Going Green at Home

As soon as President Obama moved into the 132 room White House he met with white house staff to discuss what could be done to conserve energy and reduce the carbon footprint of the mansion.

For example, plans are in the works for housekeeping staff to use greener cleaning supplies.

So how can you in your home follow the example of the Obama’s? Here are few tips to get you on the Green Road:

Saving Water

Did you know that 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable? Another 2% is locked in ice caps and glaciers. That leaves just 1% for agricultural, residential, manufacturing, community and personal needs.

About 346,800 million gallons per day of freshwater and 61,200 million gallons per day of saltwater were used by the nation’s homes, farms, and industries.


  • Repair leaks
  • Run faucets only when necessary
  • Use plugs in sinks, tubs and baths
  • Rinse razors in a filled sink rather than under water
  • Install low-flow faucet aerators
  • Keep showers under five minutes
  • Install low -flow showerheads

New showerheads deliver 2.5 gallons of water per minute; older showerheads can deliver as high as eight gallons per minute.

  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth

This can save a family five to ten gallons of water per day


  • Use warm or cold settings on your washer

More than 80% of the energy used by a washer is used for heating water

  • Energy star rated washers that have a water factor at or lower than 95, use 35-50% less water and 50% less energy per load.
  • Consider a washer with a high speed spin cycle

Removing water from clothes in the washer uses 70 times less energy than doing so in the dryer

  • Hang clothes outside instead of using a clothes dryer


  • Do not let faucet run for washing or rinsing
  • Prewash dishes only when absolutely needed
  • Run an automatic dishwasher only with full loads
  • Use the extra-long prewash and scrub cycles on the dishwasher only when necessary

A dishwasher uses 5-15 gallons of water per load

Around the House

  • Install an instant water heater
  • Insulate water pipes
  • Use a broom, rather than a hose to clean sidewalks and driveways
  • Close the damper when fireplace is not in use
  • Make sure the air conditioner compressor-condenser is shaded by a building, fence or plantings

Lawn and Garden

  • Plant natives or drought tolerant ornamental grasses
  • Avoid watering lawn and plants during the hottest part of the day: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

You will lose 50% of water applied if you water garden during the hottest part of the day

  • Group plants together based on similar water needs
  • Turn the water off at the faucet to prevent leaks
  • Use an alarm clock or timer as a reminder to shut off sprinklers

Left unattended a garden hose can waste as much as 600 gallons of water in one hour

  • Leave grass clippings on the lawn

Grass clippings will decompose and add nitrogen to the lawn

  • Use organic mulches around trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables to reduce evaporation


  • Turn off lights when leaving a room
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)

If every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an Energy Star qualified CFL, in one year it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to those of more than 800,000 cars.

Heating and Cooling

  • Keep filters clean
  • Turn heating or cooling down if you are going to be away
  • Set thermostat at lower temperature at night

A night time setback of 10 degrees may save as much as 7% in fuel

  • Use energy efficient air conditioners and water heaters
  • Switch off computers and printers when not in use

Try to do at least one green tip a day and get on the Green Road like the Obama’s.

About the Author

Ron Wolford http://web.extension.uiuc.edu/cook/staff/rwolford.html, Extension Educator Urban Gardening/Environment
University of Illinois Extension at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, 3807 West 111 Street, Chicago, Illinois 60655, 773-233-O476


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