I've always been aware that what we do today creates the future of the planet for our children and grandchildren. If everyone did his or her part, we'd have a cleaner and less polluted earth to inhabit.
Some people don’t realize that it isn’t hard or expensive to “go green.” Here are 10 easy ways to get started:
1. Just say no to plastic bags.
You see them everywhere: hanging from trees, on the side of the road, stuck in flower beds. Invest in reusable bags to carry your groceries and while out shopping. If you have to take a bag, always opt for paper over plastic. We have 20 reusable produce bags to carry our fruits and veggies at the grocery store. During the past year, I estimate that my family has saved over 500 bags alone!
2. Ditch the plastic bottles.
Invest in a BPA-free or aluminum bottle and wash it out each night. Drink tap water and consider investing in a filter.
3. Combine errands.
Every gallon of gasoline you burn produces 19 pounds of carbon dioxide. By taking one less trip a week, you are on your way to going green and saving money on your gas bill. You could also bike to work which, I realize, is easier said than done in many areas.
4. Use less water at home.
This can easily be done by taking shorter showers and turning the water off while you brush your teeth. If you brush for the recommended two minutes, you could save up to five gallons of water a day by turning it off. Teach this to your children as I have found they are willing to help conserve when they understand why. Also, adding native plants to your lawn will not require as much water to keep them alive. Visit a local gardener to find out what plants are best.
5. Shop at your local farmer’s market.
Here you can find incredibly fresh fruits, vegetables and meat. By supporting these farms, we're buying less from the major manufacturers that don’t always have the best intentions of the environment, or the health of animals, in mind. It is wonderful to meet the people that actually grow the food you are eating. Buying their produce means they can continue to farm locally as well as keeping the money in your community.
6. Turn down your thermostat by 2 degrees.
In the summer, turn it up 2 degrees and in the winter, turn it down 2 degrees. This not only saves you money on your electric bill, but it also decreases your carbon footprint by 2,000 pounds annually. A programmable thermostat is best so you know the exact temperature, and you'll save approximately $180 a year in energy costs. If you are lucky enough to live in a great climate, open up the windows whenever you can and turn off the air.
7. Use real dishes instead of paper.
Some families rely on the easy clean up value of using paper products, but this is just adding to the waste.
8. Use cold water when washing clothes.
While I realize it isn’t possible for every load, about 80% of the energy used in your washing machine is to actually heat the water. You will save money by using the cold cycle as much as possible.
9. Donate items you aren’t using.
Most of us have so many things taking up space in our homes that we just don’t use. Find a local organization that would be happy to take old clothes, furniture, and the like. (Goodwill even has a calculator to allow you to figure out the environmental impact of doing so!) Passing down gently-used items will help un-clutter your life while helping others.
10. Watch documentaries.
There are so many documentaries out there that explain how we can make a difference. One in particular, Plastic Planet, shows how plastic is saturating our lives and how harmful it is to the planet and wildlife.