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Easy Ways to Go Green

April 22, 2008

Today is officially Earth Day, and if you haven’t been paying attention, we’re in danger of turning over an increasingly dirty planet over to our kids.  As a fit and healthy momma, don’t we want our kids to inherent clean air and water – and have an equal opportunity to be fit and healthy as well!

If it seems just all too overwhelming, and you’re wondering what one person can do to save the planet, think of this as taking baby steps!  Rather than worrying about the entire earth, let’s just worry about our own footprint left on this planet.  Here are some really simple (and MONEY SAVING!!) ways to get started!
1.  Recycle – The easiest way to get started!  We all throw stuff away, it’s just about rethinking how we get rid of things.  First of all, find out from your trash company what their recycle policies are and start participating.  Maybe they give you a container, maybe you have to do it yourself.  Also, what you can recycle in your everyday trash differs from company to company, so get that list, and familiarize your family with it.  At our house, we have two extra trash cans just outside our garage door.  One for paper recycling, and one for glass, cans and plastics.  It all goes out in the Thursday trash.  Easy Peasy.  
As for everyday household items, become a member of your local Freecycle community.  There’s no reason to ever throw anything else away, just post it on here, and wait for someone to come pick it up!  Or call Vietnam Vets of America for donations, or take items to your local Goodwill.
For hard-to-get-rid-of electronics, check out www.mygreenelectronics.org to find the nearest recycling center. 
2.  Change Your Light Bulbs – Stop buying the incandescent bulbs you’ve been buying all your life.  Spend a few extra dollars upfront, and buy the corresponding compact flourescent bulbs – you’ll use a fraction of the energy (and money!) to produce the same amount of light!  Plus they last ten times longer.  You can buy them at bulk at Costco or Sams, and even my local Aldi’s sells these babies.  Even your floodlights, and other obscure bulbs around the house, now come in CFLs.  Oh, and just at tip – most of these bulbs take about 10-15 seconds to get to full power, so don’t freak out when you turn on the light and it’s still dim!
3.  Drive Better – No, your mom did not ask me to tell you this, but seriously, the better you drive, the more you’ll get out of that gas-guzzling machine sitting in your driveway.  Don’t speed, avoid quick stops and starts, and be a more relaxed driver.  You’ll save a ton of gas, not to mention wear and tear on your car, and a ton of patience while you’re at it!  Have you seen the prices at the pump lately?  Yeah, it’s enough to make you sick!
4.  Control Your Thermostat – This is not a commentary on your temperament, but actually the temperature of your home!  Whatever you normally feel comfortable in, try setting the thermostat just two degrees different – two degrees cooler in the winter and two degrees warmer in the summer.  Just two degrees will have a few hundred bucks a year! 
Go a step further, and invest in an automatic thermostat.  With this gizmo, easily installed in place of your current one, can adjust the temperature in the house over the course of the day to meet your families needs.  And you’ll avoid drastic temperature changes, which tax both your furnace and your AC.  
5.  Unplug Electronics – How many phone/mp3 player chargers do you have plugged in right now?  Did you know that you’re using (and paying for) electricity just to have these items plugged in?  While not every single item in your home can be unplugged when not in use, you’ll find that most can.  Rather than unplug every item behind your TV, plug them all into one power strip and flip the switch when not in use.  Unplug appliances when not in use.  And put the chargers away in a drawer, taking them out every night to charge what you need the next day.  And watch your electric bill drop!  Oh, and my dad wanted me to remind you – Turn Off The Light!
6.  Keep Up on Home and Car Repairs – This is something we should already be doing, but we always let these things go.  Fix that water leak in the hall bathroom, repair the broken window in the basement, reseal your doors and windows around the house.  And keep your car up to speed by checking your tire pressure, replacing air and fuel filters regularly and get your oil changed as recommended for your car.  All of these things will save you money every single day of the year!
7.  Embrace The Tote Bag – Plastic bags never decompose, paper bags require a lot of energy to produce, and those (awesome!) department store bags have a nasty coating on them that allow them to live forever in our landfills.  None of these options are ideal for shopping, so start investing (slowly) in canvas tote bags.  Keep them in your trunk, and have them on hand whenever you go shopping.  Aldi sells a massive one for only $2!  You can now buy these at almost any grocery store for a few dollars more.  If you have a specific need to reuse those plastic bags (need bags for garage sale or always need a few on hand for pooper scooper duty), then opt for them when you’re low.  But otherwise, gradually make this switch, and you just find that your need for all those bags isn’t really there in the first place.  
8.  Ditch The Plastic – I’ve heard we use one BILLION plastic bottles a week.  Billion.  That should really be eye opening to you – and I’m just as guilty as the next person!  So I’ve decided no more plastic bottles.  I’m going to invest in a few eco-friendly reusable water bottles. If you want to drink like the stars, check out these cool Sigg bottles.  I’m hoping to find a decent knock-off at my local Target.  Let’s slowly invest in a few bottles per person in the family.  And your tap water is already pretty darn good, but if it makes you feel better, you can buy a Britta or Pur water pitcher, filter for the sink, and even a filter for your fridge water and ice.  Makes these investments and ditch the billion plastic bottles a week.  
9.  Support Your Local Farmers – I’ve already blogged about the beauty of local produce, but let me reiterate it here.  Buy meat and produce from a local supplier, and you’ll not only be saving the earth (as these producers tend to be more earth friendly in their practices), but you’ll also be saving money, as you won’t be paying for items to be shipped from around the world!  It’s just good all around!
10.  Consume Less Stuff – This is a personal mission for my family right now.  We live in a society of extreme overabundance – we simply have way too much stuff, and that results in tons of waste every single year.  So just stop the madness!  Create a basic menu every week (or two weeks or whatever works for you!), and only buy what you will use.  Aren’t you tired of throwing out pounds of fruits and veggies every week that you bought without thinking?  I know I am!  Do you really need another TV in the house?  How many computers does one home need?  Is that couch really shot, or would it be just as easy to reupholster it?  Go shop in your mom’s basement, and see what unique items may be lurking there that you could refinish and reuse.  And no matter how cute they are, do you really need 20 pairs of strappy sandals?  
And rather than continuing to ask for things at birthdays and holidays, start asking your family to buy you experiences – family memberships to the Zoo, music or dance lessons for the kids, help with your big family vacation.  Do you all really need another sweater, Tonka truck or Barbie doll?  Maybe you do one, but do you need five of them at one time?
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There is only one Earth, and I hope you’ve found a few things here that can help us all keep our Earth as fit and healthy as we want to be!  If you’re interested in doing more, check out this awesome list of 50 Easy Ways To Go Green from MSN.  And check out Oprah’s Earth Day Event for some other fun ideas.  And did I mention that you’re not only saving the Earth, but you’re saving Your Wallet?
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