Gaines Group Architects

The little steps around our house are making a big difference in our environmental footprint

Over the last 10 years we have been making small changes around our house to reduce our environmental footprint. Those little steps around our house are making a big difference.

We changed all our lightbulbs in our house to CFLs and cut our energy bill by 5%. We have now been changing over to LED bulbs to further reduce our heat gain from lighting spaces and energy consumed by lighting rooms.


I started driving a Prius to reduce our monthly gasoline usage. I went from a 26 MPG car to a 46-48 MPG car. Driving for work around 20,000 miles per year this has had a major impact on our monthly expenses and our environmental footprint.


We started growing some of our vegetables. Our garden started as a small 10′ x 10′ space with four raised beds to a 40′ x 40′ space + several fruit trees + several foundation plantings of various types of blueberry bushes.


We have a small compost facility that produces nutrient rich soil for use in our garden.

compost bin

We (I mean my wife, but we are a team so I can take the credit right) make our own laundry detergent. The recipe costs a few dollars to make and it lasts for about a year. This reduces the toxic mix of chemicals we send into the sewer system as well as the chemicals in the clothes we wear.

Homemade Laundry Soap
This recipe makes 5 gallons of concentrate which equals 10 gallons of ready-to-use laundry detergent.

1 five gallon bucket
a long handled spoon
an empty (used) laundry detergent container (or juice or vinegar container, clean)
hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap Bar
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax

Grate the laundry soap bar (I used my cheese grater) and add it to a medium sauce pot along with 4 cups of water.  Heat over medium high heat while stirring occasionally until the soap has melted completely.  While it’s melting, fill your five gallon bucket half full with hot tap water.  Once the bar soap has melted, add it to the bucket along with the baking soda and borax.  Stir it well until everything has dissolved.  Add hot tap water to fill the bucket and stir again.  Cover tightly with the lid and let sit overnight to thicken.  Stir well (it will gel and separate a bit).  You just made concentrate.

When you’re ready to use it, stir the detergent well, then fill your empty detergent container half full with the concentrate.  Fill the rest of the container with water.  Shake before each use.  Use 1/4 cup per load for a front loading machine and 5/8 cup per load for a top loading machine.

There is more work to be done, but small steps will make a big impact over time.