Whether you’re recycling cookware or designing an eco-friendly home office, kudos to you for incorporating sustainability at home. “Homeowners are becoming increasingly mindful of reducing their personal carbon footprint,” says Sarit Marcus, an interior designer in Tampa and founder of Minted Space, a sustainable furniture company. A recent Meta study reveals consumers are willing to pay a premium for eco-friendly or sustainable products. It’s clear that sustainability at home can make an impact: According to a 2021 Forrester survey, one third of American online consumers are considering the impact of climate change in purchase decisions. Simple tweaks not only cut back on energy usage, they can help minimize waste and help you breathe easier. Ahead, 10 simple ideas for a greener abode.
Do you swoon for scented home air fresheners? Time to nix the habit. “Synthetic chemicals are designed to mask smells, not actually remove them. After a period of time, they lose their scent, but the chemicals remain in the home,” says Andrew Pace, founder of The Green Design Center in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Pace recommends installing a home air purifier, like the Solace Air RS4 with UV light for pathogens like mold and viruses. “This unit will eliminate the pollutants that lead to stale household odors, thus reducing your use of masking fragrances,” he says. If you do like scented air fresheners, try aromatherapy diffusers, sustainably-made candles, or smart clean fragrance plugs that you can control from an app, like Pura or Aera. The plugs are customizable so you can wake up with invigorating citrus and wind down with lavender at night.
Minimize cooling energy consumption by preventing the sun’s rays from heating up your home in the first place. “To help reduce your air conditioning and power bill, install window shades on south-facing windows,” says Wayne Turett, founder of New York City–based architecture and interiors firm, The Turett Collaborative. Notice which rooms tend to heat up during the day, then tackle those windows first. Turett’s go-to budget shades are from IKEA; for something more high-end, try automated Serena by Lutron. On the other hand, open up south-facing windows during cold months. “They will reduce your heating requirement and save electricity, gas, or oil,” Turett adds.
“Most home electronics still consume energy even when they’re not in use,” says Marcus, who is also a Certified LEED Green Associate in Interior Design and Construction by the U.S. Green Building Council. According to the Department of Energy, these vampire appliances and electronics amount to 10% of the overall energy used in a home.
To reduce your energy use, unplug computers (including modems and routers), TVs, cable and satellite boxes, surround systems, and household items, especially when you go on vacation, says Marcus. “Aggregate as many energy sources as you can via power strips and turn them all off with a simple pull of a plug,” she adds. Better yet, invest in solar powered chargers.
For a low-cost DIY project: “Refinish an old piece of furniture beckoning to be replaced,” Marcus says. Breathe new life into a scratched up dresser by sanding, then repainting with a non-toxic paint low in volatile organic compounds (VOC), like ECOS Paints. “Swap out the hardware (such as knobs or pulls) to give it an instant face-lift,” she continues, pointing out that a vintage furniture shop is a great place for antique hardware. You can also search online for salvaged knobs via Etsy, and Marcus’s Minted Space.
One of the best mechanical upgrades a homeowner can add, regardless of whether you have an old or a new home, is to install a whole home dehumidifier, says Pace, who recommends Sylvane Santa Fe dehumidifiers. “Elevated moisture in a home can lead to potential mold growth,” he says, adding that moisture levels can increase chemical off-gassing from construction materials, spiking indoor air pollution. “It will also make your heating and AC system work harder.” Pace recommends keeping household humidity levels between 30% and 40%. These units start at around a thousand dollars, but compared to mold remediation, which can cost from a few thousand dollars to $50,000 for extreme cases, it can be a savvy upgrade if you’re in a high-humidity environment. Too much moisture can also stretch carpeting and bloat wood floors, he says.
“Invest in brands known for longevity,” says New Jersey–based Metin Ozkuzey, president of Designer Appliances in Montclair, who recommends Sub-Zero and Miele when it comes to appliances. When you shop for appliances, look for high-efficiency (HE) and Energy Star labels. Swapping all non-LED bulbs with LED reduces the energy use from fossil fuels, thus lowering carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, Turrett explains.