Green Homes
Building for the future, today – combining the best of historical wisdom and modern technology.

5 Smart Home Upgrades That Are Good for Your Pocket and the Planet

The synergy between the smart home and the sustainable home is a beautiful thing. Technology brings conveniences, and by reducing our consumption of water and energy, sustainability brings savings. Put these two powerful features together, and you have the sustainable smart home. This is a home that saves its owner money and the planet precious resources—by automating many of the things we forget to do, don’t know how to do, or don’t realize we need to do.

Here are five of the best smart home upgrades you can do in your own home that will benefit both the planet and your pocket.

Replace Your Standard Thermostat with a Smart Thermostat

smart thermostat photo

Resource Savings: According to Energy Star, installing a smart thermostat is the best way to save energy in your home. While programmable thermostats save energy by running the heating and cooling system when you think you’ll be home, smart thermostats know when you’re home. They use geolocation of your smartphone and/or sensors to figure out when the house is empty or occupied and adjust accordingly.

Convenience: Apart from never needing to fiddle with the thermostat again, smart thermostats can be controlled remotely using your smartphone. For example, you can turn the heat down when you’re away for a few days and then adjust it on your way home so it’s nice and cozy when you arrive. Some of the higher-end smart thermostats can actually learn your heating and cooling patterns and preferences and program themselves for you.

Cost: Smart thermostats run from $100 to $250, but some promise to pay for themselves in energy savings within a year or two. Also, you may be eligible for a rebate of between $25 and $200 through your energy company. Enter your zip code here to see if you qualify.

Control Solar Gain with Smart Blinds

smart blinds photo

Resource Savings: Reduce the work your HVAC system has to do by installing smart blinds. Solar heat gain is our friend in the winter and enemy in the summer, and smart blinds can help you tame this tricky resource. They can be programmed to automatically close when they start to heat up or when the temperature in the room rises. Additionally, smart blinds can adapt to the seasons and be programmed to automatically open and close at certain times of day during the winter, allowing the sun to heat your home naturally.

Convenience: Smart blinds work with your smart thermostat to “sense” when you are away and close the blinds for you, another thing you don’t have to remember to do on the way out the door. Additionally, they can work with smart voice assistants so when you wake up in the morning, you can simply say “Open my blinds,” to welcome in the day.

Cost: Installing a set of smart blinds in your home is a high-cost proposition, one not offset significantly by the energy savings. However, if you are building a new home or renovating a space, it’s definitely something to consider. There are some smart devices you can retrofit onto existing blinds that will offer some of the benefits, but the most effective, least expensive way to benefit from the energy savings and conveniences of smart blinds is to install a couple in your most used, south-facing room.

Start Using A Smart Ceiling Fan

smart fan photo

Resource Savings: Ceiling fans help reduce our reliance on an energy-hungry HVAC system by cooling us off when it’s hot and pushing rising heat downward when it’s cold. But if they’re left running when no one is there, they’re wasting energy. Smart ceiling fans can sense if a room is empty and turn off automatically, preventing wasted energy — up to 30 percent in some cases. Some can even integrate with your HVAC system to automatically switch the fan to the correct seasonal settings.

Convenience: Smart fans can adjust themselves based on your desired temperature to automatically speed up as temperatures rise, and because they can sense your presence thanks to built-in sensors, they’ll just turn on when you need them to. No need to get up and flip a switch. You can also set a schedule for a smart fan.

Cost: Fans range in price from $300 to $600, but they boast of energy savings of up to 30 percent, so they’re a worthwhile investment.

Install a Smart Irrigation Controller

smart irrigation photo

Resource Savings: A smart irrigation controller can drastically cut back on your water usage, while still maintaining a healthy landscape in your yard or garden. With the power of science, the Internet and weather forecasting, smart controllers decide when to turn on, and more importantly, when not to. Using evapotranspiration calculations to determine the moisture content of your soil and a connection to the Internet to know when it will next rain, smart sprinkler controllers can determine when your sprinklers need to run. According to the EPA, replacing a standard irrigation timer with a smart irrigation controller could save you around 7,600 gallons of water each year.

Convenience: With a smart irrigation controller to control your sprinklers you no longer need to deal with that tiny, confusing LED screen on your irrigation clock. You can program all your zones and easily set up your system using a smartphone app, or just let the system take care of your lawn all by itself. You can also start or stop your sprinklers from your phone, or with voice control.

Cost: These systems run between $100 and $250, depending on how many zones and whether you want to integrate with other smart home systems. However, if you have high water costs, this device will pay for itself very quickly. You can also look into rebates offered by local water companies.

Stop Wasting Light with Smart Lighting

smart lighting photo

Resource Savings: Smart lighting cuts down the energy you use to illuminate your home in two ways: First, because all smart light bulbs are LED bulbs, they use around 80 percent less energy than other bulbs and last up to 25 times longer (cutting down on waste). Second, smart lighting can be programmed to automatically turn off based on your location, a schedule or motion sensing, meaning you’ll never leave your lights on unnecessarily.

Convenience: With smart lighting, you need never flip a light switch again, if you don’t want to. Motion sensors can turn lights on when you enter your house and geofencing can shut everything off for you when you leave. You can also set schedules in your smart lighting app or use voice control by pairing smart lighting with a compatible smart speaker.

Cost: Smart lighting can be as inexpensive as buying a few LED bulbs (from $5 each) and installing a motion sensing switch (from $20), or you can outfit your whole house with high-end, color-changing, smart LED bulbs that can be automated with motion sensors, voice control, geofencing and scheduling for upwards of $600. An in-between option, especially if you already have LED bulbs, is to swap your standard light switches for a line of smart switches. These can activate your lighting based on various triggers — motion, time of day, schedule, and geofencing.

The smart home and the sustainable home go hand-in-hand. By harnessing the power of technology to reduce our use of natural resources right in our own homes, we can each make even greater strides every day in our quest to preserve this planet for future generations. And it’s never been easier. With a smart home hub, like one provided by your local Internet company, you can manage mange of these devices within one mobile app.

Have you implemented smart home technology to save resources in your own home? Share your experiences in the comment section below.

Jennifer Pattison Tuohy is a freelance writer and editor covering the intersection of sustainability and technology for Xfinity Home. She writes about the smart home, consumer tech, small businesses, and green living for a variety of newspapers, magazine and online publications.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

SunRay Kelley’s Two-Story Treehouse in the Woods


The following is an excerpt from Lloyd Kahn’s Small Homes: The Right Size (Shelter Publications, 2017), available in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store.

The structure of the treehouse is a two-story wooden yurt with the roof supported by a web of small branches and spiraling cedar boards.

I love to drop in on my buddy SunRay Kelley (see Builders of the Pacific Coast, Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter, and Tiny Homes on the Move), because he’s always building something. Whether it is a fleet of electric, art-car gypsy wagons or a cedar-and-clay temple for a hot springs church, it’s always worth hunting him down.

If you manage to make it to his magic forest north of Seattle, you can book a stay in one of the wild treehouses popping up among the second-growth cedars. There’s also an outdoor kitchen pavilion and a cedar sauna and a trout pond to jump into.

My favorite place to stay used to be the Stump House, built on the stump of a huge cedar cut down a hundred years ago, but the latest treehouses are pretty amazing.

First in the new crop of treehouses is Bob’s stump house, a bachelor pad made of hand-hewn cedar with a garden growing on the roof — it’s the only place with any sunshine. When I came to see the place, Bob was up top watering his vegetables. Down the path from Bob’s, there’s a rope-bridge crossing the ravine to a two-story treehouse pagoda with hammocks to sleep in.

On the other side of the property, in a gnarled, old‑growth fir is an actual tree house. Not a treehouse, but a house in a tree. Two stories fully enclosed and insulated with kitchen and bathroom and woodstove. A spiral staircase leads up from the ground into the house. Another spiral leads up to the loft with a commanding view of the valley and an amazing light-filled cupola.

When we arrived, SunRay was using his homemade boom truck to hoist loads of drywall and aspen poles inside through the upper-story balcony doors. With the help of my friends, he soon had the drywall up and a circular log formwork built for the shower stall.

Like most of what SunRay does, his formula for building flies in the face of any mechanical, technical approach. He prefers his buildings to feel as if they grew there. The structure of the treehouse is a two-story wooden yurt with the roof supported by a web of small branches and spiraling cedar boards. The walls are cedar and hand plastered, tinted, gypsum over drywall.

The “tractor cob” shower is sculpted from the local sand-clay soil and straw mixed to a putty with his tractor-mounted tiller. Colored bottles laid up in the walls bring light into the cave-like interior. Local stone covers the floor and countertop.

SunRay works hard and plays hard. Even the experienced builders among us had to hustle to keep up with him when he was “on,” and when he was “off,” there were lovely meals together, time in the sauna, and dips in the ponds. Each night, we took turns staying in the different gypsy wagons and treehouses.

Total floor area for this build is 600 square feet (56 square meters). Visit SunRay’s website and Uncle Mud’s website for more inspiration.

Lloyd Kahn is a sustainable living visionary and publisher of Shelter Publications. He is the author of natural building books, including Home WorkTiny HomesTiny Homes on the MoveShelter II , Builders of the Pacific Coast, and The Septic System Owner’s Manual (All available in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store). He lives and builds in Northern California. Follow Lloyd on his blogTwitterand Facebook, and read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How to Make Your Home-Based Business Greener

Green home business

Taking steps to make your business “greener” is a win/win. It can help your bottom line, improve your company’s image and promote a healthier planet. As the owner of a home-based business, you have an advantage over most companies: Your carbon footprint is already smaller thanks to cutting out a daily commute and the expense of heating, cooling and lighting an extra space. Use this head-start wisely and be sure to implement a “Green Policy,” even if you’re your only employee.

A Green Policy is a simple list of the things you do or plan to do in your office to achieve a more sustainable environment. Write it down and promote it on your website and in your company brochure to demonstrate to your clients and vendors the efforts you’re making. Here are some steps you can take and policies you can implement to make your home-based business a green one.

Be Energy Efficient

Reducing your energy consumption is one of the easiest and most effective ways to go green. While you should consider all areas your business consumes power, the simplest place to start is with lighting and equipment:


Replace burnt out bulbs with energy efficient LED bulbs or lighting solutions.

Install dimmer switches—dimming a light substantially reduces its energy drain.

Install presence or motion sensors to turn lights off when the room is unoccupied. “Smart lights” can also be controlled remotely, preventing wasted energy. You can turn off the lights from the road when you forgot to do it as you left the house.


Plug all your electronics into easily accessible power strips so you can power them down at the end of the day with one button. This cuts down on the “vampire power” that drains from electronics in standby mode.

Another option is smart plug. These let you schedule a time to turn the device off and on automatically, so you don’t have to remember to do it yourself.

Always buy EnergyStar rated appliances whenever you replace or purchase new equipment. Even your home office fridge should be as energy efficient as possible.


Install a smart thermostat that reacts to your presence in your home office, so it will keep your space comfortable when you’re there and save energy when you’re not.

If you work alone, consider investing in a good desktop fan so you can stay cool without using an air conditioner to cool the whole space.

If you set up a suite of energy-saving smart devices, you can control all of them through a central smart home hub and make them all work together for maximum efficiency. Your local internet or cable provider may be able to help you set it up.

Go Paperless

Offices, even home offices, are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to wasting paper. Cut down how much you use with these tips and make sure the paper you use has a high percentage of recycled content. Also try these tips:

Adopt a cloud-based filing system to reduce paper as well as boost efficiency, as you can access your files from anywhere. Services such as Dropbox, Apple’s iCloud and Microsoft’s OneDrive are good options.

Invest in a good desktop scanner, so you can put every piece of paper that crosses your desk right into the recycling bin, once it’s been scanned and uploaded to your filing system.

Switch to paperless billing for all your vendors and billing systems.

Learn how to use PDFs. When you go to print something from a web browser or email most computers now have an option to “print as a PDF.” This saves your file in a readable “Portable Document Format” that you can put into your cloud-based filing system rather than print it.

When you have to print, use recycled paper and set your printer to use both sides of the page.

Reduce Water Use

This is an easy one to overlook in a home office, but it’s a crucial one. Here are some tips:

Install WaterSense Certified low-flow faucets in your office bathroom (and the rest of your home while you’re at it).

Replace older toilets with WaterSense Certified ones and cut in half the amount of water used in every flush.

Keep our waterways cleaner by cutting out any chemicals you use to clean your office. Instead, choose “green” VOC-free cleaning products.

If you have an irrigation system for your outdoor space, install a smart sprinkler controller, which conserves water by dynamically adapting its watering schedule to the weather. It won’t run before, during or after any significant weather event, but will still keep your space green and healthy.

Choose Local

Use local resources for your business whenever possible. Choosing local cuts down on carbon emissions from shipping/travel time and helps boost your local economy. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Reduce your own travel time by using video conferencing and communication channels like Slack when you need to communicate more effectively with customers and vendors who aren’t nearby.

Institute a local-first purchasing policy—you’ll save money on shipping costs and reduce the carbon footprint of your business.

Practice green procurement by sourcing goods or services from companies with their own Green Policy in place. Look for businesses that promise to help reduce waste, lower greenhouse gas emissions, conserve energy and water, use renewable energy sources and not to use toxic substances or pollute the environment.

Whatever steps you take to improve your home-based business’s eco-cred will be beneficial, so don’t be afraid to start small and work your way up. Just look around your home office and consider what you use every day. Then consider how that product could be more efficient. For example, if you use a wireless keyboard and mouse powered by batteries, invest in rechargeable ones. Once you take that first small step and realize the benefits you can get from it, you’ll quickly want to do more.

Image from Shutterstock

Jennifer Pattison Tuohy is a freelance writer and editor covering the intersection of sustainability and technology for Xfinity Home. She writes about the smart home, consumer tech, small businesses, and green living for a variety of newspapers, magazine and online publications.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Greening A Neighborhood Planning Process


People at a monthly neighborhood meeting share ideas for creating a more resilient neighborhood 

Creating A Green and Resilient Neighborhood Plan

Here in Eugene, Oregon, our neighborhood association, the River Road Community Organization [RRCO], has an unprecedented opportunity for greening the neighborhood.

First. What is a neighborhood association [NA]? Many cities have neighborhood programs. That means, the city has staff and budget to help support NAs in the city or town's identified neighborhoods to address the issues of the neighborhood. That could be traffic, land use, the environment, crime. Those who participate help set the agenda.

Typically, a neighborhood association has a public meeting once a month. There is a board and various positions and committees depending on how active or large the group is. An NA has a charter, can be a non profit, have a website, newsletter, facebook page or other tools to reach out.

In some cities that don't have a neighborhood program, people have taken initiative to create various types of neighborhood groups independent of the city. A neighborhood association is not the same as a home owners association although they might have similar interests. A crime watch neighborhood group can also address issues similar to a neighborhood association. Certainly, any group of neighbors can form any kind of association they like to address issues important to them.

A neighborhood associations is an invaluable tool and asset for empowering people for making where they live a better place. Check with your city to find out if it has a neighborhood program and if so, find out what neighborhood you live in and when/where the NA meets. Attend a meeting. Invariably, there is a warm welcome for people who come to meetings and participate.

Neighborhood involvement is the base of the civic pyramid. Its a great way to meet neighbors, improve communication skills and learn how the city works. You don't have to move to live in a better neighborhood.

Six months ago, our NA and another next to us, Santa Clara, were invited to partner with the city to help craft a neighborhood plan. This neighborhood plan [NP] is intended to be a document that will help guide decision making for a 20 year period in the neighborhood regarding land use, transportation, open spaces, economic development, the environment, quality of life, resilience and many related topics and issues.

The content of this neighborhood plan must be consistent with existing state and city planning goals. Cities and states have planning goals which are aspirations relating to land use, economics, the environment, public participation [and more] the city or state would like to move towards over time.

Eugene has a new planning document for the entire city. The process with River Road and Santa Clara is the first neighborhood plan in Eugene, to be created based on the new city planning document.

When I read the State of Oregon and City of Eugene planning goals and documents, I was amazed to see so much positive content calling for walkable neighborhoods, addressing climate change, reducing the need for automobiles, restoring the environment,


Cover page for Eugene's City Comprehensive Plan

Both the city of Eugene and state of Oregon have goals to encourage walkable neighborhoods, restore the natural environment, reduce dependence on cars, mitigate climate change, build community cohesion and much more.

This planning process provides the neighborhood with a remarkable opportunity to create a plan for how our neighborhood evolves into the future in terms of land use, transportation, economic development, open space and resilience.

Given the familiar trends in economics, social and environmental conditions – local to global - this is a big deal! The neighborhood plan can go strong on green and resilient actions both at home and commercial scale, turning nice but general goals into real world action.

Already, in River Road, there is an increasing number of people taking initiative to live more green and resilient. These initiatives, mostly at the residential level, provide an idea of what a green and resilient future can look like.

Many green and resilient features, such as those shown in the photo could be encouraged by the neighborhood plan.

People are trading grass for food production, planting edible landscapes, turning south facing patios into passive solar spaces, taking out pavement, installing rain water catchment and on site storm water management, putting in front yard gardens, collaborating with neighbors, building accessory structures and much more. These actions serve several important functions.

1] They make homes and surrounding neighborhood more green and resilient.

2] They support city and state planning goals.

3] They are actions in the real world we can point to that clearly show that we want the neighborhood plan to encourage.

Based on real life experience and local actions mentioned above, advocates of strong green and resilient actions have made efforts to educate and mobilize friends and neighbors to participate in the planning process.

We have written a 35-page “Green Paper” that explain in considerable detail whats at stake historically and how and to participate in the planning process. We have set up green and resilient public information displays at community meetings, written a guest opinion in the local paper, organized site tours – all to to show and tell what these green and resilient actions can look like and how they can inform the planning process and the eventual neighborhood plan.

For more detail, here is a link to the Green Paper and guest opinion.

The neighborhood plan can also encourage green and resilient commercial development.

Changes can be made to land use regulations at commercial scale that support city and state planning goals such as those mentioned above. Regulations, fees, building inspections, systems development charges, taxes are a large part of a commercial project. Reducing costs for the kinds of outcomes we want will encourage green and resilient development in regard to parking, landscaping, site location, building materials, project design, transportation and more.

The map shows Eugene's neighborhoods. River Road and Santa Clara are in the northwest part of Eugene.

One of the most exciting aspects of this planning opportunity is that the River Road and Santa Clara neighborhood plan can become a model for other neighborhood plans. Other cities and neighborhoods making plans can benefit by River Road and Santa Clara's efforts to have strong green and resilient content in this neighborhood plan.

This is the first of several blogs describing this neighborhood planning process, a period that will take up to two years. We are about 6 months into it.

The next blog will update this process and describe green and resilient features, residential and commercial, that could be included in the Neighborhood Plan. We would love to hear from others with similar interests and experience.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Moving House, The Green Way


We’re not quite at the packing stage yet, but I’m already mentally gearing myself up to a few weeks of chaos that are going to ensue while I get the whole house into cardboard boxes, and then out again at the new place. I have been married for ten years, and this is going to be our fifth move, so by now I consider myself a packing and moving expert of sorts. I’m now going to disperse some accumulated wisdom (ha!).

Moving house is the ultimate decluttering motivator. All those nooks and crannies, stashes and boxes you have successfully avoided until now are going to be dragged into the light of day, like it or not. And, since you’re actually taking the trouble of packing each possession, you naturally ask yourself, do I really need this?

It’s sobering to realize how much useless stuff tends to pile up in our homes. We’ve lived in our current house less than four years, and things were pretty neat and minimalistic when we arrived (or so I like to think), but now when I open the closets, I’m in danger of getting buried under tottering piles of stuff that can no longer be contained. I have sifted through our clothes, books, toys and other possessions several times during the past months, and still it always seems we have too much stuff. I can only wonder what happens when people live in the same house for decades.

Here are some tips for a sane and environmentally friendly house move:

1. Start early. When you aren’t pressed for time, it’s a lot easier to evaluate your possessions soberly, and look for stuff you might want to give away or sell, rather than just throw into the garbage in a frenzy of decluttering. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and your unused stuff may find a new and productive life in another home. And if you hold a garage sale, you might even earn some cash!

2. Ask yourself, do I really need this? Do I really care enough for this to wrap it carefully and place it in a box and unpack it later? Make some allowance for emotional value, but also evaluate whether your attachment to things doesn’t take away precious space and order. Do you really need those 486 PC manuals? Are you really ever going to fix that old freezer?

3. Use environmentally friendly wrapping materials. Instead of bubble wrap, I wrap my plates, cups, etc, in spare kitchen towels and clothes. This helps save space, too. Old newspapers are another option, but your clothes and linen are something you have to pack anyway, so why not make use of them?

4. Recycle your cardboard boxes. In the past, we have carefully folded and stashed away our boxes to use in the next house move, and in fact, have used the same boxes every time (labeling them with removable stickers rather than markers). Cardboard can also be composted or used for mulching.

Here’s to going through a house move without losing your mind!

Image source: CC0 Creative Commons

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Off-Grid Log Cabin Built in Alaska


Have you ever thought about building your own off-grid log cabin? Often it seems so out of reach to people who work full-time jobs with busy lives but today we want to show that it’s entirely possible to do your own build, even if you have no building experience.

A couple in Alaska, built their log cabin during weekends, and the exterior was complete in just 5 months. They had next to no building experience and at the time that they built, there wasn’t much information online as to how to build so they just figured things out for themselves as they went along.

They followed five basic steps in their build; planning, foundations, logs, roof and exterior finish.

Their planning stage involved a late night sat up together searching for land, and when they came across a piece of land that was not only in their dream place in Alaska, it was also affordable – they snatched it up.

They used post foundations to raise their log cabin off the floor, and started to lay their logs using a saddle-notch. To roof the cabin they build two gable walls and then built a frame to lay their roof onto.

To finish, they stained the exterior and filled the interior with unique little pieces of handmade furniture.

Here is the video of their off-grid log cabin build, including details of how they did each step

David Woods is a carpenter, outdoorsman, and author with more than 30 years of professional woodworking experience. He is the author of best-seller How to Build a Log Home and has educated more than half a million people on how to build a log cabin via his blog, Log Cabin Hub. Connect with him on Facebook.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Building Greener Appliances

green appliance 1

We’ve come a long way from cleaning our clothes with washboards and doing the dishes in wooden buckets. Innovations in home appliances have helped us gain a precious resource: time. Today’s appliances also help us lead greener, more eco-friendly lifestyles.

From washing machines that waste less water to fridges that use half the energy of older models, appliance makers are innovating to save consumers’ money and the planet’s resources. Here we’ll look at some of the newest features of home appliances that help you lead a more environmentally conscious life.

Look for Energy Star and WaterSense Appliances

Start by looking for Energy Star- and WaterSense-rated products. Our household’s appliances account for 20 to 30 percent of our energy use and 25 percent of our indoor water consumption, according to the Green Building Council. We can quickly cut 10 to 50 percent of that energy use by opting for Energy Star models and conserve 20 percent more water with WaterSense products (more than 30 percent if you install low-flow faucets).

green appliance 2

Upgrade Your Washing Machine

These updated models focus on cutting down resources to make your laundry routine more sustainable.

Go small: The average household does five loads of laundry a week, and while we all want to be greener, sometimes you just have to throw in that filthy soccer uniform for a quick wash all by itself. Be guilt-free with a washing machine featuring a secondary small washer. New models from LG and Samsung offer small-capacity machines that fit in a pedestal or extra drawer in your machine so that you can run a small load without wasting excess water.

Try a front loader: While top-loading washers have also made great advances in water consumption, front-load washers featuring high-efficiency technology wash your clothes with a lot less water. They use the friction of the machine’s drum to tumble-clean your clothes, using an average of just 8.78 gallons of water per load, compared to an average of 16.15 gallons of water with top loaders (source).

Get connected: Smartphone apps let you start, pause, and run your washing machine and dryer remotely. More important, they allow you to monitor your energy usage. Plus, they can schedule the laundry to run when energy is in lower demand, which puts less strain on the grid and more money in your pocket.

green appliance 3

Make Your Fridge Eco-Friendly

Cut down your food waste and your energy usage with these refrigerator features.

Get a window: Just opening the refrigerator door makes up about 7 percent of our refrigerators’ overall energy usage. New models from manufacturers like LG and Samsung offer door-in-door features so that you can put drinks and snacks in a spot that’s easy to reach — without having to open the whole fridge. Another innovation in this space is a tap-to-wake window, where you can knock on the fridge door and a light turns on so that you can see inside the fridge from outside, without opening the door. This takes fridge-grazing to a whole new level!

Go smart: While some smart fridge features can feel a bit gimmicky, one real benefit of connecting your fridge to the internet of things is energy savings. Some smart fridges are capable of syncing with electricity grids to make the most out of their energy use. They run energy-intensive defrost cycles when energy rates are low, alert you to power outages, and let you keep an eye on how much energy you are using so that you can learn and adapt.

green appliance 4

Reduce Your Dishwasher’s Water Usage

Traditional rinse cycles can waste a lot of water, but these features clean your dishes with much less.

Use your senses: Newer dishwashers feature sensors that can detect how soiled your dishes are and adapt the cycle time accordingly. This helps cut down on wasted water if you’re good at scraping your plates.

Pick your cycle: Like washing machines, dishwashers have an array of cycles to choose from. When you can, opt for the “efficient” cycles, which use less water and energy but take a little longer to complete.

Manufacturers are always coming up with new ideas as they strive toward building greener appliances for us and our planet. The next time you’re shopping for a new household appliance, prioritize features that conserve energy.

With more than 15 years’ experience writing for newspapers, magazines, and marketing and online content, Jennifer Touhy is an award-winning freelance journalist located in Charleston, South Carolina. She covers a variety of topics, but her passions lie in green living and technology, and the intersection of the two. If you’re considering improving your appliances for efficiency, check out The Home Depot’s website for a wide selection of refrigerator, dishwasher, and washing machine options.

This article is editorial content that has been contributed to our site at our request and is published for the benefit of our readers. We have not been compensated for its placement.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters