Spring weather has finally arrived just in time for the 46th annual Earth Day celebration and all of the outdoor festivities that go along with it (Piedmont Environmental Alliance Earth Day Fair on April 23!). And while fairs and rallies are a great way to educate the general populace about climate change, debate the benefits of slow food vs. large-scale agriculture and hoard free samples of sustainably produced chocolate, the monumental task of “going green” often feels beyond an average person’s reach and budget.
Fortunately, there is much to be done in the microcosm of the home with minimal investment that can positively impact the environment at large. Below are 10 take-and-bake ideas for daily green living. Samples not included.
Never heard of it? The idea is simply to buy products with less packaging so there will be less to recycle after you take them home. For instance, buying fresh food from farmers markets or co-ops allows you to skip the packaging associated with grocery-store buys. It’s also an investment in your longevity since local food is often fresher and chock-full of vitamins and minerals essential for optimal health. Stuck in a store? Buying larger containers of your favorite packaged goods and portioning them out into reusable containers can help cut waste from individually wrapped products. String cheese isn’t really food anyway. Instead, buy a block of the good stuff and cut slices for an on-the-go dairy fix.
2. Ban bottles and cans. Along the same lines as precycling, banning bottled water and beverage cans will definitely up your eco-ante. A plastic water bottle takes between 400-1,000 years to decompose. Cans average 350. Yes, they can be recycled, but avoid bringing them home to begin with and do your budget and the environment a solid. Grab a reusable water bottle and if you’re a soda drinker, maybe it’s time to quit. (That stuff is recycling your insides!) But, if you can’t imagine happiness without a Sprite, or you’ve placed a photo of Dr. Pepper next to your kids on the mantle, invest in a SodaStream and reuse your bottles. Beer cans follow suit. Simply purchase a growler and refill as needed.
3. Buy used, and borrow often. There is plenty of stuff floating around out there for cheap and sometimes free. Facebook has tons of “for-sale” and “friends-swapping-stuff” pages, yard-sales aplenty, books and DVDs can be rented at your local library, consignment furniture is the new black and there are endless opportunities to find useful and surprising things on Craigslist’s “free-stuff” listings. Tonight’s search yielded two pianos, several couches, a 1986 Winner motorboat and even a “Free Possum,” with a fairly terrifying photo (see above). I’ve included the link just in case you think I’m making this up. winstonsalem.craigslist.org/grd/5542852407.html.
4. Expend less energy to use less energy. Every one knows that you are supposed to power-down and unplug appliances when they aren’t in use. But how many people actually do it? It’s annoying, inconvenient, and easily forgettable. Enter the Smart Strip LCG-3M energy-saving surge protector with auto-switching technology. It senses when things aren’t being used and turns off the power source. And compared to other surge-protectors it uses very little energy itself. Helping lazy people be lazier, for less.
5. Make your own cleaning products. DIY cleaning products are much less expensive than commercial ones, and making them follows the precycling rule because of the ability to reuse cleaning bottles again and again. As an added bonus, the ingredients are far less toxic than most commercial cleaners, for less pollution inside your home and out. For green-cleaning tips, tricks and recipes, visit wellnessmama.com. As an alternate to homemade, try Charlie’s Soap, a locally owned and operated company. They make eco-friendly cleaning concentrates that are easy to use and effective. Two tablespoons of their indoor/outdoor surface cleaner diluted in a 32-ounce spray bottle of water will clean most things without fail for about 13 cents a bottle. Done, and done green.