22 February 2010

Surpisingly Easy Green Actions That Won’t Make You Cringe

In her book Sleeping Naked is Green the author, Vanessa Farquharson, writes a blog (see it here) about making one green change per day for a year. The part of the book that I found most interesting was that her commenters were somewhat divided into levels of “green-ness.” Some argued that it wasn’t enough to make these little changes. Apparently some believe that until we all live in yurts completely made of recycled tires while we weave our own clothing from cruelty free flax we are not green enough. Others made the, significantly more cogent, point that every little bit helps.

Based on the idea that if every person in America made one little change, it would lead to big impact, here is a list of simple green things that I do, and therefore anyone can do.

  1. Ditch the paper towels. I use dish/tea towels instead of paper towels and use tawashis/dishcloths instead of sponges. The trick is to have a decently sized collection so whenever they get damp, smelly or in any way questionable they can just head into the wash. I keep a pile of “dirties” on top of washer (since it is right by my kitchen) and just toss them in with whatever load is going in next. Doesn’t add to your laundry burden, but does save a tree.
  2. Use your dishwasher. It sounds counterintuitive, but running a fully loaded dishwasher uses less water and energy than doing dishes by hand. I love this one because it also gives me the excuse that I should not bother to rinse the dishes…for the sake of the planet and all. (Not that I am just a lazy you-know-what…oh no!) If you do need to do stuff by hand, fill a soapy water basin and a rinse basin. By not running the water as much you are much gentler on the planet.
  3. Bring your grocery bags. I got cute ones in The Dollar Spot at Target, but anything will do, in fact, this is great way to use out of circulation tote bags, promotional bags etc. Make a point of leaving a few them in the car, next to your diaper bag or in my case, in the stroller, so you will always have one when out shopping. I confess I do like plastic bags for lining my diaper pails so I assign myself one store (Target) where I am “allowed” to use plastic.
  4. Turn off lights when not in use. Seems obvious but look around, I bet there are a few lighted rooms that no one is in. I made Cha Cha in charge of this so now she helps me get them turned off when we leave the house, go to bed, etc.
  5. Unplug stuff. Again, we all know this, but it is actually pretty easy to just pull the plug out of the wall when you are done charging the phone, laptop or whatever.
  6. Use Freecycle. Even if you never get anything from the network, it can be a great way to find loving homes for stuff that would otherwise just be in a landfill. The network here is not so great, but when we return to CT I plan to send off much baby stuff this way. Now my infant carrier that has three years left before it expires can find a few more rounds of use before it hits the garbage.
  7. Upgrade your stuff as it dies. There are green options that are super easy like lower flow toilets, energy efficient light bulbs and those thingies that decrease your water flow without losing water pressure. Put these in when you can/need to. Arbitrarily just changing all your light bulbs or getting a new toilet merely creates more garbage in landfills, but if you need to replace something anyway, try and make the greenest change possible.
  8. Make smart vehicle choices. This is not a purely anti-SUV statement, it is about making the most of the car you have. Just like list item number 6, using the car you have, regardless of MPGs, wisely is often a better choice than buying new, but putting yet another car in a junk heap. Plan your trips to maximize efficiciency and, if possible, though I know this can be a challenge in the burbs and rural areas, walk. If you do have to/ get to go car shopping, explore the higher MPG or hybrid choices.

I know these tips are nothing new, but they are simple and we all did a few of them, the impact could be much bigger than we think. I do hope to improve some of my green-ness when we move since being in a house will allow me to do some gardening, some composting, green upgrades to a home we own and more recycling. I will have to drive more in the burbs, but after all: every little bit helps.



ABDPBT said...

I am so lazy, but I really need to be doing some of this stuff more often. Particularly the plug one, I am very guilty of leaving pretty much everything plugged in, all the time.

Heidi Maxwell said...

We try our best.
1. We use cloth and paper towels.
2. I'm a total 'dishes by hand' girl - I still don't understand how a 3 hour dishwasher cycle can possibly use less water than 15 minutes at the sink.
3. I just got a whole new bag of bags to use for shopping. But we do use the plastic ones that make it home for trash bags and pooper scoopers.
4, 5, 6. Yes yes yes!
7. It's all new and energy star. I better not have to replace it any time soon.
8. When the time comes that I get to make a choice about what vehicle I drive, I hope to be able to afford a more enviro friendly heap than the one I have now.

PS: You have an award:

About Ms. Weires said...

People who are counterproductive to their own causes via personal nastiness deserve what they get... stress headaches and anurisms.

Alexis said...

I too was very surprised to learn about the dishwasher thing.

You can see a million sources for this, though I had to search through a ton to get ones that were not published by dishwasher manufacturers.

You can see here and here dishwashers, when use properly, do save water assuming certain conditions are met. I guess the pre-rinsing is the killer, though once you load it up, the dishwasher can clean dishes with something like 35% less water than if you washed them all by hand.

The real question I think is whether it is better to use no paper products, and fill the dishwasher every day, or to use paper, but compost it? Hmmm...