April 25, 2011

25 Easy and Inexpensive Ways to Help the Environment

The green movement has been around for a few years but I have found that some of us need a bit of encouragement in this area.    Helping the environment doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.  There are easy and inexpensive ways to make a difference.

1.  Recycle. You would think that this tip would be a given but I can’t tell you the number of plastic bottles, paper, and other items that I pull out of the trash.  Check with your local area to see which items they recycle.

2.  Bring your own reusable bags to the store.  I began using cloth bags a few years ago.  In the beginning I received lots of sighs and eye rolls from grocery baggers but now these are well accepted in stores.  The cloth bags hold more, don’t hurt your hands when you’re carrying them, and you don’t have annoying plastic bags all around your home.

3.  Find a use for the plastic bags. I take reusable bags into the store but on occasion there is a day when I forget.  Rather than tossing those bags, find a use for them.  I take plastic bags to work to use in my classroom in case someone has an accident.  Line your bathroom trash can with them, take them to the pool for wet clothes, put your scooped cat litter in them.  There are many uses.

4.  Go paperless. Many companies have gone paper free.  You can opt to sign up to have your bills emailed to you.  Also, pay your bills online or on the phone.  I think I only have one or two bills that I still have to mail in.  It’s a time saver too.

5.  Shop used. Shop consignment sales and garage sales.  I have found some very nice clothing and toys at second hand sales.  You can also save a lot of money.

6.  Consider all expenses before buying or renting. Some people may choose one apartment over another because the rent is $50 cheaper each month.  Rent isn’t the only thing to consider.  Gas and electric expenses also need to be considered.  If the home is further from your work you may spend that $50 (or more) on extra gasoline.

7.  Limit the days you drive. Combine errands and try to limit the amount of driving that you do.  You may want to make a list so that you can avoid extra trips.

8.  Use cold water whenever possible. Some washing machines (like mine) automatically use the warm water option.  I have to adjust it to cold.  Cold water usually works just fine for everyday wear.  Save the hot and warm water for bedding and soiled clothing.

9.  Recycle your water. Use gray water for watering your plants and garden.  You can use your bath or cooking water.  I have been wanting a rain barrel for several years.  I saw them for less than $100 and am really considering making this purchase.

10.  Use cleaning rags instead of paper towels. I have always used cleaning rags but became more conscientious about it a few years ago.  I have a big stack under my kitchen sink now.

11.  Use vinegar to clean. I made the switch to vinegar about five years ago and it is definitely my favorite cleaner.  It’s cheap and safe.

12.  Teach your children to conserve. It takes some effort but now my kids know which items they can recycle.  I have also taught them to turn off lights when they leave them room, not to run the water when they are brushing their teeth, and to close doors quickly when they are going outside.

13.  Reuse jars. Each time I have a peanut butter, mayonnaise, or Nutella jar I wash it and save it.  I use them for beads, noodles, and all sorts of small items. Here are other ideas for the jars.

14.  Try to avoid prepackaged foods. Prepackaged cookies, crackers, and other snacks are higher priced and use a lot of excess packaging.

15.  Don’t use paper plates. I have visited some homes where paper plates are an everyday item.  I use them a few times a year when I have a lot of people at my house but that’s about it.  To be honest, I don’t see what the big deal is about putting a plate into the dishwasher.

16.  Air dry your clothes. I confess that I am guilty of using the clothes dryer whenever possible.  When I had a clothes line I used it.  Clothes dryers use a lot of electricity.

17.  Use your dishwasher. Some of you may be shocked by this, but Consumer Reports did a study that showed that hand washing uses more water than the dishwasher.

18.  Filter your own water. I can’t begin to imagine how many water bottles are in landfills.  Most public water is safe to drink.  You could purchase a filtering system to take out the chlorine.  If you have well water be sure to have your water tested.

19.  Install a programmable thermostat for your home. We have ours set to go up a few degrees when we’re away from home and to gradually lower at night while we’re sleeping.

20.  Switch to cloth napkins. Our family did this a few years ago and I have never regretted that decision.

21.  Take showers instead of baths. Showers use less water than baths.  If you don’t believe it then use the drain stop when you’re taking a shower and see how much water is in the tub when you’re done with your shower.

22.  Bring your own coffee cup. Rather than grabbing the disposable paper cups at work, bring your own.  I have two insulated cups that I alternate using each day.  The coffee also stays hotter longer and avoids spills.

23.  Recycle old cell phones. Cell phones certainly don’t last as long as home phones.  Sell, recycle, or donate your phone.

24.  Reduce junk mail. Millions of pieces of junk mail are sent each year.  There are sites online that promise to cut your junk mail by 90%.  Some of these services cost $19-36 per year.  Eco-cycle has some tips for doing this yourself.

25.  Use rechargable batteries. It requires an initial expense in batteries and a charger but it should pay off very quickly.

This list only scratches the service of inexpensive ways to help the environment.  Can you add to this list?

image sxc.hu



4 Responses to “25 Easy and Inexpensive Ways to Help the Environment”
  1. 1

    #17 IS shocking! I only use my dishwasher when it’s full, and I never use it for big things like mixing bowls and pots n pans… just to minimize the guilt. 🙂

  2. 2
    The Thrifty Mommy
    Twitter: thriftymommy

    I handwash big items too but I sure do like my dishwasher. 🙂

  3. 3
    The Thrifty Mommy
    Twitter: thriftymommy

    It’s a good thing I reread this article. I said to switch to paper napkins. It was supposed to say switch to cloth. Niiiice.

  4. 4
    Rebecca says:

    We hang dry our clothes when possible! We hang them on teh shower curtain rod, our clothes hanger, or on any door! We do dry some clothes, but this saves LOTS of money and electricity!

    We also turn our heat down when we leave the house for work. No need to heat an empty house!

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