Eco-friendly and sustainable have become big buzzwords. The ever-growing popularity of these movements can make it hard to figure out what sustainability looks like on an individual level. With these 13 steps, you can create a home that’s more friendly to the environment – and your budget.


  1. Unplug Your Home

You might be surprised to hear that your electronics are sucking down power even when they’re turned off. The easiest solution? Put your plugs on a power saver or surge protector strip and unplug it when you’re not using it. You don’t need your electronics in standby mode while you sleep. Unplug everything before you go to bed and plug them back in after you wake up.


  1. Opt for Reusable

Disposable items may be convenient, but they’re not sustainable. When you’re trying to live more environmentally friendly, you’re going to have to make a few compromises. Paper plates and plastic utensils save you from having to do dishes, but they create a ton of waste. The U.S. produces more than 13 million tons of non-biodegradable plastic waste and far too much of that ends up in our oceans.


  • Use real cutlery and dishes instead of disposable
  • Buy rechargeable batteries
  • If you already have plastic flatware, wash and reuse it instead of throwing it away after one use
  • Use dishcloths instead of paper towels. Paper towels result in 254 million tons of trash each year.


  1. Adjust Your Thermostat

Bumping up your thermostat just a few degrees can reduce your energy use and save you big bucks. When cold weather hits, you can still save money by bundling up instead of turning on the heat.

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  1. Go Low-Flow

Low-flow toilets use significantly less water than the standard toilet. Saving water equals saving money, as well as being more sustainable. Some states even offer rebates or tax incentives for switching to energy-efficient toilets.


  1. Use Nontoxic Cleaners

Cleaners with a lot of chemicals in them aren’t eco-friendly at all. The production of dangerous chemicals does harm to the environment. You can reduce this harm by using natural cleaners at home, such as vinegar, lemon or borax.


  1. Shop Smarter

Taking reusable bags to the store is just one step of smarter shopping. You should also consider aspects like the packaging of your food. Too many items come in plastic containers that will just sit in a landfill. Try finding an alternative to products that come in non-biodegradable packaging. Buy locally to avoid carbon emissions from shipping produce around the world.


  1. Green Your Laundry

You can reduce the energy and resources your laundry requires by washing your clothes in cold water and air drying them instead of using a dryer. Energy Star says that almost 90 percent of energy used by a washing machine is used to heat the water.


  • Use high-efficiency detergent to reduce the suds and improve your machine’s washing and rinsing.
  • If you have to use your dryer, always clean the lint trap for safety and to increase efficiency.
  • Wash full loads of laundry. Don’t run your machine for just a few items.


  1. Lighten Up

LEDs can use up to 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. LEDs also last longer, are more durable and can provide better-quality lighting. Opt for natural lighting when possible to cut down on your energy use and consider using solar-powered lighting for the outdoors.


  1. Insulate Properly

Keeping your home heated and cooled is a big part of energy use. If your home is drafty and poorly insulated, you might as well be throwing your money right out the window with your cold air.


  • Fix gaps under doors and windows with weather stripping and caulk.
  • If possible, replace old windows with more energy-efficient ones, such as double glazed or low e glass.
  • If new windows aren’t in your budget you can use thermal-backed curtains to help maintain the temperature of your home.


  1. Start a Garden

Growing your own produce is a great way to reduce your grocery bills and overall impact on the environment. Lots of vegetables and herbs are easy to grow. You can even reuse items in your garden that may have been thrown out otherwise. For example, an old canvas shoe organizer makes a great herb planter.


  1. Compost

33 million tons of food end up in landfills every year. You can do your part to keep food out of landfills by using it in your compost pile. To get a compost pile going, you just need the right mix of ingredients and some circulation. Layer dead leaves and grass clippings with organic material like eggshells and coffee grounds, and in no time you’ll have your very own natural compost.


  1. Replace Old Appliances

Technology moves fast. Now there’s plenty of appliances that are designed to save energy and perform more efficiently. Switching to an energy-friendly appliance could save you a ton of money in the long run. New appliances could use 60 to 80 percent less energy than their old counterparts.


  1. Recycle

This should be obvious but when you’re trying to live more sustainably you should always keep in mind the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle. Recycling helps keep waste from ending up in landfills and reduces the amount of new raw materials being used.


Sustainability is a conscious effort. It might not be easy or automatic to live sustainably, but the planet and future generations will appreciate your efforts. Even the smallest step makes a difference.