Living Sustainably at Home
The impact of human behavior on the environment is no longer debatable. Evidence that human activity is affecting climate change is all around us: manufacturing pollution, agricultural waste, oil spills and automobile emissions produce greenhouse gasses, create dead zones and trash vortices in our oceans, and poison our land. However, changing our behaviour—even in small ways—can have a positive effect on the environment. Each one of us, and each home, can make a difference.
Household waste is a great pollution generator. The waste we are responsible for, including food waste, packaging, and disposable electronics, is not limited to only what our household generates, but extends to the waste produced by the manufacture of products we support through our purchases.
Whether considering our personal energy use or the energy consumption of the manufacturing process of products we purchase, our lifestyle and behaviour may result in a high usage of our resources and non-renewable energy. A study published by Applied Energy (Asaee, Sharafian, Herrera, Bloerus and Merida, 2018), found that current Net Zero building regulations are failing to adequately address the broad scoop of energy use associated with buildings when the energy costs of manufacturing and ultimate disposal are considered. Therefore, thinking beyond the impacts of our home's heating and cooling requirements, and considering building materials, size, location and lifestyle, is a must.
Five ways to reduce your environmental footprint:
1. Trying to decide whether to build a new house?
Think twice before knocking down your house and building a new one. Consider renovating and using as much of the original structure as possible: Construction waste takes up over 25% of our landfill space, and non-organic trash keeps its original weight, volume, and form for at least 40 years.
2. Thinking about renovating?
Consult a designer about how the use of colour, lighting, furniture and objects might respond to your needs before taking out walls and removing cabinets. If you must, ask your contractor to recycle everything possible. Check with your city to find out what can be recycled. You might be surprised!
3. Repurpose and reuse
The most unique and memorable objects are those we create by altering existing ones. They cannot be found in a store and they always have a story. If you can’t find ways to repurpose objects and can't sell them, give them away before considering taking them to the dump.
4. Think natural, recyclable and compostable
Natural products like cotton, wool, hemp and jute are not only great for our health, they are renewable and compostable. Synthetic materials are not readily biodegradable, and they consume a great deal of energy during manufacturing. Did you know that nylon manufacturing uses three times more energy than conventional cotton and that almost 70 million barrels of oil are used each year in the production of polyester in the US, alone?
Organic materials that decompose in landfills can produce methane gas which is 21 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Rather than putting your food waste in the garbage, compost!
Every effort we make in reducing our negative impact on the planet goes a long way toward mitigating the effects of human-induced climate change. Small things matter and they add up. And if you are in a place where you can do more, go for it: when your appliances don’t work anymore and can’t be fixed, replace them with energy-efficient ones. Need to replace the shingles on your roof? Consider installing solar panels instead; this will serve you and the planet, both short and long-term. Many cities have incentives for such positive action.
Wellbeing Design Consultant