Living Well: 10 Easy Secrets to Greening Your Home, Part 2

March 13, 2013

This post is sponsored by GLAD®. Small changes can make a big difference.

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Text and images by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.

A few weeks ago we talked about 10 Easy Secrets to Greening Your House, and today I’m back with 10 more easy tips. There are just so many things we can do! This time, I’m going to focus on secrets to cutting down on waste and using less — things I bet we could all improve on.

Some things you may have already heard, and some might be new things you’d never even thought of doing. All of them are small, everyday changes that are simple and easy to make, but make a big difference.

Secret #1: Replace light bulbs with energy efficient, longer lasting bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs use about 1/4 less energy than incandescent bulbs. Halogen bulbs are another alternative to incandescent.

You might be wondering about the difference between halogen and fluorescent bulbs and which one to buy. Halogen lights are more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, but they do emit a fair amount of heat and don’t save as much energy as fluorescent. The light from halogen bulbs is warm and yellow-reddish. Halogen bulbs are much smaller, provide a good amount of  light, and last a lot longer, but they are expensive.

Overall fluorescent bulbs are cheaper to buy and use and are cooler. Fluorescent bulbs are especially worth considering if you want to keep your air conditioning bill lower during the summer or if you live in a warmer climate. Daylight balanced fluorescent bulbs are available if you don’t care for the blueish tint given off by traditional fluorescent bulbs. The daylight balanced bulbs create a more natural looking light indoors.

Secret #2: Get to know your recycling options. It’s not just for bottles and newspaper anymore! You can recycle your old electronics like cell phones, chargers, cameras, laptops, radios, etc.  You can even recycle old household appliances.

If the appliances still work, consider donating them to the Salvation Army, a local women’s or homeless shelter, a church, or another organization where they can still be used. If they are nonworking, check into centers that will accept them, such as Habit For Humanity or Appliance Recycling Centers of America (ARCA.)

Old appliances sitting in landfills release harmful chemicals and gasses into the environment.  For more information, contact your municipal  government’s department of sanitation. They can also help you find a donation center in your area.

Most office supply and big hardware stores will recycle inkjet cartridges, as will most manufacturers, usually for no charge. Or you can use an ink refill service.

Even soap bar scraps can be recycled. (The Global Soap Project is working to recycle all of that hotel soap so it doesn’t go to waste. Awesome!)

Secret #3: Choose products that are designed to help prevent waste. For example, avoid individually packaged items like small bottles of water, yogurt cups, and snack foods.

Or give our sponsor’s trashbags, GLAD® Forceflex, a try. They’re designed to stretch so you can fit more in (without making holes!), meaning you can use less trash bags, and less plastic overall.

Secret #4:  Raise your hand if your kids (or you) use too many paper towels when cleaning or wiping up spills? I’ve saved so much money (and paper!) by switching to cleaning cloths.

Flour sack towels are just the thing for getting windows and mirrors sparkling clean and streak-free. I use white bar mop towels for smaller cleaning jobs, and dusting too. Another trick: I safety-pin smaller towels around my flat mop to replace expensive disposable mop pads.

Secret #5: Showering instead of bathing saves a lot of water. This is the easiest tip of the bunch — and you’re probably already doing it! You’re an eco-expert already. : )
Now let’s get to some easy changes in the kitchen that will go a long way to curbing excess waste.

Did you know that on average we waste about 1.5 lbs of food per person per day in the U.S.?  That doesn’t even account for all the food waste from supermarkets and restaurants. Which leads me to Secret #6:  Start at the source of eliminating food waste by buying less. Plan out your menus ahead of time, make a detailed grocery list before you shop, and stick to the list.

Of course there might be one or two items you forgot or you might find a great sale on something, but in general this will help you curb that extra food that just sits in the fridge unused, only to be thrown away when it spoils.

You’ve gone to the effort of planning a fabulous weekly menu and now it’s time to use up those leftovers! Eat them for lunch or have a night dedicated to leftovers. Secret #7: If you need to reheat food, use the microwave instead of the oven or stove. Turns out, it uses a lot less energy.

Speaking of food, let’s talk about something that might be a little more effort to start but will quickly become an easy habit with a little practice. Secret #8: Compost your kitchen scraps. Composting kitchen scraps like vegetable and fruit peels will help keep them out of the trash and you can turn it into rich nutrients for your houseplants, your garden — or the community garden down the street. If you did buy more lettuce than you were able to use, stick in the compost bin and it won’t go to waste.

Composting isn’t just for the suburban or rural dwellers. Small compost pails can fit neatly next to or under the kitchen sink. There are attractive store bought bins or easy-to-make homemade compost bins. And don’t worry unsavory smells. If a compost bin is made and used correctly, it won’t stink and it won’t attract pests, and you’ll be doing a lot of good for the environment!

Bonus:  It’s another way to dispose/recycle newspaper and other paper products. You’ll want about a 50/50 mix of green components (fruit and veggie peels, tea and tea bags, coffee grounds) and brown components (cereal boxes, cardboard egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, napkins, paper plates, pizza boxes, shredded paper).

Stay away from composting cooked food, meat, fish, and cat litter. A full list of what you can and cannot compost can be found here.

You can’t compost glass, but you can certainly reuse it. Secret #9: Keep and reuse glass jars for storing leftovers (soups and sauces especially), or bulk items like grains, legumes, spices and dried fruit.

I use glass jars in the bathroom to hold q-tips, cotton balls, makeup brushes, and toothbrushes. In the garage they come in handy for holding nails, bolts and screws. Being able to quickly see what’s in the jars saves time too.

Last, but not least, Secret #10: Cities are making no-plastic grocery bag laws one after another. Might as well get with a reusuable grocery bag habit sooner than later. (If you’re like me and get to the store only to remember that you forgot your reusuable bags, keep them in your car so they are handy and waiting for you when you hit the market on the way home from work.) 

You can pick these up at almost anywhere for a few dollars a piece. These are also a good looking and sturdy option. Be sure to wash them regularly.

Wow! We’ve covered a lot of tips. And that leads me to the most important recommendation.Don’t feel overwhelmed and try to do everything all at once! Take it one step at a time, get your family invovled, and experiment with these tips until new habits are formed. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to be more green at home.

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Just Moms » Blog Archive » Living Well: 10 Easy Secrets to Greening Your Home, Part 2
March 13, 2013 at 2:20 pm
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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Emily March 13, 2013 at 10:21 am

I had a lighting expert explain to me that the energy efficient bulbs aren’t best for all spaces–they are best used in areas where the light is left on for long periods of time. The on and off shortens their life span and so if you install them in your bathroom which goes on and off a million times a day, the bulb just won’t last and running through more bulbs isn’t very green.

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2 Design Mom March 14, 2013 at 3:15 am

So interesting. Did the expert have any recommendations for bulbs in high-use spaces?

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3 Marnie March 13, 2013 at 4:20 pm

What a great list! Do you have any recommendations on good cloth towels? Mine smell quickly and just don’t absorb well. Also, do you have any recommendations on how to clean jars? I would love to use them around the house but I can’t seem to ever get all the peanut residue out or jelly or sauce, etc. Thanks!

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4 Marnie March 13, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Sorry, let me clarify…BRANDS of towels. I see that you mentioned types. I will go search on Amazon too! Thanks!

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5 heidi garner March 13, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Marni. We have been using old rags rather than paper towels for years. Not because I am green, but because I am cheap. (my mom always buys paper towels when she visits and stashes them under my sink..it makes her crazy that I don’t use them) Recently I bought some norwex microfiber cloths…they claim that they don’t get stinky and they are antibacterial…You just use them to clean (with out any cleaners) wring them out and hang them to dry. They wipe up grease splatters, butter, kid messes. They are great. Wash once a week. However, I must be super nasty. I forget to hang them to dry and they have gotten a bit stinky. They absorb like crazy. We used a wet one to clean up a whole cup of spilled water where before we used a bath towel (spill happen a lot at my house). They have a polishing cloth that is totally worth it. It is about $14 and you can wash your windows streak free with just water. If you find a consultant and have a party you can get free stuff. That is the way to go. http://www.norwex.com/- here is a link to their site.

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6 allysha March 13, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I like these suggestions, but I have to say: they are going to have to pry my incandescent light bulbs out of my cold, dead hands because I find living with the light spectrum of fluorescents utterly depressing. {not that I have a strong opinion on these, or anything! ;) Also: this is probably the only subject that brings me to melodrama!}

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7 Design Mom March 14, 2013 at 3:14 am

Here in France, it’s fairly hard for me to find incandescents, but they haven’t replaced them with fluorescents. Instead, they use seem to have replaced incandescents with halogens. And from what I can tell, they do last quite a bit longer.

I wonder why they trend went halogens here, and fluorescents in the States?

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8 Karyl March 27, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I think halogen tends to have better looking light than fluorescents, so probably why it’s more popular there? It’s also more eco-friendly than incandescents, right?

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9 Janey March 13, 2013 at 8:19 pm

I agree with you Allysha!!! I am stockpiling incandescents. The fluorescents give me headaches, emit an unnatural light, and to responsibly dispose of them is no small task. Not to mention if you accidentally break one… Here are the EPA dieprections of steps to be taken if a CFL breaks. For real!! http://green.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ddoe/publication/attachments/cflcleanup.pdf

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10 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) March 14, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Hi Janey! Thanks for bringing up the issue of the mercury in CFL bulbs.

I’ve just been doing a lot of reading on the LED bulbs and they are definitely worth considering as a better option. I included CFLs in the post because they are less expensive and easy to obtain.

I know about the risk of the mercury in the fluorescent bulbs and was shocked when I first heard about it. However, I have done some research on it and just about everything I’ve read says that there’s more harm in eating fish with mercury (actually ingesting it!) than if a broken bulb is quickly cleaned up. I know it does sound scary. But we’ve used CFLs for years and have never broken one, so it hasn’t been an issue for us. Of course, everyone has to do what they feel is best for their family and their health. Chances are when our budget allows, we’ll make the switch to LED lights over the CFLs.

Thanks for bringing this up. It’s definitely something we should be talking about. And everyone should know the risks of using CFLs. Thank you for the comment and the link to the EPA info.

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11 Lynet Witty March 13, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Ugh, I’m glad i’m not the only one who hates incandescents! Also, I have to disagree with secret #7. Microwaves emit harmful waves and deplete food of its nutrients. I think I would rather waste my electricity a little on my stove top or a toaster oven than use that microwave. I’m not saying I don’t use one, but if I have to reheat cooked food, microwave is not the answer. Thanks for these, these are all things I already do as I love to be green and teach my family about it too!

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12 B March 14, 2013 at 2:47 am

http://www.etsy.com/shop/AthenaCreates?ref=seller_info

I bought these and love them! I bleach them with my whites and use them for everything- windows, dishes, spills, dusting!

Also, sometimes electronic stores will recycle electronics. I know Best Buy will give you store credit for printers/computers and will take used cell phones.

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13 Anna March 14, 2013 at 12:07 pm

I’m surprised no one has mentioned LED bulbs. We are slowly switching over and love them. They’re very cool (which is nice, considering that we haven’t double-glazed our windows yet), they come in all sorts of shades of white/yellow, and they last forever, apparently. We haven’t had to replace one yet, so I can’t say for sure. As they are a bit expensive, about the price of halogen, we reserve incandescents for the porch, which goes through bulbs far too fast…

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14 Leelee March 14, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Yes, Janey – flourescents should be avoided, they are incredibly dangerous if they break! Might sound silly but it’s true. No reason to have them in the house. I have to agree with Anna that LEDs are the way to go. A bit more of an investment at first, true, but in the long run they’re much more economical. And ditto to what Lynett said, I winced at number 7 too, microwaves do emit harmful waves and do cause physical changes to our food. Not in a good way. This seems to be another thing that many people think sounds silly, or they just would rather ignore it to have the convenience. We need to consider the effect our actions have on our bodies as well as the earth.

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15 Susan Reynolds March 14, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Folks please check out LED bulbs! no mercury nice warm light not blue. Home depot sells new ones from Cree that are under $15 and they have 10 yr warranty. 9 watts for a 60 watt equivalent and they are dimmable. We have done loads of research. Check it out for yourselves. There are even these amazing (albeit expensive bulbs called HUE i think from Phillips) Apple sells them. You can run them (so turn lights on in your home when you are thousands of miles away) from your phone and make them any color color of the spectrum. Aha moment when I saw these…the future is here…crazy and cool!!!

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Wow! That’s such a cool idea!

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