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…

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!

plastics 1-7

photo by EKM Mittelsachen

DYK what the numbers on your plastic containers mean? They identify the kind of plastic used to make them, and not all of them can actually be recycled. In short:

 #1s are recyclable but aren’t reusable

 #2s are recyclable and reusable

#3s are rarely recycled and aren’t reusable for food

#4s aren’t usually recycled, except for wraps and bags

#5s are accepted at some recycling centers

 #6s can’t be recycled and shouldn’t be heated

 #7s are rarely recycled and basically are a mix of #s 1-6

Check your local recycling rules online. Some recyclers take caps and lids, but if you’re not sure, throw them in the trash. Try to find alternatives for 3, 6, and 7 if you can. And remember to give your plastic a quick rinse before recycling it!