Last year, humans collectively burned more than double the amount of resources that the Earth can sustain long term. And if all countries used resources the way America does, we’d need over 5 planet Earths to keep us alive. At Sparkleberry Lane, we love glitter and happiness, but we can’t help but be overwhelmed by the daunting information that floods our ears and eyes on a daily basis. Perhaps you’ve felt the same way, too overwhelmed to even make honest, heartfelt attempts at being part of the solution, rather than the problem. Luckily, information on creating more sustainable habits abounds these days- all it takes is the will power to be more mindful of your lifestyle and make (at first, small) adjustments here and there. The solution starts at home, and in light of impending doom I wanted to share a few tips from “The Cheapskate’s Guide to a Greener Home,” an article I read in a new-to-me magazine, Natural Health (April/May 2011 ed.). Many of these tips may be familiar to you- if so, take them as friendly reminders- or some may be new to you; they are all real ways you can lessen your ecological footprint and feel better about yourself! Godspeed!
- Turn off the lights when you aren’t using them! You’ve heard this so many times by now, SHAME ON YOU if you still leave unnecessary lights on. (“Turning off what you’re not using can save up to 10% of your home’s total energy expenditure).
- Unplug appliances when they aren’t in use. “We spend $1billion per year powering electronics that aren’t in use”!! Think: microwaves, TV, Xbox, cell phone charger, electric toothbrush (I’ve found that mine will run for almost a month on just one day’s charge!),etc. Take an inventory of what doesn’t need to be plugged in 24/7 in your home; some things can be consolidated into one power strip to make unplugging easy. This will save you money and time on the planet
- Cut back on paper towel waste. The average person uses 3,000 in one year and they all end up in our landfills. Use rags and old dish towels instead, you can even turn old t-shirts into new rags. When they get super messy, soak them in a bowl of hot water with (natural) cleaning solution. If and when you do buy paper towels, go for ones without ink on them (forget the pretty designs!) and if possible, purchase an eco-friendly brand of towels.
- Put a brick in your toilet tank. The brick will displace water, so less water will be used with every flush, just like a low-flow model. And if you live alone, or have your own bathroom, consider skipping a flush every once in a while if it doesn’t gross you out too much.
- Consider getting a water filtration system that hooks up to your sink. The plastic pitchers may eventually leach bisphenol A (BPA) into your water, and they end up in landfills, anyway.
- USE LESS WATER. “According to a Consumer Reports study, 4 out of 5 states will face a water shortage by 2013”!! Take shorter showers; TURN THE WATER OFF while brushing your teeth and soaping up your dishes; fix your leaky faucets; don’t turn the nozzle to maximum flow every time you turn your sink on. Our combined efforts will make a difference.
- Replace things only when they’ve reached the absolute end of their lifespan, not as soon as they start to show wear. Shop around at thrift stores or yard sales for used products in good condition to replace your broken/worn/frayed ones. Try to fix things whenever possible.
- Use compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs instead of traditional incandescent ones. LED light bulbs run on 12 watts of power, compared to 60-100 for regular bulbs, saving you money.
- Adjust your thermostat so your house/apartment is not FREEZING in the summer or SWELTERING in the winter. There’s nothing wrong with bundling up a little when it’s cold outside, and when it’s super hot outside, it won’t take much to make your apartment feel much cooler when you walk in.
- Stop with the paper plates and plastic utensils! EspECIALLy styrofoam ones. There are compostable options for plates and utensils that are corn and vegetable based. There are even compostable Solo cups! If your local store does not carry eco-friendly picnic-ware products, voice your concerns to a manager (the customer is always right!).
- Cut back on plastic bags in landfills. Consider buying biodegradable garbage bags, and for Earth’s sake, START USING THOSE REUSABLE GROCERY BAGS! Keep 2 or 3 in your trunk so you don’t forget them at home, or hang them on your kitchen door knob to grab on your way out. You can even put some fruits and vegetables directly into your grocery basket and skip the produce bags. Re-use your ziplock baggies whenever possible. If you do forget your reusable bags, ask for paper bags, which can be recycled (and make great recycling bins).
- Shop at farmer’s markets! Come onnnnn it’s summer! This is prime season to explore the local options in your city, and you’ll be more likely to bring those reusable bags, buy food without excess packaging, and stop contributing to the bajillions of “food miles” it takes to get cheap food into grocery stores (and you’d be surprised at how inexpensive the farmers’ fresh produce is, and you are getting better quality food with more nutrients!)
- Try planting some veggies yourself. There are numerous ways to plant vegetables in small spaces these days, like those topsy-turvy tomato planters that you can hang, and herb gardens for your kitchen. You can even grow mini lettuce heads in small containers right in your kitchen. And if you have a back yard, do a little research and plant a garden! I got my mom to make one in our back yard in Virginia, and there’s nothing more satisfying than picking our own cucumbers and tomatoes.
- Eat less meat. I’m not trying to browbeat, or advocate vegetarianism, but livestock production is extremely energy intensive and produces 1/5th of the world’s greenhouse gasses. Just a little research into how meat is produced these days will shock you (10 billion land animals are killed per year for consumption just in the US). Furthermore “scientists have calculated that if Americans reduced meat consumption by just 20%, it would have the same effect as trading in their standard sedans for eco-friendly hybrids!” Try making a meatless meal just one or two days a week, where your main course is a grain or vegetable. I guarantee you won’t suffer from protein deficiency, in fact you’ll probably have more energy and feel healthier.
- Find out how much wattage your appliances use, and re-think mindless use like throwing your jeans in the dryer to “fluff them up” (4,000 watts of energy). Your hair dryer uses 1,000 watts of energy- skip a blow dry every now and then! Instead of using the heat-dry feature on your dishwasher (which can increase wattage from 1200 to 2400) open the door and let the dishes air dry.
- STOP WASTING FOOD! How often do you throw away forgotten food from your fridge or the back of your pantry? Here’s a shocking statistic: “Picture the Rose Bowl, the vast 90,000 seat stadium in Southern California. Now picture it filled to the brim with food. America wastes that much food every single day” (from farm to table). It is a blessing to be able to feed ourselves easily when we are hungry, don’t take our abundance of food for granted; don’t buy things you already have, and don’t cook more than you can eat. Take your leftovers from the restaurant home and actually eat them, or give them to a homeless person.
- Cut back on plastic in your home, from Tupperware containers to water bottles. There’s that pesky BPA chemical found in most plastic products, and they last for thousands of years in landfills (considering that, we are way past our eyeballs in plastic waste that will be leaching chemicals into groundwater even when our great-great-great grandchildren inhabit this Earth).
- Use cold water to wash your laundry. Despite your greatest concerns, your clothes will still get clean, using less energy, and your colors won’t bleed, meaning you can wash more things together and cut back on loads.
- When possible, support eco-friendly brands of paper products, cleaning products, soaps and shampoos, notebooks, tissues, etc. The more consumers support these brands, the more these types of brands will pop up, and the lower their prices will become. Use your vote as a consumer wisely!
- BE CONSCIOUS! Research things for yourself. Mindless living is easy, but a mindful life is a rich and happy life.
Please share any other tips you have in a comment below! Thanks for reading.
The original article was written by Meghan Rabbitt.