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The new year is thought of as a fresh start -- and if citizens of the world fail to take action to protect the planet, we might not have many fresh starts (or years ahead of us) left. That's why many homeowners are making a pledge to be more energy efficient and eco-friendly overall in 2020. But if you don't want to take on massive renovations or even sacrifice your relative comfort, can you still be sustainable?

The answer is a resounding "yes." By implementing some simple changes, you can make your home more environmentally sound, reduce your carbon footprint, and maybe even save some money in the coming year. Here are a few ways to go about it.

Add Some Green

If you want to go green, you might want to add green. That might mean spending some green up front, as well, but most people will tell you that it'll pay off in the end. Not only can landscaping add as much as 14% to your home's resale value, but it can potentially do wonders for your surrounding community. In fact, one tree can remove 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year, equalling 11,000 miles of car emissions! Although it may mean a bit more yard work for you to take care of, planting some trees can improve air quality. And if you're strategic about where you place your trees, you can provide some shade that will keep your home cooler and reduce how hard your HVAC system will need to work. Planting a vegetable garden can allow you to save money on groceries, as well, while focusing on native plants can support local wildlife (like our endangered and oh-so-important bees and other pollinators). Ultimately, a more self-sustaining life will translate to one with greater energy efficiency. This is also a great option for the almost 43 million renters in the United States who can't modify their homes to their liking.

Seal the Escape Routes

This section may sound extreme, but we're not talking about barring your windows and doors completely shut. Your home's doors and windows need to stay accessible to you, of course, but they need to keep air from being able to travel in and out. If there are gaps, you'll end up wasting energy. In fact, 30% of a home's heating energy is lost through its windows. That means you're paying extra for your HVAC system to work overtime. And since a good portion of your home is probably made up of windows, you'll have a bit of work to do to ensure your home stays comfortable and your bills stay low. Conduct an assessment of where your home seems drafty and seal or caulk any areas where air can escape. You may also want to call in a professional to take a look at your home's insulation, as air can easily escape through the attic, roof, or crawl spaces. These small adjustments can ensure the warm or cool air stays inside and the extreme weather stays out. Subsequently, you'll feel a lot better in your home and won't be stuck with unnecessary expenses each month. As a bonus, your heating and cooling system can work more efficiently and will likely last a lot longer.

Ponder Your Power and Appliances

Speaking of your heating and cooling system, it's time to consider your appliances -- and what's powering them. Although many American homes still rely on conventional utilities to supply electricity, solar panels are becoming more popular with each passing year. It's easy to see why, as cost reductions have made them far more accessible to the masses. If PV panels were installed on just 0.6% of the nation's total land area, these panels could supply enough energy to power the entire country. If you've been considering swapping out your utility company for solar panel installation, the new year might be a good time to finally take the plunge. Eventually, you'll be able to provide all the power you need and you'll end up saving money. This is essential given that 30% of Americans have bad credit. And because you'll probably be a bit more aware of the power you use, you'll likely end up being a bit more conservative with your usage.

Of course, if you're going to completely change your power supply, you might want to rethink your major appliances, too. Homes that are a bit older may come equipped with appliances, but these appliances may not meet current energy efficiency standards. This means you'll end up requiring (and wasting) more energy to use them. Some statistics show that a refrigerator that's a decade old can use twice the energy that a new model does! If you haven't yet switched to Energy Star models, there's no time like the present. You may even be able to take advantage of seasonal deals to save a bit of money -- though you'll end up lowering your energy bills as a result anyway.

Setting -- and keeping -- New Year's resolutions may not seem easy, but it's simpler than you think to make your home more energy efficient in 2020. By opting for eco-friendly practices, you can reduce your adverse impact on the world and reduce costs at the same time.

Published in For the Home

If you don't want to terrify your children, don't mention the prospect of recycling toys. Not long ago, I happened to be watching a video about a company that recycles broken plastic toys into children's furniture. My girls came into the office while I was watching it, and within minutes they'd created an entire story about "the toy stealers who come at night," subsequently starting to hide their own toys for fear of recycling. In reality, it's not a bad idea, and while I don't really know the data on it, I can only imagine the massive amount of toys and games that wind up in landfills each year. Now, ahead of Earth Day, Hasbro announced earlier this week that they're launching a toy and game recycling pilot program with TerraCycle. During the pilot program, consumers can collect and send their well-loved Hasbro toys and games to TerraCycle, who will recycle them into materials that can be used in the construction of play spaces, flower pots, park benches, and other innovative uses. In 2018, Hasbro is piloting the program in the contiguous U.S.

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