It’s Earth Day! Read 12 ways to make your home greener for the next year

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Green Heart (And the Green Grass Grows All Around, All Around)It’s Earth Day! Right, we all totally remembered and planned to do something! YAY, environment!

Great! I hope I caught you before you decided how to observe the holiday, because I have a few more ideas.

  1. If you’ve always wanted to start recycling, take a few minutes today to set it up. One reader recommended Flings bins for storage.
  2. Similarly, look into starting that compost you’ve always wanted to try. If you’re in an apartment, read up on vermiculture.
  3. Take an hour or so to tune up your bike so it’s ready for rides. I don’t know how to do it, so I’mma watch this video from Etsy on tuning a bike — for a total novice.
  4. Stock up on green cleaning supplies. Make it your Earth Day Resolution to only clean using baking soda, vinegar, and water for the next year — or to cut down on harsh cleaners.
  5. Buy caulk and seal leaky windows in your home. And you can tell everyone you’re caulking something. It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s still funny.
  6. Look up where to recycle batteries in your state and make a note of where you can take your toxics. Batteries, household chemicals, and old paints should all be specially handled, but many people don’t know what to do with them.
  7. Implement Meatless Mondays. Any way you measure it, we waste a lot of energy eating as much meat as we do. It’s the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.
  8. Watch a documentary. Food, Inc. is a fascinating watch IF ONLY to learn more about where our food comes from.
  9. Give up bottled water. Buy yourself your choice of reusable water bottle today, and get in the habit of remembering it.
  10. This is a really big one, but it’s worth bringing up: If you’re in a multi-car household, take a few minutes to think about whether you could get rid of a car. You might be surprised — and remember, it might be cheaper to live with one less car!
  11. Decide that this is the year you’ll buy used where possible. When you need new housewares or shoes, pledge to visit Goodwill before you hit Target. Commitment lite: Pledge to try a local store before each inclination to visit a big box.
  12. This tip is the most fun: Pledge to eat mostly-local vegetables this summer. If you have a farmers market, make it a priority to visit it weekly and pick out your veggies. Do beware: at larger markets, people order in out-of-region vegetables, which kind of defeats the point.

Homies: other beginner tips to green up at home?

Comments on It’s Earth Day! Read 12 ways to make your home greener for the next year

  1. Hooray for eating local! People don’t realize it, but they can save more fossil fuels doing that than most anything you can do reducing gas use on your car, or around the house. Fossil fuels go into the machinery that helps grow that food on top of the gas to ship it around the world, and, the pesticides and fertilizers? They’re made from fossil fuels too. Crazy!

    Plus the fresh stuff tastes so good. NOM NOM NOM.

    • It really depends a lot on what you’re buying though.

      Growing fruit and veg out of season, or in areas where it will never grow naturally at any time, can use even more energy for heat, light and watering (from fossil fuels) than importing it does.

      It can be a great idea, and spring is the best time to start because it’s the start of the growing season for most things, but it does take some research.

      • Like you said, depends where you are. I know someone who went to Labrador to teach gardening skills to some Innu Cree people. For them, growing what they could in cold frames had a definite advantage, since fresh produce has to be flown in, and is extremely expensive and fossil fuel intensive.

        • I was thinking more of commercially grown food. For example many UK farms will produce tomatoes throughout the winter using permenantly heated green houses, often with artificial lighting to simulate summer sun. It works but it actually uses more energy than flying them in from nearby but warmer places like Spain.

          Of course growing your own is likely to be more eco-friendly, but you can’t assume commerical farmers will use the same methods you would at home.

          • I always kind of think of eating local and *eating in season* as going hand-in-hand. I can count on half of one hand the number of times that I’ve had a fresh tomato since last fall (all when someone else bought a damn out-of-season tomato), because I know they’re not in season anywhere nearby. But you’re right, Danikat, that not everyone thinks this way. So, indeed, probably best to amend #12 to “Eat mostly local, in-season vegetables this summer” – and you’ll be surprised how much more you appreciate things when you can only get them (fresh) a few months a year!

    • Hooray for eating local! My fiance’ and I began this, this year, by visiting
      We found a nearby farm that does CSA (Community-supported Agriculture) shares, and we bought a half-share for the entire growing season- so we get a half of a grocery bag of fresh veggies and herbs every single week from May to October. You can check the website to find a local CSA or farmer’s market near you- you’d be surprised at all there is out there!

      We also go to a local pick-your-own orchard that’s not too far, and get tons of strawberries, peaches, apples, blackberries, etc. to freeze and to preserve. I began preserving this year- which isn’t THAT hard, surprisingly. I got inspired by stumbling across some really awesome preserving cookbooks on Amazon- these aren’t your grandma’s marmalades and jellies! By preserving your own foods, you’re saving both time and money later, shopping for commercially-produced jam that will end up having more chemicals and sugar in it than the ones you make at home- and the homemade ones are SO much better!

  2. Buy yourself some compact fluorescent lightbulbs so you can swap them in to your most-used light fixtures as your current bulbs burn out. (And remember that like batteries, CFLs have to be properly recycled).

    Homeowners should also look into having a home energy audit (usually offered by nonprofits, municipalities, or utility companies). We just had one this week and learned so much about little improvements to save energy in our home. Our audit organization even installs programmable thermostats, low-flow showerheads, CFLs, power strips, and the like as part of their visit… and the whole thing was free!

  3. I make my own baby food and use resusable containers and even a hand crank food processor! I use local produce, save metric shit-tons of money and produce zero waste! The only food that I buy Xavi off of a shelf is meat… Everyone should do it! I totally cannot even fathom the amount of jars that a buy it all off the shelf family tosses per week! I know that they add up quickly!

    • Not only that, but it makes more sense to feed a baby what he/she is going to be eating in the future, anyway. Better to get him/her used to it early on–plus it has to taste so much better! (My nephew is 12 months old, and I know my sister had complained about how disgusting some baby food was–before she switched to processing their own food for him)

    • We use jarred food for out little one (mostly a time issue, i tried making my own but 50+ hours a week at work leaves little time) but we found useful things to do with the jars, paint containers, candle, seeds or spices holders and the ones we don’t use we donate to our schools and local YMCA since they have a lot of uses in art rooms. not a single one has touched the trash. i think you have to be creative with the waste you do have.

  4. Instead of buying disposable batteries, try some re-chargeable ones! You spend less money constantly buying batteries and they don’t end up in a landfill!

  5. 2) In regards to vermiculture in an apartment, be careful.

    I did it for a couple of years, until one day discovered little roaches in my bin. Not fun.

    4) Baking soda is awesome. Works on things like curry stains on countertops and coffee stains in sinks, without much effort.

    And as someone who grew up in a town with a vinegar plant, I am pretty much required to sing its praises as well. Years back I remember Heloise in Good Housekeeping reporting that undiluted white vinegar was as effective a disinfectant as bleach and water.

    12) As far a locally grown veggies go, my husband and I have been members of a Communty Shared Agriculture program for the past couple of years, and we really like it.

    Unfortunately this year will be our last year with this pariticular CSA, because we just bought a house in another town (the house buying was unexpected or we wouldn’t have signed up this year), but we will definitely be looking into them in the vicinity of our new place. (Which also happens to be 1/2 a block from a farmer’s market! :))

  6. Great tips! Another tip is to grow your own garden. Currently, I’m planning to grow my own tomatoes and strawberries (yum!).

    Also, you can try to use cloth towels as much as possible (rather than paper towels). =)

      • Hey, Offbeat Home, could we get an article about eating green in cold climates? I like to eat locally- but even this late in the season we won’t have any fruits or veggies for quite some time. How can I eat green when eating local seems just about impossible between November and late May? I mean I like pickled foods and all, but that won’t really sub for fresh produce for 7 months!

  7. Oh I’ve got a few. Before I get to them, Happy Earth Day everyone!


    -Save the water you would normally waste while your shower warms up. Dedicate a pitcher to collect the water. By the time the pitcher is full, the shower water should be warm. Then you can use the pitcher of water for dog water or even to water the house plants.

    -If you have to water your lawn, water at dusk. Less water evaporates.

    -Reuse before you recycle.

    -Reduce before you reuse. 🙂

    -Ride to work one day a week, or if you can’t do that, try to carpool.

    -Don’t let the water run while your wash your face or brush your teeth.

    -Turn your thermostat down (or up in the summer) 2 degrees. Install a programmable thermostat, they’re not that expensive.

    -If you HAVE to use pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers, make sure it’s not supposed to rain the next day. Rivers/streams don’t need them. Keep in mind that run off (storm water) is not treated in a waste water plant and usually runs right into a local stream or lake.

    -One simple saying: waste not, want not.

      • I’ve recently started experimenting with recycling water around the house. I was thinking about doing a guest post but haven’t decided yet if it’s really practical.

        I’ll definately have to add this one to the list though. Our shower heats up pretty fast but it couldn’t hurt to collect some of that water anyway.

    • I’m always telling my fiance off for the teethbrushing thing! You really don’t need to ‘water’ the sink when you need to dip your brush maybe twice quickly through the whole process.

      I feel bad that we both have to drive daily. I travel 110 mile round trip every day I go to college. He travels 70 mile round trip every day he works! It’s expensive and so bad I know. He car pools but I can’t until next semester.

      A BIG MASSIVE GREENER OPTION for me is with sanitary products. A recent survey by the Marine Conservation society found that “a shocking 31 sanitary products (tampons, applicators, towels, panytliners, backing strips) are found on average on each kilometre of British beach” .. how appalling is that? I’ve switched to the moon cup myself but so far every female I’ve tried to recruit finds the idea “gross” :-/ I’m lost for words at that point.

      • Lots of people find this gross too, but I’m transitioning to cloth pads. Lunapanties are incredibly comfy and trimmer than you’d think–there is a free shipping deal right now and they have great customer service. Party In My Pants (yep) come in an amazing assortment of patterns and sizes. I wanted the pads to work better for me than they did, but some folks swear by them, and again with the great customer service–and they have some Earth Day deals right now too.

        • I cannot “this!” this comment enough. I switched to Diva Cup after that epic offbeathome feature and I am HOOKED. I love the environmental benefits but what really sold me was the cost savings and how much cleaner and less hassle my periods have become. I have told everyone I know to switch and have created a few believers along the way.

    • Depending on what kind of toilet you have, you can even use that bucket of shower water to flush the toilet (just pour it straight into the bowl). I dream of someday recycling shower water into useful-for-other-things water and then recycling *that* into toilet-flushing water. In the meantime, it’s super easy just to leave a bucket in the bathroom and move it three feet to the toilet.

    • Seconding the brilliance of ‘banking’ your water while the shower warms up. How did I never think of that?? Also, it’s like a built-in reminder to water the garden that day, right?

  8. On the earth friendly cleaning supplies don’t forget lemons! I use them to clean and freshen lots of things in the kitchen. They clean and deodorize, especially when used on the microwave. Kosher salt is also good when you’ve got a stubborn spot in need of course scrubbing (as in the top of my gas range when a spill is missed and dries).

  9. 7.Implement Meatless Mondays. Any way you measure it, we waste a lot of energy eating as much meat as we do.

    I think it would be much more beneficial to eat a grass-finished steak and have a Monocropless Monday. Monocrop (corn, wheat, soy) agriculture does a lot of damage to ecosystems. Far, far more than cows raised on what they’re supposed to eat (cows are supposed to eat grass, not grain). Well managed cattle land gives back to the ecosystem, not strip it and pollute the water table. (Well managed pastured cows does not mean feed lots and factory farming).

  10. If you don’t have kids or other people to move around much, but still need that extra motor vehicle, consider downgrading to something like a motor scooter. Many areas don’t require a motorcycle license to operate the smaller ones (though I do recommend a helmet and a safety class). I have a larger motorcycle-class scooter that can hit over 75mph, but it gets 75mpg, too! I can go anywhere I need to on it. The few times I have to carry something that won’t fit, or if the weather is unsafe, I swap favors to get a ride from a friend.

  11. We don’t want to use A/C as much this summer so I made a bunch of rice bags, which we microwave in winter to stay warm in bed. In summer I stick them in the fridge or freezer and then use them to keep cool, which is great cause the fridge is running anyway.

    Also, walking is cool, y’all. We walk all over because it’s a good work out and uses no gas. Yay!

  12. Just got reminded of this in the topic about bamboo utensils: biodegradable rubbish bags.

    I’m not sure about the US but in the UK you can buy them in most supermarkets. They break down completely, which means one less thing in landfill and it also gives the stuff inside them a chance to break down too.

  13. Got a backyard? Keep pet rabbits! Yeh, you can buy pellets in the store. DONT. Those pellets are BAD for them. Feed your buns on the grass and weeds that grow in your own backyard (and that you run a motor to cut) either pick it, or put them on it. Give them your carrot tops & peelings (great if you’re growing your own – they LOVE carrot greens), fruit ‘waste’ (skins etc) and the occasional treat (read – piece of banana). They also fertilize your garden. Free-range chooks – eat all your bugs, keep the grass down as well AND produce eggs. Animals are your eco friends!

    • And if you are really into self-sustainability, you can always use them [both chickens and rabbits] as food. Not only do they get a better life in your backyard, the meat tastes so much nicer than supermarket meat.

  14. Divacups and cloth pads. Cloth diapers, if you’ve got kids. Vow to not use any paper towels– or only use paper towels for germy messes (cat sick, dog poo, etc). “Sleeping Naked Is Green” is a good book with lots of easy, bite-sized tips.

  15. If you can, cut all sorts of dryers (hair-dryer, tumble dryer…). They’re heavy on electricity and unless you have a tiny home or uncontrollable hair, it’s possible to live without them. In the same line, only wash clothes if the washing-machine is full – if you have only one dirty Tshirt, it can wait a couple of days!

    If it’s possible in your country, subscribe to electronic invoices for gas, electricty, phone, etc. It will save lots of paper and it might even be easier to find them when you need them (I’m so much better at finding stuff on my laptop than stuff stored somewhere in my cupboards).

  16. -If you have dogs, swap them to a raw/natural diet, with plenty of raw meaty bones. Not only is it cheaper, but it’s better for them than canned or kibble foods, especially for their teeth. Veggie scraps can also be pureed and fed to dogs if you don’t have a compost bin.

    -If growing seedlings, instead of using plastic seedling trays/punnets, grow the individual seeds in empty toilet paper rolls. Once the plant is big enough to go in the garden you can just plant the whole thing in the ground and the roll will rot away.

  17. Never under estimate the power of a few lit candles! I’m a lantern collector, and I try to fire up the candles before turning on the light switch. It saves energy, keeps my bills down and the lanterns add movement and color to the room that a lamp would never do!

  18. Gotta say, I’m pleased that we already do all of these things, at least as much as we can. Public transportation sucks in the suburbs (as in, nonexistent), otherwise we would have ditched our second car by now.

  19. My biggest going green goal this year is to get a job close to home. I feel horrible driving clear across town when there are 3 different hospitals within walking distance from our house. And I know it’s a pretty obvious one but I have this bad habit of leaving lights on. (Especially when my husband isn’t home)

  20. This is a really great list. I would love to implement more of these, but living in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan:
    1) local means potentially radioactive (we’re just North of Fukushima, just outside Sendai)
    2) most of our second hand shops were wiped out by the tsunami and still haven’t been rebuilt
    3) our tap water contains particulates of unknown origin.A brita pitched would fix this if I knew where to get one.

    That said, we do already own only 1 car, a hybrid at that. I use public transportation all the time and recycle whatever I can whenever I can in my own way (my latest craze has been making yarn out of plastic bags) in addition to the mandatory recycling programs present on this island country.

    And I do pledge to watch that documentary.

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