Do These 8 Things NOW to Make Your Winter Eco-Friendly

When John and I started realizing the impact we have on our environment - both global and local - we immediately started making small changes in our daily lives to eradicate the 'problem spots'. It was easy at first, especially because in the spring and summer we are more active, and those little changes like walking to our destination or composting our food waste were convenient for the season.

Now, it's winter. And in Iowa, winters can be brutal and unforgiving. It's hard to keep up with the normal eco-friendly things, given the crazy weather patterns that make things unpredictable. However, all is not lost! There are still several things each and every one of you can do TODAY to make your home a little less stressful on our environment. Here are just eight of the easiest and most convenient:

1. Program your thermostat to temperatures your family can deal with while they're home (for us, it's 64*), and a few degrees cooler while you're all out or sleeping. We set our thermostat to 57* when we are gone during the day (from about 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.), and at 59* at night (from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.). We program our thermostat to turn back on at 5 a.m. so the house is warmer when we roll out of bed.

Quit yer bellyachin' and throw an extra blanket on the bed. And, it's winter. So you should be wearing sweatpants and socks anyway.

2. Got a few rooms in your house that you don't use as much? A spare bedroom? An office? Shut the heat vents and close the door! Don't heat a space that you don't use. Our spare bedroom and office are both 'shut down' for the winter, since we don't use them as much. Granted, I use my office daily, but only for a few hours at a time.

And, as you can see by this flattering photo of John, we keep a few blankets in the living room for warmth. Plus, there's always a pooch nearby. If that fails, we have a small space heater with a timer and thermostat that we can tote from living room to bedroom to take the chill out of the air.

3. Don't stop composting just because it's winter! Keep a bowl on the counter for organic scraps that you can toss in our outside compost bin at the end of the day. Or, better yet, start vermicomposting in your basement, closet, or garage.

4. Schedule a home energy audit. There are so many benefits to doing this NOW. For one, most energy companies will do this for free or at a very low cost. We had an energy audit done three years ago, and it was free. AND, any energy efficient repairs that we made within a year of the audit earned a rebate from the energy company (in addition to other 'normal' energy efficient discounts). Our energy audit took about an hour and a half, and the expert went through our home, inside and outside - top to bottom - room by room, and gave us a detailed summary of the things we were doing well, and the things we needed to change.

5. Change the settings on your washer and dryer! If you're like me, you are probably a little bummed in the winter, because you can't line dry your clothes outside. Since you're likely using your dryer more this winter, take a minute to do two things to reduce your energy consumption while doing laundry.

First, use the fastest spin available on your washer. It will get more moisture from your clothes, which will cut down on dryer time.

Second, use the moisture-sensing (or 'auto dry') setting on your dryer, which will make the dryer shut off when the clothes are dry, reducing excess dryer run-time. I don't have this setting on my dryer, so I set the temperature to a medium heat and choose the most appropriate dry time for the type of load.

6. Do you have a deep freeze? Me too. Make sure that bad boy is full! Why? Because a deep freeze runs more efficiently when it is full. Basically, there's less space in the freezer to trap warm air when you open and close the door. The emptier the freezer, the more warm air it retains when you close the door and harder it has to work to cool the air back down.

I get it, though. Sometimes filling that freezer is easier said than done. So do what you can with what you have. No worries.

Clearly, my deep freeze isn't full to the top, and we have some build-up around the top to prove it. Our goal is to empty this deep freeze by spring and thaw it out. I really want to give this bad boy a deep cleaning!

7. 'Tis the season for FOOD, and my favorite: Leftovers! Every time John and I get together at my parents' house for a holiday dinner, we bring some reusable to-go containers to take home some leftovers. Not only is this economical, because I'm getting a free meal that I won't have to prepare (double bonus!), but we don't have to worry about saran-wrapped paper plates of taters and gravy. Reusable containers are sturdier and greener. Booya.

8. Use sand on slipper sidewalks, not 'salt'. That so-called salt you are putting on your sidewalks is chemically enhanced; it's not real salt! Plus, it's hazardous to pets (it can get in their paws or poison them if they eat it) and to the soil around the walkways. Sand is just as effective, not to mention chemical free. Our city compost facility even has a small sand pile for city residents, although it goes fast, so we have to get there in the fall to stock up on a few buckets full.

What are some other tips for greening up your home when the temperatures drop? I'm interested to see what you guys do during the winter-time, especially!


  1. Thanks for the tips! I will have to try those washing/drying settings. I keep the temp low during the day but when my husband's home, it's like thermostat war. He turns it up, I turn it down when he's not looking, etc:)

    1. Ha! My husband might win the battle, but I'll win the war :)

  2. And with an old house, can I just mention "draft dodgers?" We used to have towels rolled up at the base of every window and door (before we replaced them) and we've plasticed our windows before, too. Our first little house was so not-air-tight that when the heat was on, I could see the plastic billowing outwards!

    1. I came home from a meeting one night a few weeks ago and John had rolled up a towel for the bottom of a door - amazing how much it made a difference! I think it looks a little trashy, so I'll see if I can get my sister to make a few draft dodgers.

  3. I only use the dryer for sheets, towels and white socks all yr. I have a drying rack and a few garment hanging racks (kind of like the ones in department stores) that I use all yr too. The only time I use hot water for laundry is the whites (everything else goes cold), always cold rinse on everything. One more thing, you can fill empty containers/bottles with water to fill the unused space in your freezer! Happy Thanksgiving all!!

  4. Nice tip, Kelli. I didn't know that freezers run more efficiently when they're full. :-)

  5. Great list! We use to keep our house about the same temperatures as well until we had kids and now I think it is my husband who wants and needs it warmer in the house... And I'll agree with Katie - the door draft stoppers are a must for any door leading to a porch for example that doesn't have heat (it seems like every old farm house has one).

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