Some (Easy) Tips for Reducing our Impact

There are many of us who really want to do more than we already are reducing our impact on the earth, but we just don’t know where to start or where to go beyond what we are already doing…that we can easily incorporate in our busy lives.

Here is a short piece from eco-living blogger Matt Hickman that I found at mother nature network. The article is a preview of the March issue of Body + Soul, which has 50 tips for a Greener, Cleaner Home.

Here are some of my favorites that are easy and make a big impact.

Tips to reduce energy consumption. These are really significant as we shift to alternative energy sources, reducing the old ways of generating power. Coal powers much of the electricity in the US and no matter what you read there is no such thing as “clean coal”. Not even getting into burning coal, but the extraction process is devastating no matter how it is accomplished. If you are interested in learning more Burning the Future, Coal in America is a great film to watch to educate yourself.

So what can you do to reduce your energy consumption?

Keep your freezer full, and you won’t use as much energy to keep it cold. If you normally don’t use frozen food, except maybe an occasional ice cream or rice dream, fill it with bags of ice.

I know that it is nice to see outside our homes and offices but by closing our curtains or window shades “the average person can save 25 percent on heat in the winter and air-conditioning in the summer”. If you have windows that face the sun, in the winter you might gain some passive solar benefits by keeping them open, but once the sun is gone you are just making your space colder. I added a second glass pane outside of my windows this winter and the heat savings has been incredible. They sit on the outside of the window like a screen and in the warmer months I will swap them out with the screens. My heating costs are down more than half and it sure is cozier inside.

When it is not snowing or raining, or really cold hang your laundry outside to dry….and you can always hang them inside on a rack in the colder months. There is something really lovely about having clothing dry this way, and they smell better. I started hanging my clothing outside a long time ago living in L.A. so when I moved to Europe where dryers are not the norm, it was normal to me. Supposedly you will save 4.4 pounds of carbon per load, and reduce your electricity bills, or save your quarters.

Saving our valuable resources:

This one is easy and I was amazed at the positive impact.

If each of us replaced just ONE package of paper napkins with cloth napkins we would save One Million Trees! That is a lot of trees from just one package, and some families go through one package in a month. I always have preferred using cloth napkins and you can use them over and over many times before having to wash them. I will also add that the same holds true for paper towels….try to use them sparingly, if at all. It is just a question of changing our habits.

I recently had someone ask me if I knew if it was better to use a garbage disposal or throw out food scraps. I wasn’t exactly sure, but composting is definitely the best option for food scraps, and then I found the answer in this article…throw them in the trash if you aren’t composting. Food that goes down the drain will usually wind up in a landfill anyway but after going through the sewage treatment plant, which uses electricity and also a lot of water…so you save valuable resources.

Also on saving water….If you don’t have a low-flow toilet you can make your own. Add as large of a jug of water as you can fit, one liter or half-gallon if possible, in the tank. Thousands of gallons of water can be saved every year by each family.

And on a closing note…take your shoes off inside your home. “So many studies show that we bring dangerous pesticides and chemicals into our homes on our feet,” says Sarah Beatty, founder and president of the Green Depot. Not only will your feet be happier but your home will stay much cleaner. Have a pair of comfortable ‘house only’ shoes waiting for you by the door and get in the habit of taking off your shoes when you come inside, it also provides a way to unconsciously start to unwind from your day.

So there are some easy hints for SmartLifeways. Imagine if each of us did these we could save billions of trees, conserve our water for where it is essential and reduce electric consumption.