This article is a full guide on how you can make your home more sustainable. You hear it everywhere. “You should start to live more environmentally friendly!” and “do you really know how you can minimize your environmental footprint?” And frankly, most of us do not know how they should do it. So how can you really make your house or apartment more sustainable?
It all comes down to your current situation, but I would say that most of us have a lot of potential to make things better for the environment. There are a lot elements involved. Often it is a combination of changing the way you purchase groceries, how you heat up & cool down your rooms and which products you use.
This article might be a bit long, but at least it’s very useful and educational if you really want to make a change. 🙂
The best thing of all is that you will actually learn something. Let me make this a bet. If you implemented one or more action points from this article and didn’t save money – I owe you a Coca-Cola. You would have to comment below! Haha.
Have you ever thought of growing your own vegetables? It is not as difficult as it might sound like. If you have a back garden or other outdoor space close to your house/apartment, you are just a small investment away.
Why is it environmentally friendly to grow vegetables in your own house?
Next time you go to the supermarket, try to take a look at where all the products come from. You might be surprised to see that about 50 % of all the products in American supermarkets have been produced abroad. The greenhouse emissions coming from transportation of groceries is rather massive.
Another point is that mass-produced vegetables and fruit often contain pesticides. Food companies use a lot of toxic chemicals in order to keep away bugs and other animals. However, pesticides is not exactly very healthy for us humans either.
So by starting to make your own little vegetable garden, you do not only save the environment. You also make sure that you have full control of what you are eating.
How to get started?
I would maybe advice you to buy a book about home gardening. That is how I started
myself, and the “Vegetable Gardeners Bible” has sold more than half a million copies (!). You can see it listed in our Literature page.
If you don’t want to invest in a book, which I highly recommend to do, you can also find quite useful information online. Simply go to Google and type in “how to grow vegetables in my own back garden” or something.
Remember that it also comes down to the climate you are living in. As we write this blog in English, we have visitors from all over the world. Needless to say, there are different things to consider if you grow tomatoes in Moscow, Russia versus growing them in Houston, Texas.
Where should I buy gardening tools?
I can also mention that I use Hosstools (check out their website here) when I buy all the garden and farming equipment that can be found in this article. They have a fantastic range of home gardening products at very affordable prices. I bought a lot on Amazon over the years, but you simply cannot guarantee for the quality on that site. Most of it is cheap quality from China that get broken really quickly.
Pictures of my own home garden:
Despite living in North Europe, I am able to grow a wide range of different vegetables in the spring/summer/early fall months.
PS! I am sorry that many of the pictures include my tortoise, but he is a natural part of the pictures when I photograph my own garden.
You can click on the pictures in order to make them bigger!
Also, I added some pictures of the vegetables when they are almost full-grown. These pictures are taken in mid-July and shows the various vegetables that is included in my backyard garden.
– And a lot more!
And as you can see, you don’t need a lot of space in order to grow your own vegetables.
“Indoor gardening” – when you don’t have a backyard to grow your vegetables in
It might surprise you, but growing vegetables at home do not necessarily demand a lot of outdoor space. In fact, it doesn’t require any of that. Placing vegetable plants by the window is not something everyone wants to do, but it is a good alternative to not grow any vegetables at home at all. ☺
Just remember that you need to take care of your plants a lot more when they are inside. Needless to say, they do not get any natural water. Also, you constantly need to make sure that they are given enough sunshine.
Which vegetables can be raised inside?
You will almost have endless opportunities when you grow vegetables outside. Well, it will, of course, come down to the climate where you live. Growing any types of plants inside is a much more limited thing. These are your best options:
Lettuce can also be grown indoors and grows well under the right light conditions. We recommend that you sow Butterhead salad instead of normal lettuce salad. If you give them the right care and conditions, they can be harvested and eaten after no more than 3-4 weeks.
Salad is something that needs a bit cold to germinate. You should not have them in a room that got an average temperature above 20 degrees Celsius. If your kitchen or living room becomes too hot, you should consider putting them in your bedroom.
Onions, ginger, and garlic
Try not to overcomplicate things. If this is your first time growing your own vegetables, there is no need to make things harder than they are. Most of us use onions, ginger or garlic for certain dinner dishes every month. Why don’t you grow them yourself instead of buying them at the store?
Onions can be grown by keeping the bottom of the stems and putting the roots in water for a few days. You will very quickly start to see the results.
Garlic is grown by putting cloves in the soil. There is own set-garlic to be purchased, but we have had the success of using only plain garlic from the store. It will eventually grow up green shoots that you can harvest and use. The leaves have a slightly milder taste than garlic. That being said, it takes about 1 full year to make a fully grown garlic indoor.
Final tips for growing veggies inside
1) Know that it demands dedication.
You have to give the plants enough care and water to grow. If you go on holiday for a longer period of time, you would need someone to step in and overtake these routines for a while. As you might already understand, growing vegetables at home are something that demands dedication.
2) Don’t forget them!
It might seem like a good idea to grow your own garlic 1st September. But when you look behind the curtain only to find a dead, forgotten plant and some dry soil in the middle of November, you quickly understand that you have done something wrong. Do not forget to give them the care they need to grow.
3) Do not overcomplicate things.
I have already given you four good ideas that you can try. Garlic and onion are examples of plants that grow without too much water. As long as they are given some water every week and daily sunshine, you should be all good.
Heat and water
Energy usage is a big environmental problem. You might sometimes be shocked by the electricity or water bill, but trust me: the environmental cost of using too much hot water or electricity is way higher than you will ever experience.
The average American and European are wasting an awful lot of electricity every day. Most of us simply don’t have good enough routines to make our homes energy efficient.
First thing you need to do is remember to always turn off electrical products when you don’t use them. That includes everything. Turn off the light when you are leaving a room. Turn off the TV if you are going out in the kitchen to make dinner. When you remember to turn off these elements, you make sure that we reduce the amount of toxic fumes in the atmosphere, which conserves the earth’s natural resources. These are all effects that take place when we reduce the power plant emissions.
Less energy used will mean less greenhouse gas emissions. It will also save you from having a high electricity bill.
Some quick wins in order to use less electricity at home:
1. Buy energy-efficient light bulbs. They can use as much as 75 % less energy than “normal” light bulbs.
2. Use cold water to wash your clothes. Did you know that 90 % of the energy used by a washing machine goes directly towards heating the water? Unless you have some really dirty (stinking) clothes or underwear/socks, you should reconsider the temperature on the water.
3. The dryer is probably the most efficient (=quickest) way to dry your clothes, but far away from the most energy efficient. Hanging the clothes around in the house or apartment is a very good option. Unless you live in a place with very high humidity, they will probably be dry within 24 hours.
4. Only run the dishwasher when it’s fully loaded. There is no excuse to run it unless you have every single spot “taken”. If you really need a knife, a fork or some plates for an afternoon snack, it is better to take these out of the dishwasher and wash them by hand. And then you can place them back in the dishwasher and run it afterwards.
How to decrease your (warm) water usage
This is another thing that will both affect the environment and your wallet. Some people get a separate invoice for water and electricity. Some people get it combined. Regardless, it is still an expense for both you and the environment.
Some quick tips on how to use less warm water:
1. A bath is a luxury. Don’t treat it as an everyday thing. This might not surprise you (hopefully not), but these are the numbers when we compare an average bath in an average bathtub to an average shower:
The average bath uses 65 gallons of water. Showering will normally require between 8 and 10 gallons.
Both make you clean and comfortable.
2. Decrease the temperature on your water heater during spring, summer and fall. A 10 Fahrenheit decrease (12 Celsius) will lower your water heating costs by 5 %.
3. Do not let the water run when you don’t use it. It might seem like small thing, but it’s not. Especially not when you do it for a minute or two every day over a year.
You are probably brushing your teeth every day. When you got the toothbrush in your mouth, please shut the water off. The same applies when you make the dishes.
Products that make your home more sustainable
One thing is fix some of the current issues by changing your habits or routines. That is the easy part. But if you also add a small budget in order to make your home more sustainable, you can come a long way with only a few bucks. We have made a list over products to your home that will decrease your environmental footprint:
Ecofriendly trash bags
Plastic is a big issue. And with the amount of trash most of us produce every day, we unfortunately also end up creating a lot of plastic waste. If you invest in some plant-based trash bags instead, you can make sure that at least the “waste wrapping” is biodegradable.
Recycled toilet paper
Most people buy the toilet paper where they can get a discount – or where they can find it cheapest. But did you know that 27,000 trees are cut down to create toilet paper every day? Every day. That is a rather massive number.
And you can help to reduce that number by buying some recycled toilet paper.
In USA alone, about 800,000,000 toothbrushes end up in the trash every year. More than 90 % of them contain plastic. That is a massive environmental issue. If you change to a biodegradable, eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush, you are no longer a part of that problem.
I bought my own bamboo toothbrush, and you can read my review here.
Ecofriendly light bulbs
Good way to save the environment – and to reduce your electricity bill to one-tenth of what it currently is. That being said, most light bulbs sold in the Western world are now eco-friendly, and it has been a proposal from the UK and Canadian government to put a ban on incandescent bulbs.
I was so sick and tired of all that plastic that was thrown out of my house all the time. A great solution was to buy a refillable soap dispenser that actually lasted quite a while. I bought two of them: one glass soap dispenser and one kids-friendly soap dispenser.
Research has actually shown that buying a “kids-friendly” soap dispenser with a cool/fun design will make your kids more eager to wash their hands! 🙂
Guide: How I made my home more environmentally friendly
Writing this article without having some “proof” to show you would be useless, right? And in the fight against fake news and poorly written articles online, I very often try to use things from my real life when I describe a topic.
In this article it would be natural to show some of the things I invested in.
An excellent microwave
I was almost afraid of cooking previously. The reason was because I had a constant fear of making too much food that would be thrown away. But with the microwave, making too much food only means that I got “free” lunch or dinner the next day. Seriously, the amount of food wasted before and after I bought the microwave can just be described as night & day.
This is how it looks like:
Nothing fancy but it works perfectly. The amount of leftovers that has been reheated in that microwave…I just get very happy thinking back on that.
Makes a big difference!
My own vegetable garden
If you have any available outdoor space surrounding your home, you will also have the potential to grow your own vegetables. They are not only healthy and environmentally friendly, but it very quickly turns into a hobby.
Frankly, I started this project as I just wanted to do something ecofriendly and I had some extra space that I wanted to utilize. But it turned into something that I really enjoy doing. Also, when you get some family members or friends visiting for a dinner, it is rather cool to say that “these vegetables have just been harvested from out there”, pointing out the window.
Big water dispenser
I had to buy one. After seeing how I and my roommate constantly bought smaller plastic bottles to drink from, I had to take action. It simply would not be fair to call myself “environmentally friendly” and at the same time buy a kilo plastic every week.
And by the way: we are forced to buy bottled water as we are living in a country where drinking the tap water is considered unsafe.
Previously I always bought these small bottles:
As you can see, they are not very environmentally friendly. Frankly, it is just a small amount of water packed into plastic….which again is packed into plastic.
So I bought this one:
The best thing of all is that I spoke to the guy who is running the shop where you buy these tanks and he said that they would be cleaned and reused.
Ecofriendly trash bags
I was tired of seeing all that plastic go out the door every time we threw out the trash. Felt something had to be done about that. So I bought these ecofriendly trash bags made of organic material. Frankly, they are 100 % identical to plastic bags (at least they feel like that), they do the job, but cost slightly more:
Honestly, if you were told that they were made out of plastic, you would probably believe it. They also do feel like plastic, but they do not have that weird plastic smell. And the best thing of all: they are environmentally friendly.
And this is how it looks like when they are actually in use:
There are actually no excuses of not buying ecofriendly trashbags for your home. I would argue that all people should do that little investment.
I already feel that I have created a sustainable friendly home. However, there are still a lot of things to do. And I got some pending projects that will hopefully be finalized within a year or two:
– Buy the type of showerhead that use less water.
– Put some sort of isolation in the wall. The electricity bill is quite high during winter, and it is better for the environment if I do some investment into isolation instead of using a lot of electricity to keep my hands and feet warm.
– Investing in a rainwater collection tank.
And those are just some of the projects that I have planned. But as I have emphasized several times in this article already: we should all start a place and do small changes. In the end, you will have a house or apartment that barely leaves any environmental footprint.
Some last words
Making huge changes or improvements on a house or apartment will often mean a lot of planning and money investments. But as this article shows, you don’t have to break the bank to make your home greener. A small microwave to minimize food waste is a good start.
Investing in better isolation and a different system to handle electricity and water are long-term big projects. You can already now start to do some research and make a so-called ROI analysis. ROI = Return On Investment. In other words, you will most likely save the environment. But if you also can show that you actually will save money on making your house more isolated, you have great incentives to prioritize that project before next winter.