high five, baby!

photo by viktor nikolaienko

April 16  is National High-five Day, so give yourself some skin for all the green steps you’ve taken in the past year. I know someone who is so environmentally conscious that every move she makes is carefully weighed. Her eco-amazingness makes me feel kind of… pathetic. Ever feel like that?

Stop comparing yourself to others (I’m telling myself this too). It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many environmental choices we’re faced with every day. No one is perfect, so focus on progress instead.

Celebrate your accomplishments, both big and small, and remember that you’re not alone in trying to do your best, one step at a time! High five!

when size matters

which of these three do you want in your house?

Are you tired of lugging (and storing) huge plastic bottles of laundry detergent? And then tossing that chunk of plastic when it’s empty? You have options. Pods are smaller, but still contain plastic and can be pricey. We use concentrated detergent- you get the same number of washes from a much smaller bottle. (hint: measure so you don’t use more than you need.) But a friend just introduced me to detergent sheets (where have I been?). They dissolve in the wash and you’re left with a slim cardboard envelope. A quick search shows I can’t buy them locally but they’re available online. I look forward to the extra space in my cabinet!

change three ways

For a quick upgrade replace the bulbs in your 3-way light fixtures with LEDs to reduce energy use by up to 90%. Check out the label to make sure the “brightness” and “light appearance” are what you want. Also- speaking from experience- make sure the bulb fits in your lamp before you buy it. Then sit back and forget about it: LEDs last up to 50,000 hours. Easy peasy!

false consensus

Does your energy bill compare your total use to other homes nearby? Energy companies are correcting for a behavior called the “false consensus effect.”  Basically, it’s when you think your behavior must be what everyone else does, so that makes it ok. An example is keeping the house so warm in the winter that you wear shorts. By showing people that their energy use is higher than others, energy companies have significantly reduced energy consumption.  

photo by colin behrens

This effect applies to other issues too, like water use, poaching, dumping, and even picking up dog poop. So by letting people know about your environmentally friendly behaviors, you can fight false consensus too!

watching paint dry

photo by david waschbuesch

DYK over half the stuff brought to household hazardous waste events could just stay at home? We’re talking latex paint. Dry it out and it can go in your regular trash. (Stir cat litter into the paint until it thickens and won’t pour.) If you have just a little left, open the can and let the paint air dry.

Other options: give the paint to a community center, charity, or school. (Would they take my rotten melon and school bus yellow colors?). Or save it for later. Properly sealed and stored, latex paint can last up to 10 years.  

FYI: Oil-based or spray paint don’t harden and should be taken to that hazardous waste event.

receipt deceit

photo by andrew ilus

DYK that store, hotel & library receipts, airline & movie tickets are technically recyclable? But you might want to think twice. Most are a thermal paper that prints using heat and chemicals (which is why they discolor in a hot car). The paper is currently coated in bisphenol A  (BPA), which is potentially harmful to kids and pregnant women. To test for BPA, scratch the receipt with a fingernail or coin to see if it discolors. The BPA could end up in our recycled paper products. So throw them away and choose an electronic receipt (or none at all) when you can.

if you love it…

…why set it free? Try a little TLC first. Have you whipped out needle and thread, shoe polish, or a can of paint to make something last longer? What about salvaging broken china, makeup, outdoor furniture or Christmas tree lights? While some things are beyond fixing, you might be surprised at how many things you can repair if you check online. I just saved my favorite elephant lamp with what turned out to be a simple fix (yay!). NOTE: If you think this applies to your significant other, you’re reading too much into it. Maybe.

a fuzzy fridge

Do you dream of a longer-lasting, more energy efficient fridge? Never? It’s actually quite simple- clean your refrigerator coils twice a year. One night while you’re waiting for your takeout delivery, find the coils at the bottom front (behind a panel) or on the back. Unplug it to turn off the power. Brush lightly around the coils and then vacuum with a hose. Voila- you’re done and your fridge can breathe again! FYI: check your owner’s manual first, as some refrigerators have special instructions or need professional cleaning.

you want what?

you want what? photo by luke hodde

About to do a load of laundry and want to reduce static cling? Forget dryer sheets- they’re one-use, polyester (ie plastic) and can emit potentially harmful chemicals. Try a wool dryer ball instead. They’re biodegradable, nontoxic, can be re-used for up to 1000 loads (no kidding) and are surprisingly easy to find. A wool sock doesn’t do the trick, by the way- I checked. Other options: toss a washcloth with white vinegar or some crumpled aluminum foil into the dryer- or line dry your laundry.

when you wish…

Do you ever throw a questionable item in the recycling and hope for the best? Yeah…me too. This behavior is called “wish-cycling.” As much as I love a little magic in the world, there is no recycling fairy godmother. The wrong materials can clog up machines and contaminate whole batches of materials. Take a quick minute to check your local rules. When in doubt, throw it out!