Do-able ways to harmonize your home with the outside environment

Don’t be afraid of doing it wrong. Trust your instincts. Fake a bit of confidence.

Go for non-purchased solutions if at all possible – something you can be proud of. Even if it doesn’t end up looking pretty, remember, homemade charm trumps purchased polish. Borrow tools, swap ideas and share inspiration.

Get into the spirit of it. Let your DIY actions invoke in you a deeper sense of realities beyond and within.

*Put bricks or rocks in your toilet tank to decrease the amount of water per flush.

*Instead of lighting an entire room when all you need is a corner, rig up some task lighting – smaller, directional lights that illuminate just a part of the room. Call it mood lighting. Go with LED lights for super-efficiency.

*When it’s chilly, wear a wool sweater and go easy on the heat.

*Build a light shelf. Cover your windowsill with tin foil in order to reflect more natural light deeper into the room. Alternatively, you can build a shelf near the top of the window and cover it with foil or a mirror.

*Give edible landscaping a try – think carrots not lawn.

*If you have an older electric hot water heater, find fire-retardant insulating materials to put around it to reduce energy loss. (Not recommended for gas or oil heaters.)

*First thing in the morning on a hot day, draw the curtains or blinds (or tack up bed sheets) – especially on sunny south-facing windows. Open them again in the evening when the outdoor temperature is cooler than indoors.

*Build awnings or overhangs above south-facing windows. They prevent direct sunlight from entering windows on hot days (and have a greater effect than blinds). In order to keep summer light out but still let winter light in, research the optimal length of overhang for your windows in your part of the world.

*Compost your crap. This one’s a bit more involved. Build a simple box with a hole and a toilet seat on it. Create a place for it in your basement, garage or tool shed (tricky for apartment dwellers). Place a bucket in the box, then do what comes naturally and cover each deposit generously with dry leaves or sawdust. If covered well, odor should not be an issue. Compost the contents of the bucket (ask a veteran composter or your favorite search engine for specifics). For peace of mind, use the resulting compost for flowers rather than veggies. Remember, half the world doesn’t flush. Think of it like camping. A more sophisticated option is to buy a composting toilet.

*Install aerators on taps and shower heads. These are little screens that screw onto the end of the tap, decreasing the amount of water that comes through.

*Collect rainwater and use it.

*Rig up a gray water system. Instead of just sending water down the drain of your sink, shower or washing machine, use it to water plants or flush your toilet. Undo a bit of plumbing under your sink so the water can drain straight into a bucket. Or reroute the water from your washing machine. As for flushing, just dump from the bucket directly into the bowl and there it goes. You’ll get the hang of it. Note: use biodegradable soap, especially if the water is for the garden.

*Compost indoors (this is especially good for apartment dwellers). Call a go-green shop in town, invest in a community of worms, find the right container for them and get into the rhythm of feeding your food scraps to the worms. Then watch them turn it into dirt.

“Decor” and the conception of “interior design” have spread so widely that very often people forget their instinct for the things they really want to keep around them… . Do not be tricked into believing that modern decor must be [what] current taste-makers claim. It is most beautiful when it comes straight from your life – the things you care for, the things that tell your story.
Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language

Issue 3

This article first appeared in Geez magazine Issue 3, Summer 2006, Playing House.

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Issue 3, Summer 2006

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