old-school yards

Some people (probably those who hate mowing) think big grassy yards are outdated. They can take a lot of water, chemicals, and fertilizer…not to mention time! This fall is a good time to consider adding native trees, bushes and flowers to lessen your grass footprint. You can always start small and add on gradually.  If you do plant grass, look for brands with deep roots, which need less watering, or try clover- which will give you a different look (and bees!) and add nitrogen to the soil.  

false consensus

Does your energy bill compare your total use to other homes nearby? Energy companies are correcting for a behavior called the “false consensus effect.”  Basically, it’s when you think your behavior must be what everyone else does, so that makes it ok. An example is keeping the house so warm in the winter that you wear shorts. By showing people that their energy use is higher than others, energy companies have significantly reduced energy consumption.  

photo by colin behrens

This effect applies to other issues too, like water use, poaching, dumping, and even picking up dog poop. So by letting people know about your environmentally friendly behaviors, you can fight false consensus too!

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.) 

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! 

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!

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…

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!

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!