cleaner than you found it

DYK that water and wind can carry trash hundreds of miles? Plastic bags and other garbage can easily travel along streams, rivers, and other waterways to their ultimate resting place in the oceans. So take your waste when you leave recreational areas. Go one step greener by leaving nature cleaner than you found it. Those of us who come after you give you a big thank you in advance- and we’ll try to do the same thing!

go for the aluminium (in honor of the Olympics)

If you recycle nothing else, go for aluminum instead of the gold. Aluminum is one of the Olympians of metals: strong, lightweight, non-corrosive, non-magnetic, and much more. It’s also one of the highest-value materials to recycle. It’s fast to reprocess, so a can could leave your recycling bin and be back on the shelves in 2 months.

Recycling one ton of aluminum cans saves the equivalent of 1,024 gallons of gasoline. Beverage cans and foil are the same material, so recycle both of them (clean them first). Aluminum trays and pans are NOT recyclable, but are reusable. And if the foil is combined with plastic- think drink boxes, yogurt lids, or candy wrappers- they can’t be recycled either. Yet.

What’s the last aluminum can you recycled? Mine was an amber ale…

prevent summer gain

photo by maria orlova

Have you ever stood in a window to feel the warm sun coming in? Most of that sunlight becomes heat (technically called “heat gain.”). The average American pays around $300 a year to keep their home cool (unless you live in the South!). We cut down on costs (and heat) the easy way- by closing our blinds and curtains on the sunny side of the house. Want to go big? Plant a deciduous tree outside. It will shade your house in the summer and let the sun shine in during the winter!

skip (by) the dryer

DYK that your clothes dryer can make up over 10 percent of your household energy use? Try drying your clothes on a rack or line. You’ll see less wear and tear on your clothes. Less shrinkage and longer clothing life. No static cling. No dryer sheets. And you’ll use less energy. A retractable clothesline in the back yard is great for quickly drying bed linens and towels (and that fresh smell…). For those with less space, try a fold-out rack. I tuck them between my washer & dryer when they’re not in use. 

plastic bag free day

photo by morgan vander hart

Tomorrow is International Plastic Bag Free day, so prepare today! Try to get through the day without accepting or using any plastic bags. Most plastic bags are only used for 20-30 minutes before they’re tossed, but it takes hundreds of years for them to decompose.

At the store, whip out a reusable bag or put your purchase in your pocket, purse or backpack. In the kitchen, ignore plastic zipper bags and substitute with reusable storage containers (glass and takeout containers are my favorite).

 Just try it for one day (and then another, and another…) and see how it goes!

move over, popsicles

photo by dev benjamin

How do I love my freezer? Let me count the ways: instant food ready at any time, slows down spoiling, keeps me in constant healthy options, and often saves me a tired trip to the grocery store.

You can freeze all kinds of things: nuts, bread, butter, meat, fish, poultry, casseroles, pies, and blocks of hard cheese, even milk. If I know I’m not going to eat something before its time is up, I throw it in the freezer for a later date. FYI: peel ripe bananas before freezing (we learned that the hard way). 

I now label and date my containers first, after a few defrosting “misunderstandings.” And remember, not only are you wasting less food. A full freezer uses less energy! 

travelling fruit

photo by veeterzy

Is your produce worn out? Do you know how far that peach, potato or pepper traveled to get to you? Even if it was grown in the US, produce travels an average of 1500 miles before you pick it up in your hot little hand. That means high transport costs, more air pollution, and less freshness.

What’s grown in your area of the country? Check out the nearby farmer’s market or roadside stands. Some grocery chains make it easy with signs that highlight locally grown fruits and veggies.

coffee. now!!!

photo by hiago italo

Some (or let’s be real- most) mornings you can’t get your caffeine fast enough, right? One-cup coffee machines are amazing at getting it ready asap. But those used pods add up quickly- over 50 billion pods a year worldwide. Yes, that’s billion with a “b.” Keep your pods out of the landfills by using reusable or recyclable versions. Even better, go old school and use a French press sometimes. And of course always drink from a reusable mug to cut more waste!

your clothes won’t complain

photo by annie spratt

I now select cold or tap water for the laundry because it uses 90% less energy than hot water. I like to think of it this way- if I paid $10 a month for hot water before, now I pay $1 by using cold. And my clothes are just as clean. Today’s washers- and detergents- are so advanced, you don’t usually need hot water. In our house, it also means less worry about colors bleeding into the wash.

Set the spin cycle to high and your clothes will come out drier and take less time in the dryer (if you use one).