Action plan for sustainable living at home

This action plan for sustainable living at home provides you a list of best practice methods for securing and efficiently using renewable energy, water and food resources.

Home design principles. Reduce energy needs by ensuring house airtight seals and using maximum insulation. Install double-glazed windows, low-emissivity windows, storm windows, and double doors. Install a heat recovery ventilation system. Have one emergency warm room ready to go (if you live in northern latitudes and at high altitudes).

Renewable Energy Systems. Install a rooftop solar photovoltaic system, or other systems depending on your local renewable resources available, such as a wind electric system, a hybrid solar-wind electric system, or a microhydroelectric power system. Install a battery storage system or at least ensure that it can be installed in the future. Utilize ground-source and air-source heat pumps and exchange systems. Plant plenty of trees in and around your community. Install solar water heaters, or air and ground heat pump water heaters. Insulate your water tanks and pipes, and lower the water tank thermostat. Utilize drain water heat exchangers.

Be Energy Efficient. Learn how and when to use electricity efficiently while operating your space heating system, hot water, and lighting. Utilize efficient electrical appliances and heating systems. Use low-energy light-emitting diode light systems. Turn off lights when not in use or install automated movement sensors. Avoid washing half loads of dishes and clothes. Use the sun and breeze to dry your clothes.

Water conservation, efficient use and re-use of water. Reduce tap and showerhead flow rates by using water-efficient fittings with flow restrictors, aerators, and pressure-limiting valves, or only partially open taps. Utilize house greywater (after filtration and energy recovery) for in-house use (toilet), garden irrigation, and groundwater recharge. Avoid sprinklers and use low-pressure targeted drip irrigation systems, together with mulch and ground cover. Harvest rainwater, utilize large water storage tank(s), and get a solar still for purifying dirty water and seawater for severe drought. Fix your leaky pipes and taps.

Growing Food in Cold Climates. Utilize a winter or underground greenhouse, maximizing its solar heat gain while storing heat. Utilize a geothermal heat pump and heat exchange system, or an air-to-soil heat exchange system in your greenhouse. Use renewable energy heaters, and use greenhouse covers at night. Utilize cold structures such as low and high tunnels, cold frames, floating row covers, and frost blankets. Use elevated land and raised growing beds. Start seedlings indoors, and use local and climate-adapted seeds (non-sterile). For summer crops, ensure a mix of crop types, with sowing, flowering, and harvesting dates within the frost-free period.

Growing Food in Drought. Harvest rainwater. Use house greywater for irrigation. Cover ground with plastic or organic mulch, and control weeds. Use efficient low-pressure drip irrigation systems. Start plants off early under cover. Use crop types that take fewer days to mature, or short-cycle crops (see below).

Flood Prone Cropping. Cover your crops with greenhouses or hoop houses, and use covered beds. Use raised beds, vertical gardens, hydroponics and aquaponics. Improve soil drainage using sand, organic material, stones, double-depth digging, and underground drainage tubes.

Seeds to consider for your seedbank: (1) Cold Crop Food. Potatoes, beets, turnips, parsnips, carrots, maize, climbing beans, winter pumpkin (squash), cabbage, onions, broccoli, kale, spinach, leeks, asparagus, brussel sprouts, and radishes. (2) Drought-Tolerant Crops. Millets, rye, sorghum, wheat, drought-tolerant maize, pigeon pea, and cowpea. (3) Short-Cycle Crops (3-4 months). Potatoes, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.

Municipal and Government Support. Support will be required in urban planning processes, education, and funding. Bylaw amendments may be required to enable greywater reuse and permit home and garden modifications with minimal red tape.

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