10 Easy Ways To Be More Green in 2018
With the new year in full gear and new year’s resolutions in effect, it’s not too late to add sustainable living to your list. Below is a number of ways to include green living in your new year’s resolutions weather you are a complete beginner or if you have already been introduced to green living. The levels shown below are based on the planning required. I always recommend starting off with easy steps to avoid becoming overwhelmed with lifestyle changes. Once you make a habit out of your first few steps of your choice, then go ahead and add another step and so on.
Beginners: These 10 steps should require zero to very minimal planing
- Bring your own bags: Bringing your own bag is one of the most common and effective ways to reduce waste. It is estimated that less than 1% of plastic bags are recycled. Get a few small reusable bags that you can throw in your purse or car so that you have them anywhere you go. Consider not using a bag when you only have a couple of items. If you forget to bring a bag, you can always ask for paper bags. Many grocery chains like Publix and Kroger do carry paper bags, you just have to ask for it and make sure to recycle it.
- Skip the produce bags: Skipping produce bags takes zero planing. Many produce items such as bananas, apples, cucumbers, tomatoes and any other similar or larger sized fruits and vegetables do not require a produce bags. Some people use them because of sanitation issues, but realistically, you have no idea where that fruit or vegetable has been and how many people have touched it before you pick it up, so they need to be washed anyways.
- Avoid packed Foods/Materials: Switching to unpacked foods/materials will help to reduce hard to recycle packaging. For example, when shopping for leafy greens, consider the bundled options before the bagged greens. The unpacked greens tend to be more fresh and can save money. Check out the options you have available for items you are shopping for and aim to go for package free or least packaged items.
- Stop drinking bottled water: Americans use more bottled water than any other country and recycle less than 25% of the bottles. Bringing your own water in a reusable container can save hundreds of dollars, depending on how often you purchase bottled water. For me, the key factor in reusable items has been getting something that I like, something cute or funny that I enjoy carrying around.
- Bring your own reusable coffee cup: Similar to water bottles, bringing your own coffee cup to coffee shops can help reduce your waste. Again, get a cup that you like and it will make remembering to bring it with you easier. If you forget to bring a cup, ask if they have real mugs, most coffee places including Starbucks have real mugs, you may have to ask for it instead of a single use cup. Unlike water bottles, most coffee cups such as the Starbucks hot coffee cups are not accepted by most curbside recycling programs. An estimate of less than a half of a percent of coffee cups are recycled.
- Say no to straws: Almost no planing required, all you have to do is ask for no straw with your drink at restaurants. A lot of servers give you a straw before you can even ask for no straw, or forget and give you a straw anyways, but it is still worth asking for no straw. The problem with straws is that they are highly non-recyclable and tend to litter the oceans. Marine animals tend to mistake them for food which can cause death.
- Print double sided on paper: Whether it’s at the office or at home, printing double sided on paper or reusing single side printed sheets can reduce your paper waste by up to half. Even though paper is recyclable, cutting paper use in half will reduce the need for the production of paper and can help save money, trees and the energy required for transporting and production.
- Replace paper towels with real towels and rags: Reusable towels in place of paper towels can reduce waste and save money. If the idea frightens you consider adding reusable towels without replacing paper towels. The paper towels can used used for the big messes and cloth towels can be used for simpler things like wiping counter tops and replacing paper napkins.
- Turn off the water: We have all heard this before, but many people leave the water running while brushing their teeth, washing the dishes and taking long showers. These changes are super simple and anybody can do them. Another place people leave water running for too long is the yard. If you have an automatic sprinkler system, consider adjusting that. Don’t be the house on the block that has water running off the yard or watering the grass while it’s raining.
- Turn off lights: Practice turning lights off when leaving a room, the more you do it, the sooner it becomes a habit. Before leaving the house or work place make sure your lights and electronics are turned off. Saving electricity is a great way reduce carbon emissions.
Intermediate: These 10 steps should require little more planing than the beginner steps.
- Make real coffee, not Keurig cups: Ditch the coffee pods and start making real coffee again. Traditional coffee brewing methods like drip coffee, pour overs and french press produce zero or minimum waste compared to coffee pods. Also, the options for coffee go way up and the price goes way down. I have been drinking mainly Counter Culture and Revelator Coffee. I purchase the bagged beans, grind and brew them myself. I wouldn’t trade them for any coffee pods. No matter where you live in the country, you can find delicious and sustainability sourced coffees near you. If you already have a Keurig machine, look into purchasing a reusable/refillable K-cup.
- Learn about what your recycling program really accepts and doesn’t: Not all cities offer the same recycling. Some cities accept more materials than others, for example, some recycling programs accept glass and some do not. It all depends on your location. A simple online search or phone call can help clear things up. Once you know what materials are not accepted, you can re-evaluate those items and search for recyclable or zero waste products.
- Be more selective about when you get to go food: To go food is another big waste producer. If you have the option to eat at the restaurant, you can help cut down the amount of single use waste that could be produced. To go food consists of bags, plastic utensils, straws, condiments, and all kinds of containers which may or may not be recyclable. If you are eating at a place that does not have reusable dishes, try to take only what you need try to avoid the items that you can do without.
- Avoid impulse purchases: We have all been there, at the sale rack, debating if you should purchase the shirt that is 50% off or spotting unique items that can look edgy and daring. Well, it’s more likely that you are better off without it, unless it’s an item you were specifically searching for. Purchasing items just because they are on sale or seem unique usually ends up with that item rarely being used and eventually thrown away or donated. Find items that you love and need, and cut down on impulse purchasing.
- Give thrift stores and consignment shops a chance: Thrift stores and consignment shops can be great options especially when shopping for specific items. Make the the thrift store or consignment shop your first stop, when it comes to common items there is a good chance of finding what you need. Not only will it save lots of money but buying used items saves on packaging, material production and shipping required to put new items on the shelves.
- Re-purpose glass jars for storing food and other materials: Glass jars make great containers for food or small items. They can be used as cups, at home or to go. There are tons of creative ways to use glass jars, click here or do a quick Pinterset search.
- Replace liquid body wash & hand soap with un-packaged bar soap: Package free bar soaps are a great zero waste alternative to bottled liquid body and hand wash. You can find lots of options at local farmer’s markets or even chain grocery stores. If you can’t find package free, go for the paper packed bar soap which is still a much better alternative to liquid soaps in plastic containers. If you want to take it a step further, try shampoo, conditioner and lotion bars, they are a little bit harder to find but maybe a good option for some people.
- Switch to recycled toilet paper: Buying products that are made from recycled paper is always a good idea, and buying recycled toilet paper is no different. If you can’t find 100% recycled, then try one that is at least partially recycled. Target and many other stores carry brands like Seventh Generation toilet paper which are all or partially recycled.
- Replace old light bulbs with LED light bulbs: Changing your old Incandescent and CFL light bulbs to LED light bulbs can help save energy. LED light bulbs use a fraction of the energy Incandescent and CFL light bulbs use and last many more years. When replacing old lights, start with the Incandescent bulbs then work your way to the CFLs becasue the Incandescent use much more energy than CFL bulbs.
- Participate in community river/beach litter clean up events: Most communities have organized groups that participate in river, beach, streets or any kind of litter cleaning to help better the environment. Adopt a road is also a great option for work places to become involved with helping clean the surrounding community. These community clean ups are a great way to prevent trash from polluting the oceans and natural habitats.
The best Advise I can give anyone who wants to start living sustainability is to start with small changes. The Beginner steps have some of the noticeable impacts. If you forget to take your re-usable items with you, don’t worry, try to remember next time. It’s all about making habits and the changes will start to stack up in no time.