Tag Archives: environment

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.

compost

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.

16 Simple, Green New Year’s Resolutions

16 Simple, Green New Year's Resolutions

This is a popular time to rethink old habits, so why not rethink some of those habits you have that aren’t so good for the environment? Today I’d like to present a list of reasonably simple things you can do to have less of an impact and live greener.

1. Buy less.

And when you have to buy, try to buy green. This can mean buying local, organic or fair trade when possible. It can also mean checking out resale shops and thrift stores. You might be amazed at the quality of things you can buy that aren’t new.

2. Reuse.

So much of what we buy can be reused. But even if you can’t come up with a use for it, someone else might. When it’s reasonable, remember to list items on Freecycle or give to thrift shops.

We reuse a lot here. Most gift bags used for holidays or birthdays are kept for the next one. They don’t look perfect, but they work.

Some of the burp cloths we used back when my kids were babies are still in use as an alternative to napkins or kleenex. Cloth is so much kinder to the nose when you have a miserable cold that I hate it when I need to use a disposable tissue instead.

3. Recycle.

Yes, the third part of the usual reduce, reuse, recycle routine.

Most areas have made recycling easier. You may or may not have to split your recyclables into separate bins for each type these days. Where I live, all recyclables go into one bin, making it as easy as throwing them in the trash.

Also, try to find reputable places to dispose of old electronics. When it comes time to get rid of that old computer, television or whatever it may be, do not throw it in the trash. Earth 911 has resources for recycling electronics. Sometimes schools and other local organizations will hold electronics recycling events as a fundraiser, giving you the chance to get rid of old electronics and do something good for that organization.

4. Switch to natural and/or nontoxic cleansers.

Method and Seventh Generation are two popular brands that you can often find locally.

You can also make your own cleansers. Baking soda and white vinegar work for an amazing range of cleaning needs.

5. Buy rechargeable batteries.

A good battery recharging system means you will go through fewer batteries and save money in the long run. Figure out how many batteries of each type you will need and get a system that can cope with your needs. Amazon.com and GreenBatteries.com each have a decent selection.

6. Warm your body, not your house when possible.

wear a sweaterRather than turning the thermostat up to 70 degrees F or more, remember what your parents used to say and put on a sweater. Maybe even some socks or slippers if you’ve been running around the house barefoot. You can keep the thermostat at a much lower temperature this way, saving on heating oil or electricity in the process.

If a day is sunny but cold, opening the blinds may help to heat your home. I do this only on the side of the house that gets direct sunlight in winter.

The reverse can be more challenging in summer. Keeping your thermostat to a higher temperature to avoid using the air conditioner is not easy for many people. It’s not too impossible for me since I work at home and don’t often go into air conditioned buildings. It takes just a couple weeks to get used to being warmer, along with figuring out how to block the worst of the heat.

If you don’t mind the look, folded cardboard boxes in windows really do help, as do sheets or blankets covering the windows. Anything that keeps the heat out means you’ll use the air conditioner less.

Don’t forget to check and replace filters regularly!

7. Wash your clothes in cold water.

Most of the time cold water cleans your laundry quite well. A warm wash rarely improves your results in any significant way. Modern washing machines and detergents can do a very good job of cleaning your clothes without heated water in most places.

8. Drink more water.

But don’t buy bottled water. Buy a nice reusable bottle either from a local store or through Amazon.com. I prefer stainless steel bottles for their durability and safety. You’ll save money as you do something good for yourself and the environment.

9. Use less water.

This is not in contradiction to #8. You should drink more water, but people tend to waste a lot of water. Take shorter showers and rethink how much you water your lawn. Deeper waterings are more effective than more frequent watering, for example. But you should also be looking at your overall landscaping and figuring out how to make it more suited to your local climate.

Whatever lawn you do keep, allow to grow taller. If it’s at least 2-1/2 inches tall it will need less watering and be more resistant to weeds.

10. Do full loads.

Don’t run half full washing machines or dishwashers. While the occasional smaller load may be necessary, most of the time you can wait a little and build up a full load.

But by the same token, think about how fast things really get dirty. Kids can be great for wearing an outfit for a half hour, then throwing them in the clothes hamper to be washed. Often, they aren’t really dirty, and could be put away rather than into the laundry.

Similarly, many people find it simple to use a towel more than once for drying off. How often you use a bath towel before washing can be a personal preference, but most say you should wash it after about three uses. Hand towels should be replaced every couple days, depending on how much they get used.

11. Stop using disposable dishes.

disposable dishesThese are easiest when you’re entertaining, but a lot of people use them fairly frequently just because they feel like it. Whenever possible, even when you have company, don’t use disposable dishes or plasticware.

This goes for lunchtime too. Many people bring or buy lunch at school or work. But if you bring leftovers from home in reusable containers you won’t be throwing out so many disposable containers. Reusable lunch bags are easily found locally or on Amazon. You can even avoid plastic in the containers by finding stainless steel or glass containers for your food.

12. Get off junk mail lists.

This one should be an absolute pleasure!

Junk mail is incredibly annoying. Credit card offers can be particularly annoying, as many worry about security risks with them. They’re easy to get rid of, however. You can opt out for five years or permanently through www.optoutprescreen.com. You can further decrease your junk mail by asking the DMA to take your name off mailing lists.

13. Go flexitarian.

That is, eat at least one vegetarian meal a week. Eating less meat can be good for you, and there are many delightful vegetarian recipes you can try. Even if you love your meat, this one should be possible.

Meatless Monday is the traditional day, of course. You can go meatless any day it’s convenient to you. If Monday is the wrong day for any reason, just pick another day.

There are tons of wonderful vegetarian recipes out there. Start searching and find some that include ingredients you know you like.

14. Have the kids help.

The younger kids learn to respect the environment, the more of a habit it can become. Don’t give them all the toys they want, just because they saw them on television. Think about how much they have and how much easier it is to appreciate what you have when there’s less of it.

15. Bring your own bag.

Reusable bags are available in many stores these days. These are a wonderful substitute for the plastic bags that are otherwise often a single use item. Reusable bags are required in California now.

You can buy much nicer reusable bags than what the stores sell if you like. These should last longer, and feel nicer to carry. They’re so useful that my aunt loves to give Envirosax as party favors for adults.

16. Don’t fall for green consumerism.

While buying green products is a good idea, it’s not green if you’re overdoing it. Think about what you really need before you shop. Buying lunch boxes and shopping bags makes sense because you’re going to be using fewer one-use items. Buying an entire new wardrobe of clothing so you can get it all organic or fair trade does not.

I’ll be posting in the next day or so on some of the more challenging things you can do to go greener. Nothing too hard, just things that might take a bit more commitment, without requiring a complete change of lifestyle.

Is Recycling Only About the Environment?

Recycling is a major part of living a more eco friendly lifestyle. It’s a part many people focus on, and something that has become easier to do in many communities. Some may only offer recycling for the basics, such as metal, glass and paper, while others accept a wide range of plastics as well.

But recycling isn’t all about the environment. It has other benefits, depending on what’s being recycled.

Manufacturing Can Benefit

Some metals are much cheaper to recycle than they are to use fresh from the mine. The EPA says recycling aluminum saves 92% of the energy it takes to process it from bauxite ore.   The demand for aluminum is high, as it is used in common products such as soda cans or siding on houses.

Recycling Creates Jobs

If you want a recycling program, people are going to have to work at the recycling center. That’s jobs for people getting products ready for recycling, transporting recyclable and recycled materials and so forth.

Recycling takes more people to do the work than similar jobs at landfills. Despite that, many kinds of recycling are economically feasible enough that this still saves money over dumping it all in the landfill.

Recycling Saves Money

Communities have realized that it’s worthwhile to have recycling available. Businesses have realized that it’s worth their time to recycle. There’s a good reason for that. They save money.

A good recycling program costs less than many other waste disposal options. The products being recycled can be sold, reducing the cost of the recycling program.

Landfills Benefit

Recycling can’t do away with landfills, but it can slow down the rate at which they are filled. Some areas of the United States are facing a shortage of available space for landfills. Other areas aren’t facing such problems, but it doesn’t hurt to slow down how fast we fill up landfills.

If local landfills are full, then states have to send their garbage elsewhere, increasing the costs to consumers. That’s significant to people living in areas where they have to send their garbage away.

Remember the Other Two Rs

Recycling has a lot of benefits, both to the environment and economically, but it’s not the only thing you should be considering. It’s more important to reduce your consumption and to reuse products when possible. These two actions are the most beneficial to the environment, and are pretty good for your personal finances as well.

20 Things Your Kids Can Do for the Environment

It’s not just adults who should be doing the best they can for the environment. Kids can help too. Take some time and teach them to do their part.

1. Reduce

The 3 Rs apply to your kids, and reduce is the first one to teach them. Help them to learn the difference between need and want. When you go shopping with them, and they start begging for whatever it is they see on the shelves, discuss why they want it. If it’s needed, talk about what makes it needed. If it’s just something they want, talk about when you buy things you just want and when you should skip them.

2. Reuse

Kids who enjoy crafts are great at reusing things. They can make wonderful projects from things you might have otherwise thrown into the recycle bin or thrown away.

3. Recycle

Teach them from a young age to sort items into the recycle bin. Once they’re old enough to recognize the types of paper, plastic and metals that can be recycled in your area they can help put recyclables in the right place rather than in the trash.

4. Walk or Bike to School

If your child’s school is at all within a reasonable distance, why not have them walk or ride a bike there. Odds are good that you did the same growing up if your school was near enough. It never ceases to amaze me how many people I see driving less than a block to bring their child to school. With the crowd of cars around the school, walking would be faster for many of them, including the time to return themselves home if the parents went with the kids.

5. Pick Up Trash

We love to go hiking as a family. One thing we include in our hikes is picking up trash if we pass some. It’s easy to carry a bag for trash as you go walking. This can be done at neighborhood playgrounds as well.

6. Turn Off Extra Lights

There are some ages where kids will be really good at this one. They’ll give you a hard time anytime you forget to turn off a light as you leave a room. Other times, they won’t be so good at it.

7. Turn Off Electronics When Not in Use

Kids these days spend a lot of time with electronics these days. Television, computers, video games, kids love them.

Some of these you only need to teach the kids to turn off when they’re done with them. For others, you may want to consider adding in a power strip so that the electronics can be turned completely off, and not use any extra power at all, even for displaying a clock. You can also buy a smart strip so that when certain electronics are shut down, associated items are turned off as well.

8. Plant a Garden

Whether you plant a serious vegetable garden, a few herbs, some flowers or a tree, it’s all good for the environment if you keep it organic. Kids usually love gardening, and any produce grown is good for them too. Remember the bees when you choose your flowers!

9. Help Compost

While dealing with much of the compost pile may be an adult or teen job, kids of any age can throw fresh vegetable scraps into the compost pile.

10. Volunteer

It can be hard to find age appropriate volunteer opportunities when the kids are young sometimes, but it gets easier as they get older. Volunteering helps your children to see how fortunate they are in what they have and that others make do with far less.

11. Use Reusable Containers to Bring Lunch to School

Many school lunches aren’t so healthy, so having your kids bring their lunch to school is a great idea. Don’t use paper bags or plastic bags for their lunches. Buy reusable lunch containers for them. I particularly like my daughter’s Klean Kanteen water bottle.

12. Donate Old Clothes and Toys

Have your kids help you to go through their old clothes and toys and find the ones in good enough condition to donate to a worthwhile charity.

13. Shop Resale and Thrift Shops

If you don’t teach your kids this one while they’re young, you can get a lot of resistance at first. Keep it up and they will realize how many great outfits are available for a lot less money. This teaches them to be thrifty and to look for used items before buying new.

14. Use Homemade Cleansers

Kids should start doing chores around the house as soon as they’re old enough. But why expose them to the harsh chemicals of store bought cleansers when you can teach them how to clean with healthier products such as baking soda and vinegar? Better for them and for the environment.

15. Eat Less Fast Food

Kids love fast food, but most of it is bad for them and the environment. Talk to them about why eating out too much is a bad habit.

16. Close Blinds and Curtains

This is most important during the summer, when the heat comes in through windows. Closing the blinds or curtains helps to block much of that heat. It’s also a help in winter, to keep heat from escaping the house, however there are times where having even the winter sun come into the house is a benefit, so help your kids know when to let the sunlight into your home.

17. Open a Window

As the day cools, teach your kids to open windows rather than run the air conditioner during the summer. It works really well, keeps the power bill down and doesn’t create any carbon to open a window.

18. Set Up a Bird Feeder

Feeding the birds in your area not only can help them, it lets the kids see the range of birds that live in your area. You may have to explain about predators, however. My sister has a bird feeder, and sometimes sees hawks chasing the smaller birds.

19. Use Fewer Toys that Require Batteries

Many children’s toys require batteries. The problem isn’t just the batteries, it’s that many of these don’t encourage creative or active play. Do get rechargeable batteries for those toys that do need them, but have your kids think about playing more with toys that don’t need batteries at all.

20. Eat Less Meat

This comes easier to some kids than others. Some may be ready to go for complete vegetarianism or veganism. Others will struggle to cut back, just as many adults do.

Have regular meatless meals. Explore new recipes as a family. Be amazed at how wonderful some meatless meals can taste.

Healthy Child Healthy World Review

I was recently contacted by a publicist for Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home to see if I would like to review the book. What could I say except “yes”? Talk about a pet topic of mine!

They very kindly sent me out a copy to read, and I recently finished it. I very much so enjoyed the read.

The book is separated into sections of related things you can do, such as preparing for baby, natural body care, pet care and so forth. Each section has a range of tips on how you can do these things in a way that is better for your family and the environment.

Of course, some of the things suggested I do already, but there were some good ideas I hadn’t thought of either.

One of the things I really appreciated was the suggestion in the book that you do not need to try to do everything right away. You can work your way through the things you are ready for and make progress at your own pace. I think that’s a very important thing to remember. Going green doesn’t have to be an instant or frustrating solution.

It also got me thinking about things I hadn’t before, such as how lead gets into soil around older homes. We’re renting a home that I believe is of an age to have such a problem, so I know it is potentially relevant. As a renter I don’t know that I can do much about it aside from being aware of the potential for a problem. It’s a topic my husband and I have discussed before, because he didn’t see why kids would chew on paint chips, and now I can explain to him how it really works. See page 164 if you need to know.

The section on food (chapter 3) is one I think I need to bring up with a friend of mine who I had been discussing organic produce with the other day. She wasn’t sure what she needed to buy organic versus conventional to avoid pesticides (page 36). I’ve seen the same list online, but it’s nice to have a physical copy of the list.

There’s a great section at the back of the book on Healthy Resources. You can find out where to learn more on your favorite topics or learn about some of the products they recommend.

Of course, every parent reading this will have their own favorite sections, depending on what they need to learn. I do strongly recommend you get this book. Check your library if it’s not in the budget, but with all the resources it provides, you’re probably going to want to buy your own copy to keep referring back to.