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25 Tips for Living Green

These 25 tips will ensure you’re making a good start at living more sustainably.

By Lynda King, Urban Farm contributor

No matter where you live or what your lifestyle, there is something you can do to help the environment, and often that something will also help keep you healthy and save you money. If you’ve already changed the light bulbs in your house to CFLs and are looking for some other ways to "green up” your life, here are 25 ideas to get you started:

  1. Turns out mom and dad were right with their admonitions to turn the lights off when you leave the room. Be sure to do it yourself, and pass the word to family members.
  2. If you decorate with lights for the holidays, use energy-saving LED lights.
  3. When you can, replace appliances with more energy-efficient models.
  4. Schedule a home-energy audit to see if there are any leaks in your home’s "envelope” which are allowing cold air in and warm air out.
  5. In addition to insulating in the obvious places in your home — walls and ceilings — don’t forget to insulate around windows and door frames and inside electrical outlets.
  6. Insulate your hot-water tank and the pipes that carry hot water from the tank into the rest of the house.
  7. Replace your shower head with a low-flow model.
  8. Use cold water for laundry instead of hot.
  9. Hang your laundry to dry instead of using an electric clothes dryer. Buy a folding wooden rack to hang things indoors during inclement weather. (You’ll appreciate the humidity the drying clothes add to dry winter air!)
  10. Bring cloth totes to the grocery store to eliminate the need for "paper or plastic.” Keep them in your car so you won’t forget to bring them with you when you go shopping. (And remember to take them with you into the store!)
  11. Keep a shopping list for groceries and sundries, and stick to it. Consolidate your shopping trips and errands into as few trips as possible, with a goal of no more than one or two a month. You’ll save money on gas and cut down on contributing harmful emissions to the atmosphere.
  12. Keep on hand an inventory of food, personal supplies, and medicines so you don’t have to run to the store every time you run out of something. Add the item to your shopping list when the inventory starts to run low.
  13. Shop at thrift stores for clothing and household goods. It’s a great way to promote recycling!
  14. Consider joining — or starting — a car pool to commute to work.
  15. Get your name off those junk-mail lists. Companies that can help include Metromail Corporation, R.L. Polk & Co., Database America, Acxiom U.S., and the Direct Marketing Association. You can find more information about them online.
  16. Reuse scrap paper instead of buying notepads. Did you print something by mistake? Are you still getting junk mail? Cut it into squares and use it to make your grocery list or leave messages for family members.
  17. Stop using plastic, single-use water bottles. Instead, buy a non-plastic reusable bottle. Consider getting an insulated one to keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold.
  18. Save your plant-based kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, etc. for compost instead of putting them in the trash. Use the compost in your garden and in your houseplants. If you don’t have either, give it to friends who do. They’ll thank you for the "black gold.”
  19. Reduce your use of plastic bags in the kitchen by replacing them with storage containers or by at least washing them out and reusing them whenever possible.
  20. Instead of using plastic wrap or aluminum foil to cover bowls (in the refrigerator or at a picnic, for example), top the bowls with dinner plates or saucers.
  21. Start a "rag bag” for old T-shirts, socks, and other clothing that have outlived their useful life but are too worn to pass on to anyone else. When cleaning, use the rags instead of paper towels.
  22. Become a locavore. In other words, buy food that is locally produced. You’ll help local farmers and help reduce the amount of fuel used in the supply chain that is used to transport food to the grocery store from hundreds, if not thousands of miles away.
  23. Buy organic food whenever possible, for your health and the health of the planet. Non-organic foods come to us as a result of heavy use of petroleum-based chemical fertilizers, which contaminates the soil and groundwater when overused.
  24. To keep weeds down in your garden or on pathways, forget chemicals! Mulch with a layer of wet newspaper (black-and-white, non-glossy only) and cover with wood chips, straw or grass clippings.
  25. Carefully consider each and every purchase you make: Is it something you really need? What will happen to it after it reaches the end of its useful life? Is it biodegradable? Can it be easily recycled? Will it help you reduce consumption in other areas? 
Give us your opinion on 25 Tips for Living Green.
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BTW, I bought my very sturdy plastic barrels from a small pickle packing company a mile from my house for $10 each.
Dante, Hyde Park, MA
Posted: 1/22/2016 7:41:08 AM
Great list & suggestions! I would like to add though (unless I miss it on your list) reusing grey water. I keep a couple of five gallon buckets next to my sink. Whenever I wash my hands (& I constantly do) I catch the water to use for cleaning the kitchen and bathroom floors. When the weather gets warmer, I take it out to water the lawn.

I also have four 70-gallon barrels to catch rain water. For the last ten years, never have to use city water for watering indoor and outdoor plants. Half the time, I was also able to use rain water for the wash cycle in my old clothes washer. (I now have an "efficient" washer that is supposed to measure the amount of water it needs to do a particular load. Hence, can't pour the water myself anymore.)
Dante, Hyde Park, MA
Posted: 1/22/2016 7:35:37 AM
Pretty doable.
Morag, International
Posted: 7/8/2015 5:37:45 PM
Good info.
Sarah, Marathon, ON
Posted: 7/13/2014 11:09:19 AM

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