This post may contain affiliate links that help Mike keep the posts coming but cost you zero extra. Please see my disclosure page for more details.
Have you ever had a desire to start ‘going green’ (you know, using more environmentally friendly products and practices) but you just don’t know where to begin? Well, that was us just a couple months ago… And until I started asking my friends for some advice, I had no idea what to do, where to look, much less how to get started.
That is until I asked one of my ‘greener’ coworkers to help me with an intro guide on how to get started. Little did she know, I’d ask her to write a guest post for the blog as well… 😉And it doesn’t hurt that she’s also an accomplished writer! So let me get out of the way and let Sarah hook you up with the roadmap on how to start going green. Take it away, Sarah!
Hi, all! I am a coworker of Mike’s and have been trying to modify my family’s life a little bit at a time to lessen our impact on the environment. My husband and I both have full-time jobs in addition to being parents to a busy toddler, so we have searched for ways to be greener that are easy and have minimal impact on our lives.
Often the green choice has turned out to be a budget-friendly choice, too! We definitely don’t succeed every day, but we try and the more we work at it the easier it gets.
Here are 13 easy and effective ways to start going green today
1- Opt for road trips over flights
Air travel is quite cumbersome on our environment and skyrockets your carbon footprint. If you’ve got your heart set on an overseas trip, by all means, do it if you can—that’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. But if you have a choice between a few hours’ drive and a plane ticket—go for the drive. You will be less stressed during the trip and you’ll save money at the same time!
2- Lighten the load (the laundry one)
Don’t toss your clothes straight into the basket after wearing. Give a sniff test—seriously. Chances are it is still quite clean and doesn’t need to go through the laundry. This will reduce the load on your time, your back, and your wallet! And when you do laundry, invest in a hanging rack for your laundry room and hang dry as much as you can. You can also help by buying wool dryer balls to reduce static instead of using dryer sheets. Plus, if you’re sensitive to fragrance chemicals that are often found in dryer sheets, this could save you some irritation (literally).
3- Eat less red meat
Not only do cows produce greenhouse gases, but they also consume an alarming amount of freshwater. 1,000 gallons or more of water can be used to produce one pound of ground beef. Poultry is both lighter on your wallet and on water usage.
4- Plant a garden
Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release clean oxygen—a win-win for humans! Even if you don’t have a yard, there are many indoor plant options that can filter your air for you and are easy to maintain—spider plants, English ivy, and aloe for example. Planting a vegetable or herb garden will also save you money at the grocery store. Want to go a step further? Introduce native plants in your garden. They will attract vulnerable native pollinators like bumblebees, butterflies, moths, and even birds.
5- Go for natural fibers
Try to buy 100% cotton, steering clear of synthetic fibers like nylon, rayon, or polyester. These synthetic fibers are shed from clothing with each wash and end up in the ocean. That might not seem so terrible, but new research is showing that small ocean creatures eat these fibers—then larger creatures, like salmon, eat those small creatures. Then even larger creatures, like humans, eat those, causing humans to end up with plastic fibers in their guts. Even buying higher quality garments will help, as higher quality fabrics will shed fewer fibers during washing. These garments will last longer as well, saving you from having to buy a replacement. And decline those plastic hangers! They cannot be recycled due to unknown plastic content, so let the store keep them and reuse them.
6- Let it… well, mellow
The average toilet uses 1.6 gallons to flush each time. And if every single person in your household flushes after a liquid deposit, that adds up quickly. Yes, it might seem gross, but after you get into this habit it’s not that weird at all. And the savings is real—flushing only every 3 times could save 1,000 gallons over a year’s time.
7- Invest in reusable grocery bags (AND remember to take them into the store with you…)
This may even save you money in the long run if you live in a state where grocery bags now (or will soon) cost you money.
8- Check out what plastic/paper products in your house could be replaced by a reusable option
It’s incredibly hard to beat the convenience of paper and plastic, but these products add up too quickly in landfills and in oceans (not to mention on your grocery receipt). You can replace zippered plastic snack bags with either silicone or fabric options; single-use water bottles with a good quality refillable one; plastic wrap with a reusable wax version; straws with stainless steel, and paper towels with washable bamboo rolls.
9- Buy used furniture and housewares
Often these vintage items are of better quality and design (and price) than new products. Good luck finding a new piece of furniture made of solid wood without breaking your wallet at the same time. Our house is a mix of new and old—I can’t bring myself to buy an old sofa that is full of someone else’s hair and skin cells, but pieces like tables, bookcases, dining chairs, and nightstands are everywhere at antique malls and secondhand stores. I just scored a $35 solid walnut table at an antique show yesterday. And you won’t get my vintage Pyrex away from me… ever!
10- Switch to environmentally friendly cleaners
Many household cleaners contain toxic chemicals that are not only hazardous to anyone in your house, but also the earth. There are several brands of cleaners that are better and can be found at the local grocery store. I love Mrs. Meyer’s and Seventh Generation.
11- Do you have a little one in the house or on the way? Consider cloth diapers
The average baby will use 1500-1800 disposable diapers PER YEAR before he is potty trained. These all go into landfills to be covered in other trash, never decomposing. Even biodegradable disposable diapers aren’t helpful if they are in a landfill with no access to oxygen. The financials check out on this one as well. Cloth diapers do vary widely in price, but I found a quality brand that was reasonable. We have 40-ish diapers—about a $250 investment. If you run the numbers, comparing a single use disposable diaper’s cost (~.25 for a Pampers) to a cloth diaper’s cost, you’ll find that that a cloth diaper of that price will pay for itself in 24 uses—so using that diaper once a week will pay for it in only 6 months. We aren’t hardcore on the cloth—we still use disposable here and there, but any reduction in diapers in the landfills is a win in my book. Not ready for the cloth life? Go for a fabric diaper pail liner. They have a waterproof inside and are machine washable—you can get one for the same price as a set of plastic refills.
12- Recycle, recycle, recycle
Chances are, there’s more in your household trash that can be recycled than you realized. The EPA is a good place to start learning about how to recycle. On top of that, most counties run a recycling program that will help you dispose of household hazardous waste like oils, cleaners, and batteries. Start another trash can just for recycling—it will fill up quickly!
13- Make your money work for the earth
Buying from companies that give to non-profits that actually go out and clean up the environment is a great way to make an impact without changing your life drastically. 4Ocean bracelets will clean a pound of plastic from the ocean with every purchase. Bamboee (bamboo paper towels… sound familiar?) will plant a tree with every purchase. Beastly Threads sells soft furnishings and scarves to donate back to wildlife protection. There are so many companies out there giving back!
Are you experienced with living a greener life or have you tried any of these methods before? Are there a few things up there you’d never try…? It’s alright. This is a safe space – be honest 😉. Let us know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!