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


The Most Eco-Friendly Home Construction Materials

bamboo eco-friendly 

Bamboo. Image Source: Pexels

If you’re building a home or an addition to your existing home, be sure to choose eco-friendly construction materials.

There are really two ways to be eco-friendly in your home building materials. The first is to choose materials that minimize environmental impact.

Using recycled materials, for example, always causes less environmental impact than using new materials. If you use a wood construction with new timber, you are essentially putting in an order for trees to be cut down. The harvesting will use energy and remove green trees from the environment. If you use salvaged or reclaimed wood, the construction uses already-cut trees, yielding much less environmental impact.

The second way is to choose materials that will promote sustainable energy. Sustainable, green building naturally insulates homes from both heat and cold. It, therefore, cuts down on energy consumption, leading to less use of natural resources that cause climate change warming, such as oil and gas.

Here are eight of the eco-friendliest home construction materials.

Recycled Steel

Producing and smelting steel takes a lot of energy. Just think of forges and smelters, with sparks flying up to the sky. That’s one of the reasons recycled steel has become an enormously popular green building material. It utilizes steel already in existence for structural use in a home, in beams and girders, for example. The reclaimed steel from six junked cars provides enough recycled steel to build a 2000-square-foot house. Recycling saves 75 percent of the energy costs utilized in making the steel.

Bamboo

Bamboo is increasing in popularity as a building material. It has a great deal of tensile strength and can be used in walls and flooring. It is an ideal building material because it can be used behind the scenes — underneath another type of flooring, for example — and as wall screens and mats. Bamboo is very sustainable since it grows quickly. While trees such as pine and cedar can be reforested, growing them can take years. Bamboo can be reforested much more promptly and grows throughout the world.

Sheep’s Wool

Sheep's wool, of course, can also be regrown quickly. After shearing, sheep inherently produce a new crop. Clothing manufacturers have long-known the insulating properties of wool, which make very cozy sweaters and socks. The same insulating features can make sheep’s wool an energy-efficient insulator in walls, ceilings and attics.

straw bales eco

Source: Pexels

Straw Bales

Straw bales also have fantastic insulating properties. Straw bales are placed in walls, attics and ceilings to contribute to cooler temperatures in the summer and warmer temperatures in the winter. Straw can be harvested and re-planted easily with minimal environmental impact. The making of straw into bales also has a very low influence.

Precast Concrete

Concrete is a natural material that can be recycled, making it an appropriate choice for eco-friendly homes. Also, pre-cast concrete is eco-friendlier than concrete poured on site. It is poured into pre-made molds over rebar or wire, then cured. Once the concrete has hardened, it can be shipped and placed into multiple structures. As a result, precast concrete achieves economies of scale that concrete which is poured on-site cannot.

Reclaimed or Recycled Wood

As mentioned in the introduction, reclaimed or recycled wood has much less of an environmental impact than harvesting new timber. Since many homes and other structures have used wood for several years, it’s relatively easy to reclaim those structures for new home building. Wood can be used in the construction of a home — reclaimed and recycled wood can also be used to make unique floors or exposed beams with an antique look.

pic of earth

Source: Pexels

Earth

Many cultures throughout the centuries have used earth for building. Just think of adobe, which can be dried and painted colorfully for an aesthetic treat. Homes built of earth are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. While earth homes are frequently produced in China and parts of South America, they are far less prevalent in the United States outside the Southwest. Be sure to check that local regulations and zoning will allow an earth home and that local contractors know how to work with it.

Plant-Based Polyurethane Rigid Foam

Rigid foam is often used as insulation material in building. Think of what surfboards are made of — but that material is not environmentally friendly. Enter plant-based polyurethane rigid foam. Yes, it’s quite a mouthful. It’s made from kelp, hemp and bamboo. Because it is rigid — and relatively immovable — it can be used in insulation. It offers protection against mold and pests, as well as sound insulation and heat resistance.  

Eco-friendly home construction materials minimize the environmental impact and can insulate homes well, promoting energy efficiency and reducing reliance on unsustainable resources like oil and natural gas. These eight green and sustainable building materials will make your home ready for a green future.


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 Design a Practical Log Cabin

 Log Cabin Overlooking Valley

Photo by Tony Basilio

Designing a practical and usable log cabin isn’t easy. The planning stage of a log cabin build is the single most important stage. Spend enough time on this stage and your build will be successful. Rush it, and you are likely to hit many hurdles. These hurdles will increase the cost and the duration of your build. The three most important design considerations for your log cabin are:

1. The location

2. The exterior

3. The floor plan

Location

Most people make the mistake of jumping into the planning process at the floor plan stage. Instead, you should decide where you want to build your log cabin, and then design the cabin and floor plan around the specifics of your land.

The natural habitat your cabin is placed upon will heavily impact the design and layout of your cabin (i.e. your plot of land is crucial to the design of your log cabin). It is nearly impossible to design your cabin without knowing where it will be situated.

You need to think about the orientation of your cabin and how best to utilize your land. Knowing your location allows you to plan where best to place your windows to make the most of the suns’ natural energy:

• If you live in a cooler climate, position your log cabin so it is south facing, and put most of your windows on the south wall too. Avoid using north facing windows.

• Conversely, if you live in a hot climate orientate your cabin so its south-east facing and have counterpart windows on the north side to save on cooling costs.

If the land you have chosen has natural slopes, you have the option of building the front half of your cabin on stilts or incorporating an under-cabin garage to make the most of the natural grades.

Finally, your site may provide natural shelters or wind breaks (e.g. wooded perimeters) that will reduce weathering and protect your cabin from extreme natural forces (e.g. wind, rain and snow). Using natural shelter can combat against south-facing gable weathering due to direct sunlight, wind and rain exposure.

Orientation, grade, and natural shelters will all impact the design and practicality of your log cabin.

Exterior

Before you start thinking about the interior of your log cabin, you will need to decide what you want to achieve from the exterior. Do you want a traditional log cabin to use as a home? A small weekend trapper’s cabin? A large glamourous ski-in ski-out cabin? The exterior of your log cabin will likely be determined by its future use.

Many prospective cabin builders forget to think further ahead than the finished log cabin design. But one of the most important exterior aspects is to decide upon the construction method (i.e. notch type) and the logs’ profile (i.e. cut and type of log).

There are over 700 species of trees in the US, but, only two dozen of them are used for building log cabins. Your choice of log will most likely come down to appearance, cost, energy efficiency and availability. The most popular choices are Pine, Cedar, Cypress and Oak.

Once you have selected the lumber, the next design consideration is your construction method (i.e. notch type), each of them has a distinct design appearance. There are three main notches which will determine your cabin’s exterior appearance, full dovetail (Appalachian log home), Scandinavian saddle notch (traditional log cabin) and butt and pass (DIY log cabin).

If a contractor is building your cabin, the decision will most likely fall down to which is more aesthetically pleasing to you. If you are building your own cabin, you will want to consider your carpentry abilities, butt and pass is the most preferable method if you are a novice.

Floor Plan

 Practical Log Home Floor Plan

Floor plan by David Woods

After you’ve decided upon your cabin’s location and exterior appearance, it’s time to start on the exciting part: the floor plan! A floor plan is vital to ensure space maximization, good flow and practicality. There are two places I recommend starting at during your floor plan design: pre-designed floor plans and your current home.

You will know what size cabin you want (i.e. square feet). This will be determined by three factors:

1. How many people will live in or use the cabin

2. How many function rooms you want

3. The purpose of the log cabin

Start off, by looking at similar sized floor plans for inspiration. Use them for inspiration and guidance. Look at how the rooms flow from one to another and really imagine yourself living in a space just like that. Do you foresee any problems?

Then think about your current home, what works well, what doesn’t? Are there any aspects you want to carry over to your new home? Once you get some ideas about the layout of your cabin, you can start to think about the practicalities of the room layouts. Write down all the rooms and spaces you want to include in your home, and start thinking about how each of them will connect.

Do you need particular places to be open plan? If you like entertaining, you’ll likely want a large open plan kitchen and living space. Do you need quieter areas? If you work from home, you’ll probably want a quiet office space away from the main living area.

The more thought you give to your lifestyle, the more you can ensure your floor plan is practical and flows well for you, your family and guests.

A Successful Log Cabin Build

If you give thoughtful consideration to each of the points covered above, you will end up with a practical design for your log cabin — practical in its use and practical in its design for energy efficiency and weatherproofing.

Remember, what is practical for one person, may not be practical for another. The important thing to ensure when designing your cabin is that it fits your lifestyle and your needs. If you take two things away from this article, they should be, to design your cabin around the land you are building upon and to design your floor plan to be practical for you.

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.

Using Toilet Paper to Save the World

paperWho Gives a Crap, a toilet paper company dedicated to helping the environment, has created a clever infographic to help audiences understand the real-world impact of using too much toilet paper. The team behind Who Gives a Crap presents some facts – and not so fun facts – to shed a little light on the toilet paper statistic of America.

The recycled toilet paper company began when the pun-loving three co-founders discovered the not-so-funny reality that roughly 2.3 billion people across the world have no access to a toilet. This means that about 40 percent of the global population struggles over something as seemingly basic as going to the bathroom, causing around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhea diseases cause by poor sanitation.

So what has such a punny toilet paper company done to help this problem? More than you would think. Who Gives a Crap contributes half of their profits to sanitation projects, which includes building toilets for those without access, with help from WaterAid. Since their beginnings in 2013, this company has donated over 1,100,000 Australian dollars to charities and to the production of more toilets. They have also become a B Corporation, all of which promise to use their business platforms to address social and environmental issues.

Another huge problem that this toilet paper business noticed is the extreme overuse of toilet paper across the world, causing more and more trees to die for the toilet paper cause. This is why Who Gives a Crap use recycled paper products to make their toilet paper, that way, no more trees need to die, and consumers still have access to a high-quality toilet paper product.

The company team wants to make a greater difference by attacking the problem of overusing and wasting toilet paper at its largest source: America.

With the following infographic, Who Gives a Crap points out the different averages of toilet paper use around the world, and the environmental effects of producing and using such an excess amount of toilet paper each year. The infographic also highlights an under-discussed epidemic round the lacks of toilets worldwide.

infographic

Who Gives a Crap has worked hard to bring more toilets and better toilet paper to the world, and to create more awareness about the serious problems hidden behind the endless stream of toilet jokes.


This press release is presented without editing for your information. MOTHER EARTH NEWS does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase. 

How Hard Water Affects Appliance Efficiency (and What to Do About It)

 

Water contains many dissolved substances we can’t see, so we’ve developed simple terminology to describe its specific condition. Hard water is one: Hard water can smell and taste bad. It also can lead to mineral deposits on your appliances and within their workings, which can make them less effective and less efficient over time.

What Is Hard Water?

Hard water is so named due to its high content of dissolved minerals. You can’t usually see that content, but you can taste or sometimes smell it. While water can contain any number of minerals and other substances, the primary offenders are calcium and magnesium.

The minerals in hard water cause us problems when they bind to other substances. Soap, for instance, won’t foam up as well, which makes washing our bodies and clothes less effective in removing dirt or bacteria — you may have noticed clothing ending up with odd stains or dishes come out of the dishwater spotty.

How Does Hard Water Affect Appliances?

Appliances which use water, such as our dishwashers and hot water tanks suffer the most from hard water. Minerals in the water (think dissolved rocks) build up on the heating elements and slowly bring down the efficiency of the appliance.

A hot water tank has to work much harder to heat water to the desired temperature when it is coated with minerals. It draws in more energy and raises your utility bills in the process. It can cost almost 30% more to heat the same amount of water when it is untreated, hard water.

Mineral deposits from hard water can coat our pipes with an unsightly substance called scale. Over time, it often restricts water flow and clogs pipes and appliances. Even a tiny layer of scale, 1/16th of an inch, can increase the energy consumption of an appliance by 10% or more.

And guess what happens when the appliances have to work hard? They break down more frequently and require more maintenance to remove the mineral buildup and maintain efficiency cause, costing you to repair them.

Industries which use hard water in their processes require an increased amount of detergent to clean their equipment. Detergent isn’t as effective against hard water, so it takes more of it to produce the needed suds. For every increase in water hardness, detergent use goes up 2% to 4%.

That means a waste of detergent and increased costs. And all that detergent-polluted water goes into our sewers and water treatment plants. They have to work harder to clean it up before it can be reintroduced into our water supply.

What’s the Solution to Hard Water?

You can avoid this waste and expense by investing in a water softener. Water is “softened” by removing the mineral content. Softening is done in a variety of ways, usually through a process called ion exchange using a special salt. Water is passed through tiny beads called ion exchange resins. In a chemical process, two sodium ions are exchanged for each calcium or magnesium ion. The result is better-tasting water which is “softer” on your skin, clothes and appliances.

Softened water won’t produce scale or cause buildup in your pipes or on your appliances’ heating elements to the extent hard water will. Since they won’t be compromised by mineral buildup, appliances won’t require as much maintenance and they won’t break down as often.

Disadvantages of Softened Water

You wouldn’t put so much effort into getting rid of the minerals in your water and making it soft if there weren’t benefits to doing so. But while soft water is often better for your plumbing, appliances, some drawbacks exist.

Because water softeners use salt to change the water, they can increase the sodium content of your drinking water. Not by much, but it’s worth considering. If you’re someone who has to monitor salt intake for health reasons, you may want to take that into consideration before adding a water softener.

It’s up to you to decide if treating your water is worth the expense. It’s a matter of how high the mineral content of your water is and how it is affecting your appliances. Softer water may mean less energy use and longer-lasting appliances.

Photo by Skitterphoto

Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living and has an especially strong passion for helping others increase their mental health and happiness by improving their daily productivity and positivity. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+Facebook  and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on Productivity TheoryRead all of Kayla’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.

How to Make It Easy to Recycle in Your Home

 plastic bottles lined up

Source: Pexels

For years, the United States has sent roughly one-third of its recycled materials overseas. Of that amount, approximately 50 percent went to China. Recently, though, China banned solid waste coming in from other countries. The ban, which went into effect Jan. 1, applies to material such as recycled bottles, and has left many local recyclers in the United States scrambling to keep up with the level of recyclable material people were bringing in.

Recycling is crucially important in reducing waste and reducing the amount of carbon emissions, which contributes to global warming. In fact, recycling 100 cans provides enough energy to power your bedroom lights for two weeks, rather than drawing on natural gas, coal or oil to generate the electricity.

The upshot of this situation is that we all need to rededicate ourselves to recycling material. Many states, such as New Jersey, have a recycling mandate. We need to know what we can recycle and where to send it.

Currently, just over one-third of Americans recycle. But evidence shows people are 20 percent more likely to recycle if they know their neighbors are doing it. If you recycle, not only does the planet benefit from your activities, but you can be a positive influence on others!

But to increase the amount we recycle, we must make it easy. First, we are very accustomed to tossing garbage and used-up containers, and out of sight is out of mind. Second, recycled material is, after all, garbage. It’s unpleasant to deal with unless there’s a simple process to follow.

Here’s how to make recycling in the home easier.

Make It Convenient

If your partner walks in the front door with the mail and a bin is right there to toss the junk mail in, that’s probably where it will end up. It’s as easy as throwing it in a wastepaper basket, which most people do. But put the recycling bin in another room, and the chances the junk mail will make it there sink much lower. Make recycling more convenient than throwing away trash.

Similarly, curbside pickup is much more convenient than occasionally taking your recycled material yourself to wherever your municipality has designated as the drop-off point. Many cities and other local authorities have set up curbside pickup. If you don’t currently have this, inquire about it.

Separate the Different Kinds of Recycling

Separate the different kinds of recycling you do by who picks it up, or where you have to drop it off. Putting all recyclables in one or two large bins and having to separate them later is time-consuming and can be unpleasant.

Most homes should have, at a minimum, one recycling bin for plastic, one for paper and one for aluminum. You may also want one for cardboard, especially if you receive a lot of packages. You can keep cardboard recycling in the garage — many people find cardboard easier to recycle than to throw away, even if they do have to walk an extra step or two.

Hold a Competition

If you have a family, hold a competition. Set aside one week and give everyone a garbage bin or sack. The person who fills it most wins a fun prize.

The beauty of the contest is that it makes clear how much stuff we can recycle, and how quickly it adds up. Because most people don’t spend a lot of time looking at their garbage or recycling bins, it’s easy to lose sight of how much waste we create.

Reuse Items Wherever You Can

Many a point to educate everybody in your household about how much of what we throw away can have a second life. If you have children, make crafts out of used toilet paper rolls and bottles containing household goods. Use newspapers and magazines for decoupage and even holiday ornaments.

For other family members, place signs that read, “Don’t throw me away” on the laptop, desktop and even your previous cell phones. To keep hazardous waste from leaching into the groundwater, recycle all old electronics once they’ve outlived their usefulness. You also need to recycle old, dead batteries that power the electronics.

Start a Compost Pile

If you have a garden or even a few indoor plants, compost is your friend. Kitchen garbage and yard waste — such as cut grass, pruned leaves and even dead stalks — can all form rich compost. In addition to reusing household waste, compost also can reduce your reliance on pesticides and fertilizer, both of which often contain harmful chemicals.

Children can especially be fascinated by how quickly garbage and yard leavings turn to compost. It’s a valuable lesson in chemistry and environmentalism! Be sure to draft them into service as you throw orange peels and spinach leaves into your compost pile.

Recycling is always important to help the environment and cut down on carbon emissions. Since Jan. 1, it’s been even more crucial, as China no longer accepts exports of solid waste from other countries. These five steps will make it easy to recycle in your home, which will increase the amount of recycling you do.


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 Stop Your Bathroom from Wasting Energy

Bathroom image 1

The bathroom is typically the smallest room in the house, making it easy to overlook when seeking out energy savings. But it’s also the room where lights are often left on and the fan can be left to blare away unnecessarily.

Think twice before deciding never to run your bathroom fan again, though. Proper ventilation in a bathroom is important for not only keeping the room fresh but also preventing the growth of mold and helping maintain a healthy home environment. Without a bathroom fan, you’ll need to open a window to ventilate the room, which is not efficient — especially on hot and humid (or chilly) days.

Here are two simple ways to cut down on energy waste in the bathroom.

Install a Motion-Sensing Fan

Bathroom image 2

If you don’t want to mess with wiring, or you’re in the market for a new bathroom fan, a motion-sensing fan is your best option. These fans are rated highly by Energy Star for their cost-efficiency. They come with or without an LED light, and you can adjust the timer depending on how long you want the fan to run after the room is empty.

You can also have the fan run continuously at a low speed. This may seem counterintuitive to energy savings, but according to Green Building Advisor, “When operated for 24 hours per day or when controlled by a timer, [a bathroom fan] can act (in some cases) as the most important component of a whole-house ventilation system.”

Some bathroom fans have features that add convenience and a “wow” factor to your bathroom. There are fans equipped with Bluetooth-connected speakers that allow you to play music wirelessly from your smart device, models disguised as light fixtures that won’t detract from your decor, and ultra-quiet fans that whisk away humidity without a sound. 

Retrofit Occupancy Sensors and Timers

In my half bath, the problem of lights being left on and the fan running for hours was becoming a major family issue. I was concerned about the wasted energy; other family members didn’t like the fan’s annoying noise when they were watching a movie in the adjoining family room.

I decided to replace our existing switches with an occupancy-sensing switch and a timer. The occupancy-sensing switch turns on when you walk in and turns off after five minutes of no activity. (The switch can also be manually overridden for people who remember to turn the lights off when they leave the room.) The timer switch lets the user select how long to leave the bathroom fan on, ranging from minutes to hours. It also has regular on/off button. These two switches cost about $50 total.

WARNING: Installing these switches requires some electrical knowledge. If you are not comfortable dealing with wiring, call a licensed electrician. If you have some technical know-how, however, it’s a relatively simple project — it took me about an hour in total. If at any point you are unsure of what to do next, call a licensed electrician.

Bathroom image 3 

Things You’ll Need

Phillips-head screwdriver
Voltage tester
Occupancy sensor
In-wall countdown timer
Wall plate

Step 1

Turn off the power to the switch at the breaker. This crucial step prevents injury. Test that the power is off by flicking the lights to see whether they turn on. Once you’re sure the power is off, unpack all the equipment and carefully read through the directions for each switch.

Bathroom image 4 

Step 2

Remove the existing wall plate. (You may need a flat-head screwdriver.)

Bathroom image 5 

Step 3

Examine the wiring you have and make sure you have the correct wires according to the directions that come with your switches.

Bathroom image 6 

Step 4

Remove the old switches by unhooking the wiring, noting where each wire goes in case you need to rewire the same switches at some point.

Bathroom image 7 

Step 5

Wire in your new switches, following the directions and using the included wire caps. Tug on each wire cap to make sure the wires are in securely.

Bathroom image 8 

Step 6

For the in-wall timer, be sure to hook up the “hot” wire (the wire coming from the circuit breaker) and the “load” wire (the wire carrying electricity to the fan or light) in their correct place, as instructed on the timer’s packaging. If you’re not sure which wire is which, a voltage tester can identify (with the power on) which wire is receiving power (the “hot” wire).

Bathroom image 9

Step 7

Once all wires are connected, turn the power back on and make sure the switches are working correctly. Next, turn the power back off and tuck the wires in.

Bathroom image 10

Step 8

If everything is working correctly, screw in the switches and attach your wall plate. Turn the power back on, and you’re done. If you need a more detailed walk through of the process, check out this DIY video on installing an occupancy sensor.

Invest some time into making your bathroom as energy efficient as possible. It will pay off in the long run and make for a happier, healthier home.

An award-winning freelance journalist, Jennifer Tuohy has been writing for newspapers and magazines, as well as marketing and online content, for more than 15 years. Her passions lie in technology, sustainability, and the intersection of the two. To see a selection of bath fans like those described by Jennifer, please visit The Home Depot’s website.

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.

How Sharing Spaces Positively Impacts the Planet

 

The American dream has changed over the last couple decades — the goal used to be to buy a home and start a family, but with the constantly growing population, it doesn't make as much sense with the current economic state of the country. In addition to helping you save money, sharing space can be better for the planet. How can getting a roommate or sharing your space positively impact the earth?

Reduced Electricity Costs

Having roommates can reduce the amount you pay for utilities that you all use and other shared expenses. Paying half of a utility bill, after all, is always better than having to pay the whole thing.

While you might use slightly more water when you have roommates, you all use the same heating, cooling and lighting, so those bills should be lower. You can also split the cost of maintenance and other expenses with those you share your space with. To avoid disputes, make your expectations clear and set up a system in advance for who pays what. For example, agree on a temperature for the thermostat and make it known, before you get the bill in the mail, that you'll split it evenly.

Reduced Carbon Footprint

Sharing spaces doesn't necessarily just mean sharing your home — the sharing economy encompasses cars as well, with apps like Uber and Lyft. While there haven't been a lot of studies looking into the environmental impact of the ride-sharing apps, studies of carpooling have shown that sharing your car with others during your commute reduces the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.

Again, this doesn't just reduce your carbon footprint — it can help save you money too. If you're carpooling during the week, you don't have to fill up your own car as often which saves you money at the pump.

Reduced Waste

According to the EPA, the average person generates around 4.4 pounds of garbage every single day — in 2013, the entire country generated a whopping 245 million tons of trash. Of that, only about 87 million tons was recyclable or compostable material.

Adding a roommate to the equation might seem counterintuitive but combining groceries and utilities will not only save you money but also help to reduce your impact on the planet. Instead of buying a bunch of different packages that will rot in the landfill, you can consolidate your grocery shopping to reduce your overall waste. If you want to take that a step further, look for a no-waste grocery store that does away with packaging altogether — you bring your own reusable containers to purchase your groceries.

Reduce Clutter and Hoarding Behavior

When you're sharing your space, it's harder to cling to all of your clutter — depending on the size of your home, you may not even have enough space for it. You will need to reduce or better organize your belongings to make room for the belongings of another person. There's no better time to declutter!

Once the home is free of clutter, don't let anyone else makes it back into a mess. Set some ground rules about belongings in common areas and try to keep your own personal items in your room or other private space. Take things that you don't want or no longer need and donate them to local thrift stores.

Be Stingy With the Thermostat

Heating and cooling are some of the biggest energy wasters. Talk to your new roommate about what temperatures they are comfortable with — and set your thermostat accordingly. If you live in an area that allows it (and where it is safe) open your windows during temperate weather and enjoy the breeze. During cooler months, set your thermostat low — 68 is generally the recommend setting — and bundle up. This helps to reduce your utility bills while still keeping your home relatively comfortable.

Investing in fans can help reduce your heating and cooling bills as well — even a warm apartment can be comfortable if the air is still flowing. Ceiling fans are ideal, but if your home doesn't have them and you're renting or can't install them for other reasons, floor and desk fans are a good alternative.

Sharing your space doesn’t just help you save money on utility bills — it can also help reduce your impact on the planet. With a growing population and climate change breathing down our collective necks, every little bit helps.


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.







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