7 Eco-Friendly Ways to Keep Your Home Safe While You're Traveling

People at the airport
Photo: JJFarq/Shutterstock

Despite its many perks, travel can be stressful. You're rushing to catch a plane or train, you're trying not to spend all your money, you're in unfamiliar territory — there are countless factors that can raise your blood pressure. Don't let what could be going on back at home add to your worries. These tips will allow you to stay focused on enjoying the trip, and know that your abode will be A-OK when you return.

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Hire a neighbor to house-sit


You might have a helpful friend as a neighbor, or maybe there's a responsible teen or college kid nearby who's looking for extra money. These are great candidates to watch your place while you're blazing a trail elsewhere. The good samaritan won't have to waste gas getting your place, since he or she is in walking or biking distance as a neighbor, and there are several sitter duties that'll give the illusion that you're home — deterring unsavory activity.

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Use lights — sparingly


Having someone in the house turning lights on and off throughout the day (as well as exterior lights) gives the illusion that you're home. Setting a timer works, too, but a live person using different lights throughout the house at different times is much more natural, further deterring anyone from messing with your place. The green bonus is that your sitter will probably use less energy with lighting than timed lights would, while giving a more convincing appearance that the place is occupied — and off-limits to crime.

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Encourage your sitter to feel at home

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Avoid dangerous molds or critters getting to your perishable food by having your poor college student house-sitter eat it. Instead of thinking "I better toss this because it'll go bad while I'm gone" and frantically emptying your fridge, your sitter can take care of that for you by nourishing himself. This will also produce some trash/recycling/compost to go out to the curb, maintaining the appearance that things are business-as-usual at your home sweet home.

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Ask your sitter to take care of the plants


An overgrown and/or dying lawn could give the impression that you're not around (or that you're just a seriously bad gardener). Depending on what your yard situation is, have your sitter mow, water or do whatever else needs to be done so that your property doesn't scream "vacant." Your oxygen-producing, environment-benefiting leafy beauties will thrive and you won't have to waste money, energy or resources on replacing them later, had they died due to neglect in your absence.

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Have your house-sitter double as a pet-sitter

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Boarding pets can put a major dent in your wallet. You'll still pay your sitter, but probably less than what the pet hotel charges. Leaving the beasts at home is greener because they don't have to be transported anywhere, and no extra grooming or feeding supplies will be spent on them — they can just use their normal stuff in the comfort of their own home. Having them at home increases security because their alertness and ability to cause a commotion will deter intruders. (Though this mostly only applies to dogs. Your cat will probably ignore an intruder the same way she does everyone else.)

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Suspend your newspaper subscription


Nothing says "no one's home!" (and "waste of paper") louder than a driveway or doorstep crowded with newspapers. If your house-sitter doesn't plan to read it in your absence, contact your paper and set up a suspension for the duration of your trip. Some papers, including the New York Times, offer credit for the period of your suspension, or allow you to donate your subscription to schools during that time. If you're not gone long enough to suspend, make sure your sitter recycles the papers (and mail) that come. (Smaller, hyper-local publications that you don't subscribe to may come anyway, so make sure your house-sitter retrieves those and recycles them, as well.)

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Keep energy use to a minimum


A house-sitter will invariably use less energy that you and your family or housemates — she's only one person. Unplug things (alarm clocks, lamps, blow-dryers, treadmills, etc.) and switch off your power strips in the rooms she won't be using, and try to limit the heat or A/C to the areas she'll use. She can adjust the heat/air as she comes and goes so less is used when the house is empty.

And if you have a security system, teach your sitter to use it. There's no substitute for a good motion detector and a super-loud alarm. Safe travels!