Transforming your household into a model of environmental conscientiousness can feel like an overwhelming task. But you can make a huge difference in your impact on the planet by making just a few small changes to your lifestyle. Here are a few easy ways to get started.
Many people are already avid recyclers. But how about taking a second look at over-packaged products before you decide to take them home? For example, don’t buy individually wrapped cheese sticks all packed in yet another plastic bag. Buy a big block of cheese and cut it yourself. Send your kids’ food to school in re-usable containers, not plastic bags. Don’t stuff produce in plastic bags, carry fruit and veggies home unwrapped. Many cities now have organic delivery services that will deliver a weekly box of local organic (unwrapped!) produce to your house each week.
Always take your own shopping bag
Keep canvas, net, or other reusable bags in your car or backpack at all times. That way you’re less likely to forget them when you head to the store. If you can’t remember your bags, enlist your children to be your “bag police” and remind you every time you leave the house.
Get off junk-mail lists
Register with the Direct Marketing Association’s DMAchoice mail preference service and you’ll see a dramatic reduction in mail after three months.
Pay bills online
When you don’t use paper, you save trees.
Turn off the faucet while you are brushing your teeth or lathering up your hands with soap. Give everyone in your family a clothespin with their name on it to clip on their water glass in the morning. That makes it easy to keep track of which glass is whose, so you don’t have to keep washing endless glasses.
Disconnect appliances when you’re not using them. Or, use a “smart power strip” that senses when appliances are off and cuts passive energy use.
Shop at your local farmers’ market. Local food doesn’t have to travel by airplane or long-haul trucks to get to you, gobbling fossil fuels along the way. Involve the kids by allowing them to pick out fresh produce and conduct taste tests to decide which apples or pears are best.
Wash clothes in cold water
As much as 85 percent of the energy used to machine-wash clothing goes to heating the water.
Ban bottled water
Bottled water is expensive and generates heaps of waste. Use a reusable aluminum bottle.
Go to the library instead of the bookstore. Share power tools with your neighbors.
Turn out the lights
When you leave a room, turn out the lights. Assign your child the role of “switch supervisor,” and have her regularly check to make sure lights have been turned out. For added incentive, allow her to fine energy-wasters. The accumulated funds can be put toward an eco-friendly purchase, such as programmable light timers or energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.
Don’t trash your electronics
Keep them for as long as possible, and then recycle them. Electronic waste contains mercury and other toxins harmful to the environment.