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22 Easy Things You Can Do To Help Save the Earth

earth design
(This post was originally published in April, 2014)

This is a site all about relationships, and one of the most important relationships any of us has is with our planet. And, y’all, it’s a pretty dysfunctional relationship at this point. We are abusing it, arguably beyond repair. But if we act quickly and smartly, we can at least slow down the effects of our abuse and mis-use. In honor of Earth Day today, here are 22 easy things — easy! — you can do to help save our Earth. On their own, they may not seem like a lot, but, if each of you committed to doing even a few of them, let alone all of them, we could have a big impact.

(These first five are borrowed, with permission, from my friend Jeramy’s Facebook page):

1. Stop wasting food.
Thirty to forty percent of usable food in the US goes to waste. Buy what you’ll cook. Cook as much as you’ll eat. Not going to get to it in time? Freeze it! Those were Jeramy’s tips, and I’ll add this: shop more frequently (we hit the grocery store almost every day to buy what we’ll need to cook dinner); when you have a spare 10 minutes, chop your veggies and store them in a container in the fridge so you’ll be more apt to throw them in a recipe when you’re cooking and use them up before they go bad; make some rice or pasta or couscous or whatever grain/carb you favor 2-3 times a week to have on hand for a quick stir-fry when you need to use up veggies or meat; don’t buy more fresh fruit than you and your family can eat in the next three days.

2. Put down the Charmin.
Have you been to other developed nations? Have you used their toilet paper? Have you noticed that whole productive countries are able to wipe their butts on something less soft than a down comforter? People act like our only choices are triple-ply luxury or sand paper. It ain’t true. Pick up a roll of Seventh Generation – it works just fine. You don’t need to use more of it. It doesn’t put chemicals and bleach close to some of your most vital organs. If you’ve got a horrible cold and your nose is all cracked and painful, by all means buy a box of Puffs with Aloe. Aside from that, use more responsible paper products.

3. Step away from the bag.
Plastic bags are one of our most ubiquitous, unnecessary evils. For a week, vow not to take one. Carry your own bag to the supermarket. Stuff a reusable bag (or even an old plastic bag) into your bag in case you stop for something on the way home. If you have a car, keep reusable grocery bags there. Just picking up one thing? Skip the bag all together. [And if, like me, you still use grocery plastic bags some of the time just to have a bag for cat litter, consider making the switch to these compostable pet waste bags — Wendy]

4. Drop the bottle.
What’s that in your hand? Bottled water? Don’t you know that bottles are for wine? How many bottles of water did you consume this week? None? Good job. Some? Cut it out. Get yourself a plastic or metal bottle. Refill it (for free) at any drinking fountain or in your own kitchen. We live in a country with very clean water. Afraid that people will think you’re poor if you aren’t carrying fancy water? Get a gold-plated water bottle of your own.

5. Hold the phone.
Our electronics contain an alarming amount of harmful stuff. Most harmful, of course, to those who make the products and those who live near where they’re dumped. And you want a new iPhone. I know, so do I. But hold on to the one you’ve got for just a few more months. Resist that urge to constantly upgrade. When you do get a new one, take the time to sell your old one. Donate the money to an organization focused on cleaning up toxic messes.

[Thank you, Jeramy, for the first five tips. These next 17 are my own.]

6. Swap paper napkins for cloth napkins.
They’re so much cuter than paper napkins anyway!.

7. Use reusable sandwich bags and lunch bags or sandwich Tupperware.
I’m committing to this change since we are guilty of using disposable baggies for our sandwiches. I’m going with the sandwich-size Tupperware, but I’ve heard the reusable bags are OK, too, if that’s your preference. [Since posting this a year ago, we have successfully made the switch to Tupperware for sandwiches and snacks and no longer use plastic baggies for lunch stuff].

8. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.

9. Participate in clothing swaps.
This is a great motivation to go through your closets and drawers, gather up the stuff you no longer wear, get a group of friends together, and get rid of the stuff you don’t want while maybe getting a few new-to-you pieces to wear and enjoy.

10. Go vegetarian once a week.
Not only are the health benefits numerous, but going meatless even one day a week saves tons of the earth’s resources and energy. “The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. And, on average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein. Moderating meat consumption is a great way to cut fossil fuel demand.” [via]

11. Cancel your newspaper delivery and read the same news online.

12. Cancel and opt out of junk mail (including phone books you don’t need or want).

13. Take shorter showers and cut back on baths.
Swap at least one of your regular baths with a short shower. When you do take a bath, don’t fill the water up to your shoulders.

14. Carpool, walk, bike, take public transportation.
I live in a city where I can easily get around without a car, but, when I lived in a different city where public transportation was much less reliable (sorry, Chicago, but it’s true), I carpooled a lot. It was a great way to save on gas money AND get to know my neighbors/classmates/co-workers a little better. And when it was nice out, I biked everywhere and was in great shape, which was a win-win-win (good for my wallet, waistline, and the planet).

16. Buy (or rent!) gently-used items.
Not everything you own or use needs to be brand-spanking new. Check eBay, Craigslist, Etsy, Rent the Runway, FreeCycle.org, or your neighborhood listservs or FaceBook pages for items that you need that other people want to get rid of or loan for a low (or, often, no) cost. This practice is especially beneficial for items that you won’t use for very long — like baby products and clothes that your kid will outgrow in a few months (or weeks!).

17. Pass along your gently-used items to people who can use them.
Done with your crap? Pass it along. Surely, there are other people who can use what you no longer want. Maybe you can even make a few bucks to go buy more crap (or donate to good causes!).

17. Buy Local.
Whenever possible, buy from local farmers (CSA!) or farmers’ markets, supporting your local economy and reducing the amount of greenhouse gas created when products are flown or trucked in.

18. Tell your dry cleaners to hold the plastic (and return their hangers to them).
You know how dry cleaners like to wrap every item in tons of plastic? It’s unnecessary. Ask yours not to do this. Bring a bag to carry your freshly-laundered items home.

19. Bring your own coffee mug to the coffee shop (or, better yet, just make your own at home).
Use a spoon to stir — not one of the wood stirrers — and skip that cup-cover thingy that’s supposed to keep you from burning your hand on the cup.

20. Save the bows from gifts you receive and re-use them when it’s your turn to wrap a gift.

21. Change your light bulbs.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) last 10 times longer than standard bulbs and use at least two-thirds less energy.

22. Recycle glass, plastic, and paper!
I mean, duh.

Bonus: Compost your food waste! This is next on my list. Here in NYC, we have compost drop-off sites at our city farmers’ markets, which makes it pretty easy to compost most food waste. I don’t know why I’ve been dragging my heels on this, but I’m going to start composting my family’s food scraps, keeping them out of landfills and helping to improve the quality of soil in our community.

Comments on this entry are closed.

othy othy April 22, 2014, 1:20 pm

#13 addendum – Shower with another person to save on water 🙂

LlamaPajamas LlamaPajamas April 22, 2014, 1:21 pm

Or don’t shower every day! I love not showering on my work-at-home days. It’s not so much for the environment though – my skin is really dry and sometimes I’m just lazy.

othy othy April 22, 2014, 1:28 pm

I only shower on days I exercise. Other than that I skip it.

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 1:26 pm

Showering with my husband is the bane of my existence. I HATE IT.

othy othy April 22, 2014, 1:28 pm

Really? Why is that? I hate shaving when Othello’s in the shower, but usually I find it enjoyable.

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 1:36 pm

Because he’s in my way, and there’s only one shower head so someone’s always not in the water. There is literally nothing enjoyable about it to me. If it were purely for sexytime purposes, maybe. But if it’s for the purpose of getting clean, no. Get the fuck out of my shower.

LlamaPajamas LlamaPajamas April 22, 2014, 1:36 pm

I feel the exact same way.

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 1:30 pm

Really? Do you have a super small shower or something? I would shower together every day (or every other since that’s what I typically do) if logistically it worked.

avatar lets_be_honest April 22, 2014, 1:32 pm

I always forget to actually wash myself when that happens. Its annoying.

avatar kerrycontrary April 22, 2014, 2:09 pm

I get cold when we shower together since one of us is not in the water. If we had 2 shower heads it would work better. But that would kind of defeat the purpose of saving water.

theattack theattack April 22, 2014, 1:31 pm

Yes! We do this every single morning, and it’s awesome. If you think about it, you don’t need the water every moment in the shower, so it makes sense to share and swap places based on who needs the water when. That way it’s not just running over two people when they dont’ need it.

avatar iseeshiny April 22, 2014, 2:15 pm

Also a lot of adjustable shower heads have a low/no water setting. So rather than having it going full blast while you’re shampooing or shaving or whatnot, you can turn down the water without messing up the temperature when you turn it back on.

avatar jlyfsh April 22, 2014, 6:36 pm

those are great! and really easy to use and not hard to install. it’s also hard to tell if you’re actually cutting back time wise, so there are some shower timers out there that you can set for 5 mins, etc and an alarm goes off when you’re done.

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 1:25 pm

Nothing chaps my hide more than when I see someone buy a huge cart full of Organic Groceries, and not use a single reusable cloth bag. Ooh, it makes me MAD!!! I try to just assume they normally use them but forgot them that day…

But seriously, cloth bags people. You can fit SO much more in them, and you can use them for all sorts of other things, too!

Also, I’ve been using cheap-o, thin Scott toilet paper for a few years, and it’s fine. I bust out the thick stuff now and then when we have company, but really, it’s not necessary. And while I’m on the toilet talk, get a dual flush for your toilet! You can save a lot of water, and you’ll notice the change in your sewer and water bills, too.
Tutorial here: http://www.younghouselove.com/2010/05/easy-upgrade-super-toilet/

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 1:28 pm

I feel like such a dick when I forget my reusable bags. (And they really do hold like 4 times as much!)

You use those litter bags right? Or am I thinking of someone else.

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 1:37 pm

No special litter bags. I use plastic grocery store bags. We have some from times that we forget cloth bags, but I also take them from both of my grandmothers when I visit them. And my mom saves her newspaper bags for me, so I use those for litter, and now for poop bags, too.

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 1:42 pm

Hmmm. someone uses special bags. Who are you?? I just save our target bags or beer store bags for now. I’d like to switch to the special bags and totally eliminate the store bags.

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 1:49 pm

Bring your own bags to Target! They give you 5 cents off per bag!

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 1:51 pm

I try to, but that’s one that I almost always forget to bring them too. I can remember the grocery store since it’s an ordeal (coupons, making the list, dragging GGuy) but popping in Target to grab a YHL hook I almost always forget. But if I’m only grabbing one thing I just ask to not have a bag (which the cashier always looks at me like I’m nuts).

avatar lets_be_honest April 22, 2014, 1:53 pm

Haha, I got the bee one! Its really cute. I want to get more. I also got the book – did you?

avatar lets_be_honest April 22, 2014, 1:54 pm

Just so everyone knows HOW cute it is, I stand in the foyer staring at it every time I walk by it…like a normal person would.

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 1:54 pm

I got the book for Christmas last year 🙂 and the octopus hook! (well the Easter bunny got me the hook)

mylaray mylaray April 22, 2014, 5:33 pm

A good way for me to remember to bring the bags is to hang them on the inside handle of our front door so I can’t leave without noticing them and then I bring them to the car. I also try to have one of those bags that folds up in my purse at all times for when I’m out walking.

theattack theattack April 22, 2014, 1:29 pm

Question: What do you use to scoop your cat litter in if not plastic grocery sacks? I would love to use reusable grocery bags, but I use the plastic ones for litter. I feel guilty every single time the cashier asks about it though.

othy othy April 22, 2014, 1:31 pm

I do the same thing. I will use the reusable when we have a good supply of plastic bags saved for the litter, but it’s not all the time.

LlamaPajamas LlamaPajamas April 22, 2014, 1:34 pm

I buy packs of the bags people use for dog poop. They’re way smaller than grocery bags and some brands claim to be a little better for the environment.

theattack theattack April 22, 2014, 1:38 pm

Ahh okay. Those are cheap, right?

LlamaPajamas LlamaPajamas April 22, 2014, 1:42 pm

They’re pretty inexpensive. I actually find them on clearance at T.J. Maxx a lot.

Dear Wendy Dear Wendy April 22, 2014, 1:38 pm

This is my issue, too. I use grocery plastic bags about 30% of the time just so I can have bags to scoop the litter into. But, I’m going to make the switch to these: http://www.amazon.com/Flush-Puppies-Flushable-Certified-Compostable/dp/B005AN2HNU/ref=sr_1_3?s=pet-supplies&ie=UTF8&qid=1398188611&sr=1-3&keywords=compostable+poop+bags

I’m going to edit the post to include that suggestion!

theattack theattack April 22, 2014, 1:41 pm

Thanks, Wendy! Any idea how those are better for the environment than other plastic bags though? I didn’t see anything on the product page other than it being Earth-rated, but it doesn’t say what that means.

Dear Wendy Dear Wendy April 22, 2014, 1:48 pm

I edited the link to bags that are flushable & certified compostable — much better than regular plastic.

theattack theattack April 22, 2014, 1:51 pm

Yayy! That’s some good stuff. Thanks, Wendy!

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 1:43 pm

If you need extra litter bags, also check out the front of the grocery store for the “Bag recycling”. A lot of them have a place to recycle old plastic bags, so just take some out of there to use if you don’t want to buy anything special.

theattack theattack April 22, 2014, 1:47 pm

Oh man, I’ve done that before, and it was a bad mistake. A lot of stuff came out of there with those bags that I did NOT want. Just sayin’…

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 1:49 pm

Ooh, good point.

Lyra Lyra April 22, 2014, 2:23 pm

I’ll need to try these out. I’m having the same conundrum since I got my cat — I used to have a lot of plastic bags but I’ve used them up for litter. I feel bad that I never seem to use my reusable bags anymore. 🙁

LlamaPajamas LlamaPajamas April 22, 2014, 1:32 pm

I’ve been using cloth grocery bags for going on 10 years. It’s funny because when I first started using them I got a lot of glares and eye rolls from the check out people, but now they thank me for bringing my own bags. Whatever. I also use reusable produce bags like these: http://www.amazon.com/flip-tumble-Reusable-Produce-Bags/dp/B002UXQ7QQ/ref=pd_sim_k_7?ie=UTF8&refRID=0NAJ98WQ20M88T1Q75K4
I bought mine years ago and I couldn’t find the exact brand on Amazon, but they come in several different sizes and they’re super easy to wash.

avatar lets_be_honest April 22, 2014, 1:34 pm

Baggu makes some cute ones.

avatar kerrycontrary April 22, 2014, 2:10 pm

My family and I have always always used Scott toilet paper. It’s cheaper, and it doesn’t clog up toilets (some toilets don’t flush as well as others). I wouldn’t buy seventh generation for toilet paper since it’s more expensive and I’m sorry but I’m not spending a lot of money on toilet paper.

avatar nitabee April 22, 2014, 3:16 pm

My family has always used Scott too, and I don’t really understand the hate people have for it. Then again, I HATE soft things – I can’t even stand to touch really soft toilet paper or cotton balls or velvet, and so on.

I feel kinda bad about the grocery bags, but I use them for my cat litter. I know I can buy bags like Wendy linked to, but it hurts to pay for bags when I can get them for free from Publix or Target.

avatar LilFuzzyBunny April 22, 2014, 2:50 pm

A lot of grocery stores have a recycle bucket near the front entrance for clean used plastic grocery bags, at least in Virginia. What we don’t use for trash can liners and cat litter gets taken back to the grocery store for recycling.

avatar Sara April 22, 2014, 4:05 pm

Thanks for the dual flush tip – I’ve wanted a dual flush system, but thought I’d have to buy a new toilet.

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 4:13 pm

My husband installed it in like 15 minutes. It works great!

avatar Sara April 22, 2014, 4:46 pm

15 minutes for your husband… so my estimate is that it will take me half an hour, which is not bad! Did you get the HYR270 model? I can’t quite tell which model is in the picture and there are two models on Amazon.

avatar cleopatra jones April 22, 2015, 2:55 pm

I hate when I see people get a plastic bag at the store for 2 items. Ugh, grinds my gears.
Just tell the check-out person that you don’t need a bag.*

If they ask ‘are you sure?’, just say ‘yeah, I don’t need another plastic bag at my house.’ smile and then move on.

avatar ohsoridiculous April 23, 2015, 9:04 am

Scott toilet paper lasts FOREVER too.

theattack theattack April 22, 2014, 1:27 pm

I like this a lot, Wendy! Especially swapping the napkins. I am so guilty of grabbing paper towels or napkins when really I could just grab a reusable towel instead and just rewash those. It’s more laundry (and thus water) though, so I don’t know if it quite evens out now that I’m thinking about it. I’ll give it a shot and see though!

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 1:39 pm

It’s not really that much more laundry though, since they’re so small, you can easily fit a few into a load you were already going to do.

avatar kerrycontrary April 22, 2014, 2:11 pm

Yeh I just throw it in with my towels. I started using dish towels a lot more than paper towels to clean my house and I love it! They’re really great at scrubbing or getting dirt marks off paint.

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 2:46 pm

We have a ton of dish towels (maybe 25? eck) and just do a load of them once a month. I think it uses less water than making all the paper towels over and over and over again.

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 1:29 pm

People who don’t recycle infuriate me. It’s SO damn easy!

theattack theattack April 22, 2014, 1:34 pm

It infuriates me too when it is easy. Unfortunately, in many places it’s not. It’s impossible to recycle in almost all of West Tennessee, for example. I’m pretty sure the only recycling facility is in Memphis there, even though there’s another city in that part of the state that needs one. Plus rural areas usually don’t have them either.
But omg, P’s boss actually gets mad at him for recycling, even though it literally doesn’t affect the boss at all because he doesn’t even work in this town. When he comes to visit, he’ll usually do something to sabotage the recycling. It’s ridiculous and infuriating.

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 1:40 pm

That’s so crazy! One of our friends lives in a grad housing place, and his apartment didn’t come with the standard recycling bin so he just doesn’t recycle. Huh? He hasn’t bothered to call and ask for one. When ever we are over I’m tempted to bring my bottles/cans back home with me.

theattack theattack April 22, 2014, 1:46 pm

That is frustrating. We don’t have recycling bins provided to us by anyone, but we just bought our own. We paid five bucks for a bin to be able to do it, and we have to drive it to the facility ourselves too, but that only takes like ten minutes. It’s almost no effort.

Miss MJ Miss MJ April 22, 2014, 3:46 pm

We recycle, but we can’t recycle glass here in NOLA (no idea why). However, my in-laws in Knoxville, TN can, so our system is that whenever we are going to my in-laws or they come visit us, either we save up our glass and take it to them or they take it home from us and throw it in with their recycling. And when we go on a family vacation to Destin (where there is no recycling, apparently?), we take home the cans and plastic and they take home the glass. It’s a little weird to take “garbage” home (and weirder when it’s mostly wine bottles, since I really, really try to limit the products that come in glass that I buy), but I think it’s worth it. At the very least, I feel better about it than just throwing it away.

avatar MsMisery April 22, 2015, 12:37 pm

I don’t even understand “places without recycling.” I have been doing curbside recycling since the 80’s. It can’t. be. that. hard. It has to be a laziness/cost thing.

Miel Miel April 22, 2014, 2:04 pm

Yeah, I’m in Nashville and I can’t really recycle at home because my apartment building doesn’t have a contract for recycle collecting. And I can’t ask the city directly for a bin since I don’t live in a house. So basically, no recycling at all. My only options would be to go directly to the recycling facility, but that’s a couple of miles away and I don’t have a car. It’s not worth paying for a taxi so I can recycle my paper bags…
I have recycled all my life and it still makes zero sense for me to put my trash and my plastic/metal/glass in the same bags. So I bought a bin, and I fill it with recyclable items. Then when it’s full, I dump it in the trash container. 🙁

theattack theattack April 22, 2014, 2:06 pm

Can you carry your recycling to campus in bits and pieces and recycle it there? That’s what I did all through college.

Miel Miel April 22, 2014, 2:20 pm

I thought about it for a while, but campus is about a 20 minutes walk, so even that is kind of a hassle. I would totally go to the recycling facility if I had electronics, paint, or other dangerous materials. But I don’t really see myself walking to campus with cookie boxes, cereal boxes, milk jar, and all of that. They usually don’t even have appropriate bin size for such items. They have small bins for things like paper, and maybe bottles/cans. That’s not what I need.

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana April 22, 2014, 2:33 pm

What about if you just took the bus to the recycling facility, or asked a friend once a month to drive you out there? Or petition the apartment to provide recycling? Or a bus to one of these places

Miel Miel April 22, 2014, 4:18 pm

I’m pretty sure the best option would be to petition the apartment to provide recycling. I have about a full bin of recyclable every 4-5 days and the closest recycling facility would be a good 50 minutes away by bus. It would be wishful thinking for me to think my schedule allows bus trips like that. AND the fact to use a car or a bus to go to a recycling facility probably cancels the good that comes out of recycling anyway. That’s why a collect at the apartment would make more sense because the collecting truck is already out collecting all the recycling bins in our neighborhood.

avatar FireStar April 22, 2014, 2:05 pm

We notice it when we go to the States – there are just not as many recycling bins…I usually have to hold on to whatever and get rid of it whenever I happen to see a bin whereas here – THE GTA – they are everywhere and always near a garbage so the choice to do it is a no brainer.
And our garbage pick up is limited to one bag per week so that you are forced to recycle (unlimited) and compost.

lemongrass lemongrass April 22, 2014, 3:07 pm

We shocked, really shocked when we went on our honeymoon to Hawaii and there was nowhere to recycle. It is so easy here and you would be shamed if you didn’t. Garbage pick up is paid for by homeowners but recycling pick up is free! Also in the city you aren’t allowed to put food scraps in your garbage can, they have pick up for that too.

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 3:13 pm

This is all so surprising to me! I grew up in an almost rural area and we’ve always had recycling! Its just been second nature all my life. I’ve never lived in an area where recycling wasn’t the norm.

mylaray mylaray April 22, 2014, 5:37 pm

I once worked in an office where they didn’t actually recycle anything, despite the various recycling bins. I saw workers outside pouring it all back into the trash and when I asked about it, apparently they weren’t allowed to recycle anything. It was so stupid, and deceptive too.

avatar KMJ April 22, 2014, 5:38 pm

okay, this will really infuriate you. well, it did me. the guy I’m dating- overall wonderful, smart, handsome, etc. – threw away sticks he picked up from his yard! …In a plastic bag! I went to throw something into his outdoor trash bin and saw that! Aaaargh! I guess nobody’s perfect, but seriously??!

Lyra Lyra April 22, 2014, 8:52 pm

When I lived in North Dakota they didn’t recycle. It was so stupid. I literally bagged everything up and drove it 50 miles to the nearest recycling center. Sometimes I forgot it was in my trunk when I was driving home so when I got to Minnesota I realized I had brought ALL my recycling with. Haha.

avatar lets_be_honest April 22, 2014, 1:30 pm

I only require two household items to be brand named and good quality: toilet paper and garbage bags. I use way too much toilet paper according to Peter…who is apparently monitoring my tp use?
I have switched over all cleaning supplies to eco friendly brands at least. And I reuse those plastic shopping bags for bathroom garbage bags. I’m sorry environment. I suck. I’m pretty much guilty of all of these, except 17. I do have some cute fabric napkins though, I just always forget to use them. Same with the water bottles, grocery bags, gift bows and tupperware.

Dear Wendy Dear Wendy April 22, 2014, 1:53 pm

Well, if you are guilty of almost all of these, you should commit to making some changes. If everyone like you made even a few easy changes, it would go a long, long way. But… if everyone just continues to say, “Eh, sorry, I suck!” we will continue to experience climate change at unbelievable rates and leave a really shitty planet for our kids and grandkids.

avatar lets_be_honest April 22, 2014, 1:56 pm

You’re right, that sounded obnoxious of me. I promise on DW that I’ll try harder to remember to use everything.

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 1:44 pm

You need this

avatar lets_be_honest April 22, 2014, 1:52 pm

That’s adorable! I don’t pack lunches for myself though 🙁
And before you say get one for Lil – she loses them all the time. By lose, I mean hides them under her bed or in her backpack until they are growing new “food” so I gave up on the cute ones and have been having her use the brown paper ones or the little lululemon ones they give you for free.

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 1:53 pm

I use them for snacks in the car! How do you never pack lunches for yourself? That’s got to be so pricey!!

avatar lets_be_honest April 22, 2014, 2:07 pm

I actually don’t eat lunch most of the time and if I do, its just chinese takeout or whatever. I’ve been trying to get healthier, so I just went grocery shopping and left everything at the office, so no need to pack anything.

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 1:34 pm

We do like 15 of these! Whoo! We’re looking into composting, but it’s not that convenient in our town. There is a company that will do it, but it’s $25 a month which is a little out of our budget. I’m thinking of making a small bin myself to keep on our back porch, but that seems a little over the top.

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 1:41 pm

We do 17 of them. Yay!

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 1:44 pm

Oh, we buy recycled/non bleached napkins and paper towels and use a TON of dish towels (rather than paper towels) so we like half way do #2/#6.

othy othy April 22, 2014, 1:34 pm

Only in America do people that it’s easier to:
1) drill for oil
2) ship oil to a manufacturing plant
3) turn the oil into a plastic
4) turn the plastic into a fork
5) ship said fork to a grocery store
6) drive to the grocery store to buy said fork
7) use said fork

Then it is to:
1) use a metal fork
2) wash and reuse said fork

(Disclaimer: I’m often quite lazy and use plastic utensils)

LlamaPajamas LlamaPajamas April 22, 2014, 2:03 pm

I keep a set of cheap reusable silverware, plates, straws, and cups in my office so I can reuse them. I’m not perfect about it and occasionally it is easier to just grab a paper plate, but I do make a concerted effort. It’s so much easier to have a work set that I don’t have to worry about losing and that stays in my cube.

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 2:13 pm

We were using paper products and plastic utensils in my office for YEARS, then someone was like, why don’t we buy cheap dishes? (we have a dishwasher, so it wasn’t a cleaning issue, just a laziness thing, I think) And we did, and it’s glorious.

lemongrass lemongrass April 22, 2014, 3:09 pm

I don’t know anyone that uses plastic forks for anything but a bbq or picnic. My mom saves hers and washes them! The heavy-duty ones from costco even go in the dishwasher.

othy othy April 22, 2014, 5:27 pm

My MIL uses paper and plastic everything for every dinner we do at her house. I would offer to do dishes, but they always have a million things in the sink, no where to put the clean/dry stuff from the dishwasher, and their kitchen is too small for me to wash while she’s cooking. So paper and plastic it is.

avatar Sara April 22, 2014, 1:49 pm

When we lived in a city, we would compost because we had a drop-off site (like Wendy). In our new small town, there is no centralized composting. I was all set to make this homemade, rollable compost container (http://thehappyhousewife.com/frugal-living/diy-compost-bin/), but was reminded that we have feral cats, raccoons, coyotes, etc in our neighborhood. Partner thinks we’ll attract too many wild animals to our yard. Any good tips on composting without attracting animals? Side note: partner studies bird conservation – so even if the animals don’t make a mess, he’s worried about them eating the birds that use our yard/open grassland for habitat/nesting. Thanks!

gigi gigi April 22, 2014, 2:01 pm

I compost in my back yard, the key is to not put any meat products at all in your compost pile. Fruit & veggie peelings, egg shells crushed up, coffee grounds, etc are fine. And layer it in with dead leaves, grass clippings etc. But NO meat, that is what draws the critters. I haven’t ever had a problem with animals & I live next to a wooded area.

avatar Amy April 22, 2014, 3:27 pm

I also live in a tiny town and compost all the time. But like gigi says – no meat. I actually just used an old tire and toss my vegetable/fruit/coffee scraps into the center of the tire – then I stir it regularly and add a lot of water. It’s great, has no unpleasant odor and no animals bother it. We have tons of deer in town and plenty of kitties, squirrels, raccoons, etc. running around – and we haven’t had a bit of trouble. The deer come into my yard regularly – but they are happy trying to kill my trees and don’t bother rooting through my compost pile.

And it’s SO good for my vegetable and flower gardens – I love it! It keeps my spirits hopeful for summertime yard work even in the middle of winter.

mylaray mylaray April 22, 2014, 2:00 pm

I’m proud of myself, I do all of these things. I’m really cheap and many of these things are great ways to save money too! My work this week is having a competition of who can have the least amount of actual trash at home (with recycling and composting). It’s surprising just how much we can recycle! I already recycled but clearly not enough.

I personally never had good experience with CFLs and they don’t last that long for me. I’ve heard they burn out quicker if you turn lights on and off quickly a lot. I’m also not sure about the mercury. We’re trying to switch to LEDs which are even pricier but I’ve heard they’re better for the environment/last longer. But any switch is something.

LlamaPajamas LlamaPajamas April 22, 2014, 2:08 pm

That’s why I’m so confused by people who say it’s not worth the effort to recycle or make any of these other changes. I mean, you don’t have to do ALL of them, but it’s so easy to commit to a few of these things and help the environment and save money.

mylaray mylaray April 22, 2014, 2:11 pm

I agree! Though where I grew up, it was much harder to recycle because I didn’t have single stream recycling. I read somewhere that when neighborhoods do single stream recycling pick-up, 25% more stuff gets recycled.

LlamaPajamas LlamaPajamas April 22, 2014, 2:19 pm

Oh yeah, recycling options suck in a lot of areas. My parents have been recycling for 30+ years and their current town doesn’t have curb recycling pick up so they end up making weekly trips to a recycling center a few miles away. And I feel for @Miel because I didn’t have recycling at my apartment when I lived in Nashville, but I did have a car so I could drive it to a center. But there are other things you can do, like buying products that contain minimal packaging so there’s less to throw away or recycle overall. I took a Sustainable Living course years ago – we met once a week for 8 weeks and learned so much.

avatar Ladybug April 22, 2014, 2:10 pm

For cat people who want to ditch the bags altogether, I highly recommend checking out flushable litter. I’ve been using a wheat based one, and while it’s a little more expensive than the standard clay litters, not having to keep the bags in my main trashcan to perfume the apartment or slog to the trash chute that’s as far from my place as physically possible in the building every day is worth it! Plus no need to stockpile plastic bags 🙂

avatar booknerd April 22, 2015, 2:10 pm

Wait, you mean picking up Fluffy’s poop and putting it in a plastic bag and knotting it and then throwing it in the trash and then a landfill isn’t good for the environment?

Sorry, for the sarcasm, I agree with you. I hate it when I’m hiking and people bag their dogs shit but leave it on the trail. What the what?

avatar ChemE April 22, 2014, 2:12 pm

CFLs have mercury in them, handle them properly when they break and DON”T VACUUM it up.

Be careful with what you put down the drain, on your lawn, driveway. Wastewater treatment plants don’t always treat stormwater so anything you rinse in the street goes to the river. Some treatment plants aren’t equipped to treat what you put in the water so be cautious of what you put in the drains. Don’t pour old or leftover chemicals down the drain, take them to your city’s household hazardous waste collection points.

Dry cleaners produce large amounts of hazardous waste, best to avoid clothes that need dry cleaned at all.

avatar SasLinna April 22, 2014, 2:12 pm

My biggest environmental sin is probably the occasional flight and living in an old house with bad isolation (I’m renting in a city with severe lack of affordable apartments, so it’s difficult to be picky about this). I know that these two are huge carbon emission factors. I’m also worried about electronic equipment. I debated whether to get an ipad and so far I haven’t but I probably will at some point.

Miel Miel April 22, 2014, 2:15 pm

What infuriates me is much more all the waste created by institutions and companies than whatever single individuals do. We have those huge cafeterias on campus, and all of them, ALL OF THEM, use styrofoam plates, plastic utensil, plastic cups… nothing is reusable, nothing is biodegradable, nothing can be recycled… That’s so much waste created everyday, to serve many thousands people. When I’m next to that, eating my lunch out of tuperware, I’m just wondering if my actions have any effect. It’s easy to say “every action counts” but that’s only if “many people do it”. If I’m alone eating from a tuperware next to 12,000 people eating out of styrofoam, nothing changes.
In Quebec (and California?) they began charging for plastic bags at stores. Guess what, everybody switched to re-usable bags. And they used it, and they didn’t forget them, and it completely replaced plastic bags. That’s what I call a change. Those things don’t happen if it’s just “my individual action counts!”, we need actual society move!

avatar kerrycontrary April 22, 2014, 2:18 pm

Ok I do a lot of these things just to save money. Like my county charges 5 cents per bag you use, everywhere. This includes groceries, the shopping mall, the pharmacy, etc…And I use public transportation cause parking at my work is $13/day. But I hate CFLs with a passion and I refuse to switch over to the horrible blue/green glare. I just can’t. Also….shopping every day is really impractical and actually more expensive most of the time (vs buying chicken in bulk and freezing it). I mean I only buy what I eat that week, but not everyone has time to stop at the store every few days. And a lot of times people buy more than what they would’ve bought for just a week.

BriarRose BriarRose April 22, 2014, 3:12 pm

Yeah, as a single mom working full time and a daughter in after school activities, going to the grocery store daily just simply wouldn’t happen. I shop once a week and only buy meals/lunches for the upcoming week.

avatar sarahhhh April 22, 2014, 3:16 pm

Re: CFLs – there are “warm” light CFLs that give off about the same kind of light as a typical old-fashioned light bulb and there are “cool” light CFLs that give off that ugly blueish institutional gross light.. I use only CFLs and am just careful that I buy the warm light ones!

avatar SasLinna April 22, 2014, 1:54 pm

Thanks for this! In terms of environmental impact, reducing meat and dairy consumption is huge (like, way more important than buying local food). I think a lot of people still underestimate the magnitude of this.

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 2:00 pm

I didn’t read the whole article, but do you know if fish is better than the other meats? Because I’ve been going pescatarian and I actually like it quite a bit. IDK if I could cut out that too (but I only eat it maybe 2 days a week, the rest are veggie only.)

avatar SasLinna April 22, 2014, 2:05 pm

I think fish are better in terms of carbon emissions, but they have different problems (overfishing of wild fish to the point of almost-extinction & aquacultures are also not environment-friendly unfortunately). I’d probably try to buy aquaculture fish with a strict ecological label, if you can find that. Jonathan Safran Foer (“Eating Animals”) turned me off from eating (sea) fish forever…

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 2:11 pm

Ugh. trying to eat healthy and not terrible for the environment food is so hard! Not that that is going to stop us, it’s just like why isn’t food just food? It’s so ridiculous to me that everything is so processed and has such complex implications.

avatar SasLinna April 22, 2014, 2:16 pm

Funny story: My mother and her husband catch their own fish on a lake nearby. I thought that I’d try eating fish from there (and I probably will in the summer). But then I found out that the fish don’t just naturally live in the lake – they are PUT there. That is, the population is created in an artificial way only so that people can fish. I don’t know what to think of that.

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 2:21 pm

haha what? They put fish in the lake just for people to catch?? That is crazy.

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana April 22, 2014, 2:25 pm

It is called stocking the ___ whatever the body of water is. Lots of lakes/rivers do that for recreational fishing purposes. Usually they will indicate it on a sign or something if you are at a state park.

avatar SasLinna April 22, 2014, 2:35 pm

I think it also kind of defeated my idea that I would be eating from a sustainable fish population. Because obviously if they have to put fish there the fishing can’t be sustainable.

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana April 22, 2014, 2:09 pm

GG overfishing is becoming a huge problem and severely depleting fish stocks in the oceans-as far as environmental impacts-maybe its better but we are wreaking such havoc on sea life it is a huge tragedy.

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 2:19 pm

I found this link through yours, and it’s pretty interesting. I mainly eat shrimp which has a good rating!

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana April 22, 2014, 2:25 pm

yeah I was going to link to that! I thought it was really cool too.

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana April 22, 2014, 2:05 pm

and/or only eating locally raised and slaughtered meat (not from factory farms).

avatar SasLinna April 22, 2014, 2:08 pm

serious question: can you at all find meat like that? is there any meat available from animals that haven’t been killed at slaughterhouses? maybe chicken?

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 2:15 pm

We can. Our farmers market has a meat man and the university has a meat store that is locally raised (under the supervision of students) and then humanly slaughtered.

Miss MJ Miss MJ April 22, 2014, 3:52 pm

Our farmer’s market does, too. And there are a couple of other specialty meat stores that sell local meat, as well.

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 2:16 pm

Yes. You buy it right from the farmer.
The farm I buy from raises their own cows, and kills/processes them themselves. A lot of small farms might have take their cows to a local processing facility just to conform with USDA Organic standards, but there’s a huge difference between that and what they do at huge meat processing facilities.

avatar SasLinna April 22, 2014, 2:21 pm

Interesting. I think here only a certain type of slaughtering is allowed, which happens at slaughterhouses.

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 2:22 pm

Are you not in the US?

avatar SasLinna April 22, 2014, 2:33 pm

no, I’m in Europe – to be honest I thought that meat production was worse in the US, but maybe that’s not true across the board.

avatar kerrycontrary April 22, 2014, 2:20 pm

Yeh at the farmers market. But this is seriously dependent upon where you live.

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana April 22, 2014, 2:21 pm

@Sas- I am blessed to live in an area that is huge in the local meat production world. I can visit farms and ask farmers how they slaughter their meat/where it is done. It is readily available at the Farmers Market, our local natural food stores, our chain natural food stores, and in all the local markets throughout town. So for me, it is easy. That said I know it is not as easy or affordable for everyone. I used to be strictly vegetarian and switched to eating meat recently but will only buy locally raised/slaughtered meat. It is easy for me to do this because I still don’t crave meat and have cooked it maybe 2x, but yeah it is possible.

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 2:39 pm

I once went to a “Farmers Market” and asked where their cows were from and the person had no idea. They were basically selling grocery store meat and trying to pass it off as a Farmers Market. I didn’t buy any and refuse to go to that place ever again.

FireStar Firestar April 22, 2014, 3:19 pm

We had a “farmer’s market” here – in Canada – selling pineapple. PINEAPPLE. yeah – not so much. Now we drive about a hour away to farm country and buy local from the Mennonites to make sure the meat is grain fed, free roam, no hormones and antibiotic free. We go about 3 times a year and buy a whole bunch and just freeze it. The quality is palpable. And actually cheaper or comparable to price in the grocery store. It’s also a fun day – we grab some friends and make a little day trip of it.

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 4:18 pm

Yeah, the place I mentioned above sells Bananas. In the winter. In PA. Riiight. I actually just wrote them a nasty Yelp review for calling themselves a farmers market.

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana April 22, 2014, 4:32 pm

oh that is whack.

avatar va-in-ny April 22, 2015, 2:57 pm

There’s a place near me where you can go in, pick your chicken (it’s alive) and they’ll prep it for you right there. I’ve never been though. I guess it’s the same as picking your own lobster at the store, right?

BriarRose BriarRose April 22, 2014, 3:05 pm

Wait, people leave the water running while brushing their teeth?? For serious? I can’t even fathom that.

I do feel for people on the recycling. In my last town it was virtually impossible to do. The facilities just didn’t exist, so collecting it yourself and dropping it off wasn’t possible. So glad to be in a larger city that makes it easy on us.

avatar Rangerchic April 22, 2014, 3:25 pm

At night I leave the water running while I brush my teeth because it takes sooo long for the water to warm up to wash my face. By the time I am finished brushing my teeth the water is usually warm enough to wash my face. If it warms up before I’m through I will turn it off until I am ready to use it. I just can’t wash my face with cold water unless I’ve been mowing in the hot sun or something like that 🙂

BriarRose BriarRose April 22, 2014, 3:31 pm

That makes sense if there is a reason, I was imagining people just letting the water run for no good reason. I’m sure there are people like that though. Boggles the mind!

avatar SpaceySteph April 22, 2014, 2:10 pm

Happy Earth day!

With regard to #21 though, my husband and I are phasing out CFLs for LEDs as our current CFLs bite it… which is a slow process because CFLs last for years! Their energy consumption is comparable, but LEDs start much brighter than CFLs (which have to warm up… which leads to me leaving them on when I don’t need them just so I don’t have to go through a warm-up again later) and aren’t as ugly as the standard twisty CFLs.

lemongrass lemongrass April 22, 2014, 3:12 pm

Ziploc bags are washable. The big ones are, anyways. Unless I use them for raw meat I just flip them inside out, wash them and then dry them by hanging them on a wooden spoon.

avatar Banana April 22, 2014, 3:36 pm

Me too! I reuse tin foil sometimes too if it’s not too greasy.

avatar Rangerchic April 22, 2014, 3:23 pm

Something I do that isn’t on the list is I purchased a floor steamer and now use that on all my floors (except carpet – which we will soon replace anyway). I don’t have a bucket of dirty nasty water to dispose of and I feel like the steam cleaning is better for the environment. I don’t even own a mop anymore.

avatar sarahhhh April 22, 2014, 3:24 pm

As someone who used to work for an electric company, some other easy ways to conserve electricity include putting your water heater on a timer to only run during the times that you are going to be showering or otherwise using hot water, running your pool pump more infrequently or putting it on a timer (if you have a pool, obviously), setting your AC at 78 degrees or higher in the warmer months (when you use it, of course. if you just want to open windows, that’s even better!) and 68 or lower when it is cold outside. Also, having those on a timer can save a lot of money too. For instance, if you aren’t home during the day you can have your AC set to 82 degrees and then on a timer to go down to 80, then 78 by the time you come home, and that will save money and electricity. And the planet!

avatar Banana April 22, 2014, 3:28 pm

You can also do a lot of good by just trying some old-fashioned cleaning “cures” instead of using really harsh chemicals. I do a lot of cleaning now with plain old vinegar and baking soda. You can also replace a lot of beauty products (which are often the product of harsh chemical production processes) with natural remedies. Apple cider vinegar is practically a panacea for beauty issues.
An aside: I knew someone who used to THROW OUT old clothes. I get that with underwear or completely threadbare, disgusting old things, but she would basically just throw out any clothes she didn’t want anymore. Right in the trash. It was an epiphany for her when I explained you can donate them. I know she’d heard of it, but I don’t think she or anyone in her family was in the habit of doing it. My whole life, if we were done with clothes, we: 1) ripped up the really threadbare ones and reused them as rags; 2) gave friends and family first pick of the nicer ones; 3) donated the rest. It just blows my mind that anyone would do otherwise.

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana April 22, 2014, 3:49 pm

when things are too gross/old to donate I turn them in to rags and use them around my place for cleaning! it works great. I also clean with vinegar/lemon on all my surfaces and use ACV for so much it is crazy.

avatar applescruffs April 22, 2014, 3:50 pm

Tell me more about apple cider vinegar!

avatar Banana April 22, 2014, 4:32 pm

You can rinse your hair with it to remove build-up. Just mix it with a little water and rinse it all through your hair. Then when you’ve rinsed it out, apply a combination of one egg, a quarter cup of yogurt, and a tablespoon of honey. Wrap your hair (with that “conditioner” still in it) in a towel for half an hour, to let the heat of your head set it. Then rinse it out and your hair will be healthy, shiny, and clean!
You can also use apple cider vinegar as a facial toner. (Or hydrogen peroxide — either one works.) Just swap your face with it on a cotton ball after washing, and before moisturizing.

avatar Banana April 22, 2014, 4:34 pm

You can also use apple cider vinegar to remove skin tags (I’ve read — I’ve never had them) but it sounds like a gross process and I’m not 100% sure it’s doctor-recommended. But basically you just soak a cotton ball in ACV, tape it to your clean skin with a bandaid, and sleep on it. In the morning the skin tag should fall right off.

avatar MsMisery April 23, 2014, 1:04 pm

A friend of mine has completely eliminated shampoo/conditioner from her life and now uses mostly apple cider vinegar. She explaned the process on her FB, but I can’t remember the specifics. I guess it takes a couple weeks for the buildup to work off your hair, but now she has this shiny fabulous magazine hair. I don’t know if I could do it, though since the smell of any vinegar makes me gag.

avatar sarahhhh April 22, 2014, 3:29 pm

Oh and this might be kind of gross, I dunno, but I don’t bathe my kids that often. I let my oldest shower with me a couple of times a week and one bath on the weekend and then usually for the rest of the week it’s sponge bathing. My youngest is actually at a stage where she is terrified of the bathtub so most of her cleaning is in the form of a sponge bath but when I do subject her to the terror of bath time, I just fill a blow up baby tub with enough soapy water to bathe her and then use a cup at a time of clean water from the faucet to rinse her off, which seems to work better than having the water running constantly and trying to spray her with the showerhead.

lemongrass lemongrass April 22, 2014, 3:34 pm

They don’t get dirty? My son loves to rub his food in his hair so I have to bath him everyday. Plus he’s uncircumcised so it’s best to give that a wash everyday.

avatar sarahhhh April 22, 2014, 3:40 pm

What kind of bathing takes place ultimately depends on how dirty they are, but I’ve gotten pretty effective at cleaning the baby after mealtime without having resort to a bath. Luckily she pretty much lets me handle feeding her the messiest stuff so that helps. My oldest gets dirtier on the weekends because she plays outside a lot more, so usually she has a shower Saturday and her weekly bath on Sunday night, but then during the week she might only need one to two showers and the rest of the week, just a quick wipe down before bed. I forgot to mention that they both have pretty sensitive skin so in addition to using non-irritating skin products I try not to over dry their skin, so that is another factor for bathing them sparingly.

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 3:56 pm

Well that means she is bathing 3 or 4 times a week, which is how often I do. So I actually think that’s not that weird.

avatar sarahhhh April 22, 2014, 4:03 pm

Oh, ok. Well then I guess I feel better, haha. I guess because I shower daily I feel like that is what I should be making my kids do. Maybe I should shower less? I’m a bad environmentalist!

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 4:10 pm

I mean it depends on how dirty you are I think. Like I work and office job and don’t exercise that often. So I honestly could go 3 or 4 days with out a shower. But say my dad who works out side, he HAS to shower daily or shit gets funky. So, maybe try showering every other day and see if it can work for you?

avatar applescruffs April 22, 2014, 3:29 pm

They also make earth friendly poo bags for your dogs, for you DW dog owners.

My bike was stolen several months back, and I’m so excited to get a new one so I can bike everywhere this summer. Unfortunately I live in a hilly neighborhood, but that just means my legs will be sexier.

Also! Car share. Denver has car2go, and we’re getting zipcar soon. I love car2go, I can usually find one within a few blocks of my apartment, and then I don’t have to drive around and waste time and money looking for parking, I can just ditch the car in a designated parking spot and go. And if you’re a car2go member it’s transferable city to city. I used my membership in Portland this past weekend!

avatar Banana April 22, 2014, 3:31 pm

Oooh! Also, turn off or dial back your heating or AC during the day, if you’re out of the house all day at an office job. In the winter, we actually keep the heat lower during the work week because we’re out of the house during the day and we’re just going to turn it back anyway at night when we’re cozy in bed, so the heat only really gets turned up higher on weekends when we’re around the house. In the summer, to conserve energy that would be used on AC, I just keep all the curtains closed, to keep the sunlight out, which keeps the place a bit cooler. You don’t have to keep the AC blasting all day just to make sure the house is cool when you come home.

avatar Banana April 22, 2014, 3:34 pm

Also on that note: dress for the freaking weather. It drives me nuts when people crank up the heat in the winter so they can lounge around in shorts and tank tops inside, then blast the AC in the summer so they can snuggle up in a sweatshirt in their living room. The point of HVAC is not to make the inside of your house the diametric opposite of the outside weather!! It’s just to maintain a comfortable norm.

lemongrass lemongrass April 22, 2014, 3:36 pm

That is going to be such a big shock for me when I move. We currently have a wood stove and it is always roasting in here and we can’t afford to heat a house like that!

avatar Banana April 22, 2014, 3:38 pm

Just get used to wearing snuggly sweaters inside! We keep the thermostat around 60 – 65 in the winter and it’s fine. Think about what you’re doing when you’re at home — if you’re on the couch, you can snuggle under a blanket. If you’re moving about, that will keep you warm anyway, and on top of that if you’re wearing a warm sweater and socks, you won’t really feel it. It’s the temperature of a mild spring day!

lemongrass lemongrass April 22, 2014, 3:47 pm

It’s more my son I’m worried about. I often let him run around in a diaper so I’ll have to get used to dressing him more!

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 4:23 pm

We keep our house at 61 in the winter. When I complain about being cold, Dave tells me to do push ups. I hate it. But it’s cheap, and it works!

GatorGirl GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 3:42 pm

This drives me nuts too. Living in FL I constantly am overloaded by blasting AC. The worst are the places that blast the AC and leave the huge doors to the outside open. WTF people?? We’re trying hard not to use heat/AC. I got a fan to help with the AC issue, but it’s really hard to avoid running constantly when it’s in the 90s for 6 months at a time.

avatar bethany April 22, 2014, 4:24 pm

Along the same lines, I hate it when people don’t use the revolving doors in my building at work. They open the regular door and freezing cold air pours in in the winter (opposite in the summer), it just seems so wasteful.

avatar Banana April 22, 2014, 4:38 pm

I know, over-ACing drives me nuts. It seems to be worse the hotter the place is. DC and Baltimore have VERY hot and humid summers, but inside my office I have to wear a sweater. Not only is it wasteful, but it’s also gross — you’re covered in now-cold sweat and you have to wrap yourself up in a sweater? Ugh. I lived in Baltimore one summer with no AC. It wasn’t as comfy as having AC, obviously, but it was definitely survivable. Just leave the curtains closed during the day, flip your box fans (blow cool air in during the night, blow hot air out during the day), dress in light clothing, and dunk your hair in cold water if it gets really bad.

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana April 22, 2014, 3:46 pm

banana you have NO idea how angry this makes me. My roommate turned up the heat to 72-74 ( I keep it between 67 and 69) and did all f’ing winter long because she was “freezing” well I would look at her and she would be wearing booty shorts and a tshirt, in winter, to bed. And she has a thin threadbare comforter. Meanwhile I have a down comforter, sweats, thermal shirt, sweatshirt and wool socks with slippers. I would wake up sweating like drenched through my clothing and it just annoyed me because she wanted it to be like summer in the house and I am like no, that is not the point of heat or AC. And it just really this is my number 1 pet peeve with roommates. Seriously I am getting heated just thinking of it.

avatar sarahhhh April 22, 2014, 3:45 pm

I am much better at following this kind of thing in the winter. I will barely use my heat, and when I do, it is pretty much just for the sake of the kiddos. Then, come summer, I try really hard to follow my own advice (AC at 78 or above, or higher if we aren’t home…) but I will be miserable the whole time because I just want to be cold! But I totally agree about dressing for the weather. If it’s cold outside, put leggings on under your sweat pants, and socks under your slippers!

othy othy April 22, 2014, 5:31 pm

We keep our house at 67 in the winter during the day and 60 at night. I love it because my kitties come and snuggle under the blankets with us to keep warm.
We have a swamp cooler at my house, instead of an A/C unit. Basically it’s a giant pad of water in front of a giant fan, so it blows cool air into the house. It only works in really dry climates. The only downside is that it’s in the window of one of the bedrooms, meaning the rest of the house doesn’t cool as well as that room does.

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana April 22, 2014, 3:59 pm

Also another really important environmental thing is proper disposal of medicine. You should NEVER flush medicine, and there are proper ways to throw it out too so that it doesn’t leach into the ground water/get in to our water supply and cause all sort of health/environmental factors effecting plant life, entire freshwater ecosystems and then us.

findingtheearth findingtheearth April 22, 2014, 4:37 pm

I use family cloth, mama cloth, cloth napkins, and cloth diaper. I hang dry pretty much everything, except for towels. I live in a rural area and we just have started getting recycling capabilities, so I am starting to figure out what they take and don’t take. I shop twice a month in large quantities and then once a week for produce. As a single mom, I just don’t have time to do much more than that, and it cuts back on waste. The end of the month is truly using up left overs and cleaning my pantry.

I wish we had public transportation, but we don’t. It would be a lot easier for so many reasons.

honeybeenicki honeybeenicki April 22, 2014, 4:57 pm

I’ve been working on #1 especially in regards to fruits/veggies. It helps that I have a few animals (rat, tortoise and bearded dragon) that eat them, so if I have too much, I can always give them extra.
#2 doesn’t work for me. I’m a complete ass snob. My mom and husband always joke about my “royal ass” because I love Charmin. I don’t *need* super soft and comfy TP, but I sure do want it and it’s one of the few things I buy as a “premium” product.
I already don’t buy new phones often. I tend to keep them for awhile because once I’m used to it I don’t want to start over. And I use a reusable Tupperware water bottle at work and when traveling (and cups at home), so we don’t buy bottled water. I do HAVE bottled water. I keep one case of it in my basement for emergencies, but that’s it.
I do quite a few of the other things as well (Using low energy bulbs, buying local, don’t drink at coffee shops – as opposed to bringing my own mug, etc).
Some things I’m willing to commit to:
-Definitely using the reusable bags. I mean, I have them! I just forget to use the damn things. So maybe I’ll keep them in the car. The only time I really remember is when we go to Costco (since we have gigantic Costco bags).
– Getting better at turning off the water when I’m not using it. I usually do when I’m brushing my teeth, but I could do better. I could aslo turn it off when I’m doing other things – washing my face, doing dishes, etc.
– Opting out of junk mail. I’ve thought about this forever and I always forget, but I’ll do that in the next month.

mylaray mylaray April 22, 2014, 5:45 pm

This is a great video about stuff and the problem with the linear system of stuff we have versus having a cyclical system of stuff: http://storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-stuff/

avatar Taylor April 22, 2014, 10:31 pm

Thanks for posting this Wendy!
#23 – vote for candidates that will create necessary policies ti head off climate change!

sobriquet Sobriquet April 22, 2014, 11:12 pm

Just to brag on my city, Austin banned plastic bags altogether. You have to bring your reusable bags or some stores let you pay 10 cents per paper bag. It was annoying the first few months because we ALWAYS forgot our bags, but other than that it’s been great! Now it’s weird to go shopping in other towns and see all the plastic bags.

Addie Pray Addie Pray April 23, 2014, 9:17 am

Really? I think that’s wonderful! I usually bring my own bags to stores if I remember. When I don’t remember, I’m always annoyed when they double bag and seem to give each item it’s own bag (well, it’s own double bag). I get home for 4 items and like 20 plastic bags, it’s ridiculous. Of course, I guess I’d bitch if I got one bag and the handle broke on my 1 mile walk home. Poor baggers, they can’t get a break.

avatar SpaceySteph April 23, 2014, 11:39 am

Here’s my one problem with the plastic bag complete ban… raw chicken. It always leaks and that juice is vile and dangerous.

I always bag my raw chicken in plastic.

avatar jlyfsh April 22, 2015, 12:17 pm

I have a couple of reusable bags that are lined with plastic. I use them for just meat and they are easily cleaned in the sink and then dried. If I’m buying chicken even if it’s just one pack it goes in there alone. I usually bag my groceries myself when I bring my own bags because I’m a little picky about what goes in each. But, they never seem to mind!

avatar booknerd April 22, 2015, 2:14 pm

Yeah! Seattle did, too. And they charge like 5 cents for a paper bag to help you remember. Ban plastic everywhere!

avatar DesiDad April 23, 2014, 11:51 am

Couple of ideas that I have come across in the past few years:

1. Compost-able and disposable flatware made out of corn-starch. It is popular in San Francisco.
2. freecycle.org to pass on used items that you do not need but that have a lot of use left in them. I have many large items in my condo that I have picked up from freecycle.

avatar MsMisery April 23, 2014, 12:53 pm

Reusable bags- If you make a donation (I believe a $25 donation) to the World Wildlife Fund, they will send you four of their reusable bags. They are a perfect size for grocery shopping (not gigantic, so they can’t be overpacked by zealous baggers) and they have animals on them, so I am always complimented on my cute bags. And they are a plasticky finish as opposed to a cloth material (if you know what I mean) so they are totally durable and easy to clean if you spill or buy meat or something.
Junk mail- I just downloaded an app called PaperKarma (like, yesterday so I don’t know if it works or not) but you can take a picture of your junk mail and they do the unsubscribing for you. I am allegedly already off six mailing lists 😀
Used books & dvds- I love taking my used books and dvds to Half Price Books (even though you don’t get very much and I always spend more than I get), and I also have gotten rid of dvds on swapadvd.com. They have a cd and book swap site as well but I haven’t used those.

avatar MsMisery April 22, 2015, 12:24 pm

Update on the PaperKarma app: I am still using it. It is doing a pretty good job on *most* junk mail. There are a few things I can’t seem to shake, like American Express (I don’t have and have never had a card w/them and THEY PLAGUE ME).

avatar jlyfsh April 22, 2015, 12:05 pm

There are a lot of people making reusable coffee sleeves now. I got a really cute crocheted one off of Etsy. It has a little stretch and closes with a button so it fits a lot of different sizes and shapes 🙂 And it’s washable!

avatar MsMisery April 22, 2015, 12:22 pm

I sometimes order tea from David’s Tea and their teabags are biodegradable and compostable.

avatar ktfran April 22, 2015, 12:30 pm

Oh my god, I love David’s tea. It’s the jam. I usually stick with the loose leaf and keep it in their tins and when I’m out, I recycle the tin… regardless, I LOVE THEIR TEA! There’s a shop about 10 minutes from my apartment.

avatar MsMisery April 22, 2015, 12:20 pm

For anyone who is a nail polish addict!!! My favorite brand, Zoya, is having a recycling program in honor of Earth Day. They do it every year. If you send in a minimum of 6 bottles, you get free shipping and half off each bottle you order, use code EARTHLUV in your cart (goes through 4/28/15). Zoya.com. They use the honor system so you can order first and send yours in later. I actually recommend this since in order to SHIP nail polish in the mail you need a special “combustible” sticker on the package and it is easier to just use the box your order came in than to try to explain to the post office or the UPS people that you’re not mailing a bomb, ok? (OMG, what I had to go thru last year….)

Lianne Lianne April 22, 2015, 1:28 pm

Thanks for this reminder! I have been meaning to sign up for our city’s compost program and kept forgetting. I just signed up for it now! Happy Earth Day, ya’ll!

Dear Wendy Dear Wendy April 22, 2015, 5:12 pm

I meant to update the post to say that we’ve been participating in NYC’s compost program for a year now (since last Earth Day) and it’s been a great experience. It’s so super easy and convenient for us that it doesn’t make sense NOT to participate. I just keep all food scraps, tea bags, dead flowers, etc. in a bag or two in our freezer and then every saturday I take the bags to the farmers’ market about 1/2 mile away to drop off at the compost center. I hope composting becomes this easy on a wider basis very soon.

mylaray mylaray April 22, 2015, 2:02 pm

In the past year, I got an electric car…and then my husband’s gas car got totaled so we’ve been using just the electric car. It wasn’t our intention to do it this way, but I love it, and it’s not as hard as I thought it would be. I’m fairly eco, but if you make small changes, it’s easier to keep going.

avatar tbrucemom April 22, 2015, 2:26 pm

We do most of these things 🙂 Remember if you don’t have access to a recycling facility you can find other ways not to fill up the landfill. We live in the country so we burn a lot of stuff (that’s not toxic of course) and when it’s cold outside it’s especially nice. We also compost. Just by REUSING someothing is a form of conservation, i.e., the plastic grocery bags for poop bags. Yes ultimately they get thrown away but by using a bag you already have instead of buying another bag to use you’re reducing your impact. We reuse the plastic Chinese food containers all the time. They’re great and free!

avatar booknerd April 22, 2015, 6:21 pm

Okay, but burning is not good for the environment either. Just because your air is clean, doesn’t mean your neighbors in the next valley over aren’t getting all your pollution.

avatar va-in-ny April 22, 2015, 3:22 pm

Stop using k-cups!! I love my Keurig, but hate the waste of the cups! Instead, we got one of those refillable cups (you can pretty much find them at any grocery or drug store now) and grind our own coffee. It works just the same, if not better, and you don’t throw those plastic cups into the trash every day!

avatar jlyfsh April 22, 2015, 3:25 pm

They really are terrible! I read this article a while ago. Apparently the company claims they are ‘recyclable’. But, it takes effort and the plastic isn’t as recyclable as they’d like us to think. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/03/the-abominable-k-cup-coffee-pod-environment-problem/386501/?utm_source=nextdraft&utm_medium=email

avatar booknerd April 22, 2015, 5:20 pm

Happy earth day. We are really good, with pretty much all of this and more! No meat unless we are out to eat, and then sometimes I’ll get some chicken dish or something.

My green pet peeve: wrapping garbage in an extra bag to put it in another bag to be thrown away. That shits going to sit in a landfill for a long ass time, but you can make things slightly more compostable by not wrapping your animals poop into plastic bags, and all the garbages in your house don’t need a bag liner. Yes I can see the kitchen, but really, does any other room need it? And for you folks with cat litter, use a scoop and buy biobags. They are degradable. Or get flushable cat litter.

Steps off soapbox.