Earth Day 2022: Easy ways to go green at home

Earth Day is coming up, which means a renewed focus on ways we can become more “eco-friendly” in our day-to-day lives, and there are several things you can do as an individual to reduce your impact on the environment, experts say.

Although there’s been plenty of debate over whether individual actions can have a substantive impact on climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency still encourages people to take action in their own households, saying they can “lessen the impacts of climate change by making choices that help advance solutions and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

And many “green” choices can also save you money, especially in the long-term.

Here are some tips for incorporating more eco-friendly practices into your daily life:

Shop green when doing renovations

Springtime is home improvement season, and that’s an area, the EPA advises, where you can take steps towards saving energy: “one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce greenhouse gases and help combat climate change.”

When shopping for everything from a new dishwasher to a new front door, the EPA says, you should look for the Energy Star certification.

Energy-efficient appliances or high-quality windows may be more expensive up front, but you’ll save money down the line through lower utility bills. And some Energy Star items come with rebates or tax credits, the EPA says.

You can use the official product finder at energystar.gov/productfinder to find items in stores near you, or check out these locally owned Charlotte hardware stores for help on your project.

Identify where you’re leaking air

That drafty window or door isn’t just a nuisance — it can have a negative impact on the environment and your wallet.

Losing heat in the winter or cooled air in the summer through poorly sealed or insulated windows and doors means your HVAC system will run more, burning more energy and running up your bill.

The EPA recommends checking your home for drafty areas and addressing them. The Energy Star guide on its website can help you detect problem areas and make a plan to seal them up.

“Reduce, reuse, recycle”

The “three Rs” are a cliche for a reason, and they go beyond just sorting your paper and plastic products into a separate bin on trash day, the EPA notes.

Simple steps like donating items that you’re done with but still work to a charity or second-hand store or shopping for second-hand items yourself help “to reduce waste as well as the emissions created by producing new materials or disposing of them in landfills.”

Making a meal plan and shopping list before grocery shopping so you only get what you need helps to reduce food waste that leads to food ending up in landfills, “where it emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.”

And finding ways to reuse items in your own home also reduces unnecessary waste.

Revamp your cleaning routine

Your spring cleaning is another area where you can reduce your environmental footprint.

Traditionally, cleaning has involved a lot of single-use products, such as paper towels and plastic bottles. Choosing reusable clothes and scrubbers (which can be repurposed items such as old T-shirts or toothbrushes) and glass bottles reduce waste and can save you money, Better Homes & Gardens’ cleaning experts advise.

You can also try some of their homemade cleaning solutions.

Try “Meatless Monday”

You don’t have to become a vegetarian or vegan to help the environment by cutting back your meat consumption.

Rather than give up meat entirely, you can try “Meatless Monday,” a campaign to encourage folks to cut out meat just one day a week.

“Skipping one serving of beef every Monday for a year saves the equivalent emissions to driving 348 miles in a car,” the campaign says, citing research by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future.

You can also incorporate more plant-based meals when eating out around Charlotte.

Cut back on water usage

Helping prevent water supply shortages can be as simple as addressing a leaky faucet or washing your clothes on a cold cycle, the EPA advises.

“It takes a lot of energy to pump, treat, and heat water, so conserving water reduces greenhouse gas emissions, too,” the agency says.

In addition to using less water, you’ll also have a lower bill at the end of the month.

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Mary Ramsey is a service journalism reporter with The Charlotte Observer. A native of the Carolinas, she studied journalism at the University of South Carolina and has also worked in Phoenix, Arizona and Louisville, Kentucky.