It's one thing to know your carbon footprint, it's another to know what to do about it. There are literally hundreds of ways to lessen your home's impact on the environment. So where do you start? A good place is with a test. That's right, just like when you were in school. We've assembled a list of our favorite green rating instruments. Most take very little time and are fun to do. Each one gives you insight to your home's current performance and recommendations for making it a little greener. The best part is that many of the changes you can make cost nothing and can even save you money. Some will even improve your health. All of them will make you feel good.
Evaluating your home begins with looking at four areas: energy use, water use, building construction and features, and exterior landscape.
Home Energy Saver - Developed using data from the Lawrence Berkeley Nation Laboratory, the Home Energy Saver calculator is one of the most thorough ways to evaluate your home's energy performance and identify specific recommendations for improving it.
Home Energy Yardstick - The U.S. Department of Energy, through the Energy Star program, provides a simple to use tool for determining how you use energy of all types and comparing that usage to similar households.
Online Home Energy Survey - For FPL customers this is one of the most effective ways to look at energy usage. It uses actual data from your bills over time to provide and assessment and recommendations.
Water Use Calculator - The South Florida Water Management District brings you a quick and easy way to determine what's driving your water usage, and then to reduce that usage by at least ten percent. It is based on where you live, how many people are in your household, your daily activities and the types of fixtures you have in your home. The SFWMD also offer an alternative Water Conservation Calculator which allows you to see exactly what difference you would see in your usage and your bills by switching to energy efficiency fixtures and practices.
Water Footprint Calculator - National Geographic offers a slightly different way of looking at water consumption, not just accounting for the way you use water, but also factoring in how the food and products you bring in to your home affect your water footprint.
Grreen Home Checklist - The U.S. Green Building Council's Green Home Guide includes a checklist that you can use to compare your home to the ideal. While not a tool or calculator that gives you specific feedback, by reviewing the contents of the checklist you will get a sense of how your home performs and where you should focus any home improvements.
Florida-Friendly Landscaping Quiz - Take this quiz, produced by the University of Florida's Florida Yards program, both to test your knowledge of good landscaping principles and also to evaluate your yard.
National Geographic - Green Quizzes - This is a collection of about 20 short quizzes on specific rooms and activities-- from laundry to air conditioning and from food shopping to cooking in the kitchen. While the quizzes do not rate your performance. They are useful for learning quick tips.