Sustainable Home Resolutions That Aren’t Difficult to Maintain
By Evelyn Long, editor-in-chief of Renovated
The new year is a motivational powerhouse, inspiring households to change for the better. A renovation may be in order or residents need to kick a habit. Many are choosing sustainability to inspire their house-related resolutions this year, so what do they encompass?
These manageable and cost-effective suggestions are the best ways to ease into greener living. They will be easy to maintain throughout the year, keeping morale high and carbon footprints low.
What is the state of the climate crisis as 2024 begins? The Earth is continuing to warm, with a 58% chance of being the hottest year on record. Emissions are getting out of hand, leading to increased natural disasters like wildfires and hurricanes. Widespread urbanization and industrialization are necessary, albeit at the expense of habitats, natural resources and biodiversity.
However, there is hope. The Paris Agreement and COP29 influence international legislative changes as nations move to carbon neutrality and renewable energy. Industries are researching ways to make manufacturing circular, EV batteries less polluting and water less polluted for species.
People must focus on sustainable living as soon as possible. A famous 2017 report shows corporations emit more than individuals, but everyone must do their part. Additionally, consumers’ actions influence companies — their priorities alter how businesses shift their goals and operational models. Therefore, enterprises will note whether more consumers live eco-friendly lifestyles in their green homes.
Renovations and Design-Based Home Resolutions
A sustainable renovation or home improvement project might be on the wishlist for the year. Installing solar panels or an energy-efficient roof might be aspirational, but they are pricier. These options have a massive eco-conscious impact while staying in more reasonable price ranges.
Having plants indoors provides countless benefits. Some greenery — like aloe vera, rubber plants, or English ivy — has air-purifying capabilities. Other plants are there to teach residents how to take care of flora.
Be sure not to purchase fake plants, which are typically made of petroleum-based ingredients. Looking at biophilic designs will inspire anyone and the versatility of aesthetics allows anyone to do it on any budget.
Composting is also applicable to almost any budget. These options depend on available space and price range:
- Free or cheap: Use containers or bowls to freeze food scraps and bring them to local farmers or compost drop-off points. Building a DIY compost bin is also simple, as there are many places to acquire cheap or free pallets and crates.
- Relatively inexpensive: Subscribe to a compost curbside pick-up or drop-off service.
- Somewhat pricey: Acquire a compost tumbler for a deck or stacked worm composting bin kit. Bokashi bins are another option for low-odor, low-maintenance compost.
- Most expensive: Purchase a countertop composter that requires little to no maintenance.
Switching to LED lights or low-flow fixtures could be a cheap or free way to save on water and power. Several power companies offer complimentary light bulbs, faucet aerators or shower heads as part of eco-friendly projects. See if there are any initiatives like that nearby.
If not, these are inexpensive ways to do minor upgrades throughout the year. Other DIY hacks exist, such as putting containers in toilet tanks to make them artificially low-flow.
Replacing a gas appliance for an electric oven, fridge, water heater, HVAC system or roof may not be in the cards. However, one resolution households can make to be more eco-friendly is to research options. The goal is to get in the mindset that every addition to the home in the future will be more sustainable going forward.
Not to mention, technological improvements have heightened the efficiency of eco-conscious items that were previously less functional than their alternatives. When replacing an appliance, residents will have an easier time discovering the best options and what to look for in genuinely sustainable products.
Start as small or as grand as possible. Growing even one vegetable or herb is a massive step to reducing emissions and waste. There are numerous guides for people starting at-home hydroponic gardens or raised beds. Countertop herb gardens are popular, and it is possible to set up a DIY garden with a little bit of wood or a single pack of seeds.
Replacing insulation could be an intense and expensive home project, but there are less-intensive ways to ensure heat and air aren’t escaping. Check with a utility provider to see if they offer free energy audits — those professionals might be able to provide more advice on compromised points in the home.
However, the best places to look are windows and doors. Add caulking, glazing or weatherstripping to regulate temperature and minimize overconsumption. Getting an area rug or two for non-carpeted floors is another option for warmer rooms.
There may be a few new furniture items the home needs. Instead of defaulting to buying something new, seek other avenues for used, refurbished, and reclaimed furniture and decor. Here are some ideal places to start — priceless hidden treasures might be out in plain view, waiting to go to a lovely home:
- Consignment shops and thrift stores
- Facebook Marketplace
- Places like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore
- Buy Nothing groups
- Planet Reuse
- Yard sales
Be sure to prioritize more sustainable furniture materials or any other home upgrades for an added environmentally friendly boost.
Rain barrels are an economical and resourceful way to reduce water use and practice conservation and recycling. Numerous inexpensive and DIY guides exist on how to set up the perfect system, which will save on electricity and water bills. It sets good habits for water awareness.
The Internet of Things has everything from smart thermostats to air quality sensors. These devices range in price, but some are relatively accessible to get data about the home’s sustainability metrics.
Many paints have toxic chemicals that emit air pollutants. If a home renovation entails repainting a room, consider materials with zero volatile organic compounds and harsh metals.
A proper eco-friendly mindset manifests in the home and the mind. This is the year to forge more sustainable habits that reflect the efforts made in the house. What are the most impactful and easy to start today?
Many cities and neighborhoods have drop-off points or curbside recycling. Research or talk to someone from the local recycling facility to figure out what is and isn’t possible to recycle. For example, paper might be on the list, but what if it has a waxy texture? Do containers need to be washed out before recycling?
Throwing something in the recycling bin and hoping for the best isn’t beneficial. This is called wishcycling and it can drastically harm the efficiency of recycling facilities.
Buying new furniture shouldn’t be the default, nor should trashing something once it has a defect. Instead, seek to get it repaired. Consider hiring someone local to reupholster furniture or an electrician to rewire a broken microwave. There’s no need to send all these household items to landfill when they are still usable.
This is a habit that starts at home. Place reusable shopping bags, to-go containers, coffee cups, water bottles and more at the front door so people remember to take them.
It’s easy to default to recycling instead of reusing a glass jar, especially if it doesn’t match the rest of the Masons in the cupboard. However, this adage is in this order because it starts with the most eco-conscious action to the least.
Reducing the amount of items or resources needed is better, but if that isn’t possible, reusing what’s available is the next best thing. Pasta jars are still helpful for use at bulk stores, even if they don’t match. Develop a mindset to stop prioritizing aesthetics for practicality and environmental well-being.
Everyone is familiar now with how many carbon emissions the meat industry emits. A sustainable habit to build in the new year is to keep fewer meat products in freezers and fridges. Having them around less frequently encourages more plant-based, nutritiously varied meals. With this in mind, shoppers should focus on in-season produce instead of relying on imported products.
Single-use products litter households and an excellent resolution is to make a list of all these items and slowly transition to multiuse variants, including but not limited to:
- Safety razors instead of plastic
- Beeswax wrap or silicone baking mats instead of aluminum foil
- Towels instead of cotton rounds, makeup wipes, paper towels, sponges and tissues
- Reusable period products like cups instead of disposables
- Linen produce bags instead of getting free plastic ones
- Refillable makeup and cosmetics containers
- Reusable coffee pods instead of disposable K-cups
People started decluttering their homes fiercely during quarantine and the work-from-home revolution. Challenges against fast fashion megacorporations are also making people rethink their wardrobes meaningfully.
However, clearing out closets and trinkets can damage the planet if they all go to landfills. Be sure to donate, regift or repurpose items responsibly as much as possible. Don’t immediately toss them — instead, ask if there is any utility to the item and if someone may gain that from it.
Consider forming a non-toxic cleaning habit. Many household cleaners are unsafe for the planet and the people living there. The air particulates are invisible yet harmful when plenty of greener options exist.
Distilled white vinegar, baking soda, castile soap and organic essential oils are excellent options for chemical-free all-purpose cleaners. They save money and reduce reliance on products that may support testing these products on animals or other unethical operations.
Everyone’s doing their part to become kinder to the planet and many of those habits start in the home. Whether sustainability is embedded into the house’s design or the residents’ habits, there are plenty of ways to bring about change in the new year. There are green goals for people of all living styles and circumstances, so no matter what a home commits to, it will always be better than how it started by keeping the planet’s wellness in mind.
About the Author
Evelyn Long is a writer and the editor-in-chief of Renovated. Her work has been published by NCCER, Build Magazine and other online publications.