As spring has now sprung and Earth Day is just around the corner (again!), now is a great time to consider some spring cleaning. But we’re not talking about cleaning in the traditional sense. We’re proposing that you use spring as a chance to clean up eco-related habits you’ve been wanting to shift.
So if you’ve been hoping to reduce your plastic and/or water use, cut back on carbon emissions, limit the items you send to the landfill, and say yes to other eco-conscious acts, we have some ideas for you. These simple eco-hacks allow you to easily begin adding practices into your family’s life that will help you be part of the planet’s healing.
- Turn off the water as you brush your teeth, or soap up your hands. As about two gallons of water comes out of the tap every minute, this is a super simple way to save water.
- Use a low flow shower head. A standard shower head releases around 2.5-gallons of water in one minute, which means that a 10-minute shower results in the use of about 25-gallons of water. Using a low flow shower head only releases about 1.5- to 2-gallons of water per minute, saving anywhere from 5- to 10-gallons during a 10-minute shower.
- Save your dishwater. Another great way to reduce water consumption is to place a tub in your kitchen sink to collect water when washing dishes. Then, you can use the water on your plants. Just be sure your dish soap doesn’t contain borax or bleach.
- Use cold water to wash clothes. Washing your clothes in cold water minimizes the amount of microfibers that shed from the garments and enter the water supply. In addition, using cold water uses less energy.
- Hang dry your clothes. You can save about two to six kilowatt-hours of electricity for every load of laundry you hang dry instead of dry in the dryer. And it’s easier than you think.
- Purchase food from a local farmer’s market. As food bought in most grocery stores has been transported hundreds of miles or more, you're reducing your contribution to the release of pollutants by purchasing food at a local farmer’s market. And, this allows you to support farmers that are less likely to be using pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
- Start a compost. When food ends up in landfills, the harmful gas methane is created. You can reduce the production of methane, and potentially eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers in your garden, by composting your food scraps.
- Donate old clothes, and buy used clothes. Did you know that more than 20-billion pounds of clothing is thrown away every year? Yup. And much of this is children’s clothing. These discarded garments contribute to the release of greenhouse gases and can leach toxins into the soil and water supply. Minimize your participation in the release of these toxins by donating clothes you no longer use, and buying new-to-you clothes at a thrift store.
- Make your own cleaning products. Many typical store-bought cleaners contain potentially harmful ingredients that can reduce the air-quality in your home, and the environment in general. Cut out this risk by making your own cleaning supplies with safe ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice.
- Use dish rags and sponges instead of paper towels. As the production and shipping of paper towels requires the use of trees, chemicals, fuel, water, and electricity - and many families go through a lot of paper towels every week - limiting your paper towel use can be a big win for the environment. You can do this by using a sponge or dish rag, instead of a paper towel, to clean up.
- Start an herb garden. Not only does growing your own herbs save you money and beautify your yard, but it also reduces the fuel needed to ship herbs to your local grocery store.
- Switch to energy efficient LED light bulbs. LED light bulbs are 80% more efficient than common alternatives like fluorescent and incandescent lights, as 95% of the energy in LEDs is converted into light, and only 5% is wasted as heat. In addition, LED bulbs need less power, meaning they demand less from power plants and minimize greenhouse emissions.
LEDs also help you go through fewer light bulbs each year, reducing the amount of bulbs sitting in landfills, and the amount of money and time you spend buying new ones.
- Buy less. Only buying the items you truly need, and buying secondhand goods as often as possible, reduces the amount of resources you tap into when purchasing new products.
- Restore old or broken furniture. While it’s convenient to buy new furniture, this practice can have many impacts on the environment. For one, buying new furniture often means you’re disposing of old furniture. Millions of tons of furniture is thrown out every year, and much of this furniture ends up in landfills and contributes to the release of greenhouse gases. In addition, the production of new furniture contributes to deforestation and plastic production.
So instead of buying new, find creative ways to restore or repurpose your old furniture, or pieces you find at second hand stores.
- Use reusable, silicone snack bags. As disposable plastic bags often end up in the soil where they release toxic substances that harm plants and animals, it’s best to transition to a more eco-conscious alternative. Enter reusable snack bags. These bags, often made of silicone, are able to be used, washed, and reused as many times as you like.
- Swap cling wrap with beeswax wrap. Similar to disposable plastic bags, typical cling wrap is thrown away after one use, and can release dioxins into the environment. Beeswax wrap on the other hand can be reused as often as you like, and preserves food for longer, as it’s breathable.
- Make note of food that often goes to waste. If you notice that you’re regularly throwing out a certain type of food, you can make a note to buy less of it, or only purchase the exact amount you need, right before you need it. This simple practice can significantly reduce your food waste, and save you money.
- Purchase household items in bulk. Limit the amount of packaging you have to throw out or recycle by buying more items in bulk. Items like coffee, pet food, diapers, toilet paper, trash bags, soap, shampoo, and conditioner are common products that can be bought in bulk.
- Eat less processed foods. As you might have noticed, processed food often comes in a lot of packaging. Reduce the amount of packaging you purchase by making more meals from scratch.
- Eat less red meat. Because the consumption of red meat contributes to the release of methane gas, and clearcutting of forests to create cattle pastures, eating less red meat can seriously help out the environment.
- Repurpose glass jars. Instead of tossing glass jars into the recycling bin, use them as drinking glasses, to store leftovers, herbs, or other dry goods, and for anything else you can think of.
- Unplug appliances when not in use. Most appliances continue to pull energy after they’ve been turned off. So, lower your electricity use by unplugging appliances like the toaster, coffee maker, and blender after use.
- Walk, or ride your bike, whenever possible. Driving a standard vehicle contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, a significant culprit behind climate change. Do your part to reverse climate change by riding your bike, or walking, as often as possible.
- Use a reusable water bottle. Using a reusable water bottle, instead of purchasing single-use water bottles, helps to protect the water supply and marine life, and leads to the release of less carbon dioxide and fewer plastics ending up in a landfill.
- Turn damaged clothes into rags. When a piece of clothing is too damaged to donate, you can prevent it from being sent to a landfill by cutting it into squares that can be used as rags for drying dishes and cleaning.
- Buy wooden toys. Wooden toys are much friendlier to the environment than most other types of toys, as they’re usually biodegradable and recyclable. This means that instead of clogging up a landfill for hundreds of years, they’ll break down and be absorbed by the Earth, if they’re no longer in use.
- Always keep a stash of reusable shopping bags in your car. Have you ever arrived at the grocery store only to discover that you left all your reusable bags at home? Yeah, us too. Prevent this occurrence by always keeping a stash of reusable bags in your car so you don’t have to answer the question, “Paper or plastic?”
- Print on both sides of paper. Do your part to save the trees by opting for two-sided printed whenever possible.
- Dry your clothes with a dry towel. You can shorten the amount of time your clothes are in the dryer by tossing a dry towel in with them, as it helps to soak up moisture. Just be sure to remove the towel after about 15-minutes.
- Use reusable straws. Saying no to plastic straws, and instead investing in some metal or silicone straws, can reduce the demand for plastic straws that cause significant damage to marine wildlife and ecosystems.
To take baby steps into a more eco-conscious lifestyle, we recommend reviewing this list with your family, and deciding what eco-hacks you all want to commit to first. When those habits feel set, you can begin adding new suggestions from this list into your life. Then before you know it, you’ll realize that you’ve done it! You’ve significantly shifted how your family shows up for the Earth, and are doing your part to make it a safe place to live for generations to come.