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Around the House
Instead of using packing paper, wrap your breakables in old newspaper or even sheets, towels and other linens. Buy biodegradable packing peanuts instead of using bubble-wrap or Styrofoam.
Moving companies usually require new, unused cardboard moving boxes to ensure stability. Instead, use sturdy, reusable crates, which come in a variety of sizes, can be made from recycled plastic and generally include drop-off and pick-up service. Just search the Web for “reusable moving crates” in your city.
Some moving companies follow environmentally friendly practices. For example, Go Green Moving has bio-diesel trucks, moving pads composed of 100% recycled cotton and rentable crates for packing.
Save trees and reduce waste by stopping your junk mail. Contact the Direct Marketing Association to take yourself off many companies’ mass marketing mailing lists for up to five years. You can contact phone book and catalog companies directly to request removal from their mailing lists.
“Phantom” loads occur in most appliances that use electricity, such as VCRs, televisions, stereos, computers and kitchen appliances. In the average home, 75% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. Unplug appliances when you’re not using them or use a power strip to turn everything off at once.
Each year, 130 million cell phones are thrown away, weighing approximately 65,000 tons. Recycling last year’s model prevents hazardous elements like mercury, cadmium and lead from ending up in our landfills. Learn how to donate your old cell phone here.
For one day (or even an afternoon), turn off the TV, computer, phone and other electronics. Go for a walk or a bike ride. Connect with family and friends face-to-face. Be mindful of the world around you. Try it once a week for a month to give yourself and the planet a break.
At the Office
Plants act as natural filters to improve indoor air quality and serve as a friendly reminder to “think green” every day.
Choose environmentally friendly packaging materials, reuse whenever possible and consider a green shipping program to offset the carbon associated with your businesses parcel and freight shipments.
Purchase products and supplies in bulk to reduce packaging and shipping waste. This could save you money and time.
Use reusable products to cut costs and reduce waste. For example, choose reusable ink cartridges through a cartridge refilling program. Many companies, such as Staples, even offer discounts on future ink cartridge purchases, so you’ll be saving money in more ways than one.
Setting office printers to automatically print double-sided is an easy way to reduce paper consumption by up to half.
Set up blue bins in the break room and by employees’ desks for recyclable materials such as glass, plastic, aluminum, mixed paper and hazardous materials. If you don’t have a pick-up service, ask employees to sign up and volunteer to take the materials to a local recycling center each week.
Look for office equipment that has earned the government’s ENERGY STAR rating. ENERGY STAR computers, copiers, fax machines and printers deliver the features and performance you want AND help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Be sure all employees turn off lights, computers and other office equipment when not in use to reduce utility costs and your business’s carbon footprint. Installing lighting controls or an energy (or building) management system (can automate these processes.
Aerators on your household’s faucets and low-flow toilets can help you save water without even thinking about it, and turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth is a simple way to use less water. Also, be sure to fix that leaky faucet! A single dripping water faucet can waste 212 gallons of water a month.
Bring reusable food and drink containers to work rather than disposable varieties. Packing a lunch is a great way to save money, eat healthier and cut down on the packaging materials that typically come with take-out or frozen meals.
What’s more local and organic than food from your own garden? Plus, you might just appreciate the food more when your own time and effort has gone into growing it.
Choosing organic produce is a great way to avoid harmful pesticides and to support farmers who help conserve soil and water. Look for the label “USDA Certified Organic” on all organic foods at the grocery store to be sure you’re buying a more sustainable product.
In the United States, food typically travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from farm to plate. Transporting our food that far means higher energy consumption and less local agricultural investment. See what’s available at your local farmer’s market this week – we think you’ll like how it tastes!
The EPA estimates that up to 1.5 billion gallons of water are wasted each year to irrigate landscaping. Reduce evaporation by watering in the early morning and mulching around gardens and shrubs. If possible, install a drip irrigation system, which uses 50% less water than a normal in-ground sprinkler system.
For swimming pools, reduce filtration to six hours a day and install a timer to control the pump’s cycling. Several short cycles will keep the pool clean all day and reduce your electricity usage, too.
Native species will be better adapted to dryer climates and less susceptible to disease. Visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website to determine which plants are best for your region and quality of soil.
Look for plants that are naturally pest-resistant. Encourage helpful insects that prey on pests by growing nectar or pollen flowers and choosing perennial ground coverings. Also, try keeping your grass at a higher length. Higher grass mowed by sharp blades will prevent weeds from taking root.
Common fertilizers can be harmful to the environment and the local water supply. Choose organic fertilizers made from plant or animal by-products rather than chemicals.
Trees not only help reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, they can shield your home from direct sunlight and keep it cooler in the summer.
Opt for non-toxic or plant-based cleaning products. They work just as well as your average cleaning product but are safer for your family and better for the environment. No need to spend lots of money on fancy cleaners. Plain, unassuming baking soda is non-toxic and can be mixed with a little water to clean tubs, sinks and other surfaces. All for less than a dollar!
Choose non-toxic, eco-friendly kitchen accessories made from bamboo, which is more sustainable wood because you don’t have to chop it down to harvest the bark. A single tree can be harvested an average of 16 times during its lifetime, storing more carbon dioxide each time.
Wash full loads and let dishes air dry instead of using the heat cycle.
Of the 25 billion single-serving plastic water bottles Americans use each year, 80% end up in landfills. Recycle your water bottles or, better yet, use a refillable water bottle made from BPA-free plastic or stainless steel.
Reduce waste by purchasing items that have minimal packaging, buying the largest size of an item you can reasonably use and buying in bulk. Make your own single-size snack packages instead of buying them – just fill your own bags and containers (don’t forget to wash and reuse).
Try to buy products that are biodegradable, 100% organic, free of BPA (a chemical used to make plastic and other consumer products that can affect infants and children), non-vinyl, non-toxic or made from sustainable wood like bamboo.
Plastic bags are made from oil and usually end up in landfills. Paper bags require trees to be chopped down and actually take more energy to manufacture than plastic. The next time you’re asked “paper or plastic?” answer with “I brought my own, thanks!”
If you’re going a relatively short distance, make the trip zero-carbon footprint by walking or riding your bike. Added benefit: You’ll burn a few calories along the way.
Airplanes create more pollution than automobiles typically do. Before you book that flight, ask yourself if videoconferencing or Skype will do instead. Choose nonstop flights wherever possible. Taking off and landing burns the most fuel, so more stops means more CO2 emissions.
Fewer cars on the road means less carbon emissions, cleaner air and a reduced dependence on oil. Take the bus or train or share a ride with a friend, ideally in a hybrid or plug-in electric vehicle. Doing this just once or twice a week can make a big difference.
Slamming on the breaks or accelerating too fast is a waste of gas and can also be unsafe. To improve your gas mileage, be gentle on the gas pedal and breaks. Avoid high speeds because gas mileage drops rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.
Improve fuel efficiency by keeping your tires at the right pressure level and getting regularly scheduled maintenance like inspections and oil changes. Check your car’s owner’s manual to make sure you’re using the right type of oil.