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6 More Ways to Go Green in the New Year

6 More Ways to Go Green in the New Year

Yesterday I wrote about what I see as some of the simpler ways to go green. They still take commitment but don’t really take a lot of extra effort. Today I’m covering some still fairly simple things that do take a bit more effort to go green in the new year.

1. Drive less.

This is a tough one for many families. Schools aren’t always within walking distance. It’s hard to run errands or get to kids’ activities without driving if things aren’t really close to your home. I work at home, so at least I don’t have to drive for work, but many of the other things I do require the use of a car.

Look at what you do. Can riding a bike, walking or taking public transportation replace the use of your car at times? Most transit services have websites that will help you figure out your local bus routes and schedules.

Telecommuting is awesome if you can manage it. This one is not possible for a lot of people, but if you can do telecommute, consider yourself lucky and take advantage! You waste less time on the road and save the money you would have spent on gas.

I’ve gone the one car route when it has been possible too. Being a one car family was difficult at times, but the savings was huge. It doesn’t work where we live now though.


2. Compost.

If you have a backyard, composting can be pretty easy to do. Find a spot in your yard that you don’t mind setting things up, and start composting. Appropriate food scraps, lawn clippings, leaves and even cardboard can do well in backyard compost piles.

Composting can be a bit tougher if you live in an apartment, but there are indoor composting systems that are reported to control the odors. Composting means that food scraps don’t rot in the landfill. They make great natural fertilizer, even if all you ever do is plant an indoor herb garden.

3. Garden.

Anything from a little herb garden on a kitchen counter to a serious backyard garden can be a wonderful idea. It means you can get fresh produce that you know has been grown the way you like it. A good garden can produce great snacks for kids too. It can be one of the fun ways to go green in the new year.

Take the time to learn about natural pest control. For example, ladybugs are pretty easily available at many garden centers at certain times of year and are quite good at controlling certain pests.

And of course, the aforementioned compost means you don’t have to spend money on other fertilizers.

Alternatively or along with this, join a food co-op. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is very popular right now. It’s a wonderful way to get local produce more easily. Local Harvest has some good resources to help you find a CSA in your area.

4. Decrease your energy consumption.

Changing light bulbs to LEDs or CFLs works, although some have concerns about the mercury in the CFL bulbs. But there’s more you can do.

Consider plugging your television, stereo and such into a power strip, so that you can shut them down completely when you turn them off. These can use a significant amount of “ghost power”. But you will want to consider, if you have TiVo or a similar service, finding a way to allow that to have a different power strip so you can leave it on if it is going to be recording while you aren’t watching television.

Also be sure to unplug chargers when not in use. Cell phone chargers are often left plugged in, and they don’t stop using power just because you take your cell phone with you.

Similarly, unplug electric toothbrushes and the like. My electric toothbrush is plugged in about one day a week and holds a good charge that long easily.

use clothesline

5. Install a clothesline.

Putting in a clothesline takes some effort, as does hanging the laundry out on it when the weather is warm enough to dry your clothes quickly. Clothes dryers use a significant amount of energy. But even beyond that, there are few things like clothes dried outdoors. Some people give their towels a quick turn through the dryer at the end so that they don’t feel stiff.

Clotheslines can be problematic with some homeowners associations. I kept things below the fence line when I used one while living in a homeowners association area. Many states protect the right to use clotheslines regardless of what the HOA may say, so check the rules in your area if this is a concern.

I like using a clothesline during the summer. Clothes often dry faster in the sunshine than they do in a dryer. The animal shelter we volunteer at uses a clothesline year round for their laundry. They only use their dryer if they have more than a day of rain keeping the laundry from drying. They save a lot of money that way. Clothes take a long time to dry on cool, cloudy days, but they do get there.

6. Get an energy audit.

Many local power companies offer these for free or at a discount, or you can hire a company to do one for you.

An energy audit tests your home, to see where energy is being wasted and how you can solve the problem. Little things like leaks under a door or through a window can cause significant heat loss in winter, for example. Just be sure you take action on the recommendations.

What ways are you planning to go green in the new year?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

How to Pick a Composter

A good compost pile is an important factor in an organic garden. It’s your best source for many of the nutrients your garden needs. But figuring out which one is best for your particular situation may not be easy.

For some an indoor model may be best. Others would rather do it outside. Then you have to consider how much volume you’re going to need available, as well as how quickly you want it all to work and how much effort you want to put into composting.

The Cheap Outdoor Solution

My husband and I use one of the cheapest but sometimes labor intensive methods. Our landlords left some cinder blocks behind the shed from a project they had done. Turned out to be enough for us to create a space to put our compost.

This compost pile solution works well for us, but it takes some work. My husband goes out when he has some time to turn the pile. Often he’s amazed at how quickly certain things have broken down. But when things get busy and he doesn’t have the time to deal with it properly, it definitely slows down.

Building with leftover materials obviously has a lot of green appeal. We didn’t have to buy anything. I love having a zero waste solution for handling food scraps and other compostable materials.

The negative, of course, is that critters can come and nibble on anything we don’t bury well enough. That means we have to be careful about the kinds of food scraps we put in. We don’t want to attract too many of the wrong kinds of critters.

Most people, of course, don’t just have the materials lying around to build something like that. You may also want more protection from having critters come into your yard and more freedom as to the types of food waste you can toss into the bin. That’s where buying a composter can make a lot of sense.

Buying an Outdoor Compost Bin

There are a couple of types of outdoor compost bin. The basic ones are rather like what my husband built, but generally with a lid to keep the critters out.

My mother, for example, has had something that at least looks rather like this Soilsaver Compost Bin for many years. Two of them, in fact. They do a good job. They’ve held up for quite a number of years and show no sign of breaking down. The lids go on nicely, although she doesn’t use them much since a lot of what she composts is grass clippings. I’m not 100% certain that this is the brand she has, but it looks just like it.

With this style, you can either just leave the food and yard waste in there and wait for it to decompose, or you can be more active and try to turn the pile. You generally need to just take the bin off the pile and then reload it in a new spot with these. They aren’t that easy to turn with the material in them, and getting it out otherwise is a bit difficult.

Another style is a bin that you can crank a handle or otherwise rotate to turn the pile. They come in a variety of sizes. Some are easier to turn than others, of course, and they naturally are a closed container that will keep the critters out. Couldn’t rotate them otherwise! This Green Tumbleweed Composter is an example of a rotating compost bin. Others will be more like a barrel on its side, rather than standing up, but they work in a similar manner.

With an outdoor composter, you need to think about how much work you want to be doing with it. Do you want to turn the pile regularly? A rotating one is probably much simpler. Want to toss stuff in and mostly leave it, doing a slower compost? A plain compost bin is probably a better buy.

Buying a Worm Tray Compost Bin

If you want your composting to go fast, vermiculture may be for you. The worms do much of the work for you, but they can be a bit picky. You really cannot put in onions or meat scraps if you want your worms to be happy. Then again, you probably don’t want meat scraps in most outdoor composters as they can attract critters.

You can make your own as described in this Worm Farm DIY ebook, or buy one like this Gusanito Worm Farm 3 Tray Garden Compost Bin. The tray system allows the worms to migrate upward as they create your compost.

Buying an Indoor Composter

If you don’t have the space or just want to do things indoors, there are systems to create your compost inside that will not stink the house up. Mostly they use carbon filters to control the odor. They may be plastic or stainless steel.

These are nice if you don’t want to have to run outside all the time to dump your scraps, or if you live in an apartment and are composting for dumping elsewhere. You will want to think about the size you can deal with, both in terms of the space you have to store one and how quickly you think you will fill it.

Indoor composters can have trouble with fruit flies. Banana peels are a common source of fruit fly eggs, and so you may want to avoid placing these in your indoor composter. Your nearest rose bush may appreciate them more.

If you really want to get composting going, look for one that you can use with microbes, often called Bokashi. This composts through fermentation and can work in 10 days. You’ll have to keep buying the microbes, but it’s a quick system if you want to do it all indoors.