Over the last several years, society has been trending more towards sustainable living and a zero-waste environment. There are many reasons why people make sustainable choices and consciously promote a circular economy, but if you’re just starting to make the shift, it may be hard to find the right place to start. With summer getting into full swing, there are a few easy steps you can take to make your home more sustainable. At the end of the day, anything you do to reduce the amount of waste you produce and the amount of excess you create contributes to a more sustainable lifestyle and helps preserve the environment we live in.

The first thing you can do sounds obvious but is often overlooked. An easy way to make your home more sustainable is simply to reuse things as many times as you can before throwing them away. Sometimes it’s simply unavoidable to have single-use plastics in your home. For example, maybe someone brings over cookies in a plastic bag. Often, you can get several uses out of these before you have to throw them away! While you can’t transition to 100% zero-waste immediately, you can easily increase the number of times you use something that you already have.

You may also be wondering how to save energy during the summer. One of the best ways to do this is to open your windows and let in the natural light. Summer is the perfect season to take advantage of this, because daylight lasts from early in the morning until late in the evening. This also allows you to turn off your lamps and overhead lights, which keeps your energy bill low while simultaneously using less energy. Another good way to save energy is to invest in some houseplants. Besides adding some natural cheer to your floorplan, they act as natural air purifiers. The process by which plants consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen helps clear up indoor pollution. Not only does this promote a more sustainable lifestyle, but it saves money on artificial air purifiers.

Of course, if you are really trying to make your home sustainable during the summer, there are other ways to improve your home. The first of which is to consider investing in high performance windows. While simply utilizing the windows you currently have on your house will make a difference in the amount of light you have in your home, high performance windows are engineered specifically to optimize heat intake and retention. Windows are responsible for 50% of all lost energy in homes, which means that replacing them is the quickest way to make sure the energy you do consume is optimized and used efficiently. Nowadays you can buy windows which are configured to conduct less heat and to facilitate ventilation.

While windows are incredibly important to a sustainable home in the summertime, most direct sunlight falls on your roof and is absorbed into your home. This leads to more energy consumption in terms of cooling your home with either fans or air conditioning. The most sure way to reduce the impact of the direct sunlight on the temperature of your house is to install a cool roof. A cool roof reflects the sun’s rays instead of absorbing them like a normal roof. These can come in several different varieties, but a great low-cost way to transform your roof from a high absorption to a low absorption roof is simply to repaint it. Darker roofs absorb as much as 80% of the sun’s rays, while lighter roofs only absorb around 20%. If you have the time and money there are more expensive and more effective options, but the most efficient way for most people to improve their roofs is to repaint. Just remember to eco-paints, which release less toxins than regular paints, when you do!

If you don’t really feel like painting your roof, or you just want to take advantage of the sunlight during these long summer days, an option is to invest in solar panels. While this is a large initial investment, the benefits of solar energy are incredible in the long run. Not only is solar energy a clean and renewable source of energy, it is possible to power your entire house on just the direct sunlight hitting your roof. Of course, you still want to have a secondary option available for times when there are sudden bursts of bad weather, or an extra cloudy day, but the advantage of using them in the summer months is that most of the time the days are long and sunny. A less costly alternative would be to simply inquire with your energy provider to see if they have a more sustainable option. Nowadays, most providers offer the ability to switch a cleaner and more sustainable plan, even if their options aren’t 100% renewable. In the future, however, we are likely to see these options expanded.

While these are several effective ways to make your home more sustainable during the summer, there are a few things that deserve an honorable mention, so to speak. In these hotter months, it is not uncommon to drink a lot of water. Try to carry a refillable water bottle with you so that you aren’t throwing out a plastic bottle every time you go out. Use a propane grill, rather than charcoal, because it burns greener. Take advantage of the sun, once again, and dry your clothes outside instead of using a drier. Finally, perhaps the best way to make your home more sustainable during the summer is simply to turn off all the lights, unplug from your devices, and go outside! You’re not using as much energy when you’re outside, and now is the perfect time to go hiking, go for a run, or ride your bike around your neighborhood or your city. However you choose to make a difference and live sustainably, remember that the transition is often gradual and don’t be discouraged if it takes a little while. Ultimately, the journey starts with your decision, and sustainable living is a mindset more than anything else.