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).

recharge your batteries

photo by eric nopanen

A small but powerful change you can make is to transition to rechargeable batteries. No more cursing (under my breath, Mom) and running out to the store for fresh batteries. The rechargeable versions last longer and when they do lose their juice, you can charge them up and they’re ready again in a couple of hours. After an initial investment of batteries + charger, you’ll reuse them hundreds of times (some say up to 1000 but I’m not there yet). Less to worry about, less waste, and a smaller environmental footprint is a win-win-win situation!  

paper you can’t recycle

photo by dan prado

Going through a lot of paper towels, paper napkins & plates, and tissues these days? Remember, they aren’t recyclable, even if they’re unused or clean. Before you throw these products away, be sure to use them first. Sound crazy? What about the dinosaur birthday paper plates in the drawer (and your kid is now a teenager)? No one has to know. We used up the last couple of reindeer napkins as we ate dinner on the porch last night…

happy earth day!

photo by sheri silver

HAPPY DAY! Celebrate today – get outside if you can (or bake some Earth cookies instead). Take a moment to think about the ways you’ve made the world a better place over the past year, and give yourself a pat on the back for actions both large and small. Next thought: how you can make every day a little more of an earth day in the future, one green step at a time!

save the ugly produce

Are you obsessed with beauty…when you go food shopping? Don’t be swayed by pretty produce. Much of what’s thrown away at grocery stores are bruised or misshaped fruit and veggies that no one picks up.  Think of all the energy and resources used to grow and harvest all those less-than-perfect perishables. Why not take a couple home next time? You don’t have to fill your bag with only unsightly options, but at least pick one or two. I’ve started doing it, and they might look ugly, but they taste the same!

the butterfly effect

photo by ana martinuzzi

Imagine being hungry and not able to find a grocery store. Butterflies, hummingbirds, bats, moths and bees pollinate crops and most flowering plants, but it’s getting harder for these little guys to find food- their habitats are shrinking and getting further apart. That’s where you come in. Make your home or community more pollinator-friendly today. FYI, pollinators like to eat local, so check out wildflower.org, “native plants,” “plant lists” to find out what grows best in your area.

If you’re low on space, use containers for a pollinator snack stop. Start with one or two plants and see how it goes! Also, avoid insecticides when you can (duh). 

april eco-fool

actual oatmeal

 Food waste is a huge problem. The average American tosses out around a pound of food every day.  I like to think I do better than that.

But not always. Working at home earlier this week I got leftover oatmeal out for breakfast (if it’s not instant it keeps well). I poured in milk, heated it up and added an aging banana (no waste!) and raisins. Yum…but no. It tasted wrong. Salty.  I realized this was not oatmeal, but rice. Rice-a-Roni broccoli and cheese flavor to be specific. (I wish they were a paying sponsor, but they aren’t.) Don’t judge- my kids can kind of make it themselves and I did recycle the box.

This flavor combo, folks, cannot be salvaged. Suffice to say we all throw food away, as did I that morning. Sometimes it can’t be helped. And actually, go ahead and judge me. It’s ok. Now look in your fridge or cupboard and tell me what you’re going to eat next instead of tossing!

electrical outlets

after a new coat of paint and before the plastic cover goes back on

Looking for something to do right now? I just painted my bedroom, so I checked the electric sockets to see if I felt a draft. These holes let in outdoor air, particularly in older homes. Outlets and light switches are usually ignored when it comes to insulation, but can be a source of heat loss.

Foam outlet covers block the air trying to get in, and take minutes to install if you have a screwdriver- they go under the plastic cover you already have. Also, you really only need them on external walls. You might not see immediate savings on your power bill, but little easy steps like this eventually add up!

paper(less) towels

We keep paper towels in a cabinet for certain messy situations, but not within easy reach.  Paper towels are one-use, bleached products that are not recyclable (except for the brown paper core). We use cloth instead- one for dishes and one for hands.

If you can’t pry the paper out of your hand right away, look for half or quarter sizes and unbleached versions. If every US home used 3 less rolls a year, we’d reduce paper waste by 120,00 tons. One less roll a year would save over half a million trees. You use cloth towels in the bathroom- why not in the kitchen as well?