So you are ready and committed to living better with a whole lot less energy, chemicals and waste. Ok, great! But where to start? To get you on a road to success, I want to share some advice gleaned from my family’s personal journey at our home.
First things first – know your starting point.
Whatever you measure improves. The old adage is true. Read your utility bills, check your furnace and AC settings, peruse your pantry, bathroom counter, garbage cans, recycling bins, and closets to understand where you are at today. Most all utility companies have developed tools to track your energy usage and compare your use with nearby similar homes. Keep a list of what foods you buy and products you use around the house for cleaning and personal care. There is a slew of apps to help select less toxic foods, make-up and beauty products. Take note of what you swap out and the names of your new cleaner favorites.
Set some realistic stretch goals.
Put down in writing specific goals that match with your individual priorities. Take these for example: reduce energy costs by 10%, eliminate two processed foods from the pantry, replace three veggies and fruits with organic, swap out two cleaning products and three beauty products, increase plastic recycling, bring shopping bags to food store, etc…
Get your family in on the deal.
Have your kids help you decide what is important in your home. Assign everyone a job or two – switching off the lights, picking out healthier shampoo and body soaps, taking out the food scraps to a compost pile. Involving the whole gang in the new routines reinforces each new habit and will make them stick.
Find like-minded friends.
Talk to neighbors on the block and friends in town about your goal to get greener and cleaner in your home. You will be surprised how many people want to make their homes healthier and more energy efficient. Make shopping at health stores an adventure with a buddy. Search out local community groups for company on the journey and for recommendations and “hacks”. Don’t reinvent the wheel!
Make first steps achievable.
Get going with low cost, small changes to see quick results and create enthusiasm. Changing your thermostat by 1-2 degrees will more easily stick than 5. Speedy savings come by swapping out older light bulbs with CFL or LED types. Pull out the cloth napkins from the back of the linen closet and start using them at dinnertime – you’ll save money on paper products and reduce your garbage to boot.
Take a systematic approach.
With early achievements to motivate you, select more challenging or expansive changes, that parallel your lifestyle and family’s needs. Identify the most energy intensive items in your home and find ways to use them less. If you are expecting a new baby or have young children, buying organic bedding and finding non-toxic cleaning products may be your immediate focus. Health concerns or allergies may lead you to prioritizing on your home’s indoor air quality. A redecorating project or renovation is a great opportunity to furnish your home with non-toxic carpet, paint and décor.
“Keep It Super Simple (KISS)”
Simplifying our lives is one of the best ways to live better. Decluttering helps up see what we own, remove what isn’t working for us, and creates an inviting and welcoming home. Keep the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle – front and center in everything you do in your home. All three cut down the waste we throw away, keep money in our wallets, conserve space in landfills, and best of all, boost our sense of well-being in our homes. Before you make a new purchase, pause and think if you could use something you own already, borrow from a friend, or get by without. It is amazing what we can avoid buying new with a bit of creativity!
Celebrate, replicate and expand your success.
Make a fuss when you get your electric, gas and water bills and see the savings from the simple changes, when your fridge and pantry are full of organic foods, or when you only take the garbage out once a week. Then consider what bigger challenges you can take on, like switching to a renewable energy contract, considering home solar, planting an organic garden, or installing a rainwater barrel to water the flowers.
Ride the technology wave.
Wireless smart controls for lighting and air conditioning, apps to reduce junk mail and pick clean beauty and food products, and energy tracking websites from the utility companies are just a few ways technology is here to help.
Take stock and plan what’s next.
Track your energy savings, and the money you avoid spending buying fewer paper, plastic products or re-using things you already own. Use the windfall to pay for more organic produce, meat, and dairy products or treat yourself to clean cosmetics or a sustainable fashion statement. Just think, what new greener, cleaner living improvements can you tackle?