Happy Earth Day, readers! I hope that my first week of blogging here at She’s So Green has been at least a little inspiring to you, and that you don’t think I’m totally insane for making my own nut milk, or hoarding milk jugs to make bird feeders!
Today I’m going to focus on the little things that you can do, easy steps that you can start today – on Earth Day – and continue for the other 364 days a year, without significant cost or effort. I truly believe it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference, the change in our daily habits that can have the biggest impact. So here are ten of my favourite simple tips that go beyond just turning out the lights, for making every day a day to take care of our planet.
1. Use a reusable water bottle, and stop buying bottled water. They’re pretty much everywhere now, in dozens of shapes and styles and sizes and colours. Find one you love and make it an accessory. And while we’re on the topic of bottled water, watch this: The Story of Bottled Water. If you’re still not compelled to switch to tap water because of the taste, try filtering it first.
2. Give up paper towels. Instead of using paper towels to clean up spills and messes, use cloth. Microfiber cloths are easy to find and are great for cleaning. And if you’re feeling frugal, cut up old clothes and threadbare towels to use as cleaning rags. It’s not pretty, but it works.
3. Install a programmable thermostat. Do you really need a nice, cozy, warm house while you’re snuggled under your blankets in bed, or while everyone is out of the house at school and work? Of course not. A 5-2 day cycle programmable thermostat runs in the range of $40, and it’s simple to install.
4. On the topic of your home’s inside temperature, hang curtains or shades, and pull them closed on the hottest and coldest days. This will help insulate your home, keeping it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, so your furnace and A/C don’t have to work as hard.
5. Reuse scrap paper. Save paper that’s only been printed on one side, and
either let your kids doodle all over it as a rainy day art activity, or
cut it into quarters, secure it with a binder clip, and use it as a
6. Run your dishwasher only when it’s full, and turn it to the air-dry option. You’ll save water by running the dishwasher only as often as absolutely necessary, and save energy by skipping the heated dry cycle.
7. Turn off the “energy vampires”. Everything electronic that stays plugged in sucks small amounts of energy even when it’s not in use. Use power bars to turn everything off with the flick of a switch. Do you have one thing that needs to stay plugged in, like a cable or satellite box? You can buy “smart” power bars that have an outlet or two that will continue to provide power while the rest are turned off, for as little as $30.
8. Flush less water. I’m not advocating the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow”
technique, but there’s a really easy, inexpensive way to flush a little
less with every bathroom trip, and it doesn’t involve buying new
toilets: use a plastic bottle and some sand or gravel to convert any toilet into a low-flush toilet. Easy peasy.
9. Stop idling. It’s not good for your car, and all you’re doing is burning gas for nothing. If you plan to be parked for more than 30 seconds, turn off the car. It’ll be good for your vehicle, your wallet, and the environment if you just turn it off instead of letting it idle. Don’t believe me? Here are some myths and realities about idling.
10. Plant a garden. Even if you don’t have a ton of back-yard space, you can still plant containers on your patio or balcony. Investigate square-foot gardening for ideas on how to grow plants in a minimal amount of space. Growing some of your own food can be rewarding and fun – teach your kids about where our food comes from, and enjoy the ultimate in eating locally, straight out of your back yard. If gardening is intimidating, start with easy-to-grow things like lettuce, radishes, and carrots.
Happy Earth Day! I hope these tips will inspire you to make small, eco-friendly changes that are both easy and sustainable.