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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.

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.

Have You Made Your Green New Year’s Resolutions Yet?

Here comes the New Year, so soon after Christmas. Have you started planning your resolutions for the new year. Any goals yet?

I’ll admit that I prefer to think in terms of goals rather than resolutions personally. There’s just no surprise about it when someone gives up on a New Year’s Resolution. Lots of people fail at those.

It stings a bit more, in my opinion, to drop a goal. The commitment simply feels different to me.

Whatever you want to call it, make sure you’re being realistic about it. You can’t set a goal of living in a perfectly sustainable home completely off the grid if you’re barely scraping by and haven’t made any changes yet. You have to focus on the things you can really accomplish.

That doesn’t mean give up on the idea of off grid living if that’s what you want. It simply means you should break down your goal into more manageable steps, and work toward the big goal over time.

Goals don’t have to be all that grand, of course. You can have much simpler goals if that’s what you’d prefer. The main thing is to commit to action.

Since we’re talking about green goals, this has nothing to do with your resolve to lose weight or other traditional resolutions. They’re just fine as goals, and you can combine them with your eco friendly goals. Plan to lose weight by going vegetarian or eating more vegetarian meals, for example. Eating less meat is definitely good for the environment, and a well thought out vegetarian lifestyle can help you lose weight.

Now is a good time to start thinking about it all. If there’s something that needs to be bought for your goals and someone still needs an idea for a Christmas present for you, this may help you give them ideas. Who says you have to wait until next year?

Need some ideas? Think about riding a bike for more errands or to work if that’s possible where you live. Think about other ways to drive less or use public transportation more.

Think about your garden or starting one if you don’t have a garden yet. What would you love to grow? Don’t limit yourself to vegetables or foods that have to be replanted each year. Fruit trees are a great idea. You can’t get more local than grown in your own backyard.

Think about cutting plastic out of your life as much as possible. Can you commit to using your reusable shopping bags? Where else can you quit using plastic, especially any single use plastic?

Have you been considering any volunteer opportunities? It might be the right time to quit thinking and start doing.

How good are you at the “reuse” part of “reduce, reuse, recycle?” Could this be the year you fall in love with shopping at thrift stores? Some amazing deals can be found in thrift stores.

What else would you like to do to be more eco friendly in the new year? Are you ready to start now?

What Are Your Goals for the New Year?

It’s New Year’s Day. Have you set any goals?

I’m not much for New Year’s Resolutions, as such. I prefer to have goals to try to meet, often extensions of ones I’ve been working on for a long time.

The trouble with resolutions is that too many people are really not ready to follow through with them. I consider this a good time of year to think over goals and figuring out how to improve my efforts.

Making big changes all at once is so much harder than taking things step by step. Set a goal that you can work with for a long time. Improve the things you aren’t quite doing as well as you’d like to be. But remember that most resolutions aren’t followed through on for very long, and keep things realistic.