Making a serious environmental difference doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive, or life-changing. The simplest, smallest changes can make a huge difference in the health of our oceans, air, and in the natural world that we love and cherish. Incorporating new habits into your day is easy as 1-2-3-4-5.
Many of these changes stem from the products we use each and every day. For instance, have you ever gone through your day to take count of all the disposable plastics you use (and perhaps aren’t able to recycle)? Have you ever thought through the amount of waste you create in daily habits? It’s certainly interesting – and necessary – to take stock of when trying to lessen your environmental impact!
What easy five steps can you take to make some environmental change?
- Stay away from plastic bags. While they may have the recycling symbol on them, the plastic bags that you get from the grocery store are hardly ever recycled. In fact, some studies say that only three percent of plastic bags actually make it to a recycling facility. While grocery stores give you the option to bring back your bags (most curbside recycling programs don’t accept them) the actual rate of return is very low. Save the hassle and avoid plastic bags all together; keep a reusable in the bottom of your purse for on-the-go shopping! Doing so will save these bags from landfills, reduce the energy needed to dispose of or recycle them, and reduce their presence on our beaches and in our oceans.
- Avoid plastic straws. They may seem small, but straws are actually a huge source of unnecessary ocean pollution. Because they’re small and seem insignificant, they’re hardly ever recycled, but they seriously add up to polluting our oceans. Always ask for a drink without the straw at restaurants and bars (oftentimes, even if they put them on your table and they stay unopened, restaurants won’t reuse them due to health precautions). If you’re a straw-loving soul, bring your own metal or glass one for guilt-free drinking.
- Find out how to get rid of the weird stuff. Do you know what to do with leftover paint? What about batteries? Light bulbs? An old mercury thermostat that you recently traded out for an electric, programmable one? These items can all be tricky to recycle, as 1) they typically aren’t collected in curbside recycling bins and 2) some of them contain harmful chemicals that can do damage even through our landfills. For instance, old thermostats and fluorescent lights contain mercury – a toxic chemical. Batteries are filled with a whole slew of reactive elements, and paint can be full of volatile organic compounds, which are dangerous for human health. Call or visit your town or city’s solid waste management website to get the specifics on how to properly and safely dispose of these uncommon items. Some retailers, in many states, collect and properly dispose of them for free!
- Be aware of microplastics and microfibers. Did you know that your beloved facial cleanser could actually contain hundreds of small plastic particles, otherwise known as microplastics? The small plastic pieces found in a wide array of soaps, shampoos, and cleaners may give your skin some solid exfoliation, but they’re also causing harm to the environment. Microplastics make their way through our drains and eventually into our oceans, where fish digest them. Not only can these microplastics negatively affect fish, we then eat the fish – and ingest the plastics with them. Avoid cleansers with microbeads on the label to avoid these negative effects. The same goes for microfibers – small fibers that come off of our clothes when we put them through the wash. Limit the number of times you wash your pieces (you don’t need to wash them after every single wear unless they’re particularly odorous – we promise!) and buy high quality clothing to lessen your impact.
- Practice environmental food purchasing. How many times have you purchased just a tad too many greens, cheese, or fruit, only to have it go bad before you get the chance to eat it? Believe us, we’ve been there. It’s difficult to correctly purchase for your portions, especially when you’re cooking from scratch or following a recipe that calls for specific measurements that the store doesn’t sell. One key way to limit your food waste is to make a list before you go to the grocery store – that way you know exactly how much you need and can get as close as possible. On top of this, utilize your freezer – it’s a super nifty tool for catching food before its expiration date.
Lessening your environmental impact is easy – you just need to change a few key purchasing habits and you’re on your way. How will you reduce waste and help the environment this month?
We’re always looking for easy ways to give back. Not only does giving back help others, studies show that it can help your own health and wellbeing in more ways than one. Of course, not everyone has ample time to dedicate to volunteering each week, or the money to donate to all the causes you’d like.
That’s where going green comes in. Making small, simple changes throughout your everyday life to make this world a better place is an easy way to give back to the earth and the communities that nourish us. We advocate for taking baby steps and incorporating green practices throughout your life one week at a time. The New Year is a great time to start doing this; by the end of 2017, you’ll be living in a more eco-friendly home that gives back each and every day!
This week, let’s start with the kitchen. It’s where you spend a lot of your time each week, and chances are its one of the places in your home where you create the most waste in the form of food, packaging, and broken appliances. Try out one or more of these steps this week to reduce your kitchen’s environmental footprint.
The ultimate way to truly go green is to start at the source and reduce waste before it even hits the garbage or recycling bins. Forty percent of the food produced in this world is never eaten – we need to reduce all that waste! It all starts with shopping intentionally; before heading to the grocery store this week, make a shopping list that includes everything you’ll need for your weekly meals (by quantity). If you think through your needs before you shop, you’ll end up with fewer extra produce items that can go bad before you use them.
If you do inevitably end up with leftovers you can’t eat, consider composting. Particularly if you have a garden at home, composting is an easy way to reduce your environmental impact while helping your land thrive. Learn more about the simplest ways to compost here.
Recycle and reuse
Food comes wrapped in a ton of plastic. Think about it: a box of cereal contains both the inner plastic packaging and the cardboard box. A microwave dinner boasts a cardboard box, plastic shell, and film cover. This packaging seriously adds up, heading straight for our landfills if we don’t recycle it. Take the time this week to audit your plastic and packaging use, and do some research online to see what can be recycled that you are currently throwing away. One big culprit is probably plastic bags (read: grocery bags, plastic bread bags, Ziplocs); while plastic bags can’t be recycled in your curbside recycling bin, you can return them to your grocery store for recycling.
As you’re doing your audit, also think through what can be reused. Jelly jars, yogurt containers, and other tough plastics can be reused as Tupperware for at least a few weeks. Glass jars become great storage containers for years on end. Better yet – bring your glass jars to the grocery store with you to store grains, beans, and other bulk dried foods rather than using those pesky plastic bags.
Between the oven, dishwasher, sink, and microwave, the kitchen sure does use a lot of energy. If you’re in the market for new appliances, always stick to EnergyStar rated items – they are the most efficient in using less energy while still being quite effective. Older appliances also tend to use more energy, so if you are able to replace them with newer models throughout the year, it’s always a good idea.
Heating water uses energy; as is good practice throughout the rest of your life, limit water usage in the kitchen. Don’t keep the sink running while you’re doing dishes, for instance. It’s just as effective to fill the sink with warm, sudsy water and wash from there. Keep rinsing quick before putting dishes in the dishwasher. In fact, always be sure to turn the sink off when you’re not using it – a running sink means wasted water and energy.
There you have it – a few easy ways to reduce your environmental impact in the kitchen. How are you hoping to make your home greener? Let us know in the comments – we’ll write another blog post to offer some tips!
It’s certainly sweater weather these days! If you spend multiple minutes in the morning bundling up in a coat, hat, scarf, gloves, socks, and boots, you aren’t alone. Those of us who live in cold climates know the lesson well: the more layers, the better! Those fuzzy, comforting layers are what get us through the winter months with a smile on our faces.
In order to stay warm indoors in the winter, it’s necessary to crank up the heat a bit in your home – which comes with increased heating costs and a greater environmental impact. It’s something we do out of necessity, but what if there was a way to lessen these costs while still feeling warm?
That’s where those layers come in – among many other unique techniques we use to stay warm and cozy indoors the whole winter through (without turning up the heat!). So how do we do it?
- Stay active. As you’re well aware, getting your heart pumping through exercise has many benefits, from increased longevity to weight loss to a healthier heart rate. But did you know it can actually warm you up for hours on end? Exercise naturally increases your core body temperature (which is why you get so sweaty!), and can keep you warm for hours afterwards. A simple sweat session or an hour of cleaning the house can do the trick.
- Pick warming décor. We’re huge fans of making our homes look beautiful and comfortable in any way we can. From throw pillows to gorgeous rugs, having a home you love is a wonderful feeling. Choosing warm tones to paint your walls can instantly make a room feel cozier. Choosing multiple textures in your décor – on the walls, blankets, pillows, and furniture – creates a layered look that brings instant warmth to any area. Choosing warm light (look for bulbs that say “warm, soft light” on the package) can also do the trick.
- Use sunlight. Before you leave in the morning, open up your (hopefully thick or thermal-lined) curtains. This will allow the natural sunlight to warm your home during the day when you’re not home. At night, close the curtains to insulate and keep that warmth indoors.
- Choose warming meals. A delicious, flavorful soup can truly do the trick with keeping you warm and toasty. Choose hot foods for dinner in the evening, or end your night with a hot cup of tea to warm your body from the insides out.
- Take advantage of heat in your kitchen and bathroom. When you take a shower, that hot water creates a lot of steam and hot air – which you can use to heat the surrounding area! Keep your bathroom door open as you shower to take advantage of that warmth and to let it spread. Same goes for the kitchen – heat up the oven (to bake dinner… or cookies!) and leave it open as it cools down to transfer the heat into the room.
- Stop drafts. Use draft stoppers (or door snakes) to keep hot air from escaping through the space between your door and the floor. Use plastic to cover up the drafts in your windows. Keep doors shut throughout your house to keep heat trapped in smaller spaces that you inhabit frequently. While it may take some time and effort, we promise – it’s worth it!
- Use a space heater (sparingly). Keep the heat in your house in the low 60’s, then use space heaters to heat the spaces you frequently use. For instance, turn on a space heater a few minutes before bed and shut the door. Enjoy the warmth while you’re awake, then turn it off before sleep to save energy, and let your body revel in the warmth of your bed covers!
There you have it – a few easy, free, eco-friendly ways to stay cozy and warm in your home this winter. What strategies do you use during the colder months to stay comfortable? Let us know in the comments below!
That wonderful holiday spirit is certainly in the air! Lights align the streets along with wreaths, candles, and festive décor; stores are filled with fabulous gifts just perfect for that special someone; plans for parties, dinners, and time spent with loved ones are coming to fruition. It’s a joyous, merry time – no wonder it’s deemed “the most wonderful time of the year.”
We all feel this come December and the month never fails to lighten our spirits. There’s no better feeling than celebrating the year’s end with loved ones, laughing the night away with eggnog and gingerbread, or giving someone a gift they adore. These festivities are what makes this time of year so great.
While green may show up as a primary hue throughout this month, December isn’t necessarily the greenest – in the environmental sense of the word. All of these festivities can lead to extra waste in the form of food, paper, and excess gifts. While we’re all for enjoying the holiday season to the fullest, it’s also important to be mindful of the impact you’re having on the earth. But how can you ensure that your holiday is eco-conscious?
Shopping for and giving thoughtful gifts for the ones you love is a wonderful part of the holiday season. The key to staying green with your gifting is to buy with intention, not just for the sake of gifting. On top of this, buy gifts from stores that use recycled or eco-conscious materials, or those who give to and support green initiatives. Gift experiences rather than goods for those who will enjoy them; a concert or a trip is a wonderful present. Offer a donation in someone’s name to an environmental organization. Get crafty and make your own gifts with upcycled materials, or use your baking skills to cook up some delicious gifts your loved ones will adore. At the end of the day, buying with thought and intention ensures you won’t overbuy (leading to waste) and makes your holiday that much greener.
Gifts look beautiful in wrapping paper, but that paper simply gets discarded a minute after someone opens a present. Go green this year by getting creative with your wrapping. Save and reuse old bags others have given to you. Grab paper grocery bags from your kitchen and wrap up your gifts with a beautiful ribbon for flair. Wrap your gift in a gift: a scarf, shawl, or blanket makes for great wrapping – and ends up as two gifts in one! If possible, store gifts in glass jars or other containers that your loved ones can reuse for a new purpose. Your gift recipients will be amazed at your creativity.
There’s nothing like holiday decorations and lights to really get you in the mood for the season. However, all the bows, paper, and other materials that go into decorations can have a negative impact on the environment. An easy way to negate the impacts of your décor is to save last year’s decorations and use it year after year. No need to stick to this year’s trends – your old decorations will turn into traditions that your family simply needs to see around the holidays! If you do need to buy new decorations this year, choose quality pieces that can last for years to come, and search for those made with recycled or organic material when possible.
How do you stay green during this time of holiday cheer? We’d love to hear your best tips!
We’ve heard the statistic: Americans waste nearly 40 percent of our food. That’s nearly 20 pounds of food per person each month. That’s a whole lot of money and sustenance going down the garbage chute. Not only could a large chunk of this wasted food go to others in need, these tons and tons of food waste end up in our already-diminishing landfill space, which in turn contributes to 16 percent of U.S. methane gas emissions (a contributor to climate change).
These statistics are striking and certainly make us think twice about how much we purchase. But sometimes, particularly if you’re regularly cooking for one, it can be nearly impossible to use up all the food you buy. Many of the packaged goods we find in our grocery stores are portioned for families, not for individuals. Even if you are cooking for a family, it can be difficult to size out how much you need, leftovers can get lost in the back of the fridge, or veggie-denying children can refuse to eat their greens.
The sources of this food waste are endless. Luckily, there are a few key ways you can reduce your own food waste and help decrease some of these impacts!
- Plan it out. Whether you’re an avid planner or not, planning your food consumption is key to decreasing your waste. Use whatever tools work best for you: meal plans, grocery lists, Excel spreadsheets, you name it. Wait until your fruits, veggies, meats, and other perishables are totally used up – then hit up the grocery store. When you’re there, stick to your list and avoid impulse buys (on that note, never shop while you’re hungry!).
- Buy ugly produce. As you look through the piles of apples, pears, and cauliflower that line the grocery store shelves, you’ll notice that some are perfectly intact and others have a few small flaws: bumps and bruises, slight holes or discoloration. These are still totally fine to eat! Many people avoid so-called “ugly produce,” but we assure you… it definitely tastes the same. Buy what others don’t purchase so grocery stores aren’t forced to throw away perfectly good food.
- Only buy ingredients you know you’ll use again. We know how it feels: you find a delicious recipe online that you’re just dying to try. You run to the grocery store, grab all the ingredients, and cook away your Sunday. You end up with a delectable meal that you adore! On the flip side, you probably purchased a few ingredients that you didn’t use up, won’t use again, and will be relegated to the trash. Before trying a recipe, take a careful look at the ingredients. Can you buy all ingredients in small servings? If not, will you use them again? If you answer “no” to both of these questions, find a substitute. For example, say you want to make fish tacos with homemade slaw, which calls for sour cream… but you never use sour cream. Substitute Greek yogurt (it tastes the same – and it’s healthier!) and eat the remainder for breakfast.
- Write down everything you throw away. Designate a week this month and keep a log of everything you end up throwing in the garbage. This exercise will make you more aware of the weight of the food you’re trashing and will give you a better sense of how to properly shop once grocery time comes around.
- Always eat leftovers! Many restaurants serve portions that are much too large to eat in one sitting. If you find this is often the case for you, always take home your leftovers and eat them the next day (or freeze them for later in the week). Not only does this save you money, it saves the food from being trashed by the restaurant’s wait staff. If you’re more inclined to make dinner at home, make more than you can eat that night – then eat the rest for lunch tomorrow.
- Store smarter. Many veggies, fruits, and grains store best in a very specific way. For instance, while spinach might come in a pre-packaged plastic bag, it isn’t the best way to keep your leafy greens fresh. Transfer spinach immediately from the bags they come in to an airtight container and place it in the refrigerator. Check out this handy infographic and you’ll always know where your food should go. On that note, use your freezer. If you aren’t going to eat something you cooked or bought right away, always place it in the freezer for an easy, quick meal the next week.
Reducing your food waste can save you time and money, while helping others and protecting the environment. It’s the true definition of a win-win scenario!
How do you diminish your food waste weekly? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
So you’ve decided to clean out your closet and get rid of some old clothes. Why?
- Because I dislike many of them, or they no longer fit.
- Many of my pieces are torn, broken, or ripped.
- I want to minimalize my life and clear out clutter.
No matter your reason, making a little more space in the closet can make you feel a little freer. After all, you probably spend the beginning of each day enveloped in this space, deciding what to wear. Your closet therefore sets the tone for your day.
As you begin to clear out your closet, keep this in mind: 85% of clothing and textiles ends up in landfills. 85%! At the same time, 95% of all clothing and textiles can be reused or recycled. Most of the stuff in your closet can therefore be repurposed… and it’s easy to do!
Firstly, always remember that textiles in any condition (worn, torn, or stained) can be donated to be recycled if they’re clean. One popular mantra when it comes to clothing donation is “Don’t Judge, Just Donate”. Chances are nearly 100% of the clothing in your closet can be donated.
The easiest way to do so is to bring it to a collection bin in your town, to a thrift store, or to a Goodwill or Salvation Army store. Some towns will do curbside pickups for clothing (if it’s separated from other recyclables), and some clothing stores will also collect used garments. These places seek out the maximum value for each item, meaning they 1) put it up for sale first if it’s in good condition, and then 2) send the item to be recycled into something new. Old clothing can be recycled into new clothing, insulation, carpet padding, wiping rags, cushioning for car seats, rubberized playgrounds, and a whole lot more!
Why recycle? Yes, these items therefore don’t end up in landfills, but there are so many more benefits. Donations can provide used clothing to low income households around the world. From the environmental standpoint, donating and recycling clothing decreases the resources needed to create new clothes, and believe us – creating clothing uses a lot of resources. Cotton, found in most pieces, is the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world, infusing our soil with chemicals. Polyester, another fiber used in a lot of clothing, is made from petroleum using a high-energy process that emits harmful gases into the air. Creating clothing also uses gallons upon gallons of precious water.
Benefit the planet, others, and even yourself by cleaning out your closet and successfully donating used clothing. Remember that even damaged clothing can be recycled – so there’s hardly ever a case when items should be thrown in the trash.
Take a look around your kitchen or bathroom. How many objects can you see that are made from plastic? Even in your office or bedroom. Plastic is all around us, and we use it in some shape or form every day, but did you know that it can take between 450 to 1000 years for a plastic bottle to biodegrade? It’s been said that there will be more plastic than fish in our ocean by 2050!
Let’s do our part to reduce our waste by following these tips:
Bring your own reusable tote to the grocery store!
When ordering delivery, be sure to ask that the plasticwear be left out of your package.
When shopping for produce at your local farmers market, bring your own glass containers.
Brew your own tea, or squeeze your own juice instead of buying plastic bottles.
Avoid using straws.
Use a reusable bottle or mug for your beverages.
Grow your own vegetables, by doing so, you avoid using any plastic packaging from the grocery store.
Ask your dry cleaner to avoid the plastic wrap when picking up and invest in a garment bag if necessary.
Mason jars or glass containers with lids are much more eco-friendly than cling wrap.
Shop for plastic free beauty products
And if you must use plastic at any time, be sure to recycle!