According to the Department of Energy, residential households make up 21.8 percent of the United States’ total energy usage, with heating being the largest energy drain. There are a lot of efficiency gains to be had there, and not just in energy—water and material usage could be drastically reduced, too. This would not only be good from a sustainability perspective, it would also save you money through lower bills. Here are four ways you can get started.

Saving Water

The average American household uses 400 gallons of water every day, but you can cut his down considerably with a few simple fixes. First, fix any leaky faucets or toilets, which can waste 20 and 200 gallons of water a day, respectively. The next step is showering, which uses about 2 gallons a minute. Use a timer and limit yourself to five minutes maximum when showering. If you have money to invest, get low-flow toilets and water-efficient washers. Outside, rainwater-capture and permaculture features like berms and swales can minimize the water you need for the yard. Active gray-water systems can help too, by capturing the water from your shower and sinks and using it to flush toilets or irrigate the yard.

Reducing Electricity Usage

When it comes to cutting your electricity usage, old devices and appliances are your first port of call. Upgrade to modern or lower-energy equivalents where possible, for example, laptops over desktop computers, and LED or CFL over incandescent light bulbs. For the appliances you do have, ask if you need them at all. Can you hang clothes outside instead of using the dryer, for instance? If you can’t live without a particular appliance, at least use low-energy settings, such as washing clothes on cold or low-heat settings. Also, unplug chargers and other devices that aren’t in use, or use a power strip with a switch so you can conveniently cut the power to multiple devices.

Cutting Your Heating Bill

The biggest thing you can do to reduce energy when heating your home is to insulate your walls. This involves injecting special foam into your wall cavities, which reduces the rate that heat passes through. In winter, it traps heat inside; in summer, it stops the outside heat from getting in. However, it’s costly and takes a bit of time to do. For cheaper and quicker options, insulated curtains are a good first step, since windows are often poorly insulated. Be efficient with your heating and turn the thermostat down a couple of degrees, turn heaters off in rooms you’re not using, and make sure radiators aren’t blocked. See this article by MoneyMagpie for more ways to cut your heating bill.

Cutting Your Household Waste

As the Environmental Protection Agency points out, there are three “Rs” of cutting household waste: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Reduce means limiting the amount of stuff—of any kind―that passes through your home. So buy long-lasting products over disposables, go paperless with your bank, repair instead of replace broken items, and vote with your wallet by purchasing products that have minimal packaging. Take special care not to buy too much food, and don’t allow food to spoil.

Reuse means to give away products you don’t need rather than toss them. So you could donate old toys to hospitals, donate clothes to charities that redistribute them, and give any other old possessions to thrift stores.

For recycling, check the local services in your area. Write down what materials can be recycled, where they can go, and when you can take them. Then set up separate storage bins in your house for each material.

As you can see, going green in the home involves both changing your habits and getting home improvements installed. Although you might be tempted to stick with old habits and avoid the larger up-front costs of home improvements, remember that green improvements also reduce your bills and may pay for themselves over time. Which area will you start on first?

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