Image: Angus Fergusson
From renovation upgrades to seasonal touch-ups, these are some of the most important green initiatives to employ at home to reduce your carbon footprint — and also save money.
You already know you should turn off the lights when you leave a room and turn off the water tap when brushing your teeth, but there are other actions that are equally as important (and as easy) you should be doing to reduce your carbon footprint.
We chatted with carpenter Kate Campbell, who's an expert in eco-friendly upgrades, to learn about some of the ways we can be more energy efficient at home and even save money in renovations and utilities.
1. Learn about the rebates available to you.
Various programs and funds are available across Canada to help you reduce energy and also save money. For example, Green Ontario Fund offers rebates to homeowners renovating or updating their homes to be more eco-friendly. “You can take climate action and save money and make your house more environmentally friendly and sustainable,” says Kate, “so you’re not paying so much for utilities.” There are thousands of dollars worth of rebates for green upgrades to be claimed — it’s worth doing your research to find out what discounts are available to you.
2. Invest in a smart thermostat.
This simple home upgrade can be installed yourself and can reduce the cost of your utilities. The smart thermostat can be accessed through your phone, so you’re able to adjust the temperature in your home no matter where you are. “It can learn your living patterns and sleep patterns,” says Kate, “so you don’t have to worry about putting the temperature down at night.” Bonus: There are rebates available through the manufacturers of smart thermostats.
3. Leak-proof your home.
Leaky homes mean drafty homes, and drafty homes mean more energy is being used to control the temperature. “It’s easy to detect drafts in your home — you’ll feel cold air coming in,” says Kate, “and all it takes to fix the cracks is cocking the joints or sealing up the air leaks with a can of spray foam.”
4. Unplug energy hoarders.
Anything that is plugged in is using energy — even if that item isn’t used often or even turned on. Keep alliances unplugged when they’re not in use, and consider eliminating some — particularly older options that aren’t energy efficient, such as that extra refrigerator or freezer in your basement or garage. “It’s probably not Energy Star, it’s one that was replaced with a newer model,” says Kate, “and it’s drawing so much electrical current and energy.”
5. Ensure your home has proper insulation.
“Anything to do with the building envelope is so important because that’s what’s keeping your home insulated,” says Kate, “and that’s what’s keeping in the hot air in the winter and the cool air in the summer.” If leaky windows can’t be fixed, consider replacing them with new windows — there’s a rebate for them on Green Ontario, as well as a rebate for insulation.
6. Recycle the materials pulled from your house.
Instead of sending off the scraps from your reno to a landfill, consider donating them to a company like Habitat for Humanity. When renovating your kitchen and replacing your cupboards, carefully dismantle the uppers and lowers instead of busting them up, so they can be recycled and reused in a new home.
7. Use recycled materials where possible.
Do your research and find sustainable materials that can work in your home. Kate’s go-to: Using a composite board that’s 95% recycled plastic for a deck.