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10 Inexpensive Upgrades for a More Sustainable Home

Sustainability is more than just a buzzword. In today's world, it's a lifestyle. Sustainable homes reduce their impact on the environment while still meeting everyday needs. Whether you're planning to build your dream home or just make some environmentally friendly updates, here are 10 inexpensive upgrades for a more sustainable home.

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shutterstock_517898209 shopping for led light bulbsl i g h t p o e t/Shutterstock

Upgrade to LED

It’s time to give your lighting an upgrade. While LED bulbs may cost you a little more upfront, the bulbs use 75 percent less energy and last up to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. That means you’ll spend less on your electric bill and fewer bulbs will end up in landfills.

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shutterstock_478170754 solar panel roof energyguentermanaus/Shutterstock

Explore Solar

If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, explore solar options. Solar panels may be cheaper than you think and you may qualify for tax credits if you install rooftop solar panels on your home. Depending on your home’s solar productivity, you may even be able to add clean power to the power grid.

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shutterstock_707335804 native plantsDorothy Chiron/Shutterstock

Go Native

Adding native plants and trees to your landscaping is a smart move since native landscaping is low maintenance, meaning you’ll use less water for irrigation and native plants don’t generally require the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Native plants also help local wildlife and insects thrive.

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shutterstock_420977155 rechargeable recyclable batteriesMaxx-Studio/Shutterstock

Make Smart Purchases

When buying items for your sustainable home, choose wisely. For instance, choose rechargeable batteries which will limit the amount of waste that can’t be recycled. Reach for washable napkins instead of paper and look for biodegradable trash bags. Use reusable food containers for leftovers instead of plastic bags.

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shutterstock_686242249 compost vegetablesimray/Shutterstock


Put those produce scraps and yard waste to good use and start a compost pile! Not only will you keep items out of the landfill, you can create a rich soil that will help your vegetable garden and flowers. You’ll need both green and brown items for your compost, so think vegetable scraps, egg shells, leaves and coffee grounds.

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shutterstock_363811 fix leaky pipes bathroom sinkLisa F. Young/Shutterstock

Fix Leaky Pipes

If you have leaky pipes or faucets in your sustainable home, you’re wasting water. In fact, if your faucet dripped once every second of the day, it would take just over four hours to reach one gallon. Take a few minutes to make sure the pipes and faucets in your home aren’t dripping.

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shutterstock_503898127 recycle bin garbage canAleksandra Suzi/Shutterstock

Reuse and Recycle

Reduce the amount of waste your home sends to the landfill and recycle and reuse items whenever you can. For instance, try repairing that broken dining chair instead of tossing it. Make a recycling bin for items such as cardboard, plastic and cans.

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shutterstock_79153633 low flow shower headDmitry Bruskov/Shutterstock

Switch to Low-Flow

The average family uses 40 gallons of water a day just in showering, according to for a more sustainable home, upgrade to a low-flow showerhead which will use no more than 2 gallons of water per minute. Keep showers to five minutes or fewer to reduce your home’s water consumption even more.

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FH10APR_507_05_004 sustainable home collect rain water binsFamily Handyman

Collect Rainwater

For less than $100, you can build your own rain barrel and start collecting rainwater. Use the water in your vegetable and flower gardens. Since rainwater is naturally devoid of chemicals, it’s perfect for your lawn, gardens and potted plants.

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shutterstock_430417003 window treatments curtains lightSyda Productions/Shutterstock

Add Window Treatments

Curtains and blinds not only add to your decor, they help save energy. Look for window treatments that can help prevent heat loss in winter and help keep your home cool in the summer. Caulk and weather stripping around the windows can also help reduce air leakage.

Up next, check out these green home products to keep your home less toxic and more eco-friendly.

Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.