15 ways to make your home eco-friendly

bigstockphoto.com @ GoodMood Photo

Summer is a great time to evaluate our homes and see what we can do to reduce our carbon footprints. Small changes, when done collectively, can make a huge difference.

From building a backyard composter to eschewing the dryer for a clothesline, to joining a freecycle group, families are getting aboard the green train. Local parents told Parenting Times how they made their homes more eco-friendly and saved a bit of money in the process.

Reducing food waste

In addition to being a waste of money, food waste doesn’t sit well with many of us for moral reasons. Nicky Szullo-Stewart’s family reduces the amount of food they waste by planning their meals. “We have drastically reduced the amount we eat out, it’s now once a month, max,” she says. “My hubby and I take leftovers for lunch so there is rarely food waste.”

Find reusable alternatives

Shelley Schroeder looks for reusable products instead of their disposable counterparts. She keeps a water bottle with her instead of buying bottled water. When Szullo-Stewart shops, she doesn’t use plastic bags and avoids plastic containers if possible. “We have started shopping at Bulk Barn for pantry items with recycled glass jars that we have saved,” she says.

bigstockphoto.com @ ThamKC

Creating your own cleaning products

For Rosy Connors, green means clean. “Baking soda and vinegar actually cleans better than products on the market,” she says. “To clean windows, we just use a special cloth wrung out with warm water – works perfectly and no chemicals that are bad for our health and environment.” Jessica Raymond makes her own eco-friendly cleaning products. She’s shared a recipe on her website, motherofrays.com.

Go vegan (or cut down on your meat consumption)

Connors’ family eats a plant-based diet and only buys vegan products. “Going vegan is hands-down the absolute best thing anyone can do for the environment and the best thing that anyone can do for their health,” she says.

Photo courtesy Lexy Scott

Lexy Scott became a vegetarian at 14, vegan five years ago and is now raising her daughter in the same lifestyle. Scott says that great health has been a bonus as she mostly eats whole fresh foods and cooks at home.

Consider driving an electric car

If your family is in the market for some new wheels, consider an electric vehicle. Marina Beaulieu-Chabot’s family has been driving an electric car for over a year. “We are saving quite a bit on gas. Our electricity bill is just a bit higher than it used to be, but it’s totally worth it. There are more and more charging stations and there is usually no added fee to plug.”

…Or forgo the vehicle altogether

Sarah Harvey’s family has always been car-free, relying on public transportation, walking, biking and car sharing to get around. “Our primary means of transportation are OC Transpo and walking. We rent an apartment in the core for this reason. It helps us stay healthy and helps the environment,” she says.

While you’re at it, ditch the A/C

Melissa Dimock and her family are going into their third summer of voluntarily going without central air. “We use fans and open/close windows judiciously,” she says. “It works great.”

Dimock also avoids using the dryer, stove and oven during the day. “The air quality in our house is much better now. When we used central air, we never opened the windows,” she says.

Jenn Rennicks Lalonde doesn’t use air conditioning either. “It’s amazing how tuned in and appreciative we are of a breeze blowing through the house. It encourages you to be outdoors more instead of hiding from the heat.”

Meagan Martin invested in some thermal curtains this year. “Friends said they were melting in their homes, but we were quite comfortable in our house with no air conditioning,” she says.

Thermal curtains also cut down on the heat needed in the winter.

Donate and buy second-hand goods

“When my boys are tired (of) a specific toy, I take it to Value Village and get something from there for them,” says Khairoon Abbas. “We live in a two-bedroom apartment so we are quite aware of our space and try not to clutter.”

Lisa Potter suggests buying second-hand clothing and holding swaps with friends to exchange clothing and accessories, and Lauren Couture makes temporary trades with friends.

Shop local

Szullo-Stewart shops locally when possible, buying meat from the butcher and biweekly baskets from a place that is walking distance from their house.

Give textiles new life

The average Canadian disposes of dozens of pounds of textiles every year. After using the same set of cloth diapers for both her sons, Gina Cianci bypassed the trash and repurposed the worn-out cotton as cleaning rags.

Photo courtesy Becky Thayer

Stay off the grid

Becky Thayer saves electricity by washing dishes by hand, hanging the family’s laundry as much as possible and avoiding hydro use during peak times. “We play a lot of board games rather than watch TV or video games, which eat up a lot of hydro,” she adds.

And Annalee Rice’s family recently installed solar panels on their house.

Start a lending library

If knowledge is power, then Thayer is literally sharing the wealth. The lending library at her Almonte home – which uses a “take one, leave one” concept – is loved among locals.

Save water

Lynn Reynolds’ family switched to water-saving faucets. It only took a few minutes to change and their water bill dropped significantly, she says.

Start a garden

For the past eight years, Carla Witt and her family have been growing their own food. “We grow lettuces, kale, carrots, beets, peas, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, eggplant, peppers, rhubarb and herbs,” she says. “We eat out of our garden two to three days a week during the summer.”

In addition to being enjoyable for Witt and economical, it’s also environmentally friendly, reducing the family’s trips to the grocery store. “It’s less travel by car for us to get food and less travel for our food to get to our plate from the source,” she says.

Get crafty

Kathi-Ann Logan finds the crafting potential in materials that would otherwise be thrown away or recycled, including disposable containers and bread ties.

… Or do all of the above

Feel like overhauling your life? Heather Baskerville eats a mostly vegan diet, drives an electric car, dries her family’s clothes outside, buys sustainable clothing and organic, local food and shops in bulk using reusable containers.

In the last month, she’s decided to move toward a zero-waste lifestyle. “I’m slowly switching my disposable items (razors, toothbrushes, plastic wrap, etc.) to much more environmentally friendly alternatives. I bring reusable items – spork, stainless steel container, cloth napkin, water bottle – everywhere I go so that if I feel like eating out, I don’t have to use single-use items. If I forget to bring my own dishes and bags, I simply don’t buy.”

Now that’s dedication.