rain water barrel and women holding vegetables

    Published: February 12, 2016

    15 Tips for Running an Eco-Friendly House

    As Americans become increasingly conscious of their impact on the environment, eco-friendly living has become popular. For many people, living green begins with their home life. Below are 15 suggestions which can make your home greener, reducing your carbon footprint and, as a happy side effect, your bills.

    Switch from Plastic to Glass

    If you do nothing else, make the switch from plastic bottles to glass. The energy required to meet America’s demand for plastic bottled water could power 190,000 homes, with 38 billion bottles winding up in landfills every year. Glass bottles are durable, long-lasting, and don’t leach harmful chemicals into the environment—or your body.

    Check Your Insulation

    Inadequate insulation leads to heat loss in the winter and the loss of cool air during the summer, so heating systems and air conditioners work harder to maintain a comfortable environment. Your home consumes more energy resources as a consequence, and you pay higher utility bills. Installing adequate insulation for your local environment is one of the best ways to cut down on a home’s ecological impact.

    Check for Leaks

    Leaky plumbing wastes water, increases your water bill, and may even damage your home by encouraging wood rot and mold growth. A small toilet leak can waste between 7 to 200 gallons of water a day. Maintaining your faucets, toilets, and water pipes is one of the most effective ways of conserving water.

    Go Low Flow

    While you’re checking for plumbing leaks, consider the age of your faucets, toilet flush systems, and showerheads. Older models may have high gallon per minute flow rates. Switching to a new showerhead can reduce your shower’s flow rate from a water-wasting 5.5 gpm to 2.5 or even 2.0 gpm.

    Plant Trees

    Planting trees helps purify the air we breathe, provides shade, and, in some cases, fruit. Southern exposure plantings help cool a home in the summer and can have an effect on your power bills. Be sure to choose planting sites with care to avoid root damage to driveways, foundations, and water pipes.

    Renovate with Recycled Materials

    Adding on a new room or building a patio? Recarpeting a hallway? Many building products are made from recycled materials, often at affordable prices. If you can’t use recycled, look for materials made from renewable sources, such as fast-growing bamboo instead of slow-growing hardwoods.

    Install a Water Softener Alternative Conditioner

    Up to 85 percent of American households use “hard water,” or water with a high concentration of heavy minerals. Hard water damages plumbing and appliances, causing unsightly stains around drains and faucets. Washing in hard water can cause brittle, dry hair and aggravate skin conditions.

    Many homes include salt-based water softening systems, but such systems produce a gallon of briny wastewater for every gallon of water they deliver, and require electricity to operate. Pelican’s NaturSoft® Water Softener Alternative softens water with no wastewater, and requires no electricity to operate, making it a greener and cheaper alternative to salt-based softeners.

    Maintain Your Appliances

    Like a well-maintained car, household appliances last longer and run more effectively if they have regular “tune-ups.” Have your dishwasher, clothes washer, dryer, hot water heater, furnace and refrigerator serviced as recommended by the manufacturer, and change filters in heating, air conditioning, and water filtration systems on a regular basis.

    Look for Energy Star Labels

    When you do need to replace an appliance, choose one certified by EPA’s Energy Star program. The Energy Star label indicates an appliance that offers superior energy efficiency.

    Plant Herbs and Vegetables

    Planting an herb and vegetable garden brings you closer to the earth. Our modern life has extended the food-to-table chain to the point where many people don’t even think about how food reaches their plate. Growing your own produce makes you part of this important process again, often while improving soil quality and attracting beneficial insects to your garden.

    Collect Rainwater

    Make the most use out of rainwater runoff with rain barrels for watering vegetable plots, or irrigation systems that redirect runoff to parts of the garden where water is most needed.

    Use Cloth Bags

    Plastic grocery bags are an environmental disaster, generating 32 million tons of plastic waste a year, cluttering the landscape, and choking marine animals that mistake the bags for food. Invest in some sturdy cloth bags and you’ll never need plastic ones again.

    Use Cloth Instead of Paper Towels

    Paper kitchen towels may be convenient, but like all paper products they’re made from lumber, and contribute to global deforestation. Instead, use cloth rags, which can be washed and reused.


    Repurposing items increases their lifespan, and reduces your need to buy new items whose production consumes natural resources. Repurpose used glass containers for fridge and pantry use. Cut up old shirts to make cloth rags. With a little imagination, you can find uses for many products that would otherwise be thrown out.

    Don’t Dispose, Donate

    You’ve just KonMaried your entire house, and have a small pile of items you no longer want. Many of these items could still be used by other people, so consider donating them to thrift stores rather than simply throwing them away. Thrift stores, Craigslist, and online auctions like eBay are also excellent resources for buying gently-used items, extending the item’s life while reducing your carbon footprint.