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.
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 extra strong trashbags 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.
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.)
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.
Text and images by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.