A Room-by-Room Guide To Reducing Waste
By Shayne Fitz-Coy
You know you want to simplify your life and reduce the amount of waste you produce. But where do you start? Tackling your entire house is a daunting task, so make it easier by going room by room instead. A few small changes in each room will add up to big savings in the end. Here are ways to cut down on waste in every room in your house.
It may not be the first room you think of as wasteful, but when you look around your bedroom, you’ll notice many opportunities to reduce your energy footprint.
- Switch lightbulbs to compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). CFLs can be four to five times more efficient than a regular bulb. Always remember to turn off your lights when you’re out of the room.
- Dress in layers so you can turn off the heat at night. Running the heat all night long uses huge amounts of energy. Consider turning down the heat, or using a single-room heater just for your bedroom.
- Donate old clothing. Don’t let your old clothing sit in a landfill. Give someone else a chance to wear it instead.
- Shop at secondhand stores for clothes. Trade in your old clothes and pick up some that are new to you. Not only are many items like-new, they are cheap, too!
- Wash your sheets sparingly. Sheets use a lot of water to wash. Instead of sticking to a set schedule, wash your sheets only when you need to.
With the washer and dryer, the laundry room uses a lot of energy. Cut back on that consumption, and your clothes and your energy bill will thank you.
- Wear clothing more than once before you wash, particularly jeans. Your clothes will last longer and you will have less laundry to do.
- Use a cold water wash. Most of the energy used when washing is for heating the water. Cold water eliminates the problem. Bonus: not having to separate out which clothes can’t take the heat.
- Hang things to dry. Avoid using your dryer all together. Hang your wet clothes in your shower to catch drips, or out in the sun for a faster drying time.
- Choose concentrated detergent. Companies use less packaging for concentrated amounts. The smaller bottles have a smaller carbon footprint, since they use less space and fuel to transport.
- Only wash full loads of laundry. Don’t fill a nearly empty washer with water when you can fill it with clothes instead. Wait to wash your clothes until you gather enough laundry to have a full load.
The kitchen is a big culprit of waste. It’s easy to let energy, water and extra food slip by without even realizing it. The key is to create energy-saving habits and practice them every day.
- Compost. Much of your food waste can be composted. Put a small basket on your counter or under your sink so you don’t have to walk outside after every meal. Don’t forget that food-soaked paper products, like milk cartons, can also be composted.
- Only run full loads in the dishwasher. Save water, energy and time by washing everything at once.
- Use reusable items instead of disposable. Swap paper towels and napkins for ones made out of cloth.
- Repurpose unwearable clothing into rags for cleaning. Bring your own reusable totes when going shopping, and carry a refillable water bottle.
- Use natural cleaners. Baking soda, lemon juice and vinegar work great for all of your everyday cleaning needs.
Saving water should be your goal in the bathroom. Leaving the water running while you aren’t using it uses more than two gallons a minute. Some small changes can help get that number down.
- Use a low-flow shower head. These are easy to install, and you won’t notice a difference in your water pressure.
- Turn off the water while you lather up and brush your teeth. If you aren’t actually using the water, turn it off. This includes while brushing your teeth and shampooing your hair.
- Install a high-efficiency toilet. Or look for a dual flusher toilet that has one button for big flushes and one for small. If your toilet is leaky, get it fixed—it could be wasting up to 200 gallons a day.
- Take shorter showers and wash your hair less often. Try to reduce your shower by a few minutes each day. Your skin and hair may actually improve with less time in the shower.
The office is a place full of energy-hungry electronics where clutter tends to gather. Free up your work space and save the planet by following a few simple tips.
- Remove yourself from junk mail lists. Stop the clutter before it enters your mailbox. Put your name on the Direct Marketing Association’s “Do Not Mail” list to unsubscribe.
- Use online banking. You have options other than using paper checks and receipts. You can communicate with your bank fast and securely from your computer or smart phone.
- Purchase (and use) recycled paper. When refilling your printer, choose recycled paper. When you end up with pieces to recycle yourself, use them as scratch paper before tossing them into the bin.
- Unplug devices. Your electronics constantly pull power when plugged in, even if they are turned off. Unplug them when not in use. Power strips are convenient for turning off the whole room at once.
- Repurpose and upcycle furniture. The greenest piece of furniture is one that already exists. Move items from one room to another to make your space feel like new.
Go Green Room-by-Room
Don’t try to tackle your whole house at once. Take your time and go room by room. Make conservation an integral part of your lifestyle by incorporating each change into your daily routine. The energy savings and waste reduction will add up before you know it.
Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania with offices nationwide. A Certified Aging in Place Specialist, Shayne has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard College and a master’s in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home.