More Green for Less

Take small steps every day to make your body and our planet healthier, and guess what? Many will save you money; bonus! Making your life more eco-friendly is simply a matter of breaking old habits and making new, a journey that comes over time with practice.

Below, in no particular order, are twenty simple ideas to get you going. Add these to your routine one-by-one, and soon you too will be going green for less! Your health, your home, and our environment will thank you for it. How many can you check off?

  1. Compost. I hate to waste, I love to garden, and yet I only just started composting. I was throwing away mad amounts of fruit and vegetable scraps, not to mention egg shells, coffee grinds, and old flowers down the disposal or into the landfill. In truth, I was wasting the nutrients my outdoor plants were craving. I just had to give them time to break down in a designated place: my composter. There’s a method to this madness, simple as it is. For all the basics, Visit the EPA’s handy site. I also suggest you invest in a small, lidded container next to your sink to ease the collection process.
  2. Ditch the artificial fragrances. This goes for baby and beauty products (you’ll see it listed as “fragrance”), but also for room sprays and plug-in deodorizers, which often contain chemicals that can cause health problems and should not be inhaled. Open your windows for a dose of fresh air, or spritz bad smells away with a spray bottle of 1 c. water to 1 tsp. baking soda.
  3. Turn off the lights and down the thermostat. It goes without saying that turning off lights that are not in use saves money. Make a habit of switching them off when you leave a room, and teach your children to do the same. When it comes to the thermostat, the benefits of a programmable one can’t be beat. Automatically program the temp to go up before you get up, and down when you leave the house. Later, set the temp to climb back up when you come home and lower when you go to bed. During those times when you are sleeping or away from the home, you can relax knowing you aren’t wasting resources or dollars.
  4. Dust often. Dust is a constant battle of mine here in Colorado, but it’s important to rid your home of this accumulation on a regular basis; it contains not only dirt but also PBDEs, a group of chemicals in electronics and furniture designed to reduce the chance of fire. All it takes is a vacuum with a HEPA filter and a dampened rag. Toss worn socks, t-shirts, and dish rags into a designated bin in your laundry room so you always have a fresh stash available for cleaning. Just a touch of good ol’ Murphy’s Oil Soap on a dampened rag dusts my furniture, and even leather couch, right up.
  5. Choose a dishwasher over hand-washing. I will never give up my dishwasher, so I was thrilled to learn this! According to Xcel Energy, “washing dishes by hand several times a day can be more expensive than operating an energy-efficient dishwasher. You can consume less energy with an energy-efficient dishwasher when properly used and when only operating it with full loads. Additionally, most modern dishwashers don’t require pre-rinsing of dishes, according to Consumer Reports, a practice that wastes up to 20 gallons of water per load without getting dishes any cleaner.
  6. Install a solar clothes dryer. Our grandmothers and even our mothers were wise to this tactic, but the solar clothes dryer (ahem, clothesline), seems to have become lost in recent generations. Although it may be weather and time dependent, you can’t beat the natural forces of sun and air when it comes to drying clothes. Clotheslines come in especially handy for sheets and towels, which also happen to have the longest drying time and thus the largest impact on your energy use. So go ahead and get hanging.
  7. Lighten up. Replace your old light bulbs with energy efficient CFLs. These new bulbs have come down significantly in cost over the past few years and last up to 10,000 hours on average versus 1,000 for a traditional bulb. Keep an eye out for sales at the big box home improvement stores where I often find the best prices.
  8. Shop second hand. This includes flea markets, thrift stores, consignment stores and yard sales, as well as Craigslist and Freecycle. Sure, you have to weed through things at times, but that’s part of the adventure. The bonus is finding gently used items for pennies on original retail cost while keeping them out of the landfill.
  9. Join Freecycle. If you like Craigslist, you’ll love Freecycle. According to their Twitter page, it was set up solely to “save an item from the landfill by turning your unwanted items into a free gift for someone in your community.” It’s brilliant and it works. I’ve gotten and given a number of items over the years, including items I wasn’t otherwise sure how I was going to dispose of, such as landscaping bricks and old fence pickets. Believe it or not, someone out there wants what you don’t.
  10. Shop online for organic bath and beauty. It’s unfortunate that the FDA does not regulate the ingredients in these products, so it’s up to you to avoid the hazardous chemical ingredients so common today. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database provides a fast and efficient tool that allows you to look up over 69,000 products to see where they rate in safety and why. Armed with information, visit my favorite site for stocking up on such products: www.vitacost.com. Their selection, pricing and $5 flat shipping rate rock. “Like” them on Facebook or sign-up for emails to stay abreast of their frequent sales, coupons, and free gifts.
  11. Get growing. Indoor plants naturally detox your home by removing pollutants like ammonia (found in cleaning products) and formaldehyde (found in furniture). Buy them small and you won’t break the bank. Better yet, set up a plant swap with some friends or simply request a clipping of foliage you admire. Just place most clippings in a jar of water and in a few months you’ll have roots that are ready for dirt. Place them throughout your house for the best effect.
  12. Make your own cleaners. Cleaning with “traditional” cleaners leaves a toxic residue behind, and frankly costs a lot. Save money and toxins by mixing a basic vegetable-based soap with a few drops of the essential oil of your choice. Or cheat and opt for my long-time favorite, Simple Green. It’s widely available, inexpensive, and concentrated (so it lasts for forever). I can also attest to its ability to clean everything from counter tops and toilet bowls to pet stained rugs, vomit, and microfiber furniture autographed in ink by a toddler.
  13. Walk or ride a bike. It won’t work for every trip, but it can for many. Start with those destinations that are within one mile of your home and increase your radius from here. You’ll exercise your legs and lungs, while saving gas money and emissions.
  14. Stock up on reusable aluminum bottles and install a water filter. Studies repeatedly show that bottled water is no cleaner than regular, non-filtered tap water. So whether you opt for an under-the-sink or faucet mount version, you’ll be drinking safer water than what you can buy in a plastic bottle and saving heaps of money. You’re also eliminating the energy it takes to produce and transport said plastic water bottles.
  15. Trade paper for cloth. Make a small initial investment of extra kitchen towels and cloth napkins at your local discount or, better yet, thrift store, and set aside a special laundry bin just for the dirtied ones. You’ll be surprised at how clean they can come and your grocery bill will thank you, as will the trees.
  16. Love hand-me-downs. When it comes to kids’ clothes and toys, you can’t beat hand-me-downs. Generally speaking, kids grow so fast, they don’t have time to wear out either item out. Graciously accept them from friends and be sure to pass on what you can to keep the good karma cycle going. But don’t feel like you need to be left out; adults too can benefit. Once a year, organize a clothes swap with friends for which everyone cleans out their closet. Then gather in one place, spread the “donated” items out, and get ready to swap your old stuff for “new!” Donate all the leftover items to charity.
  17. Recycle. Most municipalities these days offer free recycling with trash pick-up, and if you’re lucky, it’s single-stream, meaning no separation is necessary. If not, call every private company out there and you are bound to find one offering free recycling service. For an added bonus, aim for one that includes a program, such as Recycle Bank, offering rewards for your efforts. To ease the recycling process, keep a separate bin either under the kitchen sink or outside your garage or back door and simply toss there instead of the trash can. Be aware of what items are not recyclable so that you don’t contaminate, and make an effort to bring large-scale cardboard that won’t fit in your bin to your city’s main recycling center.
  18. Ditch plastic bags. Nix the plastic at checkout, and keep these non-biodegradable bags from polluting our waterways and littering our roadsides. You can purchase reusable bags for as little as .99 cents a piece, but many are given away freely these days. Start a collection, packing a ll into one and keeping them handy on the floor behind your driver’s seat. Have trouble remembering to grab them before you go into the store? http://www.ConservingNow.com will send you a free static window cling for your car.
  19. Buy in bulk. And no I don’t mean at Costco or Sam’s Club, that that can count too. I actually mean out of bulk bins at your natural food stores. From coffee, tea, oatmeal and snacks to flours, grains, pastas, and nuts, you can’t beat the savings – both in dollars and in energy – that come when marketing and packaging are eliminated. In addition, you’ll find that organic choices are plentiful and affordable. I am constantly scouring flea markets, yard sales, and thrift stores for air tight glass containers of any size. You can never have enough and they’ll keep your bulk food fresh for long periods of time. Look for ones with a rubber seal around a lid that clamps down tight, and start digging into those bulk bins.
  20. Memorize the dirty dozen. Shopping organic can be pricier than non-organic, but it’s still important to keep your kitchen, food and ultimately your body free from chemicals. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) ranks fruits and vegetables by their pesticide levels. Avoid the Top 12 on your shopping trips and you’ll avoid a good chunk of the toxic chemicals that can build up in your body over time.

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Wake Up Stretch: A 5 Minute Yoga Sequence

Thanks to Charmed Yogi for sharing this great infographic! Even if you only have 5 minutes in the morning, a focused, intentional stretch can go a long way in starting your day off balanced, stress-free and pain-free. Here’s a quick sequence if you’re short on time or want ease yourself into a regular morning yoga practice.

good-morning-yoga-sequence

Here’s to a happy start to your day!

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