and throughout Singapore. Now it’s so convenient to recycle stuff we have no need for. The natural recycling programme by Sembcorp Singapore and the National Environment Agency sends bags right to our doorsteps to collect everything for recycling from papers, magazines and plastic to metal cans and glass. You don’t even have to step out of the house to recycle now.
The next time you go shopping, whip out your bag for groceries or toiletries rather than ask for plastic bags from the store. To make sure you remember, fold and stuff these totes into handbags you commonly carry; it’s so much easier to use them when they’re in sight and when they look good. So for a start, stock up on those fabulous-looking yet cheap totes to haul your shopping purchases. To start living green, all it takes is a little effort each day.