beige gold

photo by karolina grabowska

Ordering a lot of packages these days? Do you open them up and then cast an annoyed look at the shipping box? Corrugated cardboard is the most recycled paper product, with a 95% recovery rate. It also has the highest value, earning it the nickname “beige gold,” because its long paper fibers make it durable. Over half of collected cardboard is used to make new cardboard boxes (to send you more packages), but it’s also used for things like cereal and shoe boxes. Recycling one ton of virgin cardboard saves 17 trees and valuable landfill space.

wash less

photo by andy fitzsimon

My family thinks it’s easier to toss clothes in the hamper than put them away. Sometimes, if their clothes pass the sniff test, I’ll fold them and give them back unwashed, but shhh. Certain clothes, like shirts and jeans, can be worn multiple times before washing. You can also spot clean and air them out instead of throwing them in the machine. Because the best way to save water and electricity, as well as your clothes, is not to do laundry in the first place. However, if you sweat a lot or get stinky, please wash your clothes, preferably in an energy-efficient washing machine. You know who you are. (We all do.) 

eat your enemies

photo by wai siew

Plant and animal species are called invasive when they’re not native to an ecosystem and cause harm. DYK that one invasive species can destroy an entire coral reef, forest, or body of water? The newcomers unbalance the interactions between the native plants and animals. One intriguing way to get rid of these invaders is by eating them. Ever tried garlic mustard greens, lionfish filet, or green crabs? They’re all invasive… and edible. Next time I see a jar of kudzu jelly, a scourge of the South, I’ll definitely buy some. I think I’ll pass on the Burmese python, but let me know if it tastes like chicken.

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!

go for the aluminium (in honor of the Olympics)

If you recycle nothing else, go for aluminum instead of the gold. Aluminum is one of the Olympians of metals: strong, lightweight, non-corrosive, non-magnetic, and much more. It’s also one of the highest-value materials to recycle. It’s fast to reprocess, so a can could leave your recycling bin and be back on the shelves in 2 months.

Recycling one ton of aluminum cans saves the equivalent of 1,024 gallons of gasoline. Beverage cans and foil are the same material, so recycle both of them (clean them first). Aluminum trays and pans are NOT recyclable, but are reusable. And if the foil is combined with plastic- think drink boxes, yogurt lids, or candy wrappers- they can’t be recycled either. Yet.

What’s the last aluminum can you recycled? Mine was an amber ale…

skip (by) the dryer

DYK that your clothes dryer can make up over 10 percent of your household energy use? Try drying your clothes on a rack or line. You’ll see less wear and tear on your clothes. Less shrinkage and longer clothing life. No static cling. No dryer sheets. And you’ll use less energy. A retractable clothesline in the back yard is great for quickly drying bed linens and towels (and that fresh smell…). For those with less space, try a fold-out rack. I tuck them between my washer & dryer when they’re not in use. 

plastic bag free day

photo by morgan vander hart

Tomorrow is International Plastic Bag Free day, so prepare today! Try to get through the day without accepting or using any plastic bags. Most plastic bags are only used for 20-30 minutes before they’re tossed, but it takes hundreds of years for them to decompose.

At the store, whip out a reusable bag or put your purchase in your pocket, purse or backpack. In the kitchen, ignore plastic zipper bags and substitute with reusable storage containers (glass and takeout containers are my favorite).

 Just try it for one day (and then another, and another…) and see how it goes!

travelling fruit

photo by veeterzy

Is your produce worn out? Do you know how far that peach, potato or pepper traveled to get to you? Even if it was grown in the US, produce travels an average of 1500 miles before you pick it up in your hot little hand. That means high transport costs, more air pollution, and less freshness.

What’s grown in your area of the country? Check out the nearby farmer’s market or roadside stands. Some grocery chains make it easy with signs that highlight locally grown fruits and veggies.

coffee. now!!!

photo by hiago italo

Some (or let’s be real- most) mornings you can’t get your caffeine fast enough, right? One-cup coffee machines are amazing at getting it ready asap. But those used pods add up quickly- over 50 billion pods a year worldwide. Yes, that’s billion with a “b.” Keep your pods out of the landfills by using reusable or recyclable versions. Even better, go old school and use a French press sometimes. And of course always drink from a reusable mug to cut more waste!