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10 Ways to Be More Earth-Friendly Around the House

Did you know: the average American produces more than four pounds of garbage per day? Over the course of a year, that's more than 1,600 pounds of garbage per person. That includes paper, broken glass, and plastic, all of which is dumped into our oceans contributing to world-wide pollution, according to the EPA. But the small changes we make in our own homes can make a big difference. We found ten simple steps you can take to be more sustainable and eco-friendly on Earth Day and all-year around.

Photography by: Bryan Gardner

1. Use energy-efficient light bulbs.

We rarely think about where our electricity comes from or consider how much of it we use (at least until we get the bill). The United States generates its electricity from coal, nuclear and hydropower sources that can have devastating effects on the Earth when used in high demand. Lower how much electricity you use by changing your light bulbs from traditional incandescents to energy-efficient and eco-friendly types, like compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), halogen incandescents and light emitting diodes (LEDs). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you'll use 25 percent to 80 percent less energy and have a longer-lasting bulb.


Get Our Healthy Lightbulb Tips
Photography by: Annie Schlechter

2. Open the window.

Now that the spring and summer months are here, you can take advantage of opening your windows to let in a cool breeze instead of blasting the air conditioner. You'll also be lowering the humidity in your home, which in turn reduces the growth of mold and your need to use harsh chemicals in order to get rid of it. As an added benefit, letting in more natural light during the day further reduces how much energy you use over time.


Photography by: Bryan Gardner

3. Put food scraps in a bin for composting.

Get out a small bucket to put your leftover food and scraps in after that big family dinner. You can buy a composting bin to compost the food scraps inside the house, or take the food scraps outside and mix it with the leaves and cut grass from the yard. After a few weeks, it will be ready to use in your garden or to fertilize your yard.


7 Easy Steps to Building a Compost Bin
Photography by: JENS MORTENSEN

4. Separate your trash from recyclables.

And not just plastic and paper: you can actually recycle so much more! Make separate bins to put your packaging boxes, empty milk gallon jugs, and aluminum cans. Some recyclables can be left in a special recycle trash can or recycling bag on the curb for trash day, or you can contact the city to find where you can recycle other materials. You can scrap the aluminum at a metal scrap yard and make some money too! Only throw away what can't be recycled.


Learn More from Our Recycling 101
Photography by: Kana Okada

5. Clean the house with natural ingredients.

When harsh chemicals get in the soil or go down the drain, it can contaminate the groundwater. Vinegar makes a great disinfectant rinse for the home and reportedly repels bugs, like fleas and other pests, as well. Lemon juice provides a fresh clean smell and naturally disinfects. Baking soda makes a great alternative to bleach powders as well.


Get Our Handy List of Natural Cleaning Products

6. Wash your laundry with cold water.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating your water accounts for about 18 percent of your home's energy use. Save on energy costs by washing your laundry is cold water as often as you can. You can add natural cleaning boosters to your laundry, such as Borax or baking soda, and get your clothes even cleaner than when washing in hotter water.


Get Tips for Perfect Laundry

7. And air-dry your laundry.

Another energy-sapper in your home is the dryer. But why use one when you can air-dry your clothes? If you have an insulated basement, you can hang up a clothesline and let them air dry there. You can also hang a clothesline from a balcony or terrace if you live in an apartment, or set up a clothesline in your backyard.


How to Install an Outdoor Clothesline
Photography by: Kate Mathis

8. Incorporate more house plants into your decor.

Plants eat up your carbon dioxide for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Keep your home fresh with plants throughout the home. The greenery will reward you with oxygen and inspire you to be more "green" in your everyday life. (Better yet, choose a variety well-known for purifying the air in your home!)


The Best Plants to Purify Your Home
Photography by: Matthew Williams

9. Turn it off when not using it. 

Make it a household rule -- it makes a big impact. Your TV and computer eat up energy even when you're not actively using them. The U.S. Department of Energy has a nifty tool that can help you determine how much energy your appliances use and gives you an idea of how much you can save just by turning them off or switching to energy-efficient appliances.


Get Healthy Electronics and Gadget Tips

10. Shop "green." 

Look for recycled packaging on everyday items you buy from the store. You can find everything from food containers to makeup compacts packaged in biodegradable materials. Depending on the material, the packaging can either be recycled or composted. Want to go the extra mile? Start your own garden.


Learn How to Start a Garden and Keep It Healthy