With spring comes the season of fresh starts, and oftentimes, new homes. We all know moving can be a bit stressful—the packing, the boxes, the backaches. On the other hand, moving into a new space—whether it’s a house, an apartment, or a dorm room—presents an ideal time to set new habits for living sustainably and being mindful about your health, the decisions you make in and around your home and your overall impact on the planet. Small changes can make a big impact. Here’s how:
The kitchen offers some delicious opportunities to be mindful, especially when it comes to eating and food shopping locally. According to Michigan University’s Center for Sustainable Systems, “eating all locally grown food for one year could save the GHG [greenhouse gas] equivalent of driving 1,000 miles.” Not to mention, local food is picked closer to peak sweetness and ripeness. Yum.
To eat more seasonally, try signing up for a CSA and shopping at your local farmer’s market. Many cities have year-round markets, and seasonal eating actually saves you money because you’re buying food at the moment its supply is most robust, so it’s cheaper to harvest and distribute. If you’re a college student or new in town, shopping at the farmer’s market can also be a great way to connect with your new community. Don’t forget to bring your re-usable shopping bags.
Here’s a few other healthy and sustainable ideas to inspire you in your new kitchen:
- Switch to a BPA-free water bottle.
- Clean new kitchen surfaces with a biobased surface cleaner.
- Stock up on cloth napkins that can be washed and re-used.
- Soak dirty dishes with a biobased dish liquid instead of rinsing while scrubbing to save water.
- Invest in Energy Star appliances if possible.
The Living Room & Bedroom
Nothing brightens up or personalizes a new living room or bedroom like a fresh coat of paint. Choose a low-VOC paint to minimize your exposure to chemicals of concern that can be present in traditional paint—including some that have been linked to negative health effects.
If you’re able to, upgrade your windows. You’ll improve energy efficiency, save money, and may even be eligible for a federal tax credit. Also think about a programmable thermostat, which is easier on the planet and puts money back in your wallet. Consider this: a thermostat programmed 7-10 degrees cooler than normal for eight hours a day (try it while you’re sleeping or when your house is empty), can save you up to 10% on your heating and cooling costs. Many employers—including Seventh Generation—will even support green-minded, energy-saving investments for their employees with rebates or reimbursement, so check with your employer.
If you share a busy living space with others, try keeping a botanical disinfectant spray on hand for quick cleaning. Seventh Generation’s disinfectant sprays kill 99% of household germs. Even better, there’s no rinse required, so they’re a breeze for anyone to use.
Finally, bring in some nature. Plants brighten things up, and many could even have health benefits. For instance, according to research done by NASA, Spider Plants and Peace Lilies can improve indoor air quality by helping filter toxins out of the air. Other great additions are Ferns to help raise indoor humidity and Lavender because of its lovely scent and calming properties.
Some other healthy and sustainable tips for these areas:
- Install new air filters when you move in and set reminders for when to change next.
- Use smart power strips.
- Switch to long-lasting LED lightbulbs.
- Invest in energy-saving insulated curtains to help trap in warmth during colder months or block out summer sunlight.
The Bathroom & Laundry Room:
Did you know that 47% of the average family’s total water usage happens in the bathroom? And according to the EPA, nearly 30% of that water goes right down the toilet—literally. If you can swap out appliances, look to cut back on water waste by installing a high-efficiency toilet, which uses only 1.28 gallons per flush, far less than many older toilets that may use up to 5 or 6 gallons per flush. An even easier way to save water is to switch out your existing showerhead for a WaterSense approved showerhead, which uses no more than 2 gallons of water per minute.
Whether you’re doing laundry in your home, in the dorm, or at the local laundromat, look for a laundry detergent powered by plant-based ingredients to tackle tough stains. Also consider buying concentrated detergent, which comes in a smaller bottle that uses less plastic to produce. Try to wash only full loads of laundry, and consider washing your clothes in cold water. Most of the energy used to do laundry goes into heating the water, but many plant-based laundry detergents work well in cold water too. If you live in a dorm or co-op, spread the word to others and see if you can start a cold-water revolution.
When you move your clothes to the dryer, remember to clean your lint filter to maximize your dryer’s effectiveness. Or, consider air drying some of your clothes on a drying rack or clothesline.
Have fun exploring these and other ways to make your new space healthy and sustainable. Setting some purposeful new habits will make your move more fulfilling, and remember—even small changes can make a big difference for our generation and beyond.