There are so many small things that can collectively make a difference in our footprint on the earth. Will you try to add one or more of these to your list of green living changes for the new year? Will you share this list with your family and friends or on your social networks? Even people who are reluctant to step out of their comfort zone will find something here that they can embrace with relatively little effort – we just need to convince them that it needs to be done, and that making small steps truly is not painful.
- Stop buying fruits and vegetables that have been imported from another country, for so many reasons.
- Buy real food. If you can’t trace its origin, it shouldn’t go into your body (ahem, IMHO) and it’s surely not doing our environment any good.
- Quit relying on takeout food. If you succumb, find a restaurant that uses compostable packaging and say no to plastic straws.
- Learn to cook some really simple, really fast meals so you won’t be tempted by fast food.
- Find a local butcher that uses butcher paper instead of buying your meat cuts on Styrofoam.
- Find a source for local meat and eggs.
- Turn up the temperature on your refrigerator, just a touch.
- In the wintertime, put fire bricks in the oven to hold heat and keep the room warm.
- Switch to glass storage containers instead of plastic.
- Get rid of your Teflon coated pots and pans.
- Use a dish cloth instead of a sponge.
- Bring fewer containers into your home. Be sure to recycle those that you can’t reuse.
- Compost your food waste.
- Make your own salad dressing, mustard, mayonnaise, and other condiments. It’s not that hard.
- Cook double batches. Eat one lasagna tonight, freeze one for the crazy busy day that’s tempting you to turn to fast food.
- Switch to bulk teas that can be made with a tea strainer. No bags, no packaging, and no risk of ingesting plastic.
- Nix the chemical cleaners.
- Take shorter showers. Less hot water used, less energy used.
- Switch to less chemically laden soaps and shampoos, or try your hand at making your own.
- Still using disposable razors? (Stores are still stocking them; somebody must be using them!) Switch to one with a replaceable blade.
- Use your bath towel more than once.
- Try a fabric shower curtain instead of a plastic one.
- If you use cotton swabs, make sure that you’re using those that are made of paperboard rather than plastic. They’ll break down easier in the landfill and can even be added to your compost.
- Instead of getting a fresh bath towel every time you shower, hang your damp towel up to dry and use it several times before you toss it in the laundry pile. Bonus: your towels will last longer meaning you won’t have to replace them as often.
Green living in the home office or at the office:
- Switch to padded envelopes that don’t have a plastic bubble liner.
- Stop junk mail before it gets to your house.
- Consider online banking. You’ll eliminate the envelope as well as the use of much fuel to get your payment where it needs to go.
- Opt to receive your monthly statements via email. Again, you’ll eliminate paper waste as well as fuel usage.
- Use public transportation. Not an option? Find someone to carpool with.
- Transform the water cooler at work: request paper rather than plastic cups. Better yet, encourage fellow employees to bring a cup from home.
- Refill your ink cartridges instead of buying a new one when you’re out.
- Not using your computer? Turn it off or put it to sleep.
Living green in the laundry room:
- Wash only full loads of clothes.
- Switch to a more eco-friendly laundry detergent. Or make your own.
- Get clothes out of the dryer as soon as they’re dry, so you’re not tempted to “give them a little fluff.”
- Better yet, set up a clothesline and hang your clothes to dry some of the time.
- Install a timer on your hot water heater.
The rest of the house:
- Find out where your power comes from. Is it generated by diesel? Coal? Wind? Knowing that your energy usage is tied directly to environmentally unfriendly sources might make it easier to cut your energy use (good for the planet and your bank account).
- Say no to products that come in plastic clamshells.
- Keep a blanket on the sofa.
- Turn down the thermostat on your heater, just a touch (with that blanket, you won’t notice).
- Next time you need to buy linens and blankets, skip the man-made materials.
- Turn off the TV if you’re not watching it.
- Install window blinds to help keep the house cool in the summertime and warm in winter.
- Shop second hand.
- Wash your windows with newspaper instead of paper towels.
- If you have an arbor, plant a deciduous vine that will shade you in the summertime and allow sunlight and warmth in during the cold winter.
- Grow your own food. If you’ve never done so, start small. Plant radishes. Or lettuce.
- If you’re a gardening veteran, consider sharing your knowledge with amateurs.
- Plant an extra row for the food bank.
- Collect some of your rainwater and use it to water the garden during dry spells.
- If you’re still maintaining your lawn using chemicals, stop! (Now, wasn’t that easy? Think how much time I just saved you!) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that U.S. households use nearly 90 million pounds of herbicides and pesticides on their lawns each year. Those chemicals end up in our groundwater and run off into rivers and oceans. If growing your own food is on your sustainability agenda, you certainly don’t want those poisons ending up on your kitchen table via the vegetables you grow. Read this for more information.
- If you regularly forget to turn off your porch or garage light, set it up on a timer.
- Deal with pests and weeds without chemicals.
- Mulch. It will help hold moisture in, and mean less water used. It will also help keep the weeds in check.
- Compost your kitchen waste. No space? Get worms to do the dirty work with a worm composter. (You can make your own for less than $5.)
Green living around town:
- Stop accepting the bags that stores offer (plastic OR paper) and bring your own.
- Switch from plastic to glass bottles when buying goods at the grocery store. If it’s only available in plastic, skip it (bonus points for writing to the manufacturer to complain).
- Say no to drinking straws. Get it the habit of telling your server ahead of time that you don’t want a plastic straw.
- Choose fruits and vegetables that are sold loose. There’s absolutely no reason for peas, peppers, or tomatoes to be wrapped in plastic or strapped to Styrofoam.
- Seek out local produce at the supermarket or (better yet) farmers market.
- Eliminate excess baggage in your car. If you don’t need to carry it around, don’t. You’ll use less gas.
- Take your own insulated mug for your coffee stops. Most coffee shops are happy to serve their patrons coffee in a reusable container, and some even offer a slight discount. According to Carbonrally, 14.4 billion cups of coffee are bought in disposable paper cups each year. Placed end-to-end, they say, these cups would wrap around the earth 55 times and weigh around 900 million pounds. How’s that for inspiration to change?
- Combine errands so that you use less fuel.
- Live near town? Walk, sometimes!
- Seek out one wild food source in your area. Maybe it’s dandelion greens. Or maybe you’ve got a source for wild asparagus or blackberries.
- Go meet your neighbors. Having a friendly community means a chance to share equipment rather than everyone owning the same snow blower or tractor.
- Those same neighbors? May share their garden surplus or help you tackle all of those excess zucchini.
- Think about needs versus wants. We’ve become a society of shoppers. Do you really need that new pair of shoes?
- Choose to live with less stuff.
Got another simple change to add? Please share it in the comments! And, hey. If you’re on Facebook, come join us there. We’re always tossing new ideas around!