10 Tips for Efficient & Eco-Friendly Living

If greener is your goal, here are 10 simple changes from Apartment Therapy for the most efficient eco-friendly home makeover.

1. Rethink wood furniture.

When you're buying new wood furniture for your living space, look for certified sustainably harvested options. Buying local is also a wise choice: it means a smaller footprint, and it supports local artisans. If you're a fan of the warm-industrial look, reclaimed wood is earth-friendly! It directly reuses wood from previous construction. For the same reason, buying vintage pieces is preferable to purchasing new, especially if the piece is in good condition and won't need to be doused with spray paint. Most important, select furniture that's durable. Make changes that will last.

2. Check the tags. 

Natural fibers aren't always more eco-friendly than synthetic, especially after considering the amount of pesticides used in cotton production. Look for organic cotton fabric, which is grown without chemicals and colored using natural dyes. Wool from humanely-treated animals, linen and hemp are also some of the most eco-friendly natural fibers. For synthetics, check tags for recycled polyester, which some companies, including Patagonia, are making out of clear recycled water bottles to produce fleece.

3. Replace your paper towels.

Stock up your kitchen with more cloth dish towels and rags for wiping up spills. Check out Maxwell's top-rated dish towels and search for towels that are actually absorbent.

4. Save light. 

Most people already know that LEDs are better for the environment than incandescent bulbs. Plus, they can lower your electricity bill and last for more than 10 years. The only downside is that many LEDs give off a cool, blue-based light, rather than the warm lighting incandescents are famous for. To get the cozy glow, look for LED bulbs that emit a yellow-based light and offer several settings, such as Philips SceneSwitch ($9), which lets you choose between daylight, soft white and warm white.

5. Get scrappy.

If you enjoy a good crafternoon, start a scrap supplies bin where you can toss leftover odds and ends from your DIY projects. Rummaging through the bin before you head to the craft store could help save you money on duplicate materials. If you end up with lots of leftover, usable materials, consider donating them to a local school's art department.

6. Do a green clean. 

Your cleaning supplies cabinet most likely contains impressive collection of chemicals. If you're ready to break up with bleach, consider stocking up on a nice-smelling, natural alternative. Here are some examples:

7. Clear the air.

While investing in an air purifier is a sure-fire way to improve air quality in your home, the right houseplants can have a similar effect. Check out Apartment Therapy's list of 13 purifying plants, and turn your home into a jungle.

8. Clean up your recycling habit.

Even if you diligently throw paper and plastic into separate bins, when's the last time you checked what numbers of plastic your municipality accepts? Do you have to separate out cardboard? And do you need clear garbage bags? Recycling isn't as easy as it seems, and if you don't follow your town's rules, your recycling may end up getting tossed in with the rest of the garbage. Look up the regulations in your area, and then stock up on a sleek trash cans to contain it all.

9. Pick a better paint.

Most wall paints contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds), a type of solvent that helps paint spread evenly. As the paint dries, VOCs combine with other molecules in the air to create compounds, including the ones that cause headaches if you forget to open a window while painting. Even scarier, once dry, paint will continue to "off gas" for a few years. To prevent these dangers, shop for "Zero VOC" paints (the Home Depot carries lots of options, and this article from Real Simple lists out a few brands to remember), which are becoming increasingly common.

10. Warm the room. 

The cozier your home feels, the less tempted you'll be to turn up the thermostat. Follow these five draft-stopping solutions and browse our top tips for making your home warm and toasty.