Go Green in Every Room

EkoKook green kitchen design by Faltazi
By Leah Ingram for  All You
Save money and energy by altering your routines in every room of your house with these easy steps:

The Kitchen

Save electricity. At the end of a dishwasher cycle, open the door to let dishes air-dry. Prepare veggies and other foods in the microwave, toaster oven, or slow cooker—all of which use less energy than a stove. Depending on how much you cook, you could save a dollar or more each week.

Put your fridge on a timer.  Consider putting a standard programmable timer on your refrigerator and set it to cycle off for a few hours at night when the fridge stays closed.  If you put a gallon jug of frozen water in the freezer, you should be able to safely program the timer to turn the fridge off from 10 PM to 1:30 and from 2:30 to 6 AM without impacting your food. 

Go low-flow. Install an aerator on your kitchen faucet to cut water usage in half. a $4 investment helps you save $44 a year in water costs. Click here to see options. Bonus: When you use less water, wastewater sewage plants save energy. 

Mix your own cleaner. Combine 1 cup white vinegar with 1 gallon hot water. Over a year, this will cost $5.50, while an all-purpose cleaner costs $18.20. You save $12.70. Bonus: There will be fewer toxic chemicals around the house. 

Eat local and in season. Buying produce grown near you ensures a fresher product and often a less expensive one. Click here to find out which foods are in season in your area. For example, fresh plums from a local greenmarket run $1 a pound; at the supermarket they can be $3 a pound. 

Recycle your food. Composting is easier than you think. You need an open-bottom bin in your yard and a small bin in your kitchen to college vegetable peels, coffee grounds, and more. Empty the small bin daily into the outside bin, then cover with leaves, grass clippings, mulch or dirt. Once a week turn your compost. Soon you'll see rich, dark brown soil that you can use to fertilize your lawn and flower beds. Or click here to learn about utilizing compost in a mulch garden setup. 

Total annual savings in the kitchen: $160

The Bathroom
Eco-friendly bathroom design featured at Erdexon.
Make your own scouring cleanser. Want a sparkling clean bathroom? Baking soda does the rick. Sprinkle it directly onto a damp sponge, just as you would a cleansing powder. A 4-pound box of baking soda costs $2, about $1.35 less than the same amount of scouring cleanser, and contains fewer toxic chemicals.

Go natural. Replace yoru plastic shower-curtain liner with a mildew-resistant curtain made of hemp, a renewable resource. A hemp liner costs more than a plastic one, but it will last for years. Bonus: Plastic shoswer curtains give off PVCs, so getting them out of the bathroom helps clear the air.

Wash down the shower before you step out. Take a scrub brush adn wipe down the shower walls and tub with bath soap. If you usually use two containers of cleaner a year, you'll save about $6.

Flush less water. Each flush sends 5 to 7 gallons of water down the toilet. A dual-flush toilet (about $160) uses less than 2 gallons. Expect $2 to $4 a month in savings. Eco-bonus: Considering the average American flushes the toilet around eight times a day, you'll conserve 2,920 gallons of water a year.

Total annual savings in the bathroom: up to $54

The Living Room
Eco-friendly living space featured at Green Launches.
Use shutters as window insulation. If you can't afford new double-pane windows, consider installing plantation-style shutters inside. They keep cold air out in winter and cool air in during summer, and can cut annual energy costs by 80 percent, or $190.

Barter for furniture. Americans spend an average of $650 annually on furniture. Trade goods gratis with "freecyclers" and save a bundle. Check out freecycle.org.

Heat and cool with ceiling fans. Using ceiling fans year-round can save you as much as 50 percent on your heating and cooling bills, which adds up to about $475 annually. Set blades to rotate counterclockwise in summer to draw warm air up, and clockwise in winter to push warm air down. Bonus: Lower your energy usage and you'll help cut carbon emissions at the local power plant.

Use a power strip. Plug energy-sucking electronics into a single power strip so you can turn everything off at once. You'll save as much as $50 a year in energy costs.

Install carpet tiles. Tiles cost about the same as wall-to-wall carpeting ($3 a sqare foot), but installation is do-it-yourself, saving you $75 to $100. And unlike some traditional carpeting, carpet tiles can be chemical-free and recyclable.

Program your thermostat. Automatically adjusting your home's temperature when you're sleeping or out means you won't pay to heat or cool your house unnecessarily. It adds up to energy savings—about $150 a year.

Choose green home decor. Renovating or redecorating? Seect low-toxin paint and countertops made from recycled paper. For flooring, choose earth-friendly materials such as bamboo, a renewable resource, and shop for eco-friendly furniture.

Total annual savings in the living room: $865

Laundry Room

Laundry room painting by MariaS.
Shake up your laundry routine. Wash on cold only, let clothes soak rather than doing long wash cycles, and hang clothes up to dry whenever possible. This could help you save as much as $114 in energy costs a year.

Cut back on laundering. Hotels use about 40 percent less water by not washing sheets and twoels every day. Do the same by spotcleaning clothing and re-wearing items. You could save about $25 in water costs per year. Bonus: Your clothes will last longer.

Try green stain removal. Soak stained fabrics in water mixed with borax, lemon juice, or white vinegar instead of bleach. Brand-name bleach costs $240 annually on average for 400 loads, versus $128 on 20 Mule Team Borax. You save $112.

Total annual savings in the laundry room: $251


Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.