Growing your own herbs is a fun small step to take for being green. It can be done in a house or an apartment; all you need is a sunny place to grow the herbs.
The great part about growing your own herbs is that you’ll have cheap, fresh herbs all the time for cooking with. Just look at how much fresh herbs cost in the grocery store. Even dried ones can get pricey if you don’t buy them in bags or from bulk bins.
Basil is very easy to grow if you want to start with just one plant. It’s also useful in a lot of recipes. When my basil plant gets big enough, I love harvesting enough to make homemade pesto – an amazing treat and far superior to what you can buy at the store.
Want to make your home more beautiful and save energy at the same time? Plant trees around it!
Trees help your home to use less energy in the summer by providing shade once they’re big enough. That means less sunlight heating your home.
You can take it up a notch by planting fruit trees. Most don’t grow as tall as other types of trees, but you get fruit out of the bargain, which isn’t a bad deal. Just find out what grows well in your area. You can’t get more local than picking fruit from your own yard.
Alternatively, consider planting a tree that will eventually be good for kids to climb. It will take years to grow it tall and strong enough, but a good climbing tree is one way to get children outside and enjoying nature. You may end up gritting your teeth and worrying as kids climb, but that’s one of the parts of parenthood. But if you climbed trees as a child, you know how wonderful a feeling it is.
The use of paper napkins at meal times is one of the areas where many families waste without thinking about it. Paper napkins are easy. Just toss them in the trash when you’re done, out of sight, out of mind.
A small green step is to use cloth napkins instead. Good quality ones will last for years. There are many beautiful styles made from organic materials.
Using cloth really helps a meal to feel a touch more formal. It can be a way to help the kids think more about their manners. Plus cloth absorbs a lot more if you’re having one of those messy meals.
Cleaning up cloth napkins isn’t that hard. Figure out the most convenient place for your family to keep them until laundry day, whether it’s taking them out of the kitchen and into a room where there’s already a laundry basket, or piling them up by the washing machine. It’s really not that much harder than throwing out the paper ones. Probably not even a full extra load of laundry a week, although that depends on your family’s habits.
If you aren’t ready to give up paper napkins yet, at least look for napkins made of post consumer recycled paper. While not perfect, they’re not as bad as other paper napkins.
Laundry can use huge amounts of energy, especially when you use a dryer. But there are steps you can take to be more efficient.
A good, old fashioned clothesline is my favorite option. They can be very affordable, but not easily used in all situations. They’re more challenging in apartments and when you have to deal with a homeowner’s association, of course. Although even in those cases you can set up a drying rack indoors.
Then there’s rainy or otherwise cold or damp weather that can make clotheslines just not work.
That’s when using your dryer efficiently comes in. Don’t let that sucker cool off! If your dryer is like mine you will need to get the clothes before the dryer stops, as it cools them down for you… and coincidentally itself.
Get the next load in while the dryer is still hot, and it won’t have to reheat so much. You’ll also get those wonderfully warm clothes to hold for just a moment.
Your water heater can be a big part of your energy bill, 14-25% according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Making it more efficient can be a big help.
There are several ways you can save money on heating water for your home, such as turning down the thermostat on your water heater to no more than 120 degrees F. But insulating it is another great step.
You can buy a water heater blanket for under $20 on Amazon, although they can run more as well. Home Depot and other home improvement stores often carry them as well. You have to be sure not to cover the thermostat when you cover it. They are made of fiberglass in many cases, so you will need gloves to protect your hands as you install it.
The water heater blanket will help to cut down on the heat loss on your water heater. This is particularly nice first thing in the morning if your water isn’t always hot right away.