Sustainable Home: Practical projects, tips and advice for maintaining a more eco-friendly household

Sustainable Home: Practical projects, tips and advice for maintaining a more eco-friendly household

by Christine Liu


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780711239692
Publisher: White Lion Publishing
Publication date: 10/04/2018
Edition description: New
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 305,067
Product dimensions: 6.70(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Christine Liu is author of the blog and YouTube account Snapshots of Simplicity, a diary and guide to living simply and sustainably. She has a degree in Industrial and Packaging Technology from California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, and was also a H&M Sustainable Packaging Challenge Fellow of the DO School based in Germany. She lives in San Jose, California, where she works full time at Cisco Systems as a Sustainable Packaging Program Manager, and is also a global co-founder of Cisco's employee organization called The Green Team Network. Outside of her blogging and work efforts, Christine drives community initiatives in regards to zero waste living and speaks at local schools and organizations about living a sustainable lifestyle.

Read an Excerpt



When you first enter your home, there's a high likelihood that you will walk straight into the living area. It's here that the widest range of activities take place; whether that's relaxing on the couch as you read a book, catching up on the latest television series, or entertaining visitors. Some of the most memorable occasions I've had with family and friends have taken place in our living rooms – it is where we come to gather and socialize.

As an area of the home filled with social activity, the living room is likely to have an array of different types of furniture, decorative pieces, and electronic devices. While we walk through the most common activities and objects associated with the living room, you'll begin to notice that, like in all other rooms in your home, these activities and objects have an associated impact on the planet. For example, there's a good chance that the living room sees the largest use of artificial light – with lamps lighting up your night-time rituals – as well as electronic devices used for your entertainment. Both will contribute significantly to your electricity usage.

Being intentional with how you furnish your living room, reducing clutter, and managing your energy usage are some of the best ways to make the living room more sustainable. You will find that many of these principles apply to other areas in the house, too, which is why this section is placed first in the book. The following pages contain baseline ideas in sustainability practices that you can carry through to all areas of your home.


Our world is growing, anticipated to hit a population of 9.8 billion in 2050. While it's great to know that overall human health has improved, at our current consumption rates we will need the equivalent of almost three planets to sustain the future population.

Overconsumption can be attributed to the meteoric rise of consumerism since the Industrial Revolution. Worldwide, our expenditure on household goods and services has quadrupled, going from $5 trillion to $20 trillion in just forty years. Clever marketing convinces consumers that they need the 'latest and greatest' products available; and planned obsolescence – intentionally designing a product with a limited useful life – only perpetuates the problem. It has led to a culture of instant gratification, with companies creating more and more products at greater speed to satisfy consumer demand. As a result, consumers are trapped in a cycle of purchasing lower quality goods that they may not even need, and businesses continue to push for new products, continually extracting raw materials from our earth without considering the planet's resource limits.

Beyond resource depletion, it is estimated that 95 per cent of a product's carbon impact can be attributed to its manufacture (unless it is an electronic device, in which case it uses quite a bit of electricity in its working lifetime too). In addition, for every pound of product generated, seven pounds of waste are produced in the manufacturing process before it even gets to the customer. Most of us have no idea what is going on behind the scenes of the products that we purchase, but knowledge is power – and we can change our habits! The next time you consider a new addition to your living room, such as a game console, a new television, or another piece of furniture, consider all the inputs and waste that product may have caused; from extraction of raw material, to manufacturing and transportation.

Tackling a living space full of items you have accumulated can provide quite a bit of insight into your personal consumption habits, whether it's in the living room, bedroom, or any area of your life. When you take the time to meaningfully declutter, it can help you to better understand what is truly needed in your household, and help you make conscious decisions going forward. We'll explore the basics of minimalist living, which are built upon the processes of decluttering and self-control of future purchases, in an effort to decrease the environmental impact we have as a consumer.

Let's declutter

Begin by taking a look at your space, or a pile of items which may have accumulated in a cupboard or closet. You'll split your belongings into things you want to keep, versus items that don't have much meaning or purpose in your life. To determine what you ought to keep in your home, make sure these things are:

1. Meaningful – perhaps they were gifted to you by a close friend or family member.

2. Useful – a good test of usefulness is to ask yourself whether you've used this item within the last ninety days, or whether you foresee using it anytime soon.

If not, there's a likelihood that you were lured in by an advertisement that convinced you to buy a product without much thought, or perhaps you bought something to use once, but now you never do. You'll find that these items have little sentimental or practical value; most likely, they're collecting dust in a closet or on a shelf.

Instead of simply throwing all of these items into a bin, there are a few ways to responsibly rid yourself of unneeded products that are still in good condition.

If you're looking to give away items in good to near perfect condition, consider:

1. Offering them up to family and friends that live nearby; if someone else can find joy in or a use for your excess items, that's much better than throwing otherwise good products into the waste bin! There is also the added bonus that they will be less likely to buy a new item of their own (which, as mentioned, would add to carbon emissions).

2. Selling; you can do this through online websites such as eBay or Craigslist. Make sure to take clear, well-lit pictures and add a fair sales description to promote both the product and your reliability as a seller. You could also visit your local consignment, thrift or vintage shops to see if they will buy any of your items off you. Consignment shops typically look for branded, high value items, but you'll be able to sell lower value items online or through secondhand shops.

Perhaps your items look fairly used, or you're simply looking to support a good cause:

3. Donate; charity shops tend to sell used items at fairly low prices for lower income folks that are unable to afford new items. Some charity organizations also use their profits to help fund homeless programmes or provide career training for people with specialized needs.

And finally, for all products that are broken or unfit for repurpose:

4. Recycle; electronics are a product you should definitely recycle. They are often made with precious metals, so for every one million cell phones that are recycled, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered and reused for future manufacturing. The company from which you bought the product may have a recycling takeback programme, or large electronics shops often have recycling drop off sites. Check all other material and product requirements with your local recycling facility – they should have information on what materials can be recycled. For tough-to-recycle products, I recommend taking the time to reach out to the company that manufactured the product regarding how to recycle it. The more we hold companies accountable for the products they make and where they end up, the more companies will begin to think of more sustainable design options and materials.

Before you buy or receive

After one round of decluttering, it can be tempting to run across another item that you want to buy. However, every time we make a purchase, we are placing a vote – buying a set of neon seat cushions tells the cushion company that customers want more neon seat cushions in the future, and production will continue. So rather than putting your money towards products of little value or utility, which generates greater demand, go through the following steps as a helpful guideline for more conscious consumption habits.

1. Do you need it?

Before any purchase, ask yourself if you truly need whatever it is you are planning to buy. Will you actually be using it often, or do you only plan on using it sparingly? It is easy to jump towards impulse purchases that you may not actually need, so take a few days to ponder whether or not the purchase is necessary. Leave it in an online shopping cart or on a shopping list for a while before you jump towards the purchase – chances are, you'll forget about ever 'needing' it. You may even have a neighbour or friend you can borrow it from, or perhaps a library of items to borrow at a community centre (tool libraries have popped up throughout the world to allow community members to share electric tools, instead of buying their own).

2. Can you fix it?

If you're replacing something that's broken, have you had a good go at fixing it first? Visiting a local repair cafe – locally organized meetings where people repair household electrical and mechanical devices – or your nearest repair shop in town could be a more sustainable step, instead of opting for a completely new product that takes more resources and energy to manufacture.

3. Can you buy used?

One person's trash can be another's treasure – buying used is a great idea if you do need to make that purchase. Look for local sources of secondhand goods, or opt for shopping online for used goods in your area. Look for closer sources for these products to help reduce transportation emissions.

4. Can you buy from sustainable businesses?

It is still important to support the businesses that are doing 'the right thing'. If you are able to support a business that is creating new products with sustainable business practices, it's a great way to help generate demand in the market for eco-friendly goods. Look for renewable energy practices at these companies, recyclable materials in the product, end-of-life solutions, longevity and quality. Certifications such as Cradle to Cradle or Fair Trade are some great markers of sustainable products.

5. It's okay to refuse politely.

Regarding gifts and freebies, know that it is okay to say, "no thank you". If your birthday is coming up, let people know your preferences, and be clear with your family and friends that you prefer having fewer things, as part of your effort to reduce your waste and environmental footprint. If others insist on giving you a gift, suggest sustainable and consumable items such as food or bath products. Plants are also wonderful gifts.

We are not defined by our possessions, but our consumerist culture often defines our social status by what we own. Yet, having the newest handbag or electronic device does not make you any better than anyone else, and fundamentally they are only sources of temporary happiness and satisfaction. Consume less, buy better, and spend less time fretting about the latest product trends and more time in personal development, relationships with others, and experiential opportunities.

Energy usage

Energy consumption is one of the leading causes of climate change. Though it is caused by various sources, households are responsible for 29 per cent of energy consumed throughout the world, and as a result, contribute to 21 per cent of total CO2 emissions. About 80 per cent of the world's energy is generated from nonrenewable sources, usually fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and oil. These fuels were formed after prehistoric plants and animals died and were gradually buried by layers of rock, but the process to mine for fossil fuels is energy and resource intensive. In addition, major environmental harm is attributed to major oil spills, which have an immediate and devastating impact on local wildlife, ecosystems and communities.

The burning of nonrenewable fossil fuels for electricity use also generates greenhouse gases, which are responsible for the greenhouse effect that is increasing our planet's overall temperature. Over the past twenty years, 75 per cent of carbon emissions was generated through the burning of fossil fuels. In addition, these fuels release harmful particulates into the air including sulphur and nitrogen dioxide – both known to damage lung tissue (in both humans and animals) and cause respiratory diseases such as asthma.

A large portion of our current energy consumption is caused by the increase in technology usage in the past ten years. One study concluded that a medium size fridge uses 322 kWh a year, and a mobile phone uses 361 kWh a year – due to background activities such as data streaming and sharing. Our energy usage is an invisible migration from our hands via our phones, tablets and laptops into the digital cloud, so we don't often think of the impact these mobile devices may have. The digital data centres around the world produce a sizeable amount of emissions – estimated to be the same amount as the aviation industry.

As mentioned, data centres are often beyond our reach, and we may not be able to directly influence the energy companies that provide us with power. However, there are a few easy and practical solutions that can make a dent in your energy consumption. Always keep in the back of your mind that as citizens, we must advocate to our leaders, businesses and communities the need for clean, efficient energy sources for a safer planet. Continue to seek ways to optimize on energy efficiency beyond what is written in this book. As you will read later on, your home is just the beginning of your journey towards sustainable change.

Clean energy

The living room relies heavily on energy to power lights and the various electronics and appliances we use for our entertainment. The source of such power is entirely dependent on what is available from our local energy providers, but clean energy sources are not as rare as you might think. It may only take some due diligence and research on your part to uncover options such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower. None of these sources generate carbon emissions when operated, which is a huge bonus in light of climate change. Nevertheless, they do impact the planet in other ways, so we'll explore each one in turn now so that you might make a more informed decision.

Wind is preferable as an efficient and renewable energy source, as it has the lowest environmental impact on the surrounding area. However, local communities located close to wind turbines have been known to complain about sound and vibration issues, while scientists have observed some harm to local wildlife. These are rather small issues, and scientists are working to make small improvements to minimize impact, but make sure to research the source of your local wind energy to make a sound judgement.

Solar is another great option, but it often requires more land use – especially for large solar plants located in remote rural areas such as marshlands or agricultural lands. These plants also need cooling technologies that use water – in a water scarce area, it is important to consider the tradeoffs. However, you can also opt to invest in a roof-top solar installation for your own home; a small scale solution that is much more efficient and that has minimal land impact. In regards to the panels themselves, the materials used to manufacture solar panels do emit silicon dust, which poses a risk to manufacturing workers. Toxic chemicals such as gallium arsenide are also used, which must be handled and disposed of properly. It is important to make sure solar panel manufacturers have a proper disposal and recycling programme at the panels' end of life.

Geothermal energy is found in high temperature areas of land that produce hot water, which is then converted to electricity. The environmental impact is different for each geothermal plant, depending on its production practices. Some produce electricity through closed loop systems that release little to no steam into the air, but others operate with open loop systems that release small amounts of minerals which are drawn from the earth in the process. Sulphur dioxide and mercury are common emissions of open loop systems, and both can lead to acid rainfall.


Excerpted from "Sustainable Home"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Christine Liu.
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Living, 10,
Minimalism, 12,
Energy usage, 18,
Furniture, 24,
Indoor plants, 30,
Kitchen, 36,
Sustainable foods, 38,
Plant-based foods, 46,
Food waste, 56,
Packaging waste, 66,
Equipment & cooking techniques, 72,
Bedroom, 80,
Closet, 82,
Repairing & repurposing clothing, 90,
Sustainable sleep, 96,
Bathroom, 102,
Toothcare, 104,
Body care, 110,
Haircare, 118,
Water usage, 128,
Cleaning materials, 134,
Outdoors, 142,
Greening the workplace, 144,
Dining out, 146,
Going places, 148,
Taking action, 150,
Conclusion, 154,
Index, 156,
Acknowledgements, 159,

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Sustainable Home: Practical projects, tips and advice for maintaining a more eco-friendly household 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
apeape 10 months ago
A good book for people wanting to change to a more sustainable lifestyle, filled with great advice and tips for making changes in their lives, both big and small. The book is broken down room by room, plus a chapter for outdoors and away from home, with ideas on how to make each area more sustainable, such as repairing clothing instead of buying new pieces, reusing materials from old or broken items to make new, usable things, adding plants to clean the air, etc. Each chapter has DIY projects pertinent to the room, i.e. beauty, hair, and tooth care recipes for the bathroom, making a reusable bag from an old shirt for the bedroom. Throughout the book, there is environmental information to illustrate why sustainability matters. A great way to get started without being overwhelmed!
Theresa B More than 1 year ago
This is an extremely comprehensive guide to living a lifestyle that is better for the planet as well as our bank account. Christine Liu does a great job of explaining the global issues of consumerism and materialism. Then she goes on to explain the benefits of a decluttered space with useful and meaningful items. Christine Liu gives a practical guide to how to decide what to keep and what to toss and gives suggestions on what to do with the things you decide not to keep. There is advice on creating a more energy efficient home, growing your own food, food packaging, wardrobe selection, skin care, dining out and more. Christine Liu has created a vastly comprehensive guide with a wide variety of easy to use, easy to find resources for anyone interested in creating a better living space or workplace for themselves as well as honing practices that will better the planet.
CathyGeha More than 1 year ago
The Sustainable Home by Christine Liu Live simply, sustainably and responsibly. Think about your impact on earth and how you can make your footprint delicate rather than a big stomp. I didn’t learn anything new but did enjoy seeing how this author has incorporated some ideas that will allow less waste and better utilization of the earth’s abundance. Topics included: * Living: minimalism, energy, furniture and indoor plants * Kitchen: sustainable foods, plant-based foods, food waste, cooking equipment and techniques * Bedroom: closets, repair * repurpose clothing, sustainable sleep * Bathroom: toothpaste, body care, haircare, water waste, cleaning materials Outdoor: greening the workplace, dining out, going places, taking action Some ideas discussed and questions to ask yourself: * do you need it? * can you buy something used? * can you fix it? * can you repurpose it? * can you purchase from a sustainable company instead? * decluttering * how to decrease waste produced * what to use instead of toilet paper, plastic, etc * making cleaning products, body-care items and other items at home Some interesting tidbits that would be interesting to try to incorporate into my life though it might not be easy where I live – not sure I can do many if any here in Lebanon but will give some a try. Thank you to Quarto Publishing-White Lion Publishing for the ARC – This is my honest review. 4 Stars