How to Live a Green Lifestyle on a Budget

Eco-friendly living doesn’t have to be expensive. Watch this video for useful tips on how to live green in your home on a small budget, including:

How to Improve Indoor Air Quality on a Budget

  • Install a high quality HVAC air filter, and change it regularly.
  • Use vent fans in your bathrooms and kitchen for ventilation.
  • Grow houseplants indoors to filter out harmful VOCs.

How to Save on Cooling on a Budget

  • Plant deciduous shade trees on south and west sides of house.
  • Close blinds and curtains during hot summer days.
  • Install window film on sunny windows.
  • Raise thermostat in hot weather and wear cooler clothes.
  • Use ceiling fans for cooling when in the room.

How to Save on Heating on a Budget

  • Replace worn weather stripping around doors and windows.
  • Make sure you have plenty of attic insulation.
  • Seal any holes and cracks on the outside of your house.
  • Lower thermostat and dress warmly in cold weather.

How to Conserve Water on a Budget

  • Don’t prerinse dishes and run dishwasher only on full loads.
  • Turn off water when brushing teeth.
  • Install low-flow showerheads and take shorter showers.
  • Repair any plumbing leaks.
  • Replace older toilets with water saving models.

How to Save Energy on a Budget

  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs.
  • Turn off lights when not in room.
  • Turn hot water heater thermostat down to 120° F or less.
  • Insulate hot water pipes.
  • Dry clothes outside, rather than in a clothes dryer.

How to Recycle and Reuse on a Budget

  • Have designated bins for paper, plastic, aluminum, steel, and glass.
  • Find new uses for old items, rather than throwing them away.
  • Dispose of electronic devices, fluorescent bulbs, and batteries properly.

Read episode article to find out more.


This week, Today’s Homeowner is going green on a shoestring. We’ll look at some simple changes you can make to your home and your lifestyle that will help preserve the planet’s resources, and make the most of your household budget.

Some times in the rush to categorize things, we label something a trend, when really, it’s a legitimate concern that does need to be addressed. That’s unfortunately become the case with environmental issues in the recent years. Anything that addresses this topic is also labeled as part of the green trend. That’s especially true in the home building and home improvement industry where environmental impact is an issue with so many products and materials. Well, trends come and go, but I believe that green is more than a trend, especially when it comes to our homes.

With that in mind, we want to give you some ideas to help you live green, that add up to more than just a list of green products that you need to buy. There’s some good ones out there and hopefully there will be a lot more as the idea of green living gets traction in our society. But what we want to focus on this week are some simple ideas to change the way you live today, so the world will be a better place tomorrow.

Earlier this season, we started including a new segment called Thinking Green in each episode of Today’s Homeowner, and that’s exactly what this show is all about. Small changes in the way we do things that add up to big changes in water and energy efficiency, the conservation of natural resources, and the improvement of air quality.

Now, speaking of air quality, Jodie has a great tip to improve inside your home.

Sometimes, the simplest solutions are also the most effective ones, and that’s especially true when it comes to keeping the air inside your home clean. While there are lots of complex devices and systems being created everyday to do this job, you may already have one of the most effective ones right here in your home. The houseplant. How easy is that?

If you paid attention in science class back in middle school, you already know that plants convert carbon dioxide to oxygen through photosynthesis. That’s a plus since we all breathe oxygen, but what you might not know, is that many houseplants also filter out harmful chemicals from the air. Houseplants are great at this because most are tropical species that have adapted to survive in lowlight areas. That makes them very efficient at capturing light and processing the gases they need for photosynthesis. So they tend to absorb more gases, including the harmful ones. Things like benzene and formaldehyde are sometimes give off by building products and home furnishings over time.

Today’s greener products may reduce the use of such chemicals, but unless you’re building a new home or gutting the one you have, that’s only a small hope. Several of these guys may just be the answer. philodendrons, like this one, or even a spider plant or English ivy or bamboo palms, these are just a few of the varieties that do the best job that can filter the air. Two or three of these in the average size living room make a big difference, not only for the decor, but in the quality of the air you breath.

Even though most of those plants Jodi talked about require very little light, if you have plants, you’ll want some natural light, and that’s another area where you can make smart green choices. How often do you walk into a room and turn on the light without even thinking about it? In many homes, there’s enough natural light during daylight hours that we don’t even need electric light.

If you choose the right window treatments that don’t block out the light, you can even maximize that effect. Now things like shades or blinds can be pulled almost completely out of the way. And even when they’re closed for privacy, most still transmit some light through to the interior of your home. In fact, managing natural light is also a good way to help regulate your home’s temperature without using any energy at all.

During the daytime in window, open up those blinds or shades, especially on the west or south facing windows so the sun can help heat up the interior. At night you can close them to retain some of that solar heat, and the kind of heat generated by your furnace. In warm weather that same solar heat game can be a bad thing, adding a load to your air conditioner if you have one, and making you a lot less comfortable if you don’t have one. To remedy the situation, you can reverse the process we just talked about, and close the blinds during the daytime, but then you’d lose the natural light and the view.

Now changing your windows to new ones with low-E coating is one option, but honestly, it really doesn’t fit with our green on a shoestring theme. But adding solar window film to your existing windows is a much less expensive way, and it offers similar results. Now these films are applied to the inside of the glass, usually with a water activated adhesive, but they work to block or filter the sun’s rays coming through to the outside. That means a big reduction in solar heat games without blocking or obstructing your view.

Another really green way to solve this problem is to plant a shade tree adjacent to the south or west facing windows. If you chose a deciduous tree, the kind that lose their leaves in the winter, your windows will be shaded in the summer, and free to collect the sun’s warmth in winter.

No, don’t worry, I’ve not started cooking segments here in Simple Solutions, but I am using the microwave for home cleaning tips for greasy kitchen cabinets. The challenge is how to get the grease off the cabinet without affecting the finish. If you use a harsh cleanser or abrasive powder you can actually ruin the finish on the door itself. Here’s the trick that I’ve discovered that works really well.

Take a sponge and dampen it with a little water then microwave it for maybe 30 or 40 seconds and be sure to wear rubber gloves because it comes out pretty hot and steamy. Now you can use this and junction with some cleaner that has orange oil in it. Now the combination of the orange oil, which has citrus in it, which really cuts the grease, and the hot sponge will get the door clean in no time.

After you’ve done this, you want to make sure you do the frame of the door itself too, especially up here high. And then, just wipe it down with a paper towel. It might be hard to see on camera, but the door is absolutely squeaky clean at this point. And now, you’ve done, you’ve removed all the grease and used only half the elbow grease.

If you want to save on your utility bills and, hey, who doesn’t! Be sure to come back after the break.

This week, we’re looking at ways to go green on a shoestring. You know, little changes you can make, without a big investment that will add up to make a real impact when it comes to preserving resources and protecting our environment.

Earlier, Jodi showed us how plants can help us improve the air quality in our homes, but many people regularly overlook one of the best opportunities to improve indoor air quality, the return air filter for their furnace or air conditioner. If your heating and cooling system is working like it should, all the air in your home will pass through this thing at least four times per hour whenever the system is on.

A good quality air filter only costs just a few dollars than the cheapest one, but instead of only catching about 15% of airborne pollutants like the cheap ones do, the best ones will stop as much as 99%. So look for HEPA or carbon filters, and those with electro statically charged fibers for the best results. Then change these filters regularly, about once every three months. This will not only keep the air cleaner, it’ll also allow the blower in your system to work less, saving a lot of energy dollars.

You can also shave some fat from your heating and cooling budget by simply adjusting the thermostat a few degrees down or up. Keep your sweater on inside in the winter, and use ceiling fans during the summer. Every time you do this, you’ll be saving energy and money. Now to make the most out of the air you heat or cool, be sure that the perimeter of your home is properly sealed. Check for any gaps or cracks around the outside of your home and be sure the weather strip around doors and windows is in good, working order.

Now even if you have a newer home, it’s also a good idea to check the insulation in you attic or basement. The Department of Energy has specific recommendations for insulation levels in all regions of the country, and you can check out our website at for the most current information. Making sure your insulation levels are where they should be is one of the easiest ways for homeowners to maximize their home’s heating and cooling efficiency.

While your attic is also a good idea to check any heating and cooling ducts that run through these spaces, be sure that they’re completely sealed. A few dollars worth of foil tape and duct mastic will save hundreds of dollars worth of conditioned air that would otherwise be wasted.

Speaking of wasted energy, there’s some really simple changes you can make to everyday household chores that will collectively save a significant amount. And when it comes to chores, the kitchen is certainly king. Think about this. When you’re making a meal, and you turn on several stove burners and then maybe even the oven, too, you’re using a lot of energy. So try using a slow cooker more often. These things use much less energy, and a lot of recipes can actually be adapted to work with them.

By the way when you’re getting your ingredients, try to open the fridge and get everything all at once, because all of that opening and closing just wastes energy left and right. Now when it’s time to clean up, don’t both with prerinsing the dishes before they go into the dishwasher. Believe it or not, a recent Consumer Reports test found that it just isn’t necessary, and it wastes as much as 6,500 gallons of water a year.

And while we’re on the subject, your dishwasher actually uses less energy than it takes to wash a sink load of dishes by hand. Just be sure to wash full loads. Speaking of that, you probably also have heard that you should only wash full loads of clothes, too. Well, you’re right. And, you should also use cold water whenever possible because it makes a big difference.

But did you know that when you’re drying clothes, you should be careful not to overload the dryer. The clothes will take longer to dry, using more energy in the process. And, if you don’t clean out the ling screen regularly, your dryer can use 30% more energy just to get the job done. Of course, if the weather cooperates, the most energy efficient way to dry your clothes is on the line in the sunshine.

Even if you don’t use hot water to wash your clothes, you’re water heater still gets plenty of use. But there are a couple of easy ways you can reduce energy consumption here. First, lower the heater’s thermostat down to say 120 or even 115 degrees. And, wherever you have access, insulate the hot water pipes that are going to your faucets inside the house. Now these things alone can reduce your energy bill as much as 5%.

And make your water heater a little more efficient, two or three times a year, drain a bucket full of water from the drain valve at the bottom of the heater. It will be removing all of the sediment and hard water deposits that build up in the bottom of the tank, and reduce it’s efficiency and capacity.

Now, let’s check in with Jodi for a green Best New Product.

You may of heard this before, but many experts are causing mold the next asbestos. Just because of the health hazard and financial threat it poses. Mold can cause sinus infections, allergies and asthma. It can also damage your possessions, discolor your home surfaces, and in extreme cases, damage structural stability. Quite often, chemical cleaner with bleach or ammonia are used to get rid of the mold, but the problem is these same chemicals are toxic to us.

So how do you get rid of the mold? Well, the makers of Concrobium Mold Control right here may have the answer. It contains no bleach or ammonia, acids or volatile organic compounds. In fact, it was given the lowest toxicity rate possible. In addition to killing mold, it’s also an improved mold prevention solution. And since it’s odorless and has zero VOCs, you don’t need extra ventilation.

Just spray the effected area, and allow the product to dry to kill the mold or protect an area against an outbreak. For small areas, it comes in a 32-ounce spray bottle for just about ten bucks.

After the break, we’re making the most of the water we use and reusing everything else.

This week, we’re considering ways that you can make your household more green on a shoestring. And so far, we’ve looked at some simple ways to improve the air quality throughout your home, and small changes that can make a big difference in terms as the energy you use, as well as the utility bills you pay.

Another great way to keep down household costs and conserve resources is to reuse or recycle materials. By now, most of us know about recycling. We separate our old newspapers, soda cans and plastic bottles from the rest of our household trash and take them to a recycling center or maybe you but the out by the curb in a special container for pick up. This is a great way to conserve resources, because the recycled material can be used instead of harvesting or mining new materials.

That also preserves the energy that was initially needed to acquire those materials, but it doesn’t necessarily preserve the energy used to make it. For example, the plastic you recycle has to be melted down again before it can be used to make something new like say a new car bumper. It’s great that it doesn’t wined up in the landfill or that less material is needed to be mined from the ground, but it would be even better if it could used in its current state or something closer to it. That’s what we reuse is all about, and our homes are a great place to do it.

This is it a reuse, or salvage store. This one happens to be run by the local Habitat for Humanity, but there are thousands of operations like this all over the country. Some are run by charitable organizations like this one, and others are operated for profit. The thing they have in common, though, is that they take household goods and materials that otherwise would be trashed, and they sell them at a deep discount to be used again by someone else. Sometimes for the same purpose, sometimes for a different one. The important thing is both the raw materials and energy used to manufacture them into say cabinet, are preserved.

This cabinet came out of a recent bathroom renovation, and now it can be reused in another bathroom somewhere with a fresh coat of paint, or put to work as storage in someone else’s garage or workshop. Hmm that sounds familiar. Now in the case of demolition, any the lumber used to frame the building can be salvaged and reused. In fact, some of the coolest looking wood floors I’ve ever seen were made from reclaimed lumber. The point is, with a little work, old things can have a new life, even if they aren’t considered antiques. An old wood door might become a great new headboard. An old window can be a great new wall hanging. The only real limit, is your effort and creativity.

Danny is right. There is some cool things you can do with reused materials, but one of the easiest ways to conserve resources, is not to use them in the first place. Especially when it’s not absolutely necessary. For example, this plastic water bottle will be recycled so the materials in the bottle can be reused, but what if it were never made in the first place. Americans spend billions of dollars every year on these things. And the interesting thing is that in many cases, what they’re getting is no different from the water from a faucet in their own home.

Read the labels on some bottled water and you’re going to see that many come from a city’s municipal water supply, in spite of the fact that there’s a picture of a glacier or mountain spring on the front. Now, if you’re concerned about the taste or quality of water in your home, invest in a good quality water filter. If you do the math, it makes much better economic sense than buying dozens of these. And you eliminate the need to manufacture, transport and recycle the bottle.

Since we’re on the subject of water, let’s talk about how you can conserve it at your house. Now you may not think that one home can make much of difference, but an average U.S. family of four uses almost 150,000 gallons of water ever year, and very little of that is for drinking.

Start with your daily grooming habits. Change them. You can turn off the water while you brush your teeth or shave. You could take shorter showers. I know I wish my daughter would. The next thing to look for is leaks that constantly waste water. That little drip from a leaky faucet can quickly add up to thousands of gallons of water if you don’t correct it. A new washer, well it costs a few cents, takes just a few minutes to replace. Put that on your list for this weekend.

And while you’re at it, check the toilet for leaks. A toilet that constantly runs can waste up to 20,000 gallons a year, but you might never know it, so check. Just drop a little food coloring in the toilet tank. If the color leaks down into the bowl, you may need to replace the flapper in the bottom of the tank. If water is constantly running into the overflow tube, well inside the tank you just need to adjust that water inlet valve which is either on top of the tower or right at the bottom of the tank.

Now, if you want to save some water in the shower without giving up any time, Danny has a great solution in this week’s Thinking Green.

Did you know that showers account for 22% of individual water use in North America? Just imagine how much water could be saved if all the showers had low-flow showerheads installed. The newer models are ten times better, too, because they help reduce water waste but they don’t sacrifice any water pressure. In fact, some of them are so good you may not even know if you have one.

Here’s a simple test you can do before spending money that you don’t have to. Take a two quart saucepan, and place it on the floor of your shower, right in the center of the shower stream. With the shower running at full force, count how many seconds it takes to fill the pan. If it’s less than 12 seconds, you need a low-flow shower head.

Now, these will cost you anywhere from eight to 50 dollars, depending on the style, features, and the manufacturer. Hand held models will be just a little more expensive.

Don’t go anywhere, there’s more green on a shoestring coming up.

This week we’ve been covering some great ways to make your home more green on a shoestring. These are the kinds of things that cost very little or nothing at all, but can help make a real positive impact on the environment. The beauty of it is, is that many cases they’ll also have a very positive affect on your household budget, and no one will complain about that. Really the biggest demand they put on you is your attention to the way your home works and to the way you live.

Even though we haven’t talked about any major changes this week, or shared with you any new cutting edge green products, the things we’ve talked about are very worthwhile. The lifestyle changes will show us all exactly how our actions really do affect our environment, and it helps us gauge our level of commitment.

Hey, thanks for watching. We’ll see you next week.

What does every home need? More storage! Next week, we’ll show you some great ways to get it.


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