Being "green" isn't just about recycling and solar panels. There are many small things each of us can do that will make a huge impact on our environment.
Make your own cleaning products with lemon, baking soda, white vinegar, and water (greenyour.com, search for ‘make cleaning products’)
Use reusable/washable rags and sponges instead of paper towels for most cleaning jobs. (use paper towels on toilets to avoid contamination).
Put your sponge in the dishwasher to extend the use, or microwave it for one minute to sanitize it.
Brands available in most retail stores: Seventh Generation, Method, Green Works, Nature’s Source
Take advantage of alternate means to travel: Bus, Bike, Walk, Light Rail
Combine errands all at once if you must drive to do them
Make sure tire pressure is correct. Low tires drag down the vehicle and it uses more fuel.
Use cruise control on highways.
Park in the shade facing away from the sun and leave a window ‘cracked’ a bit. This will make the car interior less hot and able to be cooled more quickly.
Start a Garden
Start small, try just an herb or two, or maybe a cucumber plant. Once you see you can do it, it will boost your confidence to expand. Use the classes through the Phoenix Permaculture Guild (no fees, but small donations are requested) to learn basics.
If you don’t have a yard big enough for a typical style garden, try a container garden on a patio. To keep the larger containers lightweight, instead of filling the container completely with dirt, use empty water bottles to line the bottom, then cover those with dirt and then plant. Use things you already have around as the containers, like an old crock pot or basket, or pick up a big container at a secondhand store.
Once you have a plant or two, try composting. Layer ‘browns’ (leaves, grass clippings, dryer lint, sawdust) and ‘greens’ (fruit and veggie peels/cores/stalks/waste) in the yard (average ½ browns and ½ greens). Mostly just leave it alone; get it damp when it seems really dry, stir it up every few months, and you will end up with great dirt after about 9 months. Use the nutrient-rich dirt on your plants and keep the cycle going. This will reduce your landfill/trash waste, give you great veggies you grow yourself, and keep replenishing your dirt without the need for fertilizers.
If you can’t have your own garden, shop at farmer’s markets. The foods are usually organic and locally grown, so you support local business and eliminate some pesticides from your diet.
If your document isn’t required to be formatted a certain way, change your margins to ‘narrow’ and shrink your font from 12 to 11. This will make your document be a bit shorter.
Change your font to Century Gothic (that is this one) to use 30% less ink when you print.
Reuse the back of a post-it note as scratch paper
Reuse your junk mail envelopes as scrap paper for a grocery list
Reduce your junk mail by unsubscribing from mailing lists (catalogchoice.com is a free service)
Go to yellowpagesgoesgreen.org and sign up to STOP getting phone books delivered
Recycle all paper (except paper towels, napkins, paper plates)
Opt to read magazines and newspapers online instead of getting them delivered; if you do get magazines, share with friends or drop them by an office waiting room when you are done
Get your bills electronically and pay them online
Use direct deposit instead of getting a paper paycheck
Miscellaneous Waste Tips
Do you really need a straw in your drink at the restaurant? If they set it on the table, don’t use it. If it comes in the glass, make sure to tell them ‘no straw please’ next time you go.
Only grab one napkin when you dine out. If they give you a stack, take the rest home and use them for dinner or to clean toilets.
If you must get food from a drive through to take home, don’t get the extra salt/pepper packages, ketchup packages, or utensils/napkins since you have all that at home.
Get a reusable water bottle and reusable grocery bags. Keep the bags in the car so you don’t forget them. If you MUST take a plastic bag, make sure to return it for recycling at the front of the store next time you go.
Keep a small reusable plastic container in your glovebox. Bring it in when you go out to eat, and take your leftovers home in it instead of getting one of the disposable containers from the restaurant. Don’t reheat in it though…use glass for that.
Buy used. Up to 33% of our landfill consists of product packaging. If you must buy new, buy products with less packaging, packaging made of recycled materials and that is itself recyclable.
Shop from producers that support and protect the environment; research your brands sometime.
Wash and reuse your baggies whenever possible (i.e. if it only had a sandwich or chips in it).
Consider alternate uses for items you already have around or can get at a secondhand store.
Join with friends or neighbors in a swap. You can do clothing, toys, videos, or even yard tools.
Redecorate with things you already have. Recently clipped some branches from a tree? Let them dry out, cut them to size, assemble them wrapped with a piece of twine, then place them on a shelf. Spray paint some old picture frames, change up the pictures, and rehang them. Repaint an old bookshelf a new color, and rearrange the books and knick-knacks.
Check out library books instead of buying new or used books. You can also check out videos and music there too.
Shop locally instead of the big-box chain stores. More money stays in your community when you buy from local business.
Don’t throw out the old torn clothing. Cut scraps from it to use as dust rags or to clean up spills.
Take an old sock, put a tennis ball in it, and lean your back against it to massage out a knot.
If you take your used ink cartridges to Staples, they will credit your Rewards account with $2 per cartridge, up to 10 cartridges per month. That’s $240 in free store credit each year!
Use gift bags instead of wrapping paper. When you get a gift bag, save the paper inside too and reuse all of it next time you need to give a gift.
When you need to ship something, use wadded up newspaper or your own shredded paper to pad the items. Encourage the receiver to reuse those items again too.
Cover a shoebox with decorative paper and use it to store CDs or photos.
Got an old hose with a hole in it? Don’t throw it out…just poke more holes in it and use it as a soaker hose in your garden or near your trees.
Buy in bulk when possible to reduce packaging, and buy refill packages instead of new bottles.
Water lawns and gardens after sun goes down, not during the heat of the day. This prevents too much evaporation. Don’t run sprinklers when it is windy.
Use drip or hose on garden and trees, not a sprinkler, to avoid spraying areas that don’t need the water.
Make sure sprinklers aren’t spraying onto sidewalks/driveways and wasting the water.
Turn off automatic sprinklers when you expect or have had rain.
If you do not already have a newer water efficient toilet (uses 1.6 gallons per flush or less), put a ½ or 1 gallon jug of water in your toilet tank to displace water, resulting in less water per flush.
Turn off the water in the shower as you lather up to save a few gallons.
Add a low-flow shower head and aerators to sink faucets.
Do you have to run the water for a minute to get it hot? If so, collect that water into a bucket, then use it for animals or to water plants, or even to mop the floor. Just don’t let it go down the drain.
Get a rainbarrel, then use the rainwater on your yard, garden, or trees in the days after the rain.
If you wash your car in your driveway, have a sprayer with on/off feature instead of leaving the hose running. The average output from a hose is 5-10 gallons per minute.
Wash only large full loads of clothing. On older washers, if loads are small, set water level lower.
Monitor your water bill. A sudden spike will indicate a leak that may otherwise go unnoticed.
Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your patio and driveway.
When you rinse fruits and veggies, do it over a pot. Then use that water on your plants or to wipe down countertops. If the produce wasn’t organic, don’t use it to water edible gardens or give to pets.
Adjust your lawn mower to a higher setting. A taller lawn shades roots and holds soil moisture better than if it is closely clipped. Also leave the clippings on the lawn to return nutrients to the earth instead of to a landfill.
When cleaning out fish tanks, give the nutrient-rich water to your plants.
Use only one glass per day to drink from to save on the number of dishes needing washing.
Reuse your after-shower towel several times before putting it in the wash; how dirty can it be if you only used it to dry off after a shower?!
If your automatic ice maker cubes get lumped together, don’t throw that chunk out. Melt it and water plants, give it to pets, or boil it for pasta.
As bulbs burn out, replace them with CFL bulbs. They last for years and are more energy efficient.
Don’t use bulbs you don’t need. If a fixture holds four bulbs but you really don’t need that much light, just put two bulbs in the fixture. When you remodel, buy a fixture that only has as many bulbs as you need.
Turn off lights and ceiling fans when no one is in the room (fans cool the people, not the room).
Consider motion sensor lighting for children’s rooms (in case they forget to turn off lights).
Don’t turn on lights in a room unless you really need them.
Take advantage of natural light whenever possible, especially in winter so the heat can warm the house.
In winter, after using the oven, leave it open to allow the heat to escape and warm the room.
Make a large batch of food one time, then portion it for leftovers to last a few days.
Don’t use the heat cycle on the dishwasher to dry. If you have an old dishwasher that doesn’t give you an option, just open it when the wash cycles are done and let the items air dry.
Close blinds during the hottest part of summer days to reduce A/C use. Get a programmable thermostat. Set it for comfort when you are home (78 degrees or higher in summer and 68 or lower in winter is most efficient and comfortable), but at times when no one is there, set it be a little warmer in summer or cooler in winter. Don’t turn it off or it has to work extra hard to get back to the comfort level.
Keep the air filters in your home clean.
For small jobs, use a toaster oven instead of the big oven.
Unplug things that you aren’t using regularly, such as phone chargers, printers, toasters, etc.
Check and repair window and door seals for a tight fit.
Set your refrigerator around 37 and your freezer around 3. Keep them full so the cool items insulate each other instead of running the refrigerator power to cool them.
Wash clothes in cold water. Hang clothes to dry when possible (to avoid that ‘crispy’ feel, toss them in the dryer when they are almost fully dry to fluff them.)
Fill the dishwasher wisely with lots of small items instead of a few large ones. Run the dishwasher only when it is full. Hand wash the larger items. (If you used a big pot, fill the big pot with soapy water, use that to wash from instead of filling the whole sink.)
Set your water heater to 120 degrees instead of 140. And if possible, purchase an insulating blanket for it so it loses less heat to the air.
Sign up for the time-of-use plan for your electric company. Then plan your big power use (dishwashers, washing machines/dryers, especially your pool pump) around the lower priced times.