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.

naked at the grocery?

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing!

What happens to the plastic produce bags you bring home from the supermarket? You can reuse them (they’re great for covering half a melon, for example). Even better- go naked and don’t use a bag at all for single items, cucumbers, bananas, etc. Throw trickier veggies like green beans or tomatoes into a reusable nylon bag. They last forever!

Try to take a couple of bags with you each week- or go naked- and save hundreds of plastic bags a year!

dog days drinks

decaf English Breakfast/peach tea with sugar & stevia

The dog days of summer are here, and all we want at my house is a tall glass of something cold. Usually that means iced tea, flavored water or lemonade by the gallon- but we avoid plastic bottles by making our own (it’s easier than you may think). You can even find new “unsweetened natural flavor essence” for bubbly water machines. Mix your own flavors- I’m thinking lime mango. Home brew tea means you can control the sweetness, make it decaf, or add flavors (my favorite is peach). Or use a packet of drink mix- you can add them to your water bottle no matter where you are!

lotion in the ocean

You lather up with sunscreen before you play in the waves, right? And so do hundreds of people around you. All that lotion can cause trouble in the ocean. Common ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, nano titanium dioxide, and nano zinc oxide can harm coral reefs and sea life.

When you buy your next bottle, keep these tips in mind:

-Sunscreens labeled “reef safe” aren’t regulated, so take that designation with a grain of (sea) salt.

-Some popular brands don’t contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, two of the most harmful chemicals.

-If you cover up with a swim shirt you’ll use a lot less sunscreen!