Green Home

We are a small family living in a typical suburban home built in the 1970s. In our quest to live more simply and sustainably, here are the “green” steps we’ve taken:

Made the following energy-saving changes:

  • Had a home energy audit performed, and we’re working to seal the many leaks
  • Replaced all of the appliances with energy-efficient models
  • Replaced the incandescent kitchen light with an energy-efficient halogen light/ceiling fan
  • Replaced all the thermostats with programmable models
  • Replaced incandescent lightbulbs with LED bulbs and CFLs (compact fluorescents) wherever possible
  • Changed computer settings to ‘hibernate’ or ‘sleep’ to save energy when not in use
  • Replaced six light switches with dimmers
  • Covered the ceiling AC vents with magnetic covers during the winter

Made the following heating/cooling improvements:

  • Added additional insulation in attic, in garage ceiling, and in exterior overhangs
  • Replaced the old aluminum windows with energy-efficient, Low E glass windows
  • Replaced the old storm door with an energy-efficient insulated storm door
  • Installed an energy-efficient evaporative cooler

Made the following changes in the kitchen:

  • Switched to phosphate-free cleaners and dishwashing detergent in recycled/recyclable packaging
  • Try to cook from scratch and use organic and local, sustainable foods whenever possible
  • Compost the kitchen scraps

Made the following efforts in the garden:

  • Built a raised garden from some new and some recycled materials, and grow an assortment of herbs and vegetables
  • Planted rhubarb, a currant bush, strawberries and blueberries in the front garden instead of a purely ornamental plants
  • Installed a bat house on the south side of our house to naturally reduce mosquitoes
  • Regularly compost leaves, produce scraps and other organic matter
  • Working to improve and reclaim the gardens by amending the soil with organic matter

Miscellaneous:

I’d love to hear about the steps you’re taking to live simply and sustainably. For more ideas, you might enjoy taking a peek at the Happy Simple Home Pinterest board.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

50 comments to Green Home

  • Laurie

    1. “Replaced the old carpeted floor in the office with sustainable bamboo flooring”

    — You can “reuse” the old carpeting in your garden. Cut to appropriate size…turn upside down (pile side down)…and you’ve created a walkway that weeds,grass etc can’t grow through.

    2. “Take reusable grocery bags to our grocery store”

    — Instead, give a helping hand at local shops. i.e. give these bags to local thrift shops, salvation army, or food banks. They can really use them.

    Just a couple of suggestions for you
    Keep up the good work
    Laurie

  • I want to hear more about the marbles in the bottle idea for the toilets. do you talk about this on your blog somewhere?

  • CDM

    We’ve started making our own laundry detergent and dishsoap. It’s eco-friendly and a lot cheaper. We use distilled vinegar as fabric softner and a rinse agent. We also use vinegar for all of our household cleaning. Also, after recently buying a home we replaced the shower head with a low flow head and put aerators on all of our faucets.

  • Layla @ A Green and Simple Life

    I have downshifted partly because I just wanted to, partly because of economic need (redundancy and a desire not to go back to the corporate world), and partly because I had become aware that the world is going to change whether we like it or not. Because of the economic crisis, climate change, peak oil etc.

    My list of how to live a greener and simpler life is …

    Spend less – only buy what you need
    Pay off the mortgage AND save more
    Cook from scratch
    Buy quality rather than quantity
    Stay at home more – it’s place for living rather than just somewhere to sleep and store stuff
    Travel less by car, walk and cycle more. Stay local.
    Learn to be mindful and appreciate what I’ve got
    Decide on long term goals, and then work backwards to work out medium term and short term goals
    Ensure good physical and mental health
    Make space in my schedule to do things I love to do
    Get involved in my community

  • Tram

    I like your tips of how to live a greener and simpler life. They encourage me to rebuild my life, a very simple life. So that i can have much of free time to enjoy the books i like, to walk freely under the green trees in the park, to look at the flowers, etc…

    Thanks for your sharing.

    Tram
    Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

  • Ronny Montbriand

    I have looked at eco-friendly alternatives, so far I have installed solar panels on my home but while looking for a electric car I find the cost doesnt justify it for me. While I am passionate about making green choices whenever possible it is up to people like you and I to spread awareness and let the companies know there is a demand. Your website looks popular and I think you can help influence society with your insight and eco tips. by the way I found your site by searching Our Green Path | The Eco-Friendly Steps We Took in Going Green | Happy Simple Living and you were the first result. So I think your website is a good platform to discuss ideas that are thought provoking and influence your readers to go green. – Good luck with your site, you deserve it! Please continue to talk about more eco-tips, every idea helps us get closer day by day!

  • Thank you! I just bought a house (a fixer upper) and need all the ideas I can get. The first thing I’m busy working on is my veggie garden made from my own home-made compost pile, which I’m very proud of. And no chemicals will be used on my lawn, garden or in the house. I’ve been using the most close to natural paint I can find from Sherwin Williams, called Harmony Paint (I’m pregnant with my 2nd so chemicals bother me). As we gut each room (awful wood paneling), I’m trying to convince my hubby to go with more bamboo and recycled products. And my last (and the thing I make the biggest deal over) is turning off the heat and ac except when it’s just too humid or too cold and open the windows. Fresh air is best!!

  • SO glad I found you! I’m walking a similar path, preaching ‘eco friendly tighwaddery and the fine art of substitution’ (using what you have instead of buying more ‘stuff’).
    Keep spreading the word, you’re doing a great job!

  • ebe8528

    I have gotten rid of petrochemical laden consumer products, especially those with “fragrance”. It pollutes the neighborhoods badly when people are using the toxic laundry stuff, like “dryer sheets”, fragranced laundry detergent, and “fabric softener.” Sadly, these products are now formulated to not break down, so they go into the waste treatment facilities and are ending up back into our water. Have returned to old fashioned and very effective laundry cleaners: small amount of unscented soap (many natural out there), NO fabric softener, NO dryer sheets, white vinegar added to wash sometimes to get rid of odors, and sometimes nothing but water and the washing machine get clothes clean.

    • Rune

      Sunshine is great for making your laundry fresher and even cleaner. If you can put out a laundry line I highly recommend it. Even works in the winter no matter how cold. You soon get used to a stiffer laundry (no softeners used here.) and the scent is soooo much nicer than the artificial fragrances.
      Try making your own homemade soap. It’s fun and you end up with something cheaper and exactly what you want.

  • Donna M

    i am a single mum now and renting now, so am starting a vege garden using organic open pollinated seeds from koanga gardens. I am using cleaning products I make myself from wendylsgreengoddess which is a great feeling. I have changed all the bulbs to energy efficient ones. I am making my own compost. And I am waiting to get permission for 3 chickens, which I will hopefully make a pen for from recycled items. I use much less of everything now and extend my dishwashing liquid so it lasts 3 times as long. And I find partly necessity and partly becauase I want to, I dont have a dryer and I spend less on groceries making most things from scratch. Hopefully the vege garden will be more productive and have fruit trees and blueberries etc in pots as well.
    Its a great feeling to at least start somewhere.

  • Thank you for sharing your green steps. We took some big green steps in our household too.

    * About a year ago, we started using freecycle.org. Freecycle is a simple way to give away stuff you no longer want, while keeping it out of the landfills and reusing the Earth’s resources——all for free. We’ve been able give away a ton of stuff to good homes (and get stuff too). It has been and continues to be a very worthwhile experience. Visit freecycle.org to find a freecycle community near you.

    * I took a no-hard-plastics pledge about 3 years ago after a nightmare I had about swimming in the ocean (for more about that, go to thecatwho.wordpress.com and search for “I had a dream” and “Plastic, plastic everywhere” posts). We create much less trash and save money at the same time. I used to buy all kinds of prepared foods in hard plastic, such as hummus, cottage cheese, yogurt, salsa, pesto, etc., so now we make them from scratch; find sources in sustainable packaging, like glass; or do without. I get personal care and household products in the bulk section at my health-food store, refilling existing plastic bottles; or find and support companies that sell their products in glass or cardboard. The pledge has made me think more about what I buy and has been quite an adventure. (Removing soft plastic from my life in whatever ways I can is next——but much harder to do.)

  • Andy Banks

    Great list. Very simple steps that anyone and everyone can do. But, you dont seem to be doing anything about water conservation. Again, just a few simple steps can save a lot of water and a lot of money.

  • Jen

    Some really good ideas here. I will echo some of the comments – homemade laundry soap, especially. But, I would highly discourage anyone from using old carpet in the garden!!! Many years ago we moved into a house that had layers of carpet put down outside, and it was the most awful mess you can image trying to pull up disintegrating carpet. It is nasty!

    Because of aesthetics and sometimes pride, something we don’t see mentioned often is not replacing your car every couple of years, especially if you’re not replacing it with a hybrid. Much pollution and waste could be prevented if we didn’t need so much new stuff all the time. The same goes with clothing.

  • Shirley Branham

    I grew up on a hobby farm, growing most everything in a garden you can think of. So glad to see others starting to do the same.

  • Paula

    Some of the things our family does: shop at Goodwill, Salvation Army and yard sales. We also have gotten rid of many paper products in our home and use cloth diapers and cloth mamapads– http://clothmamapads.com/ . We cut each other’s hair. A good investment is a sewing machine to make and repair items. Darning sox is a lost art, but can save money too. I recently found a mans 5X denim shirt at Salvation Army and made 3 little girl dresses from them for the cost of $2.

    • My husband and I are building a coffee house without going into debt. We shop at estate sales to get the things we need. The couches in our coffee house are awesome and we didn’t pay money them. Instead, we worked for them. I also got all my clothes, purses, dishes and other household items by either exchanging work for them, or buying at estate sales.

      We started out living in our car, with nothing. And with very little money involved, now have a coffee house and have simplified our lives so much that I don’t miss my old life of shopping for every thing new. I lost everything, and I mean everything! It sounds strange to say this, but it was the best thing that could happen to me. I learned we can live on next to nothing and still have praise in our hearts for the Lord.

      • eliza_cross

        Colleen, I love your story. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing it, and best wishes for much success at the coffee house!
        xo,
        Eliza

  • Keith Moore

    We’ve just gone down the whole heating/insulation route:

    New thermal efficient windows, cavity wall insulation, extra insulation in the loft and blocked up any gaps. Decided to stop using the underfloor heating in the kitchen as it was costing a fortune and just seemed a waste.
    There’s so much you can do but it also has to fit in with your current lifestyle, so i don’t see a hybrid car in works just yet but next on the agenda is a big drive towards reducing the amount of household waste we produce to around 50% of what it is now

  • I am happy just to have found three worms in the parking lot to start out my homestead. I put them in a very large flower pot and I’ve been feeding them my kitchen scraps. I felt sorry for them because of winter and brought the pot inside but now I’m regretting it. There are fruit flies! Anyone know how to have an indoor worm composting system?

    Next step is to get started on making a square foot garden for salad greens. I eat so much junk food because its cheap. I’m going to take a week’s worth of junk food money and put it towards a 4×4 garden.

    As much as I want to say I’m a homesteader, I’m not. I have to work into this. It’s a whole lot of work and going to a fast food restaurant all the time seems cheaper but I am overweight now because of the bad foods I eat.

    So, my goal this year is to plan my homestead, starting with composting and making a salad garden. (Baby steps!)

    • Find some red wigglers. Little red worms that eat their body weight in food scrap every day. Place your compost in a sealed yogurt container and let it ferment under the counter for a couple of weeks. Yes it will be a slimy mess but if you then feed ti to the worms they will devour it almost instantly. Keep the worms in a larger rubbermaid bin. You can use peat moss or even shredded paper as bedding for them. No need for a lid as the red wigglers do not like light and will stay under cover. If you put a lid on, expect them to be all over the lid when you open it. Red wigglers multiply like mad as long as there is a food supply but will reduce in numbers quickly when you stop feeding them. After a year or so you will have a container full of worm droppings aka humus aka fertilizer to spread on your garden or indoor plants. I did that while living in an apartment. It works.

    • Kate

      I have had compost bins in my basement with the red wigglers in them–but beware– there are a few things you have to do– make sure that you drill or punch holes around the top upper edge of the the bin– worms live under ground, but they do need air or they will die. I also drilled holes in the bottom of the bin to let the water out, and use a same sized bin with some blacks of wood in it to keep the inner container out of the water. The black water that drips from the compost is healthy for indoor plants– but has a pungent odor. To set up my worm bins I mixed peat moss, water and some shredded newspaper. I also added about 2 cups of sand. I mixed it up until it was mist. When I add scraps and peels to my compost, I dice it pretty small, and use a large cooking spoon to mix it in with the existing compost. This cuts down on gnats, because it’s not just sitting on top. To prevent the gnats–I found some netting material that I fold over about four times and place on top of the compost. I have to fold back the netting each time I add new diced scraps, but it pretty much eliminated the gnat problem. Be sure that you have hols for your worms to breathe or they will die! I learned this when I pt some worms in a container to help a friend start a compost bin. I forgot to poke holes in the top, and they were dead by the time I arrived.

  • George

    I adore your tips, they inspire me to live better life. Thanx!

  • Lauren

    As aforementioned, I have to reiterate, PLEASE do not put carpet outside-ever. It is such a disgusting mess to clean up. When we moved into our house we spent an entire summer trying to rid our backyard of orange tufts of shag carpet. There are still tufts of it under the flower beds and sod. It smells awful and I can only imagine the chemicals that leach into the ground.

  • Jenet@VerticalGarden

    Wow! Your idea is great. I’m an avid supporter of Go Green!
    I have a suggestion for the garden:
    install vertical garden into interior spaces and bring the touch of green into indoor spaces.

  • Sandi

    Great information on this website. Here are a few of my tips: No home phone bill anymore-we have ooma.com box which runs off DSL. We get movies from the library for free. Costco for toilet paper, dog food, shred cheese, milk etc. Freecycle.org is great to give and get stuff for free. Love resale shops-check for 1/2 off days. We have a Reverse Osmosis system to filter our drinking water and use stainless steel or chemical free rewashable bottles. Love vitacost.com for healthy food, vitamins etc. The best disinfectant is hydrogen peroxide and apple cider vinegar in two seperate spray bottles-great for counter tops etc. I check every few years different companies to save money for Insurance/TV/Internet/Cell phone services. To help you save alot of money in the winter=for laundry=colors and darks=I dry for 5-10 minutes and take out immediatley and lay over something to stop wrinkles-then I hang on hangers on a rack-very low gas bill when the winter gas price is high. I don’t do this in the summer since gas price is low. Carpet has formaldhyde-don’t ever use in a garden.

  • mindy

    anyone have a good laundry detergent ‘recipe’. i love all these ideas, so glad i found this site. always looking for ways to save, live healthy and make life as simple and happy as can be for my family.

  • Allegra

    Just found your site! I have a lot of respect for you! I am not even close to being as green as you… but I do try to eat healthy, re-use things, and live simply! Hopefully I can learn a few things from you!

  • Donna

    For granite counter tops, isopyol alcohol and dish soap mix. Reuse the same spray container. For bathrooms, vinegar, lemon, and reuse same container. My goal is nothing goes to the landfill in my house. I find a way to reuse, recycle, or give away.

  • Enjoyed finding your blog – a friend sent me the link to your yogurt recipe…I’m bookmarking it!

  • Jessica

    Hi I just stumbled upon your blog and love it! I too am beginning my quest for more sustainable living. I have been making my own goats milks soaps for my family and I believe that is what got me. I love them so much more than store bought! I make my own laundry detergent and softener now-love it. I have just begun canning everything I can fit into a jar….and my cupboards are bursting! I recently found a recipe for all natural handmade lavender salve that I have replaced Neosporin with and also doubles as eczema and dry skin creme. I crochet my own market and shopping bags….love them, they are so much prettier than reusable shopping bags too!
    I have recently found a website regarding foraging the wild for edible plants and such and am very interested in trying it…(my husband thinks I’m nuts with this idea btw)..
    Oh, one more thing, I refuse to buy wash cloths and sponges and dishtowels anymore…I crochet my own out of cotton yarn!! They are great and pretty up my kitchen too!

  • Josh Cooper

    This is such an awesome post!!! It’s so nice showing these steps and what you did with WHAT YOU HAVE. Not like these people saying we need to move to a 3sqft house in the middle of the woods. Thank you for the information and the detail you put into this, this is just awesome!

  • Jim

    Hey Eliza,

    I love the whole concept of your site. Happy Simple Living:)
    Isn’t this what life is all about? In a world where people are constantly striving to have more, more money, more things and then bigger and bigger things it’s a breath of fresh air to hear simple living and with simple living always follows happiness.

    Blessings,

    Jim

  • Producing more while consuming less. That is our mantra as we develop sustainable lifestyle strategies at http://www.kandf.ca

    Living simple and frugally is a huge part of sustainability. Wonderful to see you promote these concepts.

  • Jill Thomas

    Thank-you for your inspiring blog!!!

    We are endeavoring to become a Sustainable Family! Meditation and Time To Be are so important! This is extremely valuable information.

    Thank-you!!

  • Anne

    Love these tips! My husband has installed a PureWash laundry system that plugs into our washing machine. It somehow converts our water to hydrogen peroxide and cleans our clothes without laundry detergent. It may use a little more electricity, but I like that we aren’t putting any phosphates into the water table.

  • I applaud the way you have taken so many steps for a more eco lifestyle, if everyone took just some of your tips and implemented them the world would be a better place

  • Celeste McFall

    What I truly like about your site is that your actions are do-able and fairly easy to implement. I grew up in the late 60’s and 70’s with a mother who was Green before there was that moniker. She had learned from her grandmother, who, during the depression, was forced to go green to feed her family. My mom taught me how to garden, re-use things, shop second hand, can, dehydrate, and use just things in ways to cut costs. Instead of dust clothes, we used worn out socks. To clean the windows, we used vinegar and newspapers. Keep up the great work, and keep blogging!

  • Great tips in this post -especially the suggestion about insulating your home. Pay close attention to the attic/roof areas – insulating these areas is key to saving energy costs and increasing the temperature comfort of your home.

  • Dallas

    Shopping at Goodwill is a great idea because so many clothing articles go to waste without fully being used. Good blog.

  • GinnyZ

    Reading all these wonderful posts brought back the memories and excitement I felt when cleaning out tributaries to the Cuyahoga river on the very first Earth Day. I have always thought of myself as an advocate and educator of environmental health, but in light of the sheer numbers of posts that have been shared by this group, I feel very humbled. The internet generation is making a real difference for good in promoting sustainable, healthy living. Thanks and keep up the good work, Eliza.

  • Jean H

    i, too, wanted to live more conscientiously and consciously.
    after the empty nest boomeranged back into full…we were eating soooo much yogurt.
    i couldn’t stand all the plastic yogurt containers.
    i remembered when i was an au pere in paris in the 70’s, that my host fam made yogurt every other day for their fam.
    i researched online and bought a maker that 2 sizes of lids: one lid fits over small glass jars and the other is a big lid for a big bowl. we all adore doing this! and it’s chemistry in action, too!
    i would think that parents of young children would love this!

  • Lots of great tips here. Just think how much of a difference it would make if everyone did even half of these.

    The one I’d never heard about before is the bat house to reduce mosquitoes. How do you set up a bat house? I wouldn’t know where to even begin.

  • Nick Tedesco

    Great tips Eliza. I’m personally a fan of buying local and organic foods to cook as well. I’m also a big proponent of residential solar power. Word is getting out about how affordable it is now.

  • Marla

    Great blog – thank you! ¶ Anyone know how to safely & effectively seal or wax a linoleum floor without using commercial products? Our foyer’s linoleum is NOT going to be replaced anytime soon, and, although we clean it (constantly, it seems!) I’d like to be able to protect it, make it easier to clean quickly, and keep it at least a little shiny ….WITHOUT using any chemicals. I’ve replaced all my other cleaning/laundry products, but this one has me stymied. Help? Thanks!
    P.S. Any way these comments could be shown in reverse date order so that 2011’s are not at the top? If not, then just ignore this question. 😎

  • I was inspired to read this blog. It has all the ideas to get started on how to have a simple living. Wish you all the best with your family.

  • Jay

    Great tips! Sustainable homes and kitchens are a priority, so looking forward to following more of your blog.

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