Making Sustainable Choices at Home and Work

Credit: Steven Leith

Credit: Steven Leith

The topic of sustainability has gained significant attention in the United States across the past decade. Many Americans are concerned about the state of our environment and what we are doing collectively to protect or destroy it. The United States is the second largest contributor of greenhouse gases, so it is our responsibility to understand and minimize the negative impact we have on the environment. This encompasses sustainability: choosing to minimize the damage we cause by respecting the world’s finite resources and embracing renewable resources instead. We can accomplish this through several basic ways on small and large scale.

For the average person, we may not individually have a large impact - but it adds up. This begins with a mindset of sustainability that leads to making wise decisions. At home we can choose to:

  • Replace old incandescent lightbulbs with LEDs to conserve energy and save ourselves money on our power bills.

  • Install solar panels and batteries to reduce our reliance on the power grid.

  • Reuse and recycle paper, plastic and glass

  • Minimize food waste with meal and portion planning

Making sustainable home improvements can be a costly initial investment, but will pay off in the long run. If you install solar panels and electric storage batteries, you can sell excess power to the grid. This accomplishes two things: you’re not relying on fossil fuel generated electricity, and neither is the person using the electricity you sold to the grid.

If you’re building or remodeling, choose products that are Energy Star Certified. What this certification means is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that it meets or exceeds their guidelines. Choose energy efficient doors or windows because buildings without them can lose heat very easily or allow too much light and warmth depending on the season.

Before upgrading or otherwise improving your home, consult a professional and consider investing in contractor’s insurance. This will minimize the possibility of excessive costs should your home suffer any damage during the retrofit or improvement. Installing a home battery unit like the Tesla Powerwall 2 will enable your household to become self-reliant electricity users.

These types of solar power systems also work well for small businesses. Embracing sustainability can be profitable for your company through reducing your reliance on public utilities, and thereby reducing your operational costs. Businesses of all sizes however have a responsibility to make sustainable decisions because as larger entities they have a more significant impact on our environment.

Choosing to make your workplace a little greener can also make it more enjoyable for your employees. Business owners can choose to:

  • Telecommute or teleconference with clients and employees to save money traveling and reduce the resulting carbon emissions.

  • Create digital policy manuals and company resources instead of physically printing them. If you do print, choose recycled paper. Similarly, order recycled or sustainable office supplies to lessen your environmental impact.

  • Implement solar power systems to reduce the impact of employee computer usage, as well as heating and cooling costs.

Sustainability matters because the choices we make can cause a lifetime of good or harm. We won’t likely have to suffer the consequences of our poor decisions, but future generations will. Embracing sustainable options is a worthwhile endeavor with a lasting impact. The United States has contributed greatly to the overall pollution and wastefulness of the world, but it’s not too late to change course. We can make decisions at home and work that collectively add up and can make a big impact on our environmental footprint.

David M Kirby

McCauley's Columns, Boise, Idaho, 83709

David McCauley Kirby, founder of McCauley's Columns. Writer and editor.