Whether winter conjures thoughts of cozy fires and hot cocoa or trudging through snow and ice on the way to work, it’s essential to have a plan for coping with the season in a sustainable way. Here are some tips to saving energy, water and money while staying toasty and warm all winter long.
Heat and electricity bills
Not only will the bills add up as you bump up the heat, but so does energy consumption. Create a more Earth-friendly indoor environment by keeping your heating and electrical costs down. Remember the basics, like unplugging chargers and small appliances when not in use. Put your holiday and winter lights on a timer. Turn out the lights when you leave the room.
Related: 7 eco-friendly insulation alternatives for a green home
Add layers of clothing before heading to the thermostat. Bundling up can save you a bundle in heating costs. Also invest in a digital thermostat and set it to a lower temperature at night and while you’re away during the day. A simple way to spin more warm air into the living space is to flip the switch on the side of your ceiling fans. When they spin clockwise, they push warm air from the top of the room to the bottom. To really improve energy efficiency in your space, consider additional insulation around door and window openings, such rolled towels or a draft snake under door cracks, and an added layer of eco-friendly insulation in the attic, walls or basement.
Maintain your furnace. Regular maintenance results in better efficiency and longevity for your home’s heat source. It’s always important to regularly replace your furnace filter, but make it a priority during the winter when the appliance is blowing more often.
Snow and ice
Depending on where you live, snow and ice may be part of your daily routine or only appear on occasion. When they do, avoid the chemical-laden deicers; use natural kitty litter or sand instead. Skip the gas-powered and polluting snow blowers. Instead, use an electric snow blower. Better yet, get the family out for a good old-fashioned snow removal with shovels and brooms.
Many people focus on water savings during the summer, but few emphasize it during the winter when we’re not watering lawns. However, winter brings bulkier clothing that results in more laundry, the temptation for long showers or baths on cold days and the potential for broken pipes.
Check your water consumption by setting a timer for the shower and only run the washing machine and dishwasher when they are full. Turn off the water supply and winterize the automatic sprinklers, AC units and RV plumbing. Recycle the water you do use by cooling the pot of water after cooking pasta or by collecting water in the shower. Use this to water indoor plants. For an added layer of efficiency, add a water recycling system to your house where the laundry or shower can provide water for the toilet. Take advantage of rainy weather by having those rain barrels ready to collect and store water you’ll be using in a few months.
By the time gardening season rolls around, the compost from last summer will be ready to use. But you can continue to build your compost pile throughout the winter, too. It won’t break down as quickly as it does in the hotter months, but there’s no reason to trash tree trimmings, leaves or food scraps. If your compost pile is inaccessible, you can at least collect food scraps in a container in the freezer to add to the pile later.
Slick roads and dangerous driving conditions make winter the perfect time to rely on public transportation. Dust off the bus pass or start using the subway and let someone else do the driving while reducing air pollution from carbon emissions.
If public transportation isn’t an option, do your part by ensuring your car is maintained. Change your oil along with cabin and engine air filters. Replace spark plugs, hoses and fuel filters at recommended intervals. Ensure that your tires are properly inflated. The more efficiently your car functions, the less gas it will require and the less emissions it will release.
When you’re ready to warm up with a hot cup of coffee or tea, opt to make your drinks at home in your reusable mugs. When you head for the store or if you shop online, be mindful of packaging. Find retailers that offer sustainable packaging options instead of plastic foam (like Styrofoam) and plastic.
Remember your reusable produce and shopping bags when you head to the store or garden stand, so you can buy fresh fruits and veggies without the plastic waste.
Keep your refrigerator running efficiently by vacuuming out the vents along the bottom. Deice your freezer if it doesn’t have an auto-defrost option. Keep the blender, coffee maker and toaster unplugged when not in use, and leave the oven door open after use to release the warm air into your home.
Create a more sustainable coffee station by ditching the single-use plastic coffee pods in favor of a reusable version. Better yet, convert to a ceramic drip or French press, skipping the waste and composting the leftover coffee grounds.
Winter is soup season, meaning it is the perfect time to use up a variety of vegetables and incorporate a meat-free dinner at least once each week.
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