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3 ways to optimize sustainable living ideas at home

family recycling

One of the most significant consumers of resources and energy is your home. Whether it’s high utility bills, bags of garbage, or even just the renovation waste from your latest kitchen update, your house makes up a considerable part of your carbon footprint. Fortunately, creating sustainable living ideas at home can be boiled down to the three basic tenets of sustainability: Reduce, reuse, recycle. These three areas of sustainability that we learned in grade school cover everything you need to address when optimizing your home’s sustainability.

#1. Reduce waste and consumption to optimize sustainability

sustainable living

The easiest way to improve your home’s sustainability is to avoid consumption in the first place. Reducing your home’s consumption also has the benefit of saving you money since waste usually comes at a cost. Reducing your household waste can be accomplished in a vast variety of ways, a few of which we’ve outlined below.

Reduce energy consumption

Lowering your home’s room temperature in the winter and raising it in the summer will reduce the energy consumed to keep your home comfortable. If you have a programmable thermostat, you can adjust the settings to drop the temperature even lower or higher when you are at work or sleeping, for further savings. Upgrading your home’s light fixtures to LED lighting will also help reduce the energy consumed in your home. Finally, lowering the temperature of your hot water tank will also reduce the energy used to keep your showers hot (make sure to keep it warm enough to remain hostile to bacteria).

Reduce your household waste

How many bags of garbage does your household produce in one week? Odds are, you can reduce that amount by a significant percentage if you modify your behaviour to include purchasing products that are low on the packaging, minimize kitchen waste as much as possible, and switch biodegradable and compostable products when possible. Unfortunately, we can’t reduce our household waste down to zero, but to further improve your home’s sustainability, you can reuse it whenever possible.

Composting kitchen scraps

Purchasing an under-cabinet kitchen compost bin is an inexpensive way to remove a large amount of compostable material from your home’s garbage bin. Some cities offer city-run composting programs and will provide you with a large green outdoor bin. If this isn’t possible in your area, you can purchase an outdoor composting bin –be sure to avoid composting meat or bones as these items will attract rodents.

#2. Reuse or donate renovation waste

reuse materials around the house

All homes need minor renovations from time to time, but you can minimize the cost and environmental impact of your restoration by reusing materials. Here are some of the ways to reuse materials and create sustainable living ideas at home.

  • Reusing architectural features like doors, hardwood flooring, and moulding to maintain your home’s character
  • Reusing kitchen cabinets in a different part of the property like a workshop or garage
  • Repurposing old windows as art features

If you can’t reuse certain aspects of your home’s renovation waste, that doesn’t mean others can’t. Organizations such as Habitat for Humanity will happily accept renovation waste in good condition and resell or donate it to others in need, thus extending the useful life of your home’s features.

Reuse rainwater

Purchasing an inexpensive rain barrel to collect the rainwater that accumulates during stormy weather is an excellent way to reuse water that would otherwise be draining into your city’s sewer system. Water from a rain barrel can be used to water your garden or lawn but should never be used for consumption.

#3. Recycle materials appropriately

recycle hazardous waste properly

Finally, when you can’t eliminate your home’s waste or reuse it, you can recycle it whenever possible.

Prioritize recyclable packaging

It’s impossible to minimize your purchases to run your household entirely, but by prioritizing recyclable packaging, you can maximize your home’s sustainability. Purchase products with cardboard recycling over plastic, and choose containers with the recyclable symbol on the bottom. Check with your local municipality for a complete list of recyclable materials. Some things like egg cartons, paper towel rolls, and paper are recyclable in some towns but not others.

Take the time to recycle electronics

Most households have one of “those” drawers. The one with various electronics and batteries that we plan to get around to recycling someday. But recycling these items doesn’t just clean out that drawer. It also lets the harvested materials be used in other consumer electronics, reducing the need to collect new material from the earth.

Recycle hazardous waste

Properly disposing of hazardous wastes, such as leftover paint, aerosols, oil, gasoline, propane tanks, and pesticides and herbicides are essential. Look for a local hazardous waste depot that specializes in disposing of these everyday items. Dumping these items on your property can have adverse effects on the local wildlife and watersheds, so it’s best to do the responsible thing and recycle them properly.

Creating sustainable living ideas at home is a lifelong journey

Making your home more sustainable often requires a sustained effort to change your household consumption and disposal habits. Tackling these changes one at a time can help make new habits stick. After all, getting into the groove of composting can take some practice. Once you introduce these sustainable living ideas at home, you’ll take your space from a consumption heavy energy glutton into a more sustainable, less resource-intensive haven.

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Jordann Brown

Jordann Brown is a marketing and communications professional living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As the owner of an 83-year-old cottage, and with a passion for renewable energy, Jordann spends much of her time working on home renovations. Founder of the popular personal finance blog, My Alternate Life, Jordann has been featured in many notable publications including The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, CTV News and CBC.