making a list and checking it twice…

A grocery list, that is (but please keep singing!). Don’t scoff- planning at least some of your meals can have a bigger impact than you think. A part of the massive food waste in the US occurs in our refrigerators. Think about it: what food did you just throw out? For me, it was pizza dough (didn’t get to it in time). And pudding (now I know everyone hates butterscotch).

Think it takes too much time to keep track? My list keeps me moving quickly through the store and I usually don’t forget anything, which means fewer trips to the grocery (more time saving and less gas!). Keep a running list on your phone or fridge.

presents with a presence

photo by mel poole

Looking for holiday presents that give in more than one way? Try a few sustainable gifts this year. Some of my favorites are organic cotton jeans and recycled product sneakers. Around the house, reusable dishcloths, silicone reusable sandwich bags and bamboo (i.e. compostable) toothbrushes have been pretty successful.

You might be surprised at the variety available, with everything from sustainable fashion brands to a compostable phone case (who knew?) and floss.  And if you’re done shopping for now, there’s always a birthday coming up. Check around before you buy!

Less ladder, more LED

Looking for fewer trips up a ladder to replace light bulbs? Energy efficient LED bulbs aren’t just for indoors- you can use them for porch and yard lighting too. And they hold up well in cold weather. Not only will you use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs, but they’ll  also last up to 25 times longer.  Think about when you need to replace your holiday lights as well!

slay your vampires

It’s fun to light up a lantern or pumpkin on Halloween night, but would you leave them on all year? Some devices (TVs, coffee makers, printers, computers, and electric clocks) are always active …and they’re quietly sucking up energy. Spooooooky! Unplug these energy vampires (that’s a real term) until you actually use them. You could see a lower electric bill as well!

quiz: how green are your grocery habits?

photo by tara clark

How do you rate? Do you…

o   make a list beforehand

o   use fewer one-use produce bags

o   buy local

o   buy in season

o   buy less meat

o   bring your own grocery bags

o   buy less plastic/individually wrapped items

o   extra credit: walk, bike, carpool to the store

Celery level (you checked 1-2): Great start! Try something else on your next trip!

Lime level (3-5): Pat yourself on the back and keep up the good work!

Zucchini level (6 or more) You’re amazing! Please share your tips with the rest of us!

Any other eco-ideas for the grocery?

you can can cans (like these)

                               

Like all other steel or aluminum cans, empty aerosol cans are recyclable, which could give you added incentive to finish up that can of whipped cream! Can you recycle these curbside? Check your local recycling guidelines- in my county they go to scrap metal recycling.

    cooking spray

    whipped cream

    bug spray & sunscreen

    shaving cream

    surface cleaners

    degreasers (like WD40)

    static guard

    spray paint

    pesticides

What happens to these cans in their next life? Picture a world of recycled bike and car parts, rebar and steel beams, appliances, and- yep- new cans (some of which are already 25% recycled metal).

eat mor plantz

photo by zoe schaeffer

The growing, processing, and shipping of meat (pork, beef, and chicken) requires huge amounts of pesticides, fertilizers, energy, feed and water, not to mention the waste produced. Eating less meat is not only healthier for the environment, it’s healthier for you.

If you’re not on the tofu wagon, think beans & rice, a veggie stir fry, pasta, or a veggie burger. Even once a week is a step in the right direction!

What’s your favorite meatless meal?

bigger is better (in this case)

Do you try to recycle every single little piece of plastic in your house (like I was)? Small pieces- 3 inches or smaller- can clog the belts and gears of the recycling machinery. I’m talking things like bread bag clips, plastic beads, pill packaging, random parts of children’s toys, and single-use condiment pouches. FYI- they end up being thrown away…if not by you. I feel like I owe my local recycling center an apology (but we’re good now!).

imagine by vincent tan

old-school yards

Some people (probably those who hate mowing) think big grassy yards are outdated. They can take a lot of water, chemicals, and fertilizer…not to mention time! This fall is a good time to consider adding native trees, bushes and flowers to lessen your grass footprint. You can always start small and add on gradually.  If you do plant grass, look for brands with deep roots, which need less watering, or try clover- which will give you a different look (and bees!) and add nitrogen to the soil.  

tiny house…or not

photo by arwin basdew

Tiny houses require a lot less energy & housework, and are so darn cute! Unfortunately, teensy houses are not practical for some of us.

If you’re not planning to downsize any time soon, sign up for an energy audit instead- it might be free from your local power company. The guy was at our house for less than 2 hours, gave us several suggestions on how to be more efficient, and left us a big box of water and energy saving devices, like low-flow shower heads and LED light bulbs.