Waste Less Water
Using water affects the environment in multiple ways. For one, each American uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day, mostly flushing it down the toilet! Leaks and water misuse can lead to a single household wasting 10,000 gallons of water per year. Another downside is, again, energy use from maintaining a hot water supply even when no one is using water.
A tankless water heater system can heat water in seconds without using energy constantly to heat a 50-gallon supply. Some experts say tankless systems can be a way to protect your home against earthquakes as well, since a dislodged water tank can cause serious home damage.
Checking your water bill for suspiciously high amounts that suggest a leak can save water and money. Swapping older toilets for water-conserving models is another easy way to save gallons each day. Some families who want to take water conservation a step further can also look into using “grey water,” or reusable water from your sinks, tub, or even washing machine, to irrigate outdoor areas. Grey water regulations vary from state to state, so learn what permits and systems you’ll need before you start reusing your household water.
Get a Greener Roof
Want to lower your carbon footprint and increase your home value? Try switching to solar. Solar panels can significantly reduce or even eliminate your energy bills, depending on your energy use, the size of your roof, and the amount of sunlight your home receives. A solar power system may count as a home upgrade, and some studies indicate you can expect to see an average $15,000 increase on your home value.
As of now, 2021 is the last year you can claim a tax credit for installing a solar energy system, so if you’re interested, now is a great time to take on this environmental home improvement.
While you’re on the roof, you might also want to consider the eco-friendly impact of a cool roof. “Cool roof” doesn’t refer to your roof’s popular appeal, but to temperature. Many homeowners prefer a dark-toned roof for aesthetics, but some roofing materials trap heat and make the home’s cooling system work harder. A cool roof uses materials that reflect away heat, while mimicking traditional roof materials.
This not only lowers energy bills, but helps fight the “heat island effect,” where urban buildings absorb heat and raise temperatures in their surrounding area. Translation: This could be your contribution to a less sweltering summer for you and the rest of your neighborhood.
Choose Eco-Friendly Floors
On the opposite end of your home, upgrading your flooring is a great opportunity to go green. Home improvements are often about improving the style, health impact, and daily convenience of our homes. Whether that means choosing an elegant hardwood or insulating carpet, the materials you use can impact your family’s health and the Earth’s.
Green hardwood flooring
Hardwood floors have the benefit of not trapping dust or allergens as easily as carpet, which can help affect air quality in your home. The problem is that wooden floors require cutting down trees, and the exotic wood market can threaten environments like rainforests.
When shopping for hardwood flooring, look for labels indicating that the wood you’re considering is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC is generally considered to be the gold standard in determining whether companies are sourcing wood in a sustainable way. Opting for reclaimed (i.e., recycled) wood is another option that offers the charm of antique wood and the satisfaction of not cutting down additional trees.
Carpet is comparatively inexpensive when compared to many hardwood and tile flooring options. It’s comfortable and offers a layer of insulation that can keep a room feeling warm and reduce the ambient noise of foot traffic and echoes. A major downside is that many carpets are made or treated with synthetic materials and compounds that can off-gas into your home environment, negatively affecting air quality.
For the most sustainable carpet, look for non-toxic carpets made with natural fibers. The backing or padding should also be made with natural materials, and preferably either sewn on or glued with natural adhesives that won’t release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Look for green carpet certifications that take into account the materials a carpet contains, manufacturing emissions, water use, and other environmental criteria.