a snuggly water heater

same idea, but much cuter

The only time I think about my hot water heater is when it’s not working. I’m not even 100% sure where it is (just checked- under the house). If it’s not instantaneous, your water heater is sitting there 24 hours a day, every day, keeping water warm. As a test, touch the outside of your appliance. If it’s warm, it’s radiating heat. Wrap it in a water heater blanket and lower your water heating costs by 10-15%. FYI, newer water heaters are better insulated and usually don’t need to cozy up.

quali-tee?

photo by haryo setyadi

Dying and cutting patterns for clothes. Shipping them around the world. Throwing away unused and out of style clothing. The environmental impact of the fashion industry is considerable. The latest styles might keep you looking current, but some items are timeless- jeans, black pants, jackets, a classic bag, or a white tee that matches everything.

Look for quality clothes that you’ll keep for more than a season and that won’t fall apart. And as my mom always says, if you don’t feel great in it, don’t buy it!

well plated

photo by markus winkler

Disposable plates mean you don’t spend the evening washing up. But how often do you use them? Try reusable plates sometimes. If faced with washing dishes, some in my family will eat straight out of the pot. Luckily, that’s not the only option. If you must use disposables, buy paper instead of plastic or styrofoam plates, which don’t biodegrade. Also try switching paper napkins out for cloth on occasion. We use ours a couple of times before washing them…unless it’s spaghetti night. Or barbeque. Or…well, you get it!

the mysterious freezer box

DYK- although frozen food boxes are paper products, most of them can’t be recycled? These boxes (aka wet-strength paperboard) are just like recyclable boxes- with one difference. The paper is layered with polyethylene (LDPE) plastic to keep the box from getting soggy and to prevent freezer burn. Soda & beer cartons are made of it too.

It’s difficult to separate the plastic from the paperboard and some municipalities can’t accept it as recycling. And because of the plastic, it can’t be composted either. So check the box for a recycling symbol and your local requirements, but otherwise, frozen food boxes go in the trash.

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!

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!

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!

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?