The go-to guide for living green

By Published On: February 1st, 2010

We’ve got a few simple ways to live greener without […]

We’ve got a few simple ways to live greener without breaking the bank—or interrupting your schedule.
Some people are a little blue about going green—after all, it takes so much time and dedication, right? Wrong! Even the busiest (or laziest) of us all can make a difference in the world around us, and most of the time, you won’t even realize you’re doing anything at all.
1. Reduce
Cutting back your consumption can add cash to your pockets without seriously altering your lifestyle.
• Turn off the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth—it can save a whopping 5 gallons a day!
• Not as thirsty as you thought? Don’t dump it! Use half-full water glasses to water household plants.
• Consider changing your shower fixtures
to low-flow nozzles—combining a low-flow head with a 7-minute power shower uses about 14 gallons of water. (Compare that to a bath or 10-minute shower, which uses 20!)
• Don’t worry, saving water isn’t all about making sacrifices: running a full dishwasher uses 35 percent less water than washing dishes by hand.
• Talk to your HR department—or a few co-workers who live nearby—about carpooling. They might like to save a little green on gas while helping the environment, too.
• Try altering your hobbies. Instead of driving to the movies or the mall, ditch your car for a day of biking, hiking or walking in the great outdoors.
• When your current light bulbs bite the dust, replace them with longer-lasting compact fluorescent bulbs. Compared to incandescent, they’ll save you around 50 percent on annual lighting costs.
• Use cold water to wash your clothes, then air dry when possible. This reduces the energy used to heat the water and run your dryer, and it prolongs the life of your clothes.
• Unplug appliances when they aren’t in use. By unplugging your toaster, cell phone charger, and blow dryer, you’ll be saving up to 10 percent annually on your electric bill. (If there’s an item you need to leave plugged in—like a lamp or your TV—opt for a power strip. Plugging into a strip versus your wall will save 2 percent on your yearly bill.)
2. Reuse
Look at things with a fresh perspective. Finding new uses for objects you would have initially sent to the landfill is a great way to spruce up your surroundings and lend a helping hand to the world.
• Invest in a few reusable bags to take shopping. Aside from being environmentally friendly, there are lots of cute options that will have you looking for an excuse to head to the store.
• If you opt to use the grocery store’s bags, consider picking paper, which holds more and is easily recycled. Or, if you truly prefer plastic, tote your unwanted bags back to the store the next time you go. Many grocers now offer bag drop-offs for recycling ease.
• A new coat of paint or modern hardware can bring pizzazz to a piece of furniture you once found unattractive or useless.
• There are countless ways to reuse paper goods. Shred wrapping paper, junk mail, and magazines to make pretty stuffing for gifts bags. The front flaps of old greeting cards can become postcards or recipe cards.
• Cans, jars and vases make adorable containers for everything from pencils and crayons to bathroom accessories.
3. Recycle
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 85 million tons of waste were recycled in 2007—which is comparable to erasing the carbon emissions of 35 million cars. That’s a lot of stuff that didn’t make its way to the landfill!
Committing yourself and your family to recycling is easier than you may think; a surprising amount of goods and materials can be recycled, from your basic papers and plastics to tires and carpet. If you look hard enough, you’ll probably find an organization that will dispose of your unwanted trash in a green manner. Many communities even offer curbside pick-ups and convenient drop-off centers—some of which do the separating for you.