a thanksgiving quiz

photo by annie spratt

How are you choosing to celebrate this year?

Novice: You decorate with nature (acorns, fruits & leaves) instead of plastic and synthetic materials.

Intermediate:  You also use your good dishes, glasses and cloth napkins instead of disposables. Make the day special!

Pro: All of the above + you shop local and organic. In the kitchen you use reusable leftover containers and borrow extra dishes, platters and special pots ‘n pans instead of buying disposables.

Extra credit: You stay close to home. It’s a special year, so if you’re not going anywhere feel better knowing that you’re keeping the air cleaner!

spray away

photo by anna hecker

‘Tis the season for pumpkin pie, hot chocolate and all kinds of treats topped with whipped cream. And unless you make your own, all good cans must come to an end. But wait. Before you toss it and other spray cans (like cooking spray) check your county’s recycling guidelines. The cans (empty, no cap) are recyclable in some areas. Aerosol cans are made of either aluminum or steel, high-value metals that can be reused again and again, so it’s worth checking into!

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.

do sumthin’ with the pumpkin

photo by jocelyn fletcher

Decorating for Fall? Take a green step and buy your pumpkins from a local farm or farmers’ market. (Go greener and save the seeds to grow your own next year.) If you carve a jack-o-lantern, toast the seeds for snack or on a salad. You can also make pie or muffins with the fruit you scoop out. Compost the rest when you’re done…or the pumpkin is. And let me know if those dried corn arrangements are edible!

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…