We would all like to be a little bit greener, but figuring out where to start can be daunting. In her book It’s Easy Being Green, author and founder of GreenMatters.com, Crissy Trask, provides tons of great ideas. In addition to simple green tips, you’ll find info on eco-friendly products, decoding eco-labels, and green living myths. Here are just a few of our favorite tips for making your life and your home greener:
- Fix slow drains. Pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain and follow it with half a cup of white vinegar. Let it sit for twenty minutes to a half hour, then pour boiling water down the drain (about two quarts).
- Turn your soap-bar scraps into usable shavings. Using a cheese grater, grate several scraps into shavings and put them in a decorative bowl next to the sink. Just take a pinch from the bowl with a dry hand, add water and work into a lather.
- Buy a shower curtain that will far outlast cheap plastic ones; a shower curtain made of hemp will naturally resist mildew and is machine washable.
- Save old, tattered towels and T-shirts for cleaning. Cut them into squares and they become useful rags that can replace store-bought rags and paper towels.
- Make your own household cleaners. This is a safer alternative to relying on harsh, toxic commercial products. Effective cleaning products can be made with borax, washing soda, distilled white vinegar, baking soda, salt, club soda, cooking oil and lemons. On their own or combined together, you can make scouring powder, furniture polish, an all-purpose cleaner and more!
- Arrange furniture to take advantage of natural light from windows. Place desks and reading chairs next to windows to cut down on the need and use of supplemental, artificial light during the day.
- Reuse glass jars for food storage. Plastic food tubs, such as those used for yogurt, can also be reused. For larger portions of leftovers, use soup and mixing bowls, then fit the top with a saucer or plate in place of plastic wrap.
- Turn off the oven ten to fifteen minutes before cooking time runs out; food will continue to cook without using the extra electricity.
- Buy several cloth napkins and use them instead of paper at home and on the go. Cloth napkins can be used several times before washing. Give each family member a unique napkin ring to store their napkin between meals.
- Fill a bowl with cold water and wash fruit and vegetables this way, instead of letting water from a faucet run over them.
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- Reuse water leftover after common household uses to water plants instead of pouring it down the drain (e.g., from a double boiler, washing produce, steaming vegetables, cooking pasta, soaking beans, soaking frozen meat in its packaging, etc.). Transfer leftover water to a watering can for later use.
- Avoid planting too much lawn. Lawn need lots of water and provide no habitat for local wildlife. Create a meadow of indigenous wildflowers, plant an attractive ground cover, or plant an organic herb and vegetable garden instead. Consult your local extension office (normally affiliated with a college or university) for guidance.
- Soak labels off glass jars and reuse the jars around the house to organize loose items.
- Reuse scrap paper before recycling it. Turn scrap paper into a handy scratch pad for making lists, scribbling notes and doodling. Depending on the size of the scrap paper, cut it into halves or quarters. Staple the salvage together, blank side up, to make a notepad. If you have a clipboard, tuck scrap paper under the clip and keep all shapes and sizes effortlessly neat and handy for note taking.
- Unplug appliances to save energy while you’re away from home. Many small and large appliances continue to draw electricity even when turned off.
- Reuse notecards that are missing their envelope by tearing or cutting them in half down their spines and using the card fronts as postcards or index cards. Card backs with a blank side can also be used as index cards. This tip also applies to used cards with a blank inside or outside face. What cannot be salvaged for a new use can be recycled.
- If you live in a cold climate, paint your house a dark color. Dark colors reflect as little as 3 percent sunlight, thus absorbing more heat. If you live in a warm climate, paint your house a light color that will reflect up to 90 percent of sunlight and keep your house cooler.
- Use water-based paints instead of oil-based paints. Water-based paint is less hazardous, dries faster, saves time and eliminates the need for chemical solvents for cleanup.
- Before discarding empty latex paint cans, leave the top off and allow the remaining paint to dry completely. Latex paint is not hazardous once it is solidified.
- Schedule an energy audit to learn more about your energy consumption and what steps you can take to cut energy costs. Many utility companies and service providers perform energy audits at no or low cost to you.
Excerpted from It’s Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living by Crissy Trask.
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Excerpted from Itís Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living by Crissy Trask.