If you’re looking into purchasing solar panels and making the switch to clean, renewable energy, chances are you care about the environment and going green. Switching to solar is a major way to reduce your family’s carbon footprint and prevent harmful carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere, but solar also comes with a big price tag and time commitment. For example, if you call us today, we’ll get you a quote for your home, and then we’ll design a solar panel array for your roof. Once a final agreement is signed, we start the process to getting your panels installed, which can take anywhere from 8-12 weeks or even more depending on your HOA, city permits, etc. While this doesn’t seem like a long time compared to the 30+ years your panels will generate clean electricity, you may be wondering what else you can do to ‘Go Green’ today and lead an environmentally friendly life. So, we’ve rounded up a couple of actions you can take—today—that don’t cost much and will make a difference on the environment.
1. Use less energy
This one might be obvious, but it’s also something that every homeowner should make an effort to do. Even if you are eco-friendly with your energy practices, we could always reevaluate and get rid of wasteful habits. The less energy you use, the more money you save and the friendlier you are to the environment. Even if you already have solar panels installed on your roof, using less energy will save you money and ensure that you don’t use more power than your panels create, thus having to pull power from your local utility company.
We’ve published a blog that suggests 10 ways to reduce your electricity usage, ranging from cost-free options like turning off the lights and conserving water, to options that require a little more investment, like switching to LED lightbulbs, purchasing a smart thermostat or replacing old appliances. Click here to read more on how to use less energy in your everyday life.
2. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
The three Rs are taught to elementary school students across the United States, but many adults can also be reminded of the helpful tip to be less wasteful. Today’s world of consumerism, online shopping, two-day shipping, and curbside pickup make it easier than ever to buy new things at a great price, but it might be helpful to be cognizant of how wasteful these processes actually are. Before buying something new, you ask yourself:
- Do I really need this?
- Can I buy it used or secondhand?
- Can I borrow it?
- Is it sustainable?
- Does it contain single-use plastic?
- Can I reuse or repurpose something I already have?
Additionally, many people already make an effort to recycle plastic and cardboard, but there is a lot more that can be recycled, and conversely, some items that need special treatment. Keep a recycling bin next to the garbage can and recycle all bottles, cardboard, paper, cans, wrapping paper, magazines, food packaging, etc. For items like Number 5 plastics, electronic waste, glass, or most metals, they might need to be disposed of in a specific way. Some of these materials will never break down in a landfill and can even contaminate our water if not disposed of correctly.
Composting is another cost-effective way to reduce the amount of waste we are producing while also creating something useful. It requires using old food scraps, leaves and grass clippings, which turn into a nutrient-rich soil that can then be returned to the earth. Composting happens naturally, like when leaves fall onto the forest floor, it composts and gives rich nutrients back to the forest floor. Many environmentalists and gardeners compost for a variety of reasons, and because it happens naturally, it’s easy to do and has many benefits.
You might be wondering, won’t these scraps just compost in the landfill and help the garbage to decompose? Surprisingly, waste from food scraps and lawns that can be composted make up over a quarter of the waste in landfills, where it doesn’t compost correctly because it doesn’t have the oxygen required. The lack of oxygen makes the waste emit methane gas, which is even worse for the environment than carbon emissions. When you compost, you are not only helping your garden and yard, but you are also preventing waste from going to the landfill and causing even more harm. Composting is a natural process, it’s beneficial, and it’s easy! You just have to set up a compost bin, decide what you’ll do with it, and add compostable waste as you go.
4. Opt for eco-friendly options
If you can’t reuse something you already have, a great way to go green is to purchase eco-friendly products that you can use over and over again and that will reduce your single-use plastic usage. Common examples of eco-friendly products include reusable grocery bags, reusable straws, a glass or metal water bottle, and assorted glass products for refillable soap, cleaning supplies, etc. Glass is the only 100% recyclable material, so if you can buy the glass version of anything, it’s not only easily reusable but can be completely recycled.
Many times, eco-friendly options of products you use every day will be more expensive than their nonenvironmentally-friendly counterparts. Grocery bags are free, straws are free or cost next to nothing, water bottles are cheap and anything plastic will be cheaper than anything glass. However, rest assured knowing that these purchases, although more costly, will save you money in the long run. If something is not disposable it means that you can use it over and over again, and over time this can make a big impact on the environment.
5. Shop local – hit up your neighborhood farmer’s market
Instead of shopping at a grocery store and ignoring the more expensive organic options, head to your local farmer’s market. Local produce is better for the environment for a variety of reasons. It’s probably organic even if it doesn’t say “organic” on a label, it traveled much less distance to get to you, it’s healthier, and it helps support and promote sustainable practices. Local farmers use less waste and create less pollution and adopt other eco-friendly practices such as composting. Local produce is also more likely to be pesticide-free and chemical free, which is not only better for the earth but also for your body. Many times, locally sourced produce will also be cheaper at a farmer’s market than produce from a grocery store.
Shopping at a farmer’s market might mean that you will pay more for milk, eggs, and meat, but it also means that you will get much better-quality items. Not to mention, you will save quite a bit of money by avoiding processed foods and snacks that catch your eye while roaming the aisles of the grocery store.
Go Green Today
Living an eco-friendly lifestyle doesn’t require a ton of effort or money, and if everyone adopted these simple practices, the smallest of things could make a big impact on the environment. From recycling more to shopping locally or using less energy, there are easy changes everyone can make to everyday life to live more sustainable. Plus, if you’re wondering how to save even more money while going green, solar panels might just be for you. Although it will take a little bit more time to see the benefits from going solar, it will save you thousands of dollars and reduce your carbon footprint in a big way. If you want to learn about the impact solar panels actually have on the environment, read our blog: Does Going Solar Really Help with Climate Change?