by: Jessica Cohen
Perhaps you have resolved to be more environmentally friendly this year or to go even further with living an already sustainable lifestyle. In my house this year we are planning to work on consistency in our efforts. If you have ever wondered how to be eco-friendly, these 101 ways to go greener this year will surely get you started!
Around the House
– Use eco-friendly, reusable, fair trade, organic, GMO-free, and recycled products whenever possible. They are worth it. I promise.
– Keep your outside shoes off while you are at home. This will keep toxins and pesticides from the ground out of your home. You can even purchase an antimicrobial doormat to rest your shoes on while you are inside.
– Keep the lights off and utilize the natural light coming into your home during the daytime. Open the curtains and keep the windows unobstructed to allow light to flow in.
– If you can’t keep the lights off completely, utilize dimmer switches to avoid wasting energy. They are eco-friendly and will help reduce your spending on unnecessary electricity.
– And when those lights go out, replace them with compact fluorescent bulbs! They cost more up front but will save you money in the long term. Utilizing long-lasting, eco-friendly LED bulbs in our homes will reduce both energy use and the need to replace bulbs so often, thus massively reducing pollution as well.
– Turn down the water heater. A standard hot water heater setting is approximately 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Taking that down to 120 degrees could save you significantly on water heating costs.
– Keep an eye on your thermostat too. Try to set it a little bit higher in the summer and a few degrees cooler in the winter. If possible, switch to a “smart” thermostat, such as these popular choices from the Nest or Honeywell. Our Nest thermostat has lowered our energy usage and reduced our bills by about $250 a year.
– Speaking of windows, keep all windows and doors closed as tightly as possible. Insulate or replace drafty windows. This will prevent air from both entering and escaping from the room, and your home. A simple window film can help reduce energy loss and lower cooling costs. Window films can block annoying glare and reject UV to reduce fading and help protect your furnishings.
– Check your home’s air filters and replace them regularly.
– Keep indoor plants, which absorb carbon dioxide as well as some toxins in the home.
– Unplug appliances when not in use. Plugged in appliances utilize a great deal of electricity, so why waste electricity (and money on your electric bill) for appliances that you aren’t even using? The one that I always make certain to unplug is the washer and dryer.
– Fix items when they break. Rather than trying to fix items, in our culture we tend to just buy new. Simply go to the company website or do a search via Google or Youtube to see if your item is fixable before replacing it. Let’s not forget that glue, tape, and a simple sewing machine can save our items, preventing us from having to buy new ones.
– When those appliances do finally need to be replaced, make certain to purchase energy-efficient appliances. Look for those bearing the Energy Star label, which will use substantially less energy in the long run and save you money as well.
– Just like fixing items that break, it is important to always repair a leaky faucet. Do not just let it drip, because those little drops of water can waste many, many gallons over the course of just one week. That is bad for the earth and fills up your water bill.
– Another way to reduce water use is to stop using a hose to water the yard. Set up a simple rainwater catch using a barrel or buckets. If big companies and hotels are starting to utilize rainwater, we can easily do this in our homes too.
– Install a water filter to purify tap water rather than purchasing bottled water. Popular brands such as Pur and Brita both make inexpensive purifiers that easily attach to your sink. Bottled water expensive and generates an enormous amount of plastic waste.
– Store paint cans upside down so the solvents—which separate and rise to the top—get trapped under the bottom of the can. Not only will paint last longer, but solvents won’t be able to slowly seep out through the lid this way.
– Look for eco-friendly, low VOC paint, which releases significantly fewer chemicals into your home than conventional paint.
– Keep hot air from rising by turning ceiling fans clockwise in the winter to redirect air toward the living space, making the most of the warm air in the house. Don’t forget to switch the fan so that it is running counter-clockwise in the summer months.
– Take a peak in the attic. Can it be better insulated? What about the basement? Insulation can greatly help to regulate your home’s temperature, meaning that you will use less electricity to heat your home in winter and cool it in summer.
– Consider installing a solar roof. Not only will you save on energy use and lower your electricity bill, but the government now offers a tax credit to homeowners for installing panels on their homes.
– Cover your pool when it’s not in use. This will keep water from evaporating and keep the pool cleaner. Covering the pool, especially with a solar cover, will also reduce the need to run the pool’s heater.
– When purchasing new sofas, loveseats, chairs, and mattresses, look for ones that do not contain flame retardant chemicals. Some foam carpet padding contains flame retardant chemicals too. Some of these chemicals have been linked to reduced fertility, birth defects, hyperactivity, hormonal disruptions, diminished IQ and even cancer. Ask questions of your retailer and be aware of what you are purchasing.
In the Kitchen
– Keep the refrigerator full. Believe it or not, your fridge uses more energy to stay cool when there are fewer items in it. If it’s getting near time to head to the supermarket, put a few glass bottles of water in the fridge to keep it more full.
– Use hand towels to dry your hands rather than paper towels. Just remember to change those hand towels often to keep them sanitary!
– Use cloth napkins. This simple change will save trees, use less energy, and keep more money in your wallet.
– Rather than turning on the oven each night, consider batch cooking. When heating up the oven, make a few meals at once, use up produce, or make an after-dinner dessert.
– Turn off the oven a few minutes before your meal or dessert is ready. This will allow the food to continue cooking while also saving energy. This little trick works with the stove too.
– When making smaller meals, use your toaster oven instead of the conventional oven. With less space to heat up, toaster ovens use less energy.
– Use a pressure cooker, which can use significantly less energy than a conventional oven. On Pinterest, you can find a gazillion amazing pressure cooker recipes that the whole family will enjoy!
– Consider what you are eating. Look for foods with minimal chemicals and processing, eco-friendly packaging, organic, GMO-free, and/or locally grown. All of these considerations are good for your body and for the earth.
– Go meatless at least one day every week – and more, if possible. (Coming from this vegetarian, I know for sure that meatless does not mean hungry!) You may not be aware of this, but meat production is extremely taxing on the earth. If/When you do eat meat, go for animals that are treated humanely and fed organically.
– Reuse water from cleaning and boiling food. (No, not on yourself. On your plants, Silly!) For example, wash organic produce by rinsing it in a large bowl. After removing the foods, use the remaining water in the garden or on the lawn. Be sure to let the boiling water cool before pouring it on the plants!!
– Always wash a full load of dishes. Running a partial load is a huge waste of water and electricity.
– Compost. When you throw out excess food, it gets taken to a landfill. When you compost food, it goes right back into the earth.
– In addition to composting, how about simply wasting less food? If you make just enough for your family to eat, there will be significantly less waste. Buy what you need, and make what you need. Nothing more.
In the Bathroom
– Take shorter baths and showers. This goes for the kiddos too. You can save a thousand gallons of water each year if each of your family members reduces their shower time by just a bit.
– Shut off the water while you brush your teeth (or for the guys, shave your face).
– Use a PVC-free shower curtain, as PVC releases toxic chemicals into the air in your home.
– Install a low-flow shower head to save tons of wasted water. When these shower heads first hit the market they were on the pricier side, but not anymore, so out and grab one today!
– Do not use sprays to enhance the smell of your bathroom, or plug one of those scented doo-dads into the wall. Those generally just release chemicals into the air with their potent odor. Instead, make your own scents using essential oils and other all-natural ingredients.
– Place a plastic milk or water jug filled with rocks in your toilet tank. This will help you to save water each time you flush the toilet.
In the Laundry Room
– Unplug the washer and dryer when they are not in use.
– Built-up lint in the dryer translates to more electricity needed to get your clothes dry. You can prevent this by cleaning out the dryer vent often. Be sure to vacuum deep inside.
– When purchasing a new washer and dryer, consider this. Front-Loader washing machines use less water and energy than top-loading washing machines. Remember to choose an Energy Star compliant washer and dryer.
– We used to believe that it was best to wash clothes in hot water. However, most washing machines do just as good of a job getting clothes clean in cold water, and cold uses significantly less energy. In fact, the majority of energy used by a washing machine is for heating water.
– Always wash a full load of laundry instead of several smaller loads. A tremendous amount of water and energy is wasted when washing a partial load.
For Cleaning the Home
– Use a microfiber duster to clean your home rather than paper towels.
– Ditch chemical-filled cleaning products. Purchase products made from all natural ingredients, make products yourself or even use a combination of vinegar and water, or essential oils.
In Your Home Office
– When working at home on your laptop, unplug it from the wall. Let it run on the battery so you can conserve energy use.
– There are times when you will just have to use paper. If you work from home (or even if you don’t), purchase the environmentally friendly paper. You can buy chlorine-free paper and/or recycled paper.
– When you do need to print, use wider margins and smaller font so that you can get as much printed on one sheet of paper as possible.
– Also, print on double-sided paper. Use scrap paper before taking out a new sheet to write on.
– Set your computer’s monitor to power off rather than go to a screen saver. Making this one change can reduce the amount of energy needed to run your pc.
– Recycle ink cartridges and toner cartridges. Some stores even give you a credit for returning them. You can also purchase recycled ink and toner cartridges rather than buying new.
For Your Pets
– Feed your pets only the most natural foods. Chemicals and GMO’s can harm pets just like they can harm humans.
– Use chemical-free, biodegradable litter made from pine, corn, or newspaper.
– Use leashes for dogs made from canvas rather than plastic. Likewise, look for chew toys that are BPA free.
– Quickly clean off your pet’s paws when he or she enters the house. This will have the same benefit as having household members take off their shoes at the door.
For Your Personal Care
– For feminine care, consider using a Diva Cup or unbleached tampons. Who really wants bleach up there, anyway??
– Cut cotton pads, makeup sponges, cotton swabs, and face wipes in half. (I do this all the time with makeup remover pads!) You will have twice as many uses out of one package!
– Avoid personal care products and cosmetics with parabens, phthalates and other harmful chemicals. Go for products that are all-natural and chemical free. You can also make your own soaps, body washes, scrubs, facial cleansers, shaving cream, and more using essential oils and other all-natural ingredients.
For Holidays and Celebrations
– Stop buying wrapping paper. Instead create your own wrapping paper by using magazine pages, newspapers, catalogs, or brown grocery bags. You can also create a very special wrap by repurposing your children’s drawings and paintings.
– Make your own holiday decorations! Reuse materials to create special memories and decorations that can be displayed in your home from year to year.
– Make gifts rather than buying them. Head on over to Pinterest for tons of fantastic ideas.
– Give eco-friendly gifts. Look for items that are chemical-free, made from sustainable materials, or simply made with minimal impact on the environment. If you must bring a bouquet of flowers, get an organic bouquet.
– Give gifts that give back. Here are some great ideas to start with – and there are so many more where that came from!
– Give a charitable donation in your recipient’s name. This is a very personal way to give a gift, to give back, and to have minimal impact on the earth.
– Buy LED holiday lights. They will last longer and use less electricity, saving your money that can be put towards presents!
– Get a Christmas tree and wreath that is eco-friendly chemical-free. Why bring all those toxins in your house, especially during the holiday season?
– In addition to chemical-free trees, you can also purchase a tree that is capable of being planted after use in your home. Don’t ditch your tree. Recycle it instead.
In Your Daily Activities
– Every time you are at the store, take a look at what you are buying. See if you can make the switch from conventional products to more natural items.
– Shop at socially responsible retailers, both online and in-store. Encourage the stores you shop at to carry eco-friendly items.
– Start an organic garden at home. You can keep it simple at first and go from there. You can also plant some fruits and vegetables while a friend or neighbor grows different ones, and then you can share.
– On other items such as clothes, consider buying secondhand. Head to a store, buy from a yard sale or trade with friends. The items will still be new to you!
– Save trees when you read. Head on over to the library. Borrow from a friend. Or when all else fails, download them to your pc, laptop, or reader.
– Another way to save trees is by paying bills online. Not only does this reduce the need for paper bills, it also lowers your spending on stamps.
– While we are on the subject of eliminating paper, keeping your calendar, to-do list, and notes digitally.
– And getting back to the trees, consider planting some. I’m a huge fan of the Arbor Day Foundation, the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees, with over one million members, supporters, and valued partners.
– Send your child’s teacher an email rather than a handwritten paper note, especially when the topic is impersonal (such as to let the teacher know that your child will be picked up early).
– Cancel junk mail and neighborhood flyers, even if you did not subscribe to them.
– In addition to books, borrow other items that you will only need once or twice rather than purchasing them.
– Just like you can switch to cloth napkins at home, you can save by grabbing fewer napkins while dining out.
– Reuse glass or BPA-free water bottles rather than purchasing plastic bottles. Plastic water bottles are one of the worst waste offenders on the market today.
– Stop using straws and coffee stirrers. They are an enormous waste of plastic, and terrible for the environment.
– Get rid of plastics altogether. Instead of plastic use glass, ceramic, or stainless steel containers for storing food and other items.
– Don’t use plastic bags either. Instead, take reusable bags with you to the store. And if you can carry the item yourself or fit it in a purse, then do not accept a plastic bag.
– Clean out your car. Trekking around with fewer items in your car means that it will weigh less, thus using less fuel. Less fuel is better for both the environment and your wallet.
– Going to the same place as a friend or neighbor? Then go together or set up a carpool. Not only will it save you money on gas, fewer cars on the road translates to fewer carbon emissions.
– Better yet, walk or ride your bike when you can!
– Did you know that you can off-set your commute to work or your travel miles by planting trees? You can provide carbon offsets through organizations such as Carbonify.com, Terrapass, and CarbonFund. You can also donate trees through the Arbor Day Foundation.
– When you travel, look for hotels that take the environment seriously, such as those that use local fare, recycled materials, rainwater, and hotels with a Code Green type of initiative.
– Recycle whenever possible. Not just cans and bottles that go out with the trash. You can recycle plastic bags and even hangers to the dry cleaner. Other items such as paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, and washed out milk cartons can be donated to schools for craft projects.
– Speaking of the dry cleaner, try to only purchase clothing that you can wash. When you do have that coat or suit that must be professionally cleaned, look for a green dry cleaner near you. I also ask for my items to be returned without that clear plastic covering!
– Recycle cell phones and other technology. Several electronics stores, police stations, and even charities will gladly take used electronics items. Donating and recycling these items reduces the risk of mercury, cadmium, and lead from ending up in landfills.
– If you are not going to recycle them, be sure to learn the proper ways to dispose of hazardous waste like electronics or chemicals.
– Instead of throwing away worn-in shoes, take them to a shoemaker to for repair before replacing them.
– This may not be for everyone, but consider using cloth diapers. Not only are most diapers made partially from potentially harmful chemicals, used diapers also end up in landfills.
– Get organized. How many times have you purchased an item at the store, only to get home and realize that you had two or three of them already? The more organized you keep your home and your things, the more you can utilize what you’ve already got rather than buying more.
– Make a personal goal of consuming less and reusing more, either as is or by repurposing.
– Join the fight for a cleaner environment. All you have to do is head over to https://fighttoxins.com and sign the petition to tell Congress that it’s time to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Over 80,000 potentially toxic, harmful chemicals are currently available for use in the market. It’s time to change that.