When you think of ways to make your home greener, things such as using energy-efficient bulbs, composting/recycling, and conserving water are probably what immediately come to mind. These are all excellent actions to take but there are some things you may not have heard of or even thought about doing around your home—things that will reduce your carbon footprint in a significant way—like the following:
Green electricity is obviously not something you pick up at the store, but you can get it through Bullfrog Power. Bullfrog Power is a Canadian company that can put renewable energy onto the power grid on your behalf in an easy and affordable way. They get electricity from clean, green sources like wind and water (all of their sources come from within Canada!). Here is a short video to explain exactly how it works:
In a nut shell:
Bullfrog Power has been putting green electricity into the grid on my behalf and while it is not something I can see, I know that the clean power being contributed is helping to create a better and cleaner future for my kids (and yours too!). To date, in Canada, 10,000+ homes and 1,200+ businesses are currently bullfrogpowered.
Good to know: By signing up for Bullfrog Power, you help to fund new green energy projects across Canada. Bullfrog Power has already funded 60+ green projects across Canada—like solar panels on schools.
If you have drafty windows, the ideal thing to do is to replace them, but as you know, a project like that is not cheap! So until you can afford it, insulated drapes are a good option.
Insulated drapes will allow you to turn the thermostat down slightly during the colder months and turn up the thermostat slightly in the summer months. This results in you paying less for your heating and cooling bills. Saving money is always a good thing, right? Do some research online and go into a window covering store to speak with a specialist who can recommend some options for you. There are tons of stylish choices, so you won't be stuck with what you may be picturing in your head (long, thick, dusty, dark curtains!)
Good to know: There is a science behind how the drapes are made, their colour, the materials they are made with and how pleats and folds work to keep the cold and heat out. They also need to be opened and closed at certain times of the day to be most effective, so be sure you get the right drapes for you by talking to an expert.
If you've ever scalded yourself with hot tap water, that's a sign your water heater's temperature is set a touch too high. Lowering the temperature by just a few degrees can save you money and reduce your energy consumption. Check with your utility provider to find out the safest temperature you can go down to.
It's also important to keep your tank maintained and to have it replaced when needed to ensure it's always efficient.
Good to know: If you have the option, get a tankless water heater installed (when we moved into our new home, we chose to go tankless). Tankless water heaters are more compact and use high-powered burners to quickly heat water as it is demanded (as opposed to water sitting in a tank having to be constantly heated to a certain temperature until it is ready to be used). Up front costs for a tankless water heater are higher, but it's an investment that will save you money over time.
Every home is different when it comes how often furnace filters need to be changed. Some need to be changed more often, some not as often.
Factors that affect the schedule are:
A dirty filter reduces airflow and increases the energy needed by your furnace to operate properly. Having a clean furnace filter at all times ensures that your furnace is always running efficiently.
Good to know: It's such an easy thing to forget, but it's recommended to change your furnace filter once a month to four times per year (depending on the factors listed above). To remember, go through your calendar and schedule in the days it should be changed. Also remember to keep your furnace properly maintained by having it serviced regularly. Read this article for more info on your furnace filter.
The light on your TV or PVR that stays on after you turn it off, or putting your computer in sleep or hibernate mode are examples of a device consuming energy even though they are considered to be off (referred to as phantom loads). Even though they are "off," they are still partially on, sucking up power.
To avoid phantom loads, purchase smart power bars. These allow you to turn off the power completely at the source so power to these devices is cut off.
Good to know: Rather than using a smart power bar for infrequently used electronics, just unplug them when they are not in use.
Making your home more energy-efficient starts with little steps but they can progress over time to some of the ideas listed above. Every little action, no matter how big or small, leads to a greener and cleaner world which all of our kids will appreciate!
Not long ago, I was chatting with another mom while we were waiting for our kids to finish school. She was talking about her frustration with the new "Boomerang Lunch Program" at the school.
If you aren't familiar with the Boomerang Lunch Program, it is basically a litterless lunch program. Everything you send in your kids' lunches will get sent back home with them. This means that applesauce containers, empty juice boxes, plastic sandwich bags — everything returns home. The point of the program is to make parents and students think and to make better choices when it comes the amount of garbage we produce (and for us to see what our kids are eating and not eating!). The way to avoid having those sticky containers and messy plastic bags "boomeranged" back to us at the end of the school day is to replace them with containers that can be reused over and over again.
The mom I was talking to was not against the program, her issue was that her daughter was coming home with sticky containers that would make the inside of her lunch bag dirty which led to much time being spent cleaning the lunch bag every night. Not a huge deal, but when it has to be done EVERY evening, I totally understand her frustration (I'd be upset too!). She was fully open to buying reusables but had no idea where to go, what to buy, and where to start. Going green was new to her but she was open to it, which was wonderful.
I once owned an eco store, so this knowledge comes a little easier to me. In my store, I had an entire section dedicated to litterless lunches so I gave her a few suggestions. I saw her again a few weeks later and she had used some of my suggestions and is now happy!
Seeing as how she was having trouble knowing where to start when it came to converting to a litterless lunch system, I know there are others. Don't fear the litterless lunch, I am here to help! Once you've bought your stainless steel water bottle, here are some items I think you (and your kids!) will love.
LunchBot containers are made with 18/8 stainless steel and come in a variety of sizes and colours. They can be used for sandwiches, fruits, crackers and pretty much anything else (some containers are spill-proof, some are not). They also make thermos's for hot lunches. We have a LunchBot that my eldest has been using since junior kindergarten and it is still in perfect shape. They last a long time as long as they are taken care of. $24.95 - $44.95
I sold a variety of Wean Green containers in my store and some parents were hesitant to purchase because they are made of glass. I get it, glass + kids = scary. BUT, these containers are made from thick, tempered glass (think of the same type of glass used for Pyrex dishes) that can stand up to a lot. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and fun colours and can be used to carry pretty much any food. They are spill-proof so they are great for dips. $7.99 - $44.99
Colibri Reusable Snack Bags are made right here in Canada by a couple of sisters in Manitoba. They feature a zippered opening, come in several designs, and sizes. Clean up is super easy, just wipe them clean in side and out. $8.00 - $9.00
If having separate bags and containers is not for you, then consider a bento style lunch box. I sold the Go Green Lunch boxes in my store and during back-to-school season, I had a hard time keeping them in stock—they were that popular. They feature separate, spill-proof compartments and come with a small stainless steel water bottle. Each lunch box also comes with a carry bag, there are many designs to choose from. The positive side to going this route is that you'll just have one container and lid to clean each night. $47.97
These are just a few suggestions I have personal experience with; there are of course so many other options available. Do you have a favourite brand you use for your kids' litterless lunches?
All of these products are safe, eco-friendly, and will last a long time. In addition to being used for school lunches, they can also be used for travel. They cost a little more up front than a box of plastic bags, but are so worth it when you find yourself washing the containers and preparing them for the next day rather than washing applesauce out of the inside of your kids' lunch bags every evening!