Keep plants around the house. Plants are amazing at cleaning their environment. Having them in your house can reduce indoor air pollutants by more than half. Great choices are English ivy and peace lilies, which absorb toxic gases like benzene and formaldehyde. Just be sure that if you have pets and/or small children that you opt for plants that are not poisonous.
Never flush your old medications. In almost everyone’s medicine cabinet there is expired medications. But whatever you do, do not flush them! That puts them into the water, which can be dangerous. Instead inquire at your pharmacy about whether they will take them and dispose of them properly. If they cannot handle them they will at least be able to tell you where you can take them.
Don’t waste heat when the fireplace is on. An open fireplace wastes up to 85% of the gas it uses because, like a wood-burning fireplace, the fire sucks heat from inside and sends it out through the chimney. Direct-vent gas fireplaces burn more efficiently and can save you money.
Use less water when you bathe. Baths typically use less water than showers. So whenever possible opt for a soak in the tub. If you prefer showers keep them short. Ten minutes is way too long. And be sure to install a low-flow showerhead and faucet to reduce the amount of water. You can cut back nearly 50% of the water used and barely even notice the difference.
Install new toilets. Newer toilets use significantly less water than older ones. And the low-flush toilets not only conserve water but they actually reduce the greenhouse gases produced in the water-purification process. If you can’t afford to buy a new toilet, a great alternative is to place a plastic water bottle – with the cap on – in the tank. Doing so means less water is used for each flush.
Have it fixed instead of throwing it out. With the price of many consumer goods getting less and less every year, it’s tempting to simply replace old electronics and appliances when they break. But often they can be repaired for a fraction of the cost. Not only do you save money, but you’re keeping that item out of the landfill.
Hang your clothes to dry. The average household does more than 400 loads of laundry in a year. That is a lot of electricity to dry all those clothes! You can cut this down dramatically by hanging your clothes to dry. In the winter months opt for an indoor drying rack. When it’s warm outside you can move your indoor rack out to a deck or patio, or use an outdoor clothesline. There are many new styles of clotheslines available now that are easily removable when not in use or that can be elevated to keep them out of the way.
Reduce the waste when giving gifts. Instead of wrapping paper, choose newspaper (the comics work great when they’re in color), reusable gift bags or even leftover wallpaper. When you receive a gift packaged in a reusable material be sure to save it for later. Also save your greeting cards and recycle them into gift tags.
Reuse products whenever possible. Have you ever looked at just how much waste your family generates in a one week period? Manufacturers use so much packaging that it is easy for a family of four to have several bags of waste come garbage day. Next time you’re thinking of throwing something out, try and think of ways you can reuse it instead. For example old containers can be used for storage, stained clothing can be used as rags for cleaning and broken hockey sticks make great garden stakes. If you get creative you may be surprised how many new uses you can find for items you thought were trash!
Donate things you don’t use any more. Instead of throwing out items you don’t use anymore, give them to charity. Old clothing, shoes, home décor items, sporting goods and toys are all happily accepted by charities such as the Salvation Army. You’ll have less clutter in your garage and your donation will help families in need.
Say no to junk mail. So much paper is wasted on sending junk mail and flyers. Put up a sign on your mailbox refusing these items and send a message to advertisers that you want them to change their marketing techniques. If enough people do this they will eventually listen.
Use cloth instead of paper. Using paper napkins and paper towels generates a lot of unnecessary waste. Did you know that the paper industry is the third greatest contributor to global warming emissions? So instead of paper, opt for cloth. A great source of rags is to use old clothes that are too stained or tattered to be worn anymore.
Use rechargeable batteries. If yours is like most households, you have a lot of things that run on batteries. Everything from the TV remote to your camera. And if you have children you can add a seemingly endless number of toys to the list! Do the environment a favor and use rechargeable batteries. They cost more upfront but they generate significantly less waste and in the end will save you money. Solar powered battery rechargers are even available online.
Find out what you can recycle. Different cities accept different items for recycling. It is important that you know exactly what is being recycled in your area. A lot of people put out items week after week thinking they are being recycled when in fact they are being thrown in the garbage at the recycling facility. By knowing the policies in your city you can avoid buying products that are not sold in recyclable containers and you can ensure you are putting out all of your garbage that can be recycled.
Dispose of hazardous materials properly. Most municipalities have programs for properly disposing of hazardous materials such as old tires, batteries, electronics, used oil materials and toxic substances such as paint and paint thinners. Be sure to inquire in your area about programs designed to keep these potentially dangerous materials out of the landfills.
Install water saving showerheads and faucet aerators. Heating water accounts for approximately 15% of the average household energy bill. Cut this down by installing water saving showerheads and aerators on kitchen faucets. They use nearly 60% less water and chances are you won’t even notice the difference (until you get your electricity bill!)
Use all natural cleaning products. Almost all household cleaning can be done using vinegar, baking soda and water. Use vinegar as a natural disinfectant, deodorizer, all purpose cleaner and window cleaner and add it to the rinse cycle of your laundry as a fabric softener. Clean your bathtub, toilet and counters with a paste of baking soda and water. If you prefer to use commercial cleaners, there are many companies now offering environmentally friendly versions.
Buy recycled products whenever possible. Many of the products that we use every day can be made from recycled materials. Doing so saves 70% - 90% of the energy and pollution versus using virgin materials. In particular, paper products are a great place for you to choose more environmentally friendly products. Look for bleach-free toilet paper and printing paper that are made from a minimum of 80% post-consumer waste content.
Reuse paper. A lot of the paper we recycle only has printing on one side. Instead of using a fresh piece every time, print on the other side for documents that are not important. You can also reuse paper as a scratch pad for notes or put them together as a pad and keep them next to the telephone for taking messages.
Read the news online. Daily newspapers generate a huge amount of waste. Even though this can be recycled, it is better to eliminate this unnecessary use of paper entirely. Instead of subscribing to newspaper services, read the news online. Think about how much paper this will save over an entire year!
Borrow books and magazines from the library. Libraries are a great resource for anyone looking to reduce the amount of waste they generate. Instead of purchasing books and magazines, check them out of the library.
Avoid dry-cleaning your clothes. The majority of dry cleaning chemicals are highly toxic. Not only are these chemicals harmful for the environment, but also they remain on your clothes as you continue to wear them, which can present a health risk. When buying clothes, opt for items that you can wash at home rather than needing to be dry-cleaned. And keep in mind that most items that say ‘dry clean only’ can actually be washed by hand with a mild detergent and cold water. If your garment absolutely cannot be hand washed, look for a cleaning service that practices wet cleaning instead of dry cleaning.
Don’t use antibacterial cleaners. We have become a society that is obsessed with living germ free. And we may be hurting ourselves more than we’re helping. Antibacterial cleaners contain a chemical known as triclosan, which is a form of dioxin. In addition to causing a variety of health related problems including decreased fertility and birth defects, this chemical is also mixing with the chlorine in our tap water and forming deadly chlorinated dioxins. So you’re better off just using regular soap. In fact, doing so will kill 99.4% of germs. Compare that with antibacterial soap that kills 99.6%.
Teach your children about being environmentally responsible. Our children really are the future of our earth. Start teaching them early about the importance of making environmentally friendly choices and it will become second nature to them. Make sure that you also practice what you preach! Kids are much more likely to do what they see you doing – rather than what you tell them to do.
Choose environmentally friendly baby products. The amount of chemicals used to create baby products today is staggering. Not to mention the amount of waste generated! Disposable diapers are the single largest type of garbage in our landfills. Refuse to contribute to the problem by using cloth diapers. Nowadays they are designed to be easy – no more pins! And many communities actually have services that drop off clean diapers each week and pick up the soiled ones.
Have a battery free Christmas. If you have children, make next Christmas “battery free”. Tell all family and friends that instead of toys that require batteries to run, that you would rather your children be given gifts such as books, puzzles and non-electronic toys. Not only will you help the environment by using less batteries, you’ll also save money and your kids will use their imaginations more. Even if you don’t have children of your own, make it a policy to only give battery free gifts.
Pay your bills electronically. Almost all companies now offer the option to receive your bills electronically and pay them through online banking or telephone banking. Save all that unnecessary paper by using this service.
Get involved in environmental charities. There are lots of different charities that are devoted to helping the environment. Whether you choose an international organization such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) or something more local, the important thing is to get involved. You’ll feel great, help a worthwhile cause and be setting a good example for the other people in your community.
Turn the tap off. Your mother probably told you to do it when you were a child, but do you? When brushing your teeth or shaving, always be sure to turn the water off. Even a few seconds can waste a tremendous amount of water unnecessarily. It’s a simple thing that can have a big impact on the amount of water used in your home.
Buy your energy from eco-friendly utility companies. There are many companies now offering electricity that is generated from renewable resources such as wind and low-impact hydroelectric generation. Inquire in your area about companies that use these services for all or part of their electricity and make the switch! If enough people start to do this, more and more companies will begin offering it.
Wash your car on the lawn. This does double duty – you get a clean car and you water your grass at the same time. Plus you are using a lot less water than is used at commercial car washes. Be sure to use a bucket or a trigger hose attachment so you only use the amount of water you need.
Sweep walkways, patios and driveways. Instead of spraying them down with your hose and wasting water, get out the old fashioned broom. They’re just going to get dirty again soon anyway!
Look for little ways you can make a difference. Sometimes the best thing we can do for the environment is to make small changes in our every day life. When we add them all up, we can make a significant difference. Look at everything you do in a day and see what you can do differently. For example, if you are a tea drinker only boil as much water as you need in the kettle. If you generate a lot of garbage think of a couple of ways you can cut back.