Seattle COTE Blog

The COTE blog is a new resource we are offering. Here we will share news, ideas, and resources from the field. Our first blog post is an overview of actions the average homeowner and renter can take to live more sustainably, as well as a list of incentives, rebates, and resources to help make these switches easier.

Residential Resources

You don’t need to build a new, net zero home in order to be sustainable. In fact, “the greenest building is the one that already exists”. There are many things you can do to reduce the carbon footprint of your existing home and save money. The solutions that follow range from small (easy/free or low cost) to large (labor intensive/higher cost).

If you are a renter, you can still do many of the things listed below. You can also talk to your landlord to see if they would be interested in making any of these upgrades. After all, making these improvements would save them money and would serve as good marketing material for their building.


When thinking about sustainability in buildings, people often immediately think of high-tech solutions such as adding solar panels to your roof. While this is a solution you’ll see listed below, it isn’t the first place to start. Before you add anything, consider reducing, reusing, and recycling. Once you have reduced your carbon footprint, you’ll have much less to offset when it comes to the more costly solutions, such as those snazzy solar panels.

  • Unplug electronics when you’re not using them
  • Turn off lights when you aren’t using them
  • Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth
  • Separate your waste – recycle, compost, garbage
  • Switch your light bulbs to LED
  • Program your thermostat to adjust the temperature when you are not home or sleeping
  • Seal air leaks around windows and doors with weatherstripping or caulking
  • During hot weather, open the windows at night and close them during the day (night flushing)
  • Hang dry your clothes instead of using the dryer
  • Use tap temperature water when washing your clothes instead of hot when possible
  • Fix leaks, dripping faucets, and running toilets
  • Buy your electricity from a utility that uses all-renewable sources (eg, SCL allows you to buy in to support all-renewable service)
  • Buy used appliances/fixtures/household goods from resale shops, thrift stores, or directly from sellers via Craigslist, NextDoor, Facebook Marketplace
  • Borrow tools from your local Tool Libraries
  • Purchase food from your local farmer’s market, CSA, or consider signing up for a food service that rescues food
  • Take advantage of online Buy Nothing groups
  • Reach out to recycling groups when doing any demolition work on your property – most materials, including broken concrete and planting soil, can be reused in some fashion and you might also save on hauling/dump fees
  • Sign up for an additional recycling service that helps recycle what your municipality cannot. Side note: we use Ridwell and have easily cut our garbage volume by a third! Which saves at least as much as the Ridwell costs in SPU fees…


These options can be a little more costly but can have a big impact.

  • Install energy-efficient appliances (look for the Energy Star label)
  • Swap out your plumbing fixtures for low-flow (consider: shower heads ≤1.5 gpm, bathroom faucets ≤0.5 gpm, kitchen faucets ≤1.5 gpm, single flush toilets ≤1.28 gpf, dual flush toilets ≤1.6 gpf. Look for the WaterSense label)
  • Add shades or blinds to your windows to reduce heat gain
  • Plant deciduous bushes or trees outside your home to block light/heat during summer and let in light/heat during winter
  • Install automated/smart controls
  • Plant a summer veggie or herb garden to cut down on what you have to buy from stores. Herbs: EASY to grow at home and avoid those pricey/wasteful little plastic clamshell packages!
  • Plant a pollinator garden to help our local pollinators thrive (check out your local seed libraries)


These solutions are the most time-consuming, costly, and will likely require the help of a professional. However, there are many local, state, and federal incentives and rebates available to help make these upgrades much more manageable.  For starters, switching your home to all-electric (removing all fossil fuels) is the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions and simultaneously improve the health and safety of your home. And remember, The Inflation Reduction Act is designed to incentivize low carbon outcomes while saving you money.  Visit Rewiring America ( and calculate your potential cost savings on the following measures:

  • Update your home’s envelope (install better insulation, reduce thermal bridging, upgrade to more energy-efficient windows and doors, etc.)
  • Install a Heat Pump Water Heater or Solar Water Heater
  • Replace your furnace with an air-source, ground-source (geothermal), or water-source heat pump
  • Install solar panels (ie. Photovoltaics or PVs) on your roof, or in your yard
  • Get an electric car and install EV charging

It’s not all about energy. Managing stormwater on your property is an effective and essential form of stewardship that is generally low-tech and easy to do.


Incentives & Rebates

The Inflation Reduction Act is a monumental step in the direction toward clean and renewable energy.  Through a variety of financial and tax incentives for home owners and commercial entities, the IRA makes the switch to clean, renewable energy more affordable. A variety of state, municipal, and utility programs also provide financial incentives for making the switch to clean energy.  Check out the resources below, and visit often, as these programs are evolving:


Rewiring America (Inflation Reduction Act (IRA))


WA State 

Seattle City Light

Seattle Public Utilities

Puget Sound Energy 



Clark County 

Mason County 

Pierce County 

King County (RainWise)

King and Snohomish County 


Other Resources

The Northwest Eco Building Guild has many useful resources and links on their website:

If you are curious to know how other homeowners have incorporated sustainable features into their properties, the annual NW Eco Building Guild’s Green Home Tour is a great way to see these strategies in action:

Tool Libraries – where you can rent almost any type of tool you can think of

Ridwell – recycles common household waste that is not normally accepted by municipalities (such as plastic film, lightbulbs, batteries, etc)

Imperfect Produce – rescues food with imperfections that does not make it to our grocery stores but that is perfectly fine to eat 

Ballard Reuse – a place to find preloved building materials

Second Use – a place to find preloved building materials