April 22nd is Earth Day and it is the perfect time to start paying attention to your routine and notice any ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. I did some research and find it scary how long it takes for items to break down. 20 years for a plastic bag, 450 years for a diaper and 1 million years for glass bottle to decompose! Yikes!
I like the thought of “going green”, helping the planet by reducing waste and also saving money (shorter showers or turning off unneeded lights are easy ways to cut back on utility bills). I am not sitting in a house with solar panels and an electric car in the garage. (Even though a Tesla would be amazing!) But there are some things that I have done (and can still do) that make it easier to recycle and reduce the about of trash and wasted energy. I find that if I make a change that is convenient to the point that it is mindless to do, my family is likely to stick with it. I have a designated bin for glass/plastic recyclables. It is near the kitchen trash can so it is easy to place it there and collect each week. We used to pile up the empty containers at the end of the counter like a Lego building set and would make trips to the garage with the items. Making the switch to a designated bin inside the home really helped a ton. We also set aside a part of the laundry room to collect paper (mainly cardboard boxes). When we collect enough, they are moved to the garage. I also set up a bin on the 2nd floor for paper recycling in the office. This works great to not only hold paper but also packaging from beauty products opened in the bathroom and empty toilet paper rolls or tissue boxes.
Recent things I have done = I was noticing that I was wasting a ton of paper towels in the kitchen and while cleaning the house. I switched over to microfiber clothes and it is saving me money and reducing waste. I think they work better as well, especially when cleaning glass and mirrors. I was also wasting tons of produce plastic bags from the grocery store each week. They would just end up in the trash and it felt wrong.
Things that will take longer to do = There are some household appliances and smaller items like light bulbs that we are going to replace (with LEDs). When they no longer work or a bulb burns out, I am then replacing them with a more efficient version. This will be a slower process due to cost but it is important that I take the time to do research and make sure I am selecting an Energy Star version of an appliance.
Below is a list of things that I have implemented for our home. I hope they inspire you to take a look at your home and what you do at work as well. I am also providing links to other sites for additional info and to my Pinterest board.
At the office or traveling…
- Reusable coffee mug – Saves on extra cups, lids and those sleeves that keep your hand from burning when holding the cup. Some places give you a discount when you use a refillable mug.
- Reusable glass water bottle – Saves on office supplied cups that no one seems to recycle and are sometimes made with a foam that does not decompose quickly. I also like to have one of these filled with water to take with me on errands.
- Taking food with you – glass containers, reusable sandwich bags and bamboo utensils ; basically avoiding any tossing of plastic Ziploc bags and utensils
In the home…
- Cloth napkins – They feel so fancy to use and they are much better than buying all of the napkins and paper towels. I found mine at TJ Maxx but you can also cut down a regular dish towel to make these as well.
- Microfiber cleaning cloth – I use these instead of paper towels for cleaning mirrors, glass, counter tops and other surfaces. They absorb water quickly and do not leave lint behind when cleaning mirrors/glass. Between these and the cloth napkins, I rarely use paper towels anymore. I also use these for dusting too instead of using the disposable Swiffer ones.
- When doing dishes – A sink tub filled with soap and water to hand wash dishes cuts down on having the water run continuously and it also saves on the amount of soap used. I know some folks like to just fill up the kitchen sink itself but I prefer the tub since it seems to be more sanitary.
- When doing laundry – I use the cold cycle which is gentle on colors and cleans the same as the hot water cycle. I also hang or lay to dry most tops and items like jeans which keep them from getting out of shape.
- I keep a running list of meals that can be made from items in the fridge and any frozen leftovers in the freezer. This cuts back on “open the fridge door and stare” time, which saves energy. This is also helpful for me to figure out when I need to make a trip to the store.
While shopping…I can honestly say that I no longer get plastic bags from stores anymore (shopping and produce bags included). I keep the grocery bags in my car at all times and the folded tote bags in my purse.
- Grocery bags – I purchased cooler bags from Whole Foods since I liked the zipper to close the top and they are useful in the summer for bringing home frozen items.
- Produce bags – Mesh bags work great for holding fruits/veggies because of their durability and size. Also no more trying to tie a knot or look for those twist ties to close the bags due to a draw string at the top. You can also find out the weight of an empty bag at the checkout and have the cashier subtract it if you are concerned about any extra charge for the weight difference. I purchased mine from Thrive Market but I know they also sell them on Amazon and sometimes in grocery stores as well.
- Folded tote bag – There are tons of different patterns and price points for these tote bags. I even found some at my local dollar store.
Hosting parties…Since the last thing you want is a ton of dishes to clean when you have company over for the holidays or barbecues during the summer. I have used sugarcane products before and they worked fantastic, I like them better than any other plastic or paper disposable dishware that I have used in the past. It just made me feel better to know that at the end of the party when the trash can was overflowing, that I was not clogging up a landfill.
- Dishs (Greenplate brand), Utensils and Cups that are made from sugarcane which is food safe and decomposes quickly.
- There is also a set from Earth’s Natural Alternative which is a full picnic set with everything you would need.