10 Easy Ways to Green Your Life

April is Earth Month, and people across the United States are thinking about ways they can help the environment. The problem is, many don’t know where to start. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert in environmentalism to make a few easy changes that help the earth…and you pocketbook.

1. Stop Using Paper Towels. Paper towels can easily be replaced by old rags you have around the house. If you don’t have any old rags, places like Costco often sell big bunches of towels inexpensively. I bought a huge package of microfiber towels at Costco for less than $20, and I haven’t bought paper towels in months.

2. Pass on the Bottled Water. Plastic is very bad for the environment. Instead of buying disposable water bottles, invest in a stainless steel water bottle for each member of your household. Take that along when you run errands or go to your child’s soccer practice.

3. Recycle Everything You Can. Call your local transfer station to find out if they offer a recycling program. Ours does, and we recycle everything from cardboard to milk jugs to aluminum cans. Now that we’re recycling so much, I shudder to think about all the stuff we used to throw straight into the landfill.

4. Start a Compost Pile. I just started doing this last fall. Right now we have a basic pile of leaves, grass clippings, and fruit and veggie waste in a corner of our yard. Recently I picked up the book Compost: the natural way to make food for your garden by Ken Thompson from the library. As I learn more about composting, I’ll write more about it.

5. Grow a Vegetable Garden. Even if you don’t have a lot of space, growing a few veggies in a square foot or container garden can put yummy, organic food on your table. If you can’t start a garden, consider trying to buy your produce locally.

6. Line Dry Your Laundry. I love line drying my laundry, and I’m so excited that the weather is almost nice enough to start again. Line drying laundry saves a lot of electricity, and it’s nice to get out in the sunshine during the day. It’s not as harsh on your clothing as a clothes dryer is, either.

7. Switch to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs. If you watch the sales, CFL bulbs can be bought fairly inexpensively, and they last a long time. We have vaulted ceilings, so an added bonus for us is that we’re not having to constantly drag out the ladder to change the bulbs.

8. Use Power Strips. When you turn off your TV and computer at night, they still draw a little bit of power. To make sure they don’t use any power at all, put all of your electronic devices on power strips. Before you go to bed, just flip the switch on your power strip, and you can rest assured that your electrical equipment isn’t using any power while you sleep.

9. Don’t Use the Dry Cycle on Your Dishwasher. Using the dishwasher is convenient, but the dry cycle is completely unnecessary and wastes energy. Some dishwashers have an option to turn off the dry cycle. If yours doesn’t just open the dishwasher after the wash cycle and let your dishes air dry.

10. Bring Reusable Bags to the Grocery Store. Instead of using paper, or worse, plastic bags from the grocery store, bring your own bags from home. You can buy a bag for $1, but many places give them out these days as promotions for special events. So keep your eyes open. And some stores give small discounts, if you bring your own bags. Over time, these discounts add up.

Those are just 10 of many easy ways to start going green. Do you have any additional suggestions?

Photo by aussiegall.



Author

By , on Apr 8, 2009
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{19 Comments}

  1. Instead of plain newspaper, the funnies/comics make a great wrapping paper, especially for kids or the young at heart. We should reuse tote-like shopping bags and gift bags by covering the logo with your own art, or paper that says “happy birthday” or whatever the occasion. We should also use the shreds from our home office paper shredder as filler in packaging. It is festive looking and Eco friendly.

  2. Dont call me green:

    Why spend money to BUY bags to take shopping?

    Surely, we all have bags sitting around the house that we could use instead of going out and buying more stuff. Spending money to save whatever sort of misses the whole point of reducing consumption.

    Maybe it’s just where I live but I have only seen 3 instances where someone used recycled bags when shopping. One of those people was me, reusing plain, old plastic grocery bags from the messy collection I have unfortunately accumulated.

    It may not be “fashionably green”, but then I never really cared what other people think.

    One item missing from the list is to go as paperless as possible and to get off those junk mail lists. I did this long ago and it greatly reduced the amount of paper in my mailbox. I can also be fairly certain that my bills or other personal info doesn’t end up in someone else’s mailbox (unfortunately, our mail carrier often gives other people’s mail to us and vice versa).

    Whatever junk or other mail I do receive can be reused as scratch paper (like those envelopes). Why would I buy recycled paper for scratch paper when I have a small but useful supply that is essentially free to me?

  3. I agree with a lot of these–except for the dishwasher’s drying cycle. If I turn it off, the interior of my dishwasher stays wet. If I open the door to air-dry, the cat will be in there lickety-split! *yuck*

    I’d love to learn more about composting in a realistic way. I don’t want to have it a daily chore, but saving eggshells, coffee grounds, fruit & veg peelings, etc., would be doable. I just don’t know where to go from there.

  4. Thanks for this post – these are great ideas, and most of them I already do, or hope to start doing in the very near future.

    I have recently started blogging about my own journey to not only be frugal, but to be green at the same time.

    Another great idea is to try to buy things used or pre-owned. I just wrote a blog post about this last week: http://liverenewed.blogspot.co.....owned.html.

  5. I agree on all but the CFLs. I hate them–I really do. Hey R&D people, hurry up with those LEDs!!!!

    I don’t know how many CFLs have been so easily broken in our house, and they are not good for the environment either–besides energy efficiency.

  6. bob:

    I’ll add a few more.

    A: Keep your cars maintained. That means change the spark plugs, air filter, oil, keep the tires inflated, belts tensioned,throttle body clean, and so on. Better yet- buy a shop manual and learn how to repair your own cars. This kills 2 birds with one stone. First, it makes your cars last a lot longer and save you money since you don’t have to buy new ones as often. I’ve got 2 Toyotas with over 200,000 miles each. Second, a well-running car pollutes less and uses less fuel.

    B: Don’t rake up the grass clippings or bag up leaves. If you mow the yard regularly, just letting the grass come out of the mower chute is fine. The clippings dry up and disappear in a day or so. That also helps fertilize the yard. Plus you save time because raking yard clippings is a pain in the rear. With leaves, you can always just grind them up with the mower. I’ve done this for years: Just run over the leaves back and forth a few times and they disintegrate into “dust”. Again- more food for the grass. That means less stuff in landfills.

    C: Carpool. Sounds difficult, but my Wife and I have done it for years. We do it for a number of reasons, the first is to not have to pay bridge tolls ( $4 a day) and also to save gas. We commute 90 miles a day, so the gas savings means that we save almost $1,200 a year in fuel. Additionally, if you have a family, consider medium to small vehicles. There’s a misconception that if you have a family, you have to buy some huge SUV because they’re “safer” and bigger. Ironically, they’re actually more dangerous because they flip over easier. Some new small cars are just as roomy as some full sized cars from 20 years ago. They’re cheaper, plus in general but not always- full size SUVs tend to be built exclusively by manufactures with poor reliability ratings, hence again, you save money if you go with a better brand.

    D: Use jars as drinking glasses. We do this only because we had a house mate who either lost or broke the “real” glasses we bought. After awhile we got tired of it and started saving old fruit and spaghetti sauce jars. We’ve been doing this for years and don’t even think of it anymore… unless guests come over, at which point the “real” glasses come out. There’s even a few tricks where you can cut the tops off the jars and smooth down the rough edges and make pretty cool looking glasses… but that’s another story.

    E: Use coffee grounds as garden fertilizer. Lots of people throw out coffee grounds. But they’re full of nutrients and “look” like soil anyway, so dump it in the garden and its good for the plants.

    F: If you see something useful on the side of the road waiting to be thrown away ( happens less often now) consider either using it yourself if you want it, or take it home and sell it on craigslist. It was free and if you sell it- wallah! instant money!

    Lastly…”Most of them are unproven, ineffective fallacies, generated by touchy-feely environment liberals.”

    Not sure what that’s supposed to mean. Somehow a lot of people let their ideology get in the way of fact.
    It is a fact that CFL’s use less electricity.
    It is a fact that an efficient cars get better economy than big ones.
    Its a fact that it takes a ton more electricity to make a new aluminum can versus melt down an old one.
    Its a fact that using re-usable bags at the store uses less paper and plastic.

    Lastly, most of these things saves money. But if you want to pretend otherwise, go for it.

  7. Caitlin:

    Good job posting helpful tips.

  8. Caitlin:

    Dave,
    Most of these save you money. How does it cost you money not to use paper towels or drink non-bottled water. Not using the dry cycle on your dishwasher doesn’t costs you extra either. The clothes dryer causes extra wear and tear on your clothes. You don’t have to replace them as often if you line dry. I use reusable bags at the grocery store because it keeps my groceries from breaking through the plastic bag. That saves me money and hassle. Why do you think these small things cause so much hassle?

  9. Great ideas. I reuse my zip lock type bags. Except if they have housed raw meat or anything just too difficult to clean (point of diminishing returns). Just wash out with warm, sudsy water. In addition to trying not to use paper towels so much we also use cloth napkins, not paper.

  10. Good ideas!!! I love that I am doing most of them!!!

  11. Bev:

    What do you use for trash? I have used the bags from the store. But now I have my bags I bought. I know we will use about 5 bags a week so I will make sure we get about that many bags when we leave. I am just wondering what other people do about that. I don’t want to pay for bags that get throwen away!

  12. Dave:

    Why would anyone do ANY of these suggestions? Each and every one of them wastes YOUR time, costs YOU money and makes YOUR life much less convenient. Most of them are unproven, ineffective fallacies, generated by touchy-feely environment liberals.

    If you seriously think you should “green your life” or “save” the environment you are nothing more than a lemming, following the herd. The environment is ours–yours and mine–it is here for us to use and to enjoy. I has been here for centuries and will be here for centuries long after all of us are gone.

    Personally, I never recycle, I never conserve, and I most certainly never let some misguided and selfish “green” person tell me how I should live and enjoy MY life.

    • Mary:

      I may be following the heard, but thats better than being stuck in the back with all the sheep crap :)

  13. It’s always so interesting to me to read about green ideas that we’ve been doing for years just in the name of frugality! I guess we’re just killing two birds with one stone!

  14. I try to use my toaster oven as much as possible instead of using the big oven. Since the toaster oven is much more compact, it uses less energy than my big oven.

    Also when I wash clothes, I wash in cold water rather than warm or hot most of the time. This saves on electricity because you’re not using the hot water heater every time you wash clothes.

  15. We do 9 out of 10 of those, and I’m working on a way to do the last one :)

  16. Angelsong:

    All good tips, and very do-able. I would add, Make your own cleaning supplies.

  17. Don’t just use reusable bags at the grocery store – take them out shopping with you all the time and you soon won’t have any plastic bags! Sure, it might be a bit geeky to walk the mall with a canvas sack, but it’s better than picking up several plastic bags along the way!

  18. Great post! We do 8 out of 10 and will soon move on the missing items!

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