Just like spring cleaning, we should all perform a self-audit and make an environmental management plan for our home life. ISO 14000 is a family of standards that provide practical tools for companies and organizations to manage their environmental responsibilities. What about for your household?
Commit to an annual or semi-annual audit.
Mark it on your Google calendar or loop it together with a birthday, anniversary, or New Year resolution. Just like changing the oil of your car or getting your teeth cleaned, management of your home operations is necessary in streamlining a green, efficient, and healthy lifestyle.
Keep a live electronic document or folder that outlines your household history, areas for improvement, and goals for the next one or even ten years. Research is always changing while we are provided with new technology and products that can minimize our footprint. It is great to jot those notes down or save articles here and there for your year-end review. I personally have a pile of vegetarian meal-prep videos along with “greening your home” articles that I load into a G-drive folder.
A routine review will give you the chance to notice new trends in green living, inspire you to try something new, and remind you of personal promises you may have let slip by. An audit is also a great time of year to set long term goals like putting money aside for energy efficient appliances or even dream goals like outfitting your home with solar panels.
An efficient household saves money and the environment.
It is no surprise that energy efficient products and practices literally pay for themselves in the end. From heating and cooling, to transportation and being conscious of your waste stream, it just takes a little energy to maximize those efficiencies as they soon become habit.
Most people also don’t realize a home or office environmental management plan is also important for your health. Respiratory illnesses (Asthma, COPD, and chronic bronchitis, to name a few) are growing at a pace that is second only to diabetes. Overall, respiratory symptoms and allergic reactions continue to worsen as contaminants inside the home go unchecked. Proper venting, air filtration, and exposure to contaminants are all environmental issues that need to be considered in an audit.
Some suggestions to get started with your home audit.
You can start anywhere but this is just a list of ideas I had laying around. Make a similar list, tailor it to your own personal needs, and see where you can start to improve.
Home energy consumption
- Changing light bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75% less energy and reduce carbon dioxide by 500 pounds a year. Replacing 17 has the equivalent effect of taking one car off the road for a year.
- Energy Star-rated appliances, electronics, and lighting can slash a third of your electric bill.
- Wash your clothes on cold and consider air drying- this can also fix dry winter air in your home.
- Keep appliances on a power strip that gets shut off before leaving home. Computers, televisions, and cell phone chargers are just a few items that keep using electricity while you’re not watching. Americans pay $1 billion a year to power televisions and cable boxes while they are turned off.
- Can you heat or cool your home more efficiently? From insulating windows to planting shade trees, there are countless solutions for improvement.
- Maintain or replace your water heater.
- Can you get off the grid? Or Contribute to it? Can you go solar or switch to wind?
- Shower duration really makes a difference over the course of a year. An egg timer suction-cupped on the shower wall is a good way of keep track.
- Water grass and gardens by collecting rainwater.
- Don’t turn on the washing machine or dishwasher until it is full. Each washing cycle uses more than 25 gallons of water.
- Wash your car only when it is necessary or take advantage of summer rains to rinse off suds.
- Stop leaky faucets and toilets immediately.
Transportation and travel
- Carpool, bike, walk, or use public transportation.
- Is it better to order off of Amazon or one-stop shop when you’re at the store.
- Can you shop locally when it comes to products and groceries to lower that carbon footprint?
- Paper not plastic.
- Purchase durable goods.
- Compost kitchen scraps and yard waste.
- Don’t flush anything down the toilet that does not belong there- that goes for wipes, tampons, and condoms!
- Buy low or no-VOC materials (volatile organic compounds), and dispose of VOC products properly. That means paints, cleaners, and an assortment of chemicals that act as air pollutants and can irritate your eyes and respiratory tract.
- Just try to buy less in general.
- Cancel the junk mail- the average American will receive 41 pounds of junk mail in their post box per year.
- Are there alternatives to natural cleaning products? Cleaning with vinegar or alcohol is healthier and safer for the environment.
- Taking off your shoes in the entryway of your house will not only keep things cleaner, it will also reduce the toxins and pollutants coming into your home.
- Check for radon and carbon monoxide.
- The old reduce, reuse, recycle.
Research is always changing on the environmental front and a personal environmental audit should be an ever-evolving process. If you don’t know where to start there are hundreds of ideas with just the click of a mouse. All you need is a date to get started.
If you have any questions or need other ideas, feel free to reach out to me personally. If there is any way SEVENSEAS Media can help amplify your impact, do not hesitate to reach out.
Giacomo Abrusci, Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief
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