Here are 5 easy ways to live greener every day:
Single use plastic bags, like the ones you find at the grocery store, do not biodegrade so they are clogging up our dumps and our waterways. Many cities, including San Francisco, Austin and Cambridge, MA have banned these bags already (and many others charge you $.10 for each bag you need) so if you are not already doing so, get in the habit of bringing your own bags to the grocery store. Some stores will even give you a discount for each bag you use. Keep a sack of reusable bags by the door and several in the car.
- Reuse, reuse, reuse!
Think about all the stuff you throw out every day and ask yourself “could I have re-used that instead?” Between baggies for school lunches to the plastic spring water bottles you’re drinking from every day, there’s probably a lot of room for improvement here. My daughter’s school has a no trash rule and that’s something you could definitely institute at home (or at least a “reduce trash” rule). Replace plastic baggies with reusable pouches and instead of purchasing spring water bottles, drink filtered water from a Brita and use refillable water bottles. A great resource for everything reusable is Reusit.com. From utensils to bento-style lunch boxes, they have it all.
- You are what you eat
Does what you eat impact your carbon footprint? In fact, it does. According to ShrinkThatFoodFootprint, “A person’s food footprint (foodprint) is all the emissions that result from the production, transportation and storage of the food supplied to meet their consumption needs.” A lion’s share of this footprint falls into the meat and waste categories. Simply by cutting back on your meat consumption, which is good for you anyway, and cutting back on food waste, i.e. buying more wisely so you don’t toss out uneaten food, can impact your footprint in a very positive way.
- Au Naturale
Many household products, like cleaners and detergents contain chemicals that can be harmful to the environment because they either take a long time to degrade or are not biodegradable at all. Knowing everything there is to know about this can be a full-time job, but if you keep these few things in mind, you’ll be taking a big step in the right direction:
- Look for products that contain ingredients that you recognize, like baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, and plant-based ingredients. A good example of this is one of my favorite environmentally friendly all-purpose cleaners is Dapple Pure ‘N’ Clean Everything, which contains purified water, a cleaning agent derived from coconut oil, a pH adjuster derived from fruit, baking soda and lavender.
- Just because something is labeled “natural”, doesn’t mean that it is. Read your ingredient labels.
- Avoid products that are labeled “hazardous” or “toxic”.
- Minimize packaging use by buying large containers of products you use regularly and dispensing into smaller bottles that you reuse.
- A greener home
You can also reduce your impact on the Earth by tweaking your regular routine. Here are a few suggestions:
- Use the dishwasher instead of hand washing. Studies show that dishwashers (especially those with an Energy Star label) use far less water than hand washing.
- Make sure that you a) don’t pre-rinse the dishes in the sink prior to placing them in the dishwasher and b) only run the dishwasher when it’s full.
- You can also save extra energy by using the “fan dry” option (if available) instead of heated dry.
- Only run your clothes washer when it’s full and use cold water when you can.
- In the winter, keep the oven and toaster oven open after using.
- If your windows are not drafty, leave the shades/curtains open on winter days to take advantage of the warmth from the sun. Conversely, leave them closed in the summer.
- Avoid using the clothes dryer too much in summer because it can heat the house. Instead, hang your clothes to dry.
- Unplug chargers when not in use. Many chargers use energy just by being plugged in.
- Install a programmable thermostat and set it to use as little heating/cooling as is comfortable.