Thirty Ways To Get Sustainable – At Home

It's easier than you might think

One of the articles in Designing A Sustainable Future (IC#35)
Originally published in Spring 1993 on page 22
Copyright (c)1993, 1996 by Context Institute

1. Make compost, or if you don’t want to build your own compost heap, give your organic waste to friends.

2. Move closer to work, or work at home when possible. Commuting accounts for more than a third of all car travel.

3. Reuse paper bags, envelopes, etc.

4. Maintain possessions instead of discarding them. With a few tools and a how-to book you can save money, resources, and landfill space.

5. Xeriscape with drought-tolerant native species in your yard. Plant shade trees and vines to keep cool in the summer.

6. Build an extra unit on top of your garage, or convert your home into a duplex or tri-plex; it will mean less open space sacrificed to new construction.

7. Install low-flow showerheads. With less water to heat, you’ll save water and energy.

8. Buy in bulk, and bring your own reusable containers to eliminate wasteful packaging.

9. Take down your back fence. Share garden space and play areas with your neighbors.

10. Use compact fluorescents, which screw into ordinary incandescent light-bulb sockets but use far less electricity. Add motion-sensing switches to turn them off when the room’s empty.

11. Ventilate with air-to-air heat exchangers. They pre-heat fresh air coming in with waste heat from the "old" air circulating out.

12. Plant deciduous shade trees to cut summer cooling bills. Put them on the west and east sides of the house to let light in during the winter.

13. Bike, walk, and use public transit.

14. Install a solar water heater; they’re often cost-effective even in cloudy areas.

15. Buy efficient appliances with smarter designs, like front-loading washers (they use half the water and detergent of top-loading washers). Check efficiency ratings you could save up to 13 percent of your household energy use.

16. Use non-toxic cleaners. Borax, vinegar, baking soda, salt, and lemon juice are a few of the many natural alternatives.

17. Move to a smaller house. Okay, maybe not right now, but when you do move, re-examine how much space you really need and how close you are to work and the services you need.

18. Tune up your car. Without the required maintenance, it can lose up to 9 percent of its fuel efficiency.

19. Separate recyclables, and recycle ‘em.

20. Landscape with edible plants. Decorative cabbage, fruit and nut trees are lovely in the yard.

21. Upgrade/service your furnace. Newer models are usually more efficient. Cleaning and adjusting your furnace also makes a big difference.

22. Eat lower on the food chain. Meat, eggs, and dairy products require disproportionately more land, water, and other resources to produce than they return in food value.

23. Carpool and combine trips.

24. Talk with your neighbors. If you find you don’t have time, cancel a trip to the shopping mall or put the TV in the basement.

25. Install faucet aerators. They work like low-flow shower heads; most have an on/off control to let you cut off the water while soaping up.

26. Store rainwater; use your roof as the collector. It’s clean, it’s free, it’s great for your garden or yard, and it doesn’t take energy to pump it to your house.

27. Caulk and weatherstrip, and insulate walls and ceilings. Local utilities will often subsidize bringing older houses up to current standards.

28. Fix leaky pipes. Even small ones can waste thousands of gallons of water a year, and most can be easily repaired by replacing worn parts.

29. Start a community garden in unused open space. Buy your food from local growers.

30. Install low-flush toilets and drop from six gallons per flush to one and a half. It saves money as well as water, by cutting utility bills and/or septic tank service calls. s