New Year resolutions to green your home

Photo: istockphoto.com/Chad Anderson
Have you been meaning to go green but couldn't find the time? Start off 2008 by following these easy suggestions that don't require any major renovations but can help reduce your carbon footprint. Green your living room
  • Start buying sustainable furniture made from reclaimed wood, recycled and eco-friendly materials instead of the usual furniture store fare.
  • Before buying, check for sweatshop-free conditions and for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification that any raw wood used was harvested sustainably.
  • Look around for a second hand items. With a few repairs and some new upholstering, some of those old couches can become reclaimed gems.
  • When it's time to retire your couch or coffee table, donate it to the local thrift store or charity shop and keep it out of the landfill.
  • Green your bathroom
  • Replace toxic cleaners -- especially the ones used on tiles and toilet bowls -- for green natural products that do the job just as well.
  • Throw out that toxic PVC vinyl plastic shower curtain in favour of an organic cotton or hemp curtain.
  • Simple and inexpensive to install, a low-flow shower head can reduce water consumption and heating costs by fifty percent. Consider a low-flow shower head with a shut-off button for even more savings.
  • Install a water-saving device inside the toilet tank and save on average five litres per flush. The simplest water displacement device to use is a plastic bag or bottle filled with water and suspended inside the toilet tank.
  • Test for a leaking toilet by putting a few drop of food colouring in the tank and waiting for 20 minutes. If the water is coloured then you probably need to replace the rubber flapper valve.
  • Take showers instead of baths. A five-minute shower uses less than 38 litres (10 gallons) of water, compared with 57 to 95 litres (15 to 25 gallons) for a bath. Don't run the water to brush your teeth or to shave.
  • Green your closet
  • On average, we throw away about 30 kilograms (68 pounds) of clothing and textiles per year. Donate your clothes to a local charity shop instead of throwing them away.
  • Be conscious-shopper. Do really need the item or are you just following the latest trend?
  • Buy organic cotton or sustainable fabrics. Was the dye used vegetable-based and non-toxic?
  • Check the label for a fair trade certification or some guarantee of a sweatshop-free environment with safe labour practices. Do you really want something made by child- labour?
  • Tight budget? Then check out local second-hand shops and flea markets where you can find some real bargains.
  • Why not sew your own? Your local tailor or seamstress can also remodel that old piece of clothing to make it more fashionable.
  • Green your kitchen
  • When hand washing, rinse your dishes in a large bowl of water or rinse them after putting them in the drainer. Don't let the water keep running.
  • Fix leaking faucets immediately. One hot water faucet leaking one drip per second will waste 9,000 litres (75 barrels) per year, the equivalent of 160 dishwasher cycles.
  • Keep a jug of drinking water in the refrigerator instead of letting the tap run for cold water.
  • Start composting. There are dozens of different composters on the market, indoor and outdoor.
  • Buy seasonal local organic produce whenever you can. It's healthier and you are supporting your local farmers and helping your community thrive. Buy a share in your local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or become a member of your neighbourhood food co-op. Ask your local grocery store to start carrying some organic produce or cut down on the over packaging.
  • Green your laundry room
  • Switch your laundry detergent from the commercial petroleum based products to green detergents that are plant based.
  • Soften your fabrics with baking soda in the wash cycle and cut down on static cling with some vinegar added to the rinse cycle.
  • Replace toxic hyper chlorite bleach in favour of non-chlorine-bleach products made from sodium percarbonate or sodium perborate.
  • Commercial dryer sheets are filled with harsh chemicals and fragrances that can irritate skin and cause asthma problems. Try some of the new dryer balls, which work the same way but are be reused over and over.
  • Do your loads back to back and use the residual heat in the dryer.
  • Only run the washer and dryer when you have a full load
  • Wash with cold water to save 80 to 90 percent of the energy costs of washing.
  • To prevent static cling remove your laundry before it's over dried – clothes don't need to be bone-dry. Hang them to air dry and you'll not only save money but put add some much needed humidity to the air.
  • Here's to a green 2008! Shelagh McNally is the editor of Green Living Online.