Thanks to the larger than life interest in “Earth Day”, the entire month of April has become synonymous with environmental awareness. You don’t need to be inspired by a month or threats of global warming or climate change to make simple changes that impact your environment and the space around you. I’m not going to share a bunch of off-the-wall ideas, simply my thoughts on on a few steps we take to do our part. Don’t worry… even though I recently saw a neighbor using a clothesline, I’m not going to encourage what I’m not committed to doing myself.
Reusable tote bags
I always have a stack of 3 or 4 reusable tote bags in the van and try to use them on each trip into the store. Do I always? No. But for every time I do, that’s one less plastic bag that I’m hauling home. It all works out because when we do bring home plastic bags, we repurpose those into liners for the bathroom garbage cans. These totes are inexpensive and you can often find free ones at trade shows, conventions and even promo night at the local minor league ballpark.
Set your thermostat
You may be picturing us sweltering in the summer heat or freezing in the winter because we’re setting the thermostat higher or lower to keep the HVAC unit from running. That couldn’t be further from the truth. For years, we’ve been able to maintain reasonable heating and air conditioning bills by utilizing a programmable thermostat. This simple, inexpensive upgrade allows you set the temperature based on when your activities such as when you’ll be home or away or even when you’re sleeping. Many current programmable thermostats have an app that allows you to adjust your thermostat while away from home.
Upgrade your lights
The other day I shared with you how excited I have been to upgrade our lights to the LED Daylights. Not only is my house brighter, but these bulbs use substantially less electricity than traditional ones as well as the CFLs that we had previously upgraded to. Not only do they use less energy, but they have a longer lifespan which means less light bulbs heading to the landfill.
This may seem obvious, but I’m surprised by how many people don’t bother to recycle. Some don’t because they think they need to rinse everything out and that’s “too much trouble”. Other people simply don’t know what their municipality allows. While most recycling centers request containers be clean (to prevent bugs), it isn’t always a requirement. Check with whomever handles your waste disposal and recycling to find out what you need to do to participate. In our house, I look at the bottom of every food container, product packaging (those blister packs that toys come in are often recyclable!) and paper. When you bring food home from McDonald’s in a paper bag, have you thought about recycling the bag or do you just throw it in the garbage?
Give products a new life
Tired of something in your home and need to get rid of it? The natural instinct is often to send it to the curb. I see neighbors discarding things all the time that I know could be repurposed and secretly hope the scrappers pick it up before the garbage truck does. There are more options to consider first. If it’s something small, you can donate it to a charitable thrift store. Find a new home for larger items such as TVs or mattresses using online sites such as Facebook Marketplace. While it may be outdated for you, it may be an upgrade for someone else. Likewise, if you’re in the market for something, consider previously owned. Just because someone else had it first doesn’t mean it was ever used. Thrift stores are filled with items that people never used – from unopened games to household items and even clothing with the store tags still attached.
Park the car
And when I say park it, I mean in your own garage. If you live close enough to work or school to walk or ride a bike, consider it when the weather cooperates. During the summer months, we ride our bikes to the gym, to the park or out to get ice cream. We walk to local restaurants, too. While most of the places we visit require us to drive (can’t haul a week of groceries or a cello on a bicycle), each time we ride or walk is better than none!
Refill when you fill
Whether you’re fueling with water at the gym, dehydrated from traveling or stopping at the coffee shop for your daily dose of caffeine, refill with a reusable mug or water bottle. Drinking fountains with a feature for filling water bottles are becoming more prevalent in schools, gyms and airports so it’s very easy to make this switch. If you’re dining at a restaurant with free refills, you could pay for a beverage then offer to forgo the cup and use your own. There are so many varieties on the market including vacuum insulated travel mugs to water bottles with a straw that you’re sure to find one that meets your preferences.
There are a multitude of ways to be friendlier to the environment and many don’t take much effort. It’s often simply a matter of learning how you can make a difference in simple ways. If everyone does something, even if it’s small, it will make a difference.
Do you have a favorite easy way to be earth-friendly?