Preparing Your Home for the New Year, the Green Way

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I’ve never been big on making New Year’s resolutions. While I appreciate the sentiment of doing so, thinking of my goals for the year as New Year’s resolutions often dooms them to be forgotten before February rolls in. I do, however, love the tradition of trying to begin the year in the way I want the year to continue. This means making sure all my affairs are in order, not the least of which is making sure my home is the way I want it to be. For me this means making it not only beautiful and well-organized, but making it eco-friendly.

If going green is one of the things you plan to do in 2009, here are some simple ways to make your home greener and more stylish and well-decorated in the next few days that will help you start the year off right.

1. Give your home a fresh coat of eco-friendly paint.

There’s no easier way to change the look and feel of your home than a new coat of paint. You can instantly take a room from blah, boring and outdated to fresh, bold and modern with a gallon or two of zero-VOC paint and a couple of hours. More and more companies are making low- and zero-VOC paint lines, and there are a few companies that are built on these principles. Mythic Paint and Olympic’s low-VOC line are among my favorites.

2. Clean green.

Traditional cleaning products are often laden with chemicals, so what is a green maven to do? You could try making your own with a few key ingredients: peroxide, baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice. There are also more eco-friendly options on grocery and hardware store shelves these days, so there’s no excuse to use traditional cleaners. We like to use Dr. Bronner’s pure castile soaps both for baths and for cleaning, but there are lots of other options out there. You just have to take the time to look.

3. Ditch the carpet.

No matter what it is made of, carpet is one of the least-eco-friendly surfaces you can have in your home. When you walk into your home and across your carpet with shoes, you track in dirt, bacteria and who knows what else with you. Even when you vaccuum, a lot of that will stay in your carpet. So if you can afford it, you’d be better off going with a hard surface. While bamboo or FSC-certified hardwoods are the preferred eco-options for many, you can opt for lower-cost options like cork or linoleum. Laminate flooring is definitely the most affordable, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you can afford something else. Alternatively, you can switch to carpet tiles, which greatly reduce waste by allowing you to deep-clean individual tiles or replace a few offending squares instead of replacing your entire carpet.  FLOR carpet tiles are a great option, as they are made of recycled materials and also recyclable at the end of their life cycle.

4. Opt for used or sustainably-made furnishings.

If you need a new piece of furniture, now is a great time to go green. If your budget is limited, you can take a trip to your local Goodwill store, search your local Craigslist site or find a few yard sales. If you are prepared to make an investment in a piece that will last a lifetime, do your research. Buy wood pieces that are made of sustainably-harvested hardwoods, preferably FSC-certified. It’s also a great idea to shop for locally-made furniture. The carbon emissions created by transport are greatly reduces when the materials for your furniture were locally-sourced and made by the carpenter who lives a few blocks away.

5. Reduce your energy use.

If you live in a place with harsh winters, you’ve probably seen your electric bill go up in the past month or two. It’s easy to remember to turn lights off when you’re not in a room, or not to fall asleep with the TV on, but there are less-obvious places where your home could be seeping energy. Invest in a few Smart Strips. These are surge protectors that have a “control” outlet. Plug your TV or computer into the control slot. When you turn the control device off, the entire strip will shut off and avoid the use of ghost energy from appliances that are plugged in but not in use. Check the seals on your windows and doors to make sure that there are no gaps where warm air is escaping. Reseal them or use a stopper to block a gap under your door. Invest in battery-operated clocks so you can unplug your microwave, DVD player or other electronic devices when they aren’t being used.

There are lots of other ways to green your home, and I could use some more creative ideas. What needs to be done around your house that you plan to take on in 2009 (or sooner)? How do you plan to make your home greener?

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