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.

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.

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. 

move over, popsicles

photo by dev benjamin

How do I love my freezer? Let me count the ways: instant food ready at any time, slows down spoiling, keeps me in constant healthy options, and often saves me a tired trip to the grocery store.

You can freeze all kinds of things: nuts, bread, butter, meat, fish, poultry, casseroles, pies, and blocks of hard cheese, even milk. If I know I’m not going to eat something before its time is up, I throw it in the freezer for a later date. FYI: peel ripe bananas before freezing (we learned that the hard way). 

I now label and date my containers first, after a few defrosting “misunderstandings.” And remember, not only are you wasting less food. A full freezer uses less energy! 

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!

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…