The kids are back in school, work is getting busy again…and most likely the weather will start to change soon (although you wouldn’t think we are nearly in October given the recent wet and humid conditions). Assuming Fall is soon on its way and we are in store for some cooler weather, making it a great time to weatherize your home before that cold hits us. Here are 4 green tips to help you transition into Fall:
1. Weatherize Your Home for Winter
When it comes to energy efficiency, one of the easiest and least expensive green practices you can do is to plug and seal leaks air leaks – called weatherization. Fall is a great time to prepare your home for the winter months before it gets too cold. According to the Department of Energy, heating accounts for the biggest chunk of our utility bill, accounting for more than 40% if you include heating the space in our home as well as our water. Weatherization can save you 25 to 40 percent on your heating and cooling bills. The average unweatherized house in the United States leaks air at a rate equivalent to a four-foot-square hole in the wall.
You can weatherize your home yourself, usually for under $20, with a couple easy steps:
- Identify areas in your home where you may have leaks. Looks for gaps in your doorways where you can see visible light filtering in. Hold a match or incense near windows or areas where you have large cracks (possibly from foundation settling) – if the fire flickers or the incense is drawn to the outdoors, you have a leak!
- Buy weather stripping for your doors and windows at your local hardware store.
- Use caulking to seal up areas where you have cracks.
2. Manage Your Indoor Air Quality
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates indoor air to be 2-5 times more polluted than outdoors. Now I know I just told you to seal up your home to avoid loss of heating and cooling and reduce your energy bills, but you also have to be careful you don’t trap in pollution that could harm your health. Most of us don’t think about the toxins in our home from our furniture, carpets and rugs, and cleaning products. Wood often is treated with formaldehyde, paints used to decorate your walls may contain phenols; carpets, paints, and upholstery can contain VOCs – all of these are toxins which can adversely affect our respiratory systems and cause other health problems.
Here are a few ways to manage your indoor air quality:
- Make sure you have changed your air filters and continue to do that every 3 months or as directed by your HVAC or furnace system recommendations;
- When weather permits, open your windows to allow fresh air in your home;
- If you have ceiling fans, turn them on and keep air circulating. You can use floor fans and place them in front of windows to move air flow through your home and flush out stagnant air or use the "fan" on your thermostat that keeps air flowing through your ducts, even if the heat or cooling is not being used;
- Consider adding air filters to rooms you sleep in or spend a lot of time, and/or add air purifying plants to naturally clean your air. The best air-purifying plants include the peace lily, bamboo palm, English ivy, mums, and gerbera daisies, all of which are both easy to find and easy to care for – so even if you don’t have a green thumb, you can still have a green home or office.
- Buying household products that don’t have harmful chemicals is another important practice. Start with your cleaning products. Look for products that are 100% natural and chemical free, have no dyes, no detergents, no surfactants, no preservatives, no SLS, SLES, ALS, no synthetic fragrances, and no preservatives.
3. Make Healthy and Sustainable Water Choices
We’ve all been lectured about the environmental impact of purchasing bottled water – estimates still show that over 2 million plastic bottles are thrown away in the U.S. every HOUR! Well, it’s not just about reducing our consumption of plastic water bottles to reduce the number going to landfills every day, there are health reasons to having the proper reusable bottle and ensuring your water comes from a trusted source. Many people get allergies in the Fall and cold and flu season begins with the changing temperatures. Clean, sustainable water helps keep you healthy and reduces your environmental impact.
- Get a good reusable water bottle. Look for Stainless Steel bottles like Kleen Kanteen, although there are many to choose from these days. If you prefer a lighter weight bottle made of plastic, be sure it is BPA-free. Check out Time magazine’s Top 5 Eco-Friendly Water Bottles (rated in 2008).
- Get your water from a trusted source – preferably water you have filtered at home through our faucet or from your fridge. Since you may drink your one bottle sooner than you can return home to refill, especially since the point is to NOT buy water bottles when you are on-the-go, you can also get water bottles with built-in filters. Check out the BOBBLE and also the Camel Back Reusables with built-in filters.
4. Enjoy the Final Fall Harvest with Eco-eating
Fall is a great time to take advantage of the end of year harvests by visiting local farmers markets. While some farmers markets are year round, many end for the season in October or November until starting up again in April or May. It’s important to choose the right fruits and vegetables by season as well as those that are lower in pesticides.
- Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides for a very useful guide of the Dirty Dozen (fruits and vegetables found to have higher pesticide use/content, making it worth the extra buck or two for organic) vs. the Clean Fifteen (those with lower pesticide use/content so you run less risk if you don’t buy organic);
- Fruits and vegetables in season in October and November include apples, spinach, and broccoli. Grapes, pumpkins, squash, raspberries, and tomatoes may also be in season and available at your local farmer’s market.