Being environmentally conscious has become a trendy topic in the past few years, but digging into the statistics shows this shouldn’t be a superficial aspiration.
A 2020 study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics estimates that the United States wastes up to 40% of our food supply. In 2008, MIT found that the typical U.S. resident has a carbon footprint of 20 metric tons, which is five times higher than the global average. The EPA — citing a 2014 government accountability report — found that the average U.S. family wastes 170 gallons of water per week, or 9,400 gallons of water per year.
The results of these bad habits are startling. In its 2020 report, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that last year was the 10th warmest year on record for North America; It was the fifth warmest year on record for the continental United States.
It’s up to all of us to do our part to minimize energy inefficiencies and curb our wasteful habits. One of the ways to do that is making your home eco-friendly, which uses fewer natural resources. We’ve made sure to highlight gear that’s applicable to both homeowners and renters, so you can do your part regardless of your living situation.
Using these tools is a great start, it doesn’t mean you should stop making lifestyle adjustments like turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth, using public transpiration instead of a car when possible, and recycling as much as you can.
1. Upgrade To A Smart Thermostat
Running a whole-home HVAC system (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) all the time can waste a lot of electricity, but Google’s Nest Thermostat can help you use it more efficiently.
The thermostat learns your habits by recognizing when you typically turn the temperature up or down, and heats or cools your home in the most efficient way possible. You can also change the temperature using an app on your phone (iOS or Android). Consider this: If you’re coming home from a summer trip, you can set the Nest to start cooling your home when you land, so it’s comfortable when you arrive back home. This is a lot more environmentally friendly than leaving the A/C running the entire time you’re gone.
Google says the Nest Thermostat reduces the average owner’s energy bill by about 15%, and is compatible with 85% of HVAC systems. If you’d like to make your home smarter and more energy efficient, this is the place to start.
2. Install Solar Panels
Another way to reduce your utility bill is installing solar panels, and Nature Power offers an easy, all-in-one kit.
The company’s bundle includes a single panel, power inverter, and 11 amp charge controller. Once the panel is installed on your roof, you can connect it to the power inverter, which terminates into a pair of standard grounded outlets.
When the sun is shining, you can plug any electronic up to 300 watts (chargers, small appliances, a TV) into the outlets to receive power. If you want to use this solar panel when the sun is down, you’ll need to get a battery, which can store the energy you harness.
Nature Power’s Solar Panel is a great way to test whether solar power is going to work well in your area before installing a more expensive whole-home kit.
3. Use A Smart Water Detector
Moen’s Flo Water Detector can help you identify leaks as soon as they happen, so you can avoid wastefulness and property damage.
The small sensor continuously monitors your room’s temperature and humidity, and will send your phone a notification if it detects water. If you’ve been dealing with an intermittent leak, knowing exactly when it starts again can help you determine its cause.
The Flo’s water sensor is slim, and 45-inches long, so you can fit it into any space. It’s connected to a water drop-shaped hub, which runs on a battery. Meon says the battery can last up to two years.
This is a small, simple gadget that can help you solve some big big problems.
4. Start Composting
Let’s be honest, composting is the flossing of environmental friendliness: we all know we should do it, but don’t take the time to.
Vitamix’s FoodCycler FC-50 gives you no excuse. The apartment-friendly appliance will dry, grind, and cool natural food scraps, turning them into compost you can use for yourself, or drop off at a local composting center.
I’ve used this gadget for myself, and it’s incredibly efficient. Within three hours my old banana peels, cucumbers, and potato skins were turned into compost. If you fill up the FC-50’s container, this process can take up to eight hours. Surprisingly, the FC-50 was silent and odor free, which gives you even fewer reasons to avoid composting.
Composting is one of the most efficient ways to reduce your food waste, and Vitamix’s FoodCycler FC-50 is a high-tech solution that actually works.
5. Switch To A Smart Air Conditioner
If you live in an apartment, you probably don’t have a full HVAC system, or access to the building’s thermostat. In that case, it’s time to invest in a Wi-Fi enabled window air conditioner.
This model from LG is 15% more energy efficient than similar models, and allows you to control it using Wi-Fi or a smart smart speaker. This level of control gives you some of the flexibility you’d get from installing a smart thermostat. It’s still up to you to decide how long to run your air conditioner, and which temperature to set it at though.
We’re recommending LG’s air conditioner because of its energy efficiency and smart features, but also like its sleep mode, which reduces its noise level down to 44 decibels. This means it’s roughly as quiet as a library. If you’ve had trouble sleeping because of a noisy air conditioner, and want one that’s a little easier on the Earth, this model from LG is the one to get.
6. Control Your Power Hungry Electonics With a Smart Plug
Wi-Fi enabled smart plugs serve a single but important purpose: They give you the ability to turn off your gadgets and appliances from anywhere in the world.
This means you can turn off appliances that have been accidentally left on, or that you keep running for the sake of convenience. This could be anything from a high performance A/V receiver in your home theater system, to an exercise bike.
These aren’t gadgets you want to unplug every night and plug back in every morning. Instead, you can either turn them off manually from TP-Link’s Kasa app (iOS and Android), or set them to turn on and off on a schedule.
Using a smart plug is a small tweak you can make to curb energy waste, and it can really pay off over time.
7. Keep Cool With an Evaporative Cooler
Evaporative coolers are one of the most overlooked home cooling solutions, and they’re a lot more energy efficient than using an air conditioner.
Honeywell’s gadget works by evaporating water stored in its small tank, and blowing it out through a fan. This method of cooling can lower the temperature of your room by up to 15 degrees, which is impressive considering it uses 90% less energy than the air conditioner we’re recommending.
That said, the performance of Honeywell’s Evaporative Cooler will depend on your humidity and the ability to access a window for cross ventilation. You won’t have as much control over how cool your room gets, but the energy savings over using an air conditioner are enormous. You could basically run this fan all day and still be more environmentally friendly than using an air conditioner while you sleep.
If you want to avoid sticker shock on your utility bill this summer, but want to stay comfortable, seriously consider Honeywell’s Portable Cooler.
8. Replace Old Light Bulbs With Smart Bulbs
Smart LED bulbs are more Earth-friendly than a traditional incandescent option in a couple of significant ways.
First, they’ll last up to 10,000 hours longer, which means you’ll have to replace them less frequently. This means fewer non-biodegradable glass bulbs sitting in a landfill. Second, they draw less power when they’re on.
These environmental benefits apply to all LED bulbs, but we’re recommending a set of smart, Wi-Fi enabled light bulbs because you can set them to turn on and off on a schedule using your phone. This is a handy track if you’re using bulbs outside, and don’t have a timer installed on your main power grid.
Switching to smart LED light bulbs is another example of a small change you can make to reduce your carbon footprint every single day, and Philis’ Hue bulbs are the best, most capable ones we’ve tried.