7 Ways to Go Green in Spring
Spring is officially here! There isn’t anything better than an abundance of sunshine, warm temperatures and smiling faces. This is the season to not just go green, but to $ave $ome green too!
Here are a few simple changes you can make to reduce your environmental footprint and save money this spring.
1. Declutter Your Life
Get rid of all of your things you own that you don’t want or haven’t used in a year. While “spring cleaning” is not a new phrase, it’s definitely a daunting task to clean out your closet. What do you toss? What do you donate? What can be recycled?
- Keep It. One excellent rule of thumb to remember is if you have used it in the past year, you’ll probably use it again. If you haven’t, you probably won’t. Hang on to the essentials. Also, if it’s not broken, why replace it?
- Donate It. Make a list of your belongings. It’ll show you that your tastes change. Keep unwanted items out of landfills by donating them to Goodwill or asking family and friends if they have any use for them.
- Recycle It. Paper – old mail, magazines, or books – they all can be recycled. Something to think about: A family size of four uses 1.25 tons of paper per year on average. The EPA states that if you recycle one ton of paper, it saves 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, in addition to enough energy to power the average American home for six months.
- Trash It. Landfills are for items that have no use. When disposing of hazardous materials, be cautious, if the distribution is off, it can cause toxic components that could leach into the soil and groundwater. If something isn’t recyclable, most of the time it can be reused in some creative capacity.
2. Use Natural Cleaning Supplies
You’ve cleared off your countertops and hardwood floors, but there is dirt, grime, and grit from the winter (ick!) all over the floors. How should you clean them?
- Traditional cleaners may be more harmful than good. Many times they are responsible for 10 percent of toxic exposures reported to local poison control centers. “Natural” and “green” cleaning products are available at your local grocery store.
- You, however, can save some money and create your own cleaning product from supplies you already own.
- Spray Cleaner: Combine 2 cups of water, 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon of tea tree oil, and 1/4 teaspoon of lavender oil. Mix ingredients together and store in a spray bottle.
- Deodorizing Cleaner: Mix 1 part vinegar and 1 part water in a spray bottle to clean countertops, floors, stovetops, and other appliances. Try scrubbing dishes, surfaces, and stains with a lemon and this mixture with baking soda for a deep clean.
**Please remember that homemade cleaners may not completely eliminate all bacteria, such as the H1N1 virus. Read the product’s label and follow instructions as noted.**
3. Go for an Energy Upgrade
For many of us, going off the grid isn’t an option (unless your tax return is huge). If you’re looking to save money on your electric bill, here three easy changes you can make:
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with efficient CFLs or LEDs. Americans spend 20 percent of their electricity budget on lighting, period. If you choose energy-efficient lighting, the average household can save over 1,000 kilowatt-hours, 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide, and up $110 per year in electricity.
- Install a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts your home’s temp. If the thermostat’s initial cost (approximately $115 or s0) deters you, remember it can help to reduce your energy usage by more than 15 percent during the summer and up to 25 percent in the winter.
- Shade your windows. Window treatments, like light-colored blinds and drapes, can save you up to $210 per year on heating and cooling costs.
4. Wash Your Dirty Car
According to the International Car Wash Association, automatic car washes use less than half of the water used when you wash your car at home. The average home wash uses approximately 80-140 gallons of water, while the automatic car wash is about 45 gallons. Commercial car washes often reuse water and then send it to treatment centers instead of lakes and streams.
If you’re set on washing your car with your kids at home, consider these tips:
- Park on gravel or grass, so soapy water soaks into the ground, becomes filtered, and recharges the groundwater.
- Avoid soaps with labels that say “harmful, danger or poison.”
- Turn off the hose when you’re not using the water.
5. Start Your Compost
Composting is a way to recycle certain materials and scraps from your kitchen and turn them into a soil for home gardens. The EPA estimates that each American throws away an average of approximately 1.3 pounds of food scraps daily. This makes up 24 percent of our municipal solid waste. Items like food scraps, grass clippings, plant cuttings, dry leaves, hay, straw, simple paper products, crush eggshells, coffee grounds, sawdust, and wood clippings can go into the compost. Knowing what items go into a compost is essential for a successful outcome.
6. Plant the Garden You’ve Always Wanted
There’s nothing better than fresh fruit and vegetables from a garden… this year, make it your garden! Find a spot with plenty of sunshine, enrich the soil with compost (see tip #5) and fill it with things you love. A garden puts your favorite fruit and vegetables at your fingertips and can save you time (and gas too!) going to the grocery store.
7. Get Your Fitness On
Take steps to improve your health this season by increasing physical activity! While there are many forms of exercise and gyms to join, a good place to start is something most of us already do every day… WALK! Breathe in the fresh air on a daily walk and encourage your friends or family to come along too – just remember to socially distance yourself from people outside of your household! If you’re running local errands, consider riding a bicycle because it’s great exercise and helps to reduce pollutants from car exhaust.
For more tips, stay tuned to our blog here at St. Anne’s!
While your holiday will probably be different this year, we’re still asking the same question: do the gift wrap, tissue paper, and gift boxes go in the trash?
Regardless of if it’s the holiday season or any other time of year, sustainability starts at the beginning of the cart. Consider these tips:
- Encourage minimal gift exchanges such as a Secret Santa or white elephant gift experience.
- Reduce waste by giving someone an e-gift card or reloading an existing gift card.
- Get crafty and create DIY gifts, such as centerpieces, apothecary containers, etc. They can easily be personalized.
- Select items with recyclable packaging.
- When shopping, use your reusable bag.
- Reuse boxes from online purchases as gift boxes.
- Give rechargeable batteries (with the charging station) for toys that require batteries.
- Use a reusable face mask. Avoid placing masks, wipes, and gloves in the recycling container.
- Give a gift that may benefit charities, especially those impacted by the pandemic.
- Shop sustainably.
You’ve shopped sustainably. You’ve checked off your list and you’ve wrapped your gifts. Now it’s time to wrap the gifts.
- Purchase gift wrap made with recycled materials that can also be recycled.
- Wrap gifts in gift bags. Place a “Green It Forward” note inside asking the recipient of the bag to pass the bag and note along to the next recipient.
- Give existing materials a second life as gift wrap.
- Don’t use gift tags, tissue paper, and bows. They do not recycle.
For more information, recyclingpartnership.org
America Recycles Day is on November 15 each year and is the only nationally-recognized day “dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States.”
This year, the EPA recognizes our nation’s progress with recycling, and how it affects American prosperity. The recycling rate has “more than tripled over the last 30 years to the current rate of 35 percent.”
This growth helps to create an abundance of jobs and wages for Americans and support community development. The most recent data says that “recycling and reuse activities in the U.S. created 757,000 jobs and produced $36 billion in wages in a single year.”
A few GREEN tips for the office:
- Instead of printing hard copies of documents, save them to your hard drive or email to yourself to save paper
- Change your printer settings to be more environmentally-friendly. Set to double-sided, use smaller point fonts when possible, and the “fast draft” setting to help save ink
- Opt for paying bills online when possible to save paper
- Reuse envelopes with metal clasps and file folders by sticking a new label over the previous one
Interesting Recycling Facts
- 60 percent of trash could be recycled
- Aluminum cans can be recycled endlessly
- 80 billion aluminum cans are used each year around the world
- 500,000 trees are cut down just to produce the Sunday newspapers each week
- Each American uses almost 700 pounds of paper each year – most of which is just thrown away
- Americans throw away over 25 trillion Styrofoam cups per year
- 5 million plastic bottles are used in the U.S. every hour — most of which are not recycled
- Plastic bags in the oceans kill a million sea creatures per year