Homeowner's Guide to Sustainability

Updated December 17, 2021
new home buying sustainability
The Lotus Haus, designed by Liquid Design (http://liquiddesign­­.net/work) is a home that is located in the Providence Plantation neighborhood in Charlotte, NC.
Frank Espich / Angie's List

Many of the natural resources that society takes for granted are not infinite, which means that eventually, they will run out.

These resources can also be damaged or polluted as a result of human actions. To help prevent this from happening, people can choose to live a sustainable lifestyle. Because one's home is a large part of their life, it's crucial that it's set up in a way that encourages sustainability. Accomplishing and maintaining this type of environment involves both knowing what steps to take and how to put them into practice.

Going Green Basics

The basics of going green involve looking at how one consumes resources such as energy, food, water, and fuel. By examining how these resources are consumed, a person can see how their behavior is wasteful and detrimental to the environment. Based on this information, one is able to effectively begin making changes that are better for the environment. In the home, sustainability is a basic part of going green. This involves recycling, growing one's own food, and conserving water and energy. Another basic component of being green is to buy products that are environmentally friendly and safe.

  * Homeowner's Guide to Sustainability (PDF)

  * Financial Literacy: Saving Green by Going Green

  * The Business Case for Going Green

  * Guide to Going Green

  * A Guide to Sustainability in College and in Life

Energy Conservation

Conserving energy can initially seem challenging considering that electricity is such a crucial part of everyday life. Fortunately, when one knows what to do, it can be relatively simple. Swap out old light bulbs for LED bulbs, which use less energy and can last for roughly 20 years. When doing laundry, wait until there's a full load and use the cold wash and rinse settings. One should also wait for a full load of dishes before turning on the dishwasher. Items that are not in use, including lights, computers and monitors, and televisions, should be turned off when they are not in use. Additionally, people can prevent phantom power loss by unplugging items when they are away from home. Another simple way to conserve energy with minimal effort is to use a programmable thermostat. When the home is occupied during the day, the thermostat should be set to 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter months and 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months.

  * Top Ten Home Energy-Saving Tips

  * Energy-Efficient Computers, Home Office Equipment, and Electronics

  * Energy-Saving Tips

  * No-Cost Ways to Save Energy and Money

  * Cost and Energy-Saving Tips for Renters

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

People live busy lives, and as a result, convenience is something that's highly important to many. The ability to throw away most of the things that one uses can be a reflex, but this creates a large amount of waste that can add to the pollution in the air, soil, and water or potentially sit in landfills for decades before degrading. To prevent this, people should reduce the amount of waste that they produce and consider whether the things that they throw away can be recycled, reused, or repurposed. Items such as glass, plastic, paper, tires, aluminum cans, and even batteries should be recycled instead of thrown away. Depending on the item, one may be able to leave it for curbside pickup, take it to a recycling center for cash, or deliver it to a designated drop-off location. After items have been dropped off or collected, they are sent to a facility where they are cleaned and processed to be made into a new product. As a result, recycling cuts down on new materials being used in addition to decreasing waste.

If an item cannot be recycled, there may still be the option to reuse it or repurpose it. Certain items can be cleaned and reused provided that they are in good condition. Some people reuse items themselves, or they may donate them so that others may benefit from their use. When used goods are put to use for something other than what they were intended for, it's called repurposing. Examples include turning a drawer into a pet bed or transforming an old wooden ladder into a drying rack for the laundry room.

  * Three Great Ways You Can Eliminate Waste and Protect Your Environment

  * Recycling Basics

  * Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Tips

  * Waste Management and Recycling Tips

  * Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Water Conservation

With a few changes, one can reduce the amount of water that their household uses. Installing water-efficient showerheads, faucets, and dual-flush toilets can save a homeowner thousands of gallons of water every year and drastically cut their water bill, as can efficient washing machines and dishwashers. The thoughtful use of water will also help when it comes to conserving energy, as the water heater will be needed less often and for shorter periods of time. Making use of greywater is also important for sustainable households. Greywater is a type of wastewater that has not gone down a drain and does not contain any form of sewage. Water that comes from the boiling of pasta, for example, is greywater, as is bathwater and water from rinsing dishes. It is safe for watering gardens or household plants.

  * Water Conservation

  * Household Water Conservation (PDF)

  * How Much Water and Money Can You Save?

  * Home Water Conservation Checklist

  * Fact Sheet: Water Conservation in and Around the Home


Sustainable landscaping involves practices that will reduce or eliminate any negative impact on the environment. These practices can result in the conservation of water, a reduction of run-off, enrichment of the soil, and less need for chemicals. Composting, which uses decaying organic materials such as twigs, grass, certain food items and scraps, and leaves to create a rich dirt-like substance, enriches the soil and allows beneficial soil organisms to thrive. In addition, compost also helps to make the soil naturally pest-resistant, which reduces the need for chemical pesticides. Selecting the right types of plants is also crucial to sustainable landscaping. Water-efficient or drought-resistant plants are a popular option. These plants are attractive and don't require frequent or excessive watering to maintain.

  * Five Steps for Establishing Drought-Tolerant Plants

  * Drought: Gardening Tips

  * Water Conservation in Gardens and Landscapes (PDF)

  * Composting: Recycling Landscape Trimmings

  * Composting Yard Waste at Home: Feed the Landscape, Not the Landfill

Just for Kids

For the most success, everyone in the household must do their part. This includes children. Parents can teach their kids sustainability by using a number of resources, including lessons and games online.

  * How Energy-Efficient Are You?

  * Recycle This!

  * Lesson: You Can Conserve!

  * Ways to Save Water