One of our biggest goals at HMH is to live more “green” and sustainably. But, it’s hard to figure out where you want to go, if you don’t know where you’re starting. This is a list of what we already do, what we could do better, and what we want to do.
What We Already Do
1. We recycle. This may seem like a no brainer, but only 75% of Americans currently recycle. With over 9,000 curbside recycling programs nationwide, recycling can be pretty easy. Also, think beyond the major 5 (glass, aluminum, plastic, steel, and paper), you can recycle just about anything, from video tapes, to iPods to packing peanuts.
2. We use reusable bags at the store. There are many reasons to use reusable bags, including less waste, less raw materials used, and the fact that they take years to biodegrade, if they ever do. Even if you just use one reusable bag at the store, that’s one less plastic bag that is produced. Bonus, some grocery stores give a discount for every reusable grocery bag that’s used. I do keep enough plastic bags in the house to use for diaper pail bags. This saves us having to buy garbage bags at the store for this purpose.
3. We wash nearly all our laundry in cold water. According to Real Simple, “90 percent of the energy consumed while running a load is used to heat the water, the average household opting for cold can eliminate as much as 350 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually.”
4. I carpool nearly every day. Carpooling saves time, money and the environment. When you consider that the average passenger car emits, per year:
- 80 pounds of hydrocarbons
- 606 pounds of carbon monoxide
- 41 pounds of nitrogen oxides
- 10 thousand pounds of carbon dioxide
- Consumes 550 gallons of gas
…cutting that in half, creates a huge environmental impact. My commute is about 50 miles/60 minutes round trip, without carpooling. Carpooling saves me approximately 30 minutes round trip, per day, or 2.5 hours per week. As far as financial impacts, I used this handy dandy calculator from Rideshare.com to determine that carpooling saves me approximately $3000 per year! Now that’s some dough! Find a carpool partner at erideshare.com or carpoolworld.com.
5. Reuse paper. When we sort our mail, I pull out the non-confidential paper that’s only printed on one side, and put it in a scratch paper pile. We use this paper to print pages for for the kids to color on, and to print coupons. I also pull out the return envelopes and the envelopes that the mail came in, which I use for grocery lists.
6. Line dry 90% of our clothes. This saves the energy that would’ve been used on the dryer, and also keeps our clothes in better shape longer.
7. Use Energy Star appliances. For a whole host of information on Energy Star, including how the ratings are determined, tax credit information, or looking up your appliance to see if it’s an Energy Star, go check out the Energy Star website.
8. We compost. Composting makes use of items that would otherwise be wasted, and end up creating toxic gas in landfills. Since we created our compost bin last month, we’ve taken out no less than 10 qts. of waste to the compost bin that would’ve otherwise ended up in a landfill.
9. Pack waste free lunches, which means we don’t use disposable products like sandwich baggies. We use use (and love!) Easy Lunchboxes containers and insulated coolers for the kids’ lunches. I use Rubbermaid Easy-Find Lids for my lunch. (For the record, even though the lids are easy find, I still manage to lose them.)
10. Opted out of credit card offers at OptOutPrescreen.com. I can’t even tell you what a relief it was when these offers stopped coming. It significantly reduced the amount of paper we receive AND the amount of paper we had to go through to get rid of it.
11. We avoid buying individually packaged items whenever possible. Excessive packaging creates a ton of extra waste. If we can buy it in a larger package, we will, then we just portion it out ourselves. It’s usually cheaper this way too.
What We Could Do Better:
12. We do use CFLs, but we want to use more. CFL’s have come a long way since those ridiculously large, flickering things we used to use. There’s a CFL for nearly every type of lightbulb. I love this CFL calculator from our local utility, it will tell you how much money and energy you’ll save, AND it prints a shopping list for each specific type of bulb in your home.
13. Re-purpose and reuse more. We’re just starting to delve into the world of “re-purposing.” I re-purposed a yogurt container for a little dish washing “caddy” at work to keep my sponge and wee dish-washing detergent. Also, I found a ton of super cool ways to re-purpose ordinary things on Pinterest. Reusing Starbucks cups for paint cups – genius! And who would’ve ever thought a pallet could make a cool table like this!?
14. Use reusable cups and utensils. We’re about 50% of the way there on this. I use a reusable cup for my coffee in the morning, and at work, but we need to utilize this more, and use them when we are out and about. Chad’s favorite Starbucks order is a Trenta Passion Tea lemonade. For those who don’t know, a Trenta is 31.5 oz. I have had precisely zero luck finding him a 32 oz cup with a lid and a straw. I’m bound and determined though, every time I see him come home with another disposable cup, I want to find him one! Bonus, many coffee places offer a discount for using a reusable mug. As far as utensils go, I try very hard not to use them at work, but, well since I’m a hot mess, I tend to forget to bring my reusables and have to use plastic. I need to get in this habit. Also, we’d like to get enough reusables to be able to use only those when we have party.
What We’re Going To Do:
15. Reduce or maybe eliminate our paper napkin and towel waste, and use cloth napkins. I want to make our own. I found a couple ways to do it, like these from Skip to my Lou, or these no-sew ones from Planet Green.
16. Make our own cleaning products. I have an awesome post coming up about this, using Castile Soap. We’re also trying it for bath products too. This week we’re testing it, next week we should have some great stuff to report!
17. Buy locally. The average food travels 1500 miles from farm to table. We want to support local farming, but we’re new to this concept, and haven’t taken the time to figure it all out yet. How do we know if what we’re buying is local? And how do we find it, it’s not? This is something that warrants more research.
18. Opt out of catalogs. When we did our epic filing fix, we found a staggering 73 catalogs and recycled 39 of them. We don’t even use half of them. I’m going to call the companies and ask to be taken off the list. Or you can use a company like Catalog Choice, and for a fee, they’ll do it for you.
19. Use rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable batteries can be used up to 1000 times, or up to 3 years before they have to be disposed of. Using rechargeables reduces the number of disposable batteries that end up in landfills, which is good since disposables contain toxic chemicals that rechargeables do not.
20. Switch to front loading washer. A front loading washer only uses about 3 inches of water, compared to a top loader’s 18. That’s 6 times more water being used!! They also take significantly less time, which saves you either time in the dryer, or on the clothesline to get clothes dry. As soon as we can budget for this, we’ll be doing it.
I honestly had more things to list than I thought I would, but feel like we have a lot more to do! Tell us, do you do any of these things? More? Am I missing any “basic or obvious” items on the green list?