Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day is Tomorrow

In honor of Earth Day and Earth Week, I have posted 46 great ideas to help you go green.

Many people, I think, get overwhelmed with the idea of going green. It really doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposal. If you were to take a few moments and pick out a few things that you could start doing, you’ll realize that it’s much easier to do than you thought.

I’m not asking you to go out and buy a tree house made of bamboo and not shave your legs and only eat bird droppings, here. But if everyone were to switch up just a few things in their day to day lives, it would make an enormous difference.

All I am asking is to think about it.

1. Start carrying a reusable bag. These are easy to make out of old T-shirts. Just turn them inside out, sew the bottom securely, and turn right side out. Then cut the sleeves and neck off to create the handles.

2. Bring a travel mug to your favorite coffee shop. They have some awesome ceramic ones that look like the ‘real’ paper ones, here. Also, make a coffee cup sleeve out of your old sweater sleeves. Just cut the sleeves into rings and slip onto the cup.

3. Eat an all-local meal. If you live in Gilbert, this is an easy one. Eat at Joe’s Farm Grill or Liberty Market for some great food. You could just eat out of your own garden, if you’ve planted one. Or, you could visit a local farmer’s market to build a meal at home.

4. Take public transit. Hmm, got to admit, this is not an option for my family. When you live in the suburbs in AZ, it’s a little rough to get around, especially with 2 young kids.

5. Walk or bike instead of driving. We like to walk around our neighborhood area for restaurants, or to drop off and pick up the kids from daycare.

6. Install a water filter on your tap so you don't feel the need to drink bottled water. This counts if you use the fridge filter or even an RO. These are pretty easy to use and trust me, after awhile you get used to the taste.

7. Install an aerator on your kitchen tap to reduce water use. I’ve got to get one of these. I’ve always used one at each house I’ve lived in except for this one. On my to-do list.

8. Replace old toilets with dual flush models.

9. Invest in rechargeable batteries. Another one on our to-do list. Especially with how many batteries we run through with the kids.

10. Start buying and using compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) or LED light bulbs. Done!

11. Take hazardous waste to your local drop-off center. Our town, Gilbert, has an amazing program for this. If you live there, go here, for more information. If you don’t, why not lobby your town to start their own program?

12. Switch to all-natural cleaners (homemade or store-bought). I really enjoyed how clean and fresh smelling our clothes were when I was making our own detergent. But, I admit, I hated grating the fells-naptha with a regular grater. If and when I get an electric grater, I will be back to washing my clothes this way. I love using vinegar and water for a household cleaner, too. Lately, I’ve also been using the 7th Generation or Method cleaning products and like them too.

13. Stop using paper plates. Easy. We rarely use paper plates. Actually, typically the only time we buy them is for a party or for crafting with the kids.

14. Buy a bunch of tea towels and ban paper towels from your home. This is one in the works for us. I have a Method microfiber cloth that I use for mirrors, TVs, and windows that works great. We use towels to dry our hands in the bathroom and the kitchen. I use old rags to clean up with the rest of the time. So we honestly don’t use paper towels that often.

15. Build a backyard compost bin. Done! Again, Gilbert came through for us. They have a composting program that you can find, here. I ordered two of their composters and have started adding compost materials to them. I love that we are turning something that we would have before put in the trash into something useful. If you haven’t done this, try it. It’s much easier than you think!

16. Plant a garden to help promote biodiversity. Done! Last year we harvested a lot of great vegetables from our garden and fruit from our trees. We learned a lot about what we like to grow and how to grow it, so this year our garden is going to rock!

17. Switch to eating organics, especially fruits and vegetables. Hmmm, I have a bit of a problem with this one. I’m sorry, but until the price of organics comes down significantly, it just won’t be possible. And, let’s face it; the selection is usually pretty limited here. But, since we have a garden, this can count a bit towards the organic eating.

18. Flush your pet's poop instead of throwing it in the garbage. Um, no. I might look into a doggie composter, but we’ll have to see about that. Something we have done, though, is to make sure that our dogs eat a premium dog food which cuts down a lot on the amount of waste and makes it much more, um, firm so it’s easier to pick up.

19. Install a water-saving shower head. Done.

20. Invest in cloth napkins and stop buying paper ones! Here’s another one that I think I’m going to start on. I thought handkerchiefs would work well for this. Also, I’ll check out the clearance areas for napkins on sale from now on. We don’t really use napkins a whole lot, but I admit when we do, currently, we use paper. So this will be a good thing for us.

21. Plant a tree in your yard. I want to do this so badly. There is a spot in our front yard that used to have a tree in it, before we moved there, that I have REALLY been thinking about replacing the tree. Maybe if I can get our neighbor (a landscaper) to help me a bit with it, I can get it done. A bonus here would be that the tree would eventually help to shade our office, the garage, and the kids’ bedrooms. So that would hopefully cut down a bit on the electric bill in the summer and add oxygen all at the same time!

22. Share your green know-how with others. So, aside from this blog, I always feel a little odd about this. I am usually surprised at how many people are really anti-green thinking. I think this has to do with all-or-nothing thinking. It’s hard to get across that any little thing you do helps.

23. Try a locally-brewed and/or organic beer. Hmmm…this would be Jon’s area. I don’t really drink. I know he typically goes, though, with whatever is on sale at the time.

24. Plug your electronics into a smart power strip, which automatically senses when electronics aren't being used and cuts power to avoid phantom power use. I definitely want to invest in this. Suddenly we seem to have a million things to plus in to recharge. Cell phones, DSI, PS2, the Nook, my camera battery, mp3 players, etc, etc.

25. Take a short shower (5 to 10 minutes). If you know me, you know this is not going to happen. This is one area that I feel I cannot give up. Many of you probably already do this, though, so good for you!

26. Head to the library to indulge your reading habit instead of the bookstore. We do go to the library for the kids. But, Jon recently splurged on my birthday and bought me the Nook from Barnes and Noble. I love it! If you don’t know about this, it’s sort of like the Kindle but even better. Go here for more info on it.

27. Turn your thermostat down at night or when you're at work. Ok, so if you live in Arizona, there is no other way to live than to program your thermostat. If you don’t your bill in the summer could be insanely out of control. We have ours programmed to go up significantly when we know we won’t be home. It really helps.

28. Throw a clothing swap.

29. Find new ways to use old things. This is a new obsession for me. There is a new movement right now to turn your trash into treasures. I will be posting more in the future about things that we’ve made out of what would be trash.

30. Recycle your old sneakers with Nike's Reuse a Shoe program. Unfortunately I don’t have a station near me, and I am not willing to pay for postage on sending used shoes. However, we typically garage sale our old shoes and whatever is left over goes to the Goodwill.

31. Get a solar charger for your iPod and other electronics with built-in batteries. I’m going to have to look into this one…

32. Take the train instead of a plane if you're traveling. Again, it seems that we are lacking in the traveling area for going green. When we actually get to travel, it is usually a huge suck on our pto from work, so we have to make the best of every single minute we’re gone, and that does not include travel time on a train.

33. Switch to a renewable energy provider. This is something I’ve been reminding myself to do a lot. I have not checked yet, but I do plan on it.

34. If you're not doing it already, start recycling! This is a big one, folks. We are so very lucky to live in Gilbert. For us, because Gilbert offers so many programs for family life, is a big reason as to why we live here. They have an awesome recycling program. We have recycling pick up each week, and then once a month they do a bulk trash pick up which is awesome, too. If you don’t have a recycling program in your city, lobby them to start one.

35. Carpool with coworkers or friends who work close to your office. Again, this just does not work for us. Maybe someday.

36. Ask your boss if you can telecommute even one day per week. Woohoo! My employer and manager are awesome about this. You would not believe how much gas you can save just telecommuting one day a week. Not to mention the benefits of being able to work in your pajamas once a week.

37. Plan a green vacation. Huh?

38. Repair a pair of favorite shoes instead of buying a new pair. Not a problem for us. We wear our shoes till their death, and I do mean death. There is no repairing these shoes. That, and we aren’t exactly shoe –happy.

39. Recycle your old electronics at Best Buy. This is a great program. Be sure to look up your area to see what they offer.

40. Donate your old cell phone to a charity. Unfortunately, we don’t do this either. Jon is a bit paranoid about letting other people ‘get his information’. Oh well, maybe someday I can talk him into this.

41. Turn off your computer, head outside, and do something that requires only your own energy! A great reminder that sometimes the best entertainment doesn’t require batteries or plugs.

42. Save yourself a little power and wash your clothes on cold whenever possible. Also wash and dry only full loads and remove the lint (put it in your composter) from the filter each load. Do not dry your clothes on high; this will scorch your clothes.

43. Instead of buying new furniture, try Craig’s List or Free Cycle. Personally, I stay away from upholstered goods, but tables, entertainment centers, dining tables, etc, offer a great discount when buying used. Right now, especially, an eclectic look with painted furniture is ‘in’.

44. Instead of using plastic water bottles, fill metal ones with your filtered water. If you do have to use a plastic water bottle, please be sure to recycle it. With all our practices, classes and life on the go, we would use a lot of filled water bottles.

45. Eat less meat, especially beef, and drink less milk. Cows create an enormous amount of methane gas, from their burps. Currently we eat at least one Vegetarian meal a week to do our part. It doesn’t hurt that we all like veggies a lot. The hardest thing is coming up with creative recipes that we all like. Soon, we will be trying tofu!

46. Check the air in your tires frequently. You will get better gas mileage if the pressure is at the manufacturer’s recommended amount.

No comments: