Ventura County Real Estate

Green Living

30 Easy, Eco-Friendly Tips to help save the Earth, your Money and your Health.

By Toni Guy

Change your light bulbs to CFLs.
Did you know that 90% of a normal light bulb’s energy goes to heat not light? In contrast, a 27 watt CFL bulb lasts 4.5 years and saves you $62.95 in energy bills over the life of the bulb. Recycle them at Home Depot when you are done. Go to www.eere.energy.gov/consumer for more information on CFLs and other energy saving tips.


Save water by taking shorter showers
Set a timer for 4 or 5 minutes or if you are letting your shower run longer to warm up the water, consider installing under a nearby sink, an on-demand water circulation pump which run under $200 at major home improvement centers. Also consider installing low-flow water fixtures throughout your house. Another smart option is to install dual-flush or high efficiency toilets. This could save you thousands of gallons of water per year. For information and facts on these products go to www.greenandsave.com.


Simply collect the food scraps from your kitchen (no meat or dairy) and mix with dry leaves, twigs, lawn trimmings and newspaper. There are assortments of composting receptacles you can buy including red wiggler worm composters (kids think they’re cool). This reduces materials sent to landfills and is an eco-friendly way to fertilize your garden. Go to www.epa.gov for a complete list of what you can compost.


Add an additional can in your kitchen to make it easier. Read up on what your local trash company will recycle by going to their website. Batteries, chemicals and old computers etc have to be recycled separately and there will be special days each week or month when you can drop them off. www.stopwaste.orgSanta Barbara – www.lessismore.com   |  Ventura – www.ejharrison.com


Plant a shade tree
If you plant a deciduous tree on the south side of your house you can save on energy costs. Your house will be cooler in the summer and when the leaves drop, more light will be let in in the cooler winter months. You average yearly savings could be $300. www.greenandsave.com


Buy Locally
This is true for locally grown foods & locally made products. By buying locally you cut way back on the pollution incurred by transporting your products and produce to you. Check out your local newspaper for Farmers Markets in your area.


Plan ahead when running errands
Think about all the places you need to go for the week and figure out how you can be more efficient by picking up things in the same part of town at the same time. This way you are using less gas and causing less pollution.


Fix instead of buying new
When your large screen TV breaks do you throw it out and buy a new one? Consider getting your appliances and electronics fixed instead of sending them to an early grave (the landfill). Even shoes and baggage can be taken to a repair shop. You are not only being eco-friendly, you are saving money. It is no surprise that repair services thrive in economic recessions.


Collect your used printer paper and reuse the other side
Keep a box by your desk and store your used paper in it so you can reuse the blank side. Also keep an eye out for “junk mail” that might also have blank backs. Use it in your printer, as scratch paper or for kids artwork.


Save containers that cannot be recycled and donate to your local pre-school or elementary school for art projects
Schools are always looking for more art supplies and you would be amazed at what they can make art out of. Be creative and your local school with thank you for it.


Buy a clothes line
t is not a surprise that you can’t find Energy Star Clothes Dryers. That is because they are energy suckers. Clothes lines come in many different configurations and are very affordable; besides sheets dried outside smell fantastic. Check first with your Homeowner’s association (if you belong to one) before you install. Many HOAs have rules about where clothes lines can be installed.


Use No or Low VOC paints and carpets
Can you put a price on clean air for you and your family to breath in your home? Regular paint, carpets, sealers cabinets and caulks sometime emit toxic gases (you know that smell!) including volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Home Depot has a nice selection of No & Low Voc products and check out Lowe’s who also carries some options. www.Homedepot.com, www.Lowes.com


Consider buying more pre-owned items
Make www.craigslist.org your new best friend. It is amazing all of the things you can find locally and cheap on this fantastic website. I have bought and sold such things as turtles, strollers and fountains. www.ebay.com also has great choices. To trade items for free try. Not computer savvy? Hit your local thrift stores and garage sales for some great finds.


When remodeling, donate your old fixtures, cabinets, toilets etc to local non-profit organizations for home remodeling for low-income families
Why throw them in the landfill, when they can have a new home and be appreciated by other less fortunate families. Look for a local chapter of Homes For Humanity. Check to see if your donation is tax deductible.Ventura: www.habitatventura.org, Santa Barbara: www.sbhabitat.org


Take off your shoes!
70% of dust in your home comes in on your shoes. Think of all the things your step in during the day, pesticides from lawns, dirt and chemicals on the street, and allergens. By taking off your shoes, you will improve your home air quality and anyone with allergies or asthma will thank you for it. Create a nice area to leave your shoes when you come home and make a sign (from recycled materials of course) that politely asks guests to do the same.


Don’t forget your reusable shopping bags
hey are only 99 cents in most grocery stores. Invest in 10 and leave 4 in each car and a few at home so you are never without them. Take them to the mall too when you buy clothes and accessories. (And be sure to hold onto the receipt!) www.epa.gov


Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide
That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year. Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade – breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web that animals accidentally ingest. www.reusablebags.com


Use a power strip with an off switch
Did you know that the appliances you have plugged into outlets still use energy even when turned off? So plug computers, printers, TV’s, VCRs and anything else you can think of into power strips and turn the power strip off when not in use. This could save you $100’s of dollars a year and precious energy.


That comes out to over one million per minute
Billions end up as litter each year. Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade – breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web that animals accidentally ingest. www.reusablebags.com


Change the filter in your air conditioning and heating systems
This will make your system cleaner, more efficient and save you money. Even better, sleep with an extra blanket in the winter and plant shade trees near the south facing portion of your home for the summer.


Install a tubular sky light in your home
There is nothing better than natural light and it is free! Your average annual savings could be $45. www.greenandsave.com


Buy a “Kill A Watt” meter
By simply connecting you’re appliances to this handy gadget, it will let you know how efficient they really are. You can buy one for under $30 on the internet.


Get rid of your lawn
In western states, 60% of water used in urban areas goes to irrigate lawns. Consider planting indigenous plants that are drought tolerant. You might even consider planting your own vegetable garden – you can’t get more locally grown than that and it needs less water. Also, use recycled mulch (free from many city community gardens) to conserve water. reduce weeds and improve your soil.


Collect rain water
Since we do not get rain very often, it is too precious to be running into the gutters and out to the street. Consider having a rain barrel or container to collect water from your downspout. Use this water to water your plants inside and out.


Install and use a programmable thermostat
No need to cool or heat the house when no one is home or certain times of the day. Save an average of $180 a year by programming your thermostat for when you really need it. Your (ROI) return on investment can be 156.6% in one year! www.greenandsave.com


Buy a water filter instead of buying bottled water
This will save you an average of $104 per year not to mention reduce the amount of plastic water bottles in the landfills. Go to www.greenandsave.com to learn more.


Use reusable water bottles and portable coffee mugs
Buy a couple and leave them in the car, office and your bag, so you are never without one. Eight out of 10 plastic water bottles used in the United States become garbage or end up in a landfill.


Double check those “Green” Cleaning products
Unlike for food products, the order of ingredients listed on cleaning products doesn’t necessarily represent relative amounts. So be wary of harmful ingredients and products that are marketed to be “natural, safe, biodegradable, or eco-friendly”. Go to www.greenseal.com, www.epa.gov/dfe, and www.greenerchoices.org to check on environmentally responsible products and ingredients to stay clear of.


Make less toxic, homemade cleaning products
Baking soda is a great carpet deodorizer and stove / counter top cleaner; white vinegar acts as toilet bowl deodorizer and fabric softener; and cream of tartar removes soap residue from shower stalls. Your local book store has great books on this subject. For other homemade cleaning ideas, visit this website.


Choose your fertilizers wisely
it is important to look for fertilizers that contain “slow release” or “natural-organic” ingredients if you have sandy or loose soil to stop leaching into the grown water or runoff. Fast-release fertilizers are best on heavy (clay) soils since the longer a fertilizer granule remains undissolved, the greater the chance of it being washed into waterways.


Have chop sticks will travel
I learned this simple tip at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Can you imagine how many disposable chop sticks are dumped into the landfills every year, so why not buy a reusable set of your own and keep them in your purse, car or office when heading out for sushi? To check out the “Greenest Museum on the Planet” with its living roof and global warming exhibit go to www.calacademy.org. It is truly inspiring.


Support Green businesses
Reward eco-friendly businesses and products with your patronage. This way you will be inspiring other companies to go eco-friendly too. For great green, gift ideas and products try: www.chooserenewables.com, www.ecoseek.net, www.legourmet.com, www.beanproducts.com, www.luxebamboo.com


Toni Guy, GREEN, GRI Realtor
Prudential California Realty
Co-Chair person of Ventura’s Earth Day Festival 2009, April 18th Promenade Park