Filed under: How To
The first Simple Steps article focused on the things you probably already knew about. This article focuses on changes that are just beyond the obvious, but that still won’t upset your daily life that much. Things that will help you reduce your impact on the environment while still feeling very mainstream and not like you need to start buying granola in bulk.
1) Use cloth towels instead of paper towels, at least some of the time. Spill something? Grab a rag or a kitchen towel instead of a paper towel. Having BBQ? Grab a rag or kitchen towel for those messy fingers. Kids have dirty faces or hands? Use a washcloth instead of a paper towel. Or are you one of those people who use paper towels as substitutes for plates? Use a plate.
2) Use fewer disposable plastic grocery bags. I’m not going to suggest here that you switch to cloth bags – that’s for later. For an intermediate step, just use fewer of the plastic ones. Consider whether you really NEED a sack. If you’re just buying one or two things and heading right back to your car – just carry the things in your hands. If you’re on foot and making several stops, ask the employees at your second stop to just put your purchases into the bag you got from your first stop.
3) Use fewer disposable plastic food bags. Get yourself some quality food storage containers. Consider avoiding plastic if you can, but if you’re not ready for glass boxes in your fridge, go ahead and get Tupperware or a Tupperware knock-off. Use these containers instead of baggies whenever possible. (And really, it’s always possible.) Food containers can be washed over and over. Food bags, if you even bother to wash and reuse, are only good for a few uses before they develop holes.
4) Use fewer disposable plastic bottles. Are you a bottled water drinker? Get yourself a reusable bottle and just refill it. (consider a Klean Kanteen or SIGG bottle) If you’re a pop drinker, consider cutting back on the pop you drink – not only will it reduce the bottle/can waste, but it’s better for you anyway. At the very least, recycle those containers instead of throwing them out. Even the water bottles, even though there’s no deposit.
5) Start a compost pile. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Find a spot in your yard that’s suitable, and dump your food scraps and yard waste there. Or whatever you’re comfortable with. When I was growing up, we only composted grass clippings and hedge trimmings, and it still produced really nice dirt after a few years. Composting can be complicated if you want it to be, if you want the process to work a bit faster. But just tossing stuff into a pile and forgetting about it will work just as well, if a bit more slowly. Don’t put meat into your pile, ever.
6) Take your unwanted items to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, or Freecycle them instead of just throwing them away.
7) Take fewer or at least shorter showers. Americans are funny – we are nearly the only people who almost universally shower daily. Most of us don’t need a daily shower. If you work out daily, yes, you probably need to shower daily. But if you don’t…consider whether you really need a shower, or if you can get by with skipping a day. When you do shower, get down to business and get the water turned back off as quickly as you can.
8) Don’t wash your stuff as often. Before you put a towel or article of clothing into the hamper, stop and consider whether it’s actually dirty. If you work in an office, chances are good that your clothes are not really dirty after you get home from work. Try instead hanging them back on their hangers, and letting them air out (outside of the closet) for a day. Then put them away and make a mental note to wash them the next time they are worn. Same with towels. When you get out of the shower, you are clean. So the towel you use to dry yourself will also be relatively clean after you have used it. So use it more than once before washing it.
You will notice that most of these suggestions are not only good for the environment, but they are frugal, as well. See? Being environmental can save you money!
The next installment will have suggestions for simple steps you can take at work.
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