Happy Earth Day! Did you know that this year’s Earth Day is the 50th anniversary since this holiday was created?
Earth Day is the perfect time to think about what can we do better for our Earth. What are we doing AND what more can we do?
As we’re currently in a worldwide social distancing shutdown, the environment is seeing dramatic improvements from the huge reduction in vehicle use. Smog layers are being reduced and people are seeing skylines they’ve never seen before. Animals are returning to explore habitats in parks and rivers that are normally crowded with tourists. As we move as much as we can remotely, hopefully when things return to normal we can keep some habits in place that will be beneficial to the environment. I plan to keep using shipping and delivery as much as possible over running a million errands again – love having my time back with less time in the car plus the gas savings and positive environmental impact are a bonus.
We are a busy family (as I’m sure most of you are). Things need to be relatively easy to incorporate into our lifestyle. Admittedly we do use some convenient products that aren’t always the best choice for the environment. I’m not perfect. However, there are a lot of things that we do and more that we could incorporate into our daily lives. As a bonus, many save money and our better for our own health too.
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20 Things We are Doing as a Family to Be More Green
One: Encourage recycling at home. If things are going to happen in my home, they need to be simple and obvious. I’ve added several containers throughout our home (including both floors of the house) for recycling. I used my vinyl cutter to add the recycling symbol so there is no question what goes in the bin. Often our recycling bins fill up faster than our trashcans throughout the house which I take as a sign this has been helping to get our family to recycle.
Two: Reusable napkins over paper napkins. We made the switch to cloth over 10 years ago. I invested in cloth napkins that I found on Etsy. For everyday use, I chose smaller ones instead of the larger ones used in a traditional set table. We store them in a drawer near our kitchen table so they’re easy to grab before eating. Sometimes I also store them in a basket stored on the table (which gets removed at times for seasonal decorations). I have a laundry basket in my pantry so it’s easy to toss them after use instead of having to take them upstairs to the laundry room each time.
Three: Cloth towels over paper towels. When we switched to cloth napkins we also switched to cloth towels. We have an assortment of cloth towels that are used to dry dishes or hands and others to wipe up spills and to clean the counter. These also go in the pantry laundry basket after use.
Four: Reusable lunch containers. Instead of plastic bags and individually packaged snacks, I’ve always used reusable bento boxes for my son’s lunch. My favorites are the Ziploc containers and the Easy Lunch Boxes. These fit nicely into a reusable insulated lunch bag with an ice pack for school or camp.
Five: Glass Food Storage Containers. A few years ago I invested in a lot of storage containers for the fridge and freezer so we can cut down on our plastic bag use. We use a mix of glass canning jars, glass containers with snap-on plastic lids, and plastic, preferring to use glass whenever possible. Some people have said they’re afraid to use glass containers if they have kids, but we’ve never broken a glass storage container yet (I’m also known to be klutzy).
Six: Thermal pool cover. Living in Arizona, we love having a pool as a way to have fun and keep cool during our hot summers. Pools use a lot of water especially in Arizona where evaporation is high. We recently invested in a pool cover to help reduce evaporation. We hope this will reduce our water usage both for the environment and our water bill.
Seven: Purchasing pre-loved items whenever possible. When we need to purchase something, I try to see if we can find it use first. Not only does it save something going to a landfill but it also saves us money. Thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace, Offer Up, eBay, and Poshmark are a few of my favorite sources. This has worked out well especially for kids’ items since they outgrow things so fast (clothes, outdoor toys, etc).
Eight: Nest thermostat installation. Our electric bill is one of our highest monthly bills, especially in the summer. In hopes of reducing our electricity use, we recently installed a smart thermostat. Previously we have a programmable thermostat but that relied on our regular schedule whereas with a smart thermostat it’s easy to adjust as needed when we’re out of the home or what were we’re hanging out at home (we have 2 air conditioners on our home but there’s no need to cool both floors when we’re spending our time on one floor).
Nine: Switch to paperless electronic billing. I love getting less mail – all those paper bills just added to clutter and were bad for the environment.
Ten: Green cleaning products. I’m always looking for cleaning products that are better for the environment. Less harmful chemicals and reduced packaging yet still work well.
Eleven: Essential oils over artificial scents. I enjoy having fresh scents in our home. However, many artificial scents are not healthy and bad for the environment. Whenever possible I choose essential oils over artificial scents. I use unscented laundry detergent and if I want a scent, add a few drops of essential oils to wool dryer balls. I choose candles made with essential oils or an oil diffuser or artificially scented candles or plug-in room diffusers.
Twelve: Stopped using Fabric softener. Fabric softener for the laundry and dryer sheets for the dyer are both made with lots of harmful ingredients bad for the environment and also can contribute to allergies and skin irritations. We stopped using both. I add vinegar to my laundry (I pour it in the fabric softener cup) and use wool dryer balls in the dryer. The vinegar helps to soften your clothes. Also, build-up of fabric softener on towels makes them less absorbant over time so stop using them.
Thirteen: Indoor plants. Call me the crazy plant lady. I’ve added a lot of indoor plants to our home this past year – not only do I love the look but I”m happy about the air-cleansing properties of house plants.
Fourteen: Reusable grocery bags. I’ve been doing this for over 10 years now. If I do end up with plastic bags (the downside of grocery pickup or delivery), I use them for scooping the cat litter or as liners for our kitchen trashcan.
Fifteen: Block out the sun. Living in Arizona, our sun is intense and our electric bills are high. Once it starts to heat up I keep our curtains and plantation shutters closed to help keep our home cool. Sometimes it feels a bit like a cave, but I’m happy to not have our AC running nonstop.
Sixteen: Ceiling Fans in every room. I’ve found that I can keep our AC thermostat higher if we run our ceiling fans which results in lower electricity usage. When we built our house we had ceiling fans installed in almost all the rooms. They’re not my first choice for decor, but the energy savings are worth it.
Seventeen: Energy-efficient lightbulbs. Now that there are more options available, it’s easy to make the switch. The bonus is they also last longer.
Eighteen: Energy-efficient appliances. Choose energy-efficient appliances and compare energy ratings
Nineteen: Got rid of our second freezer. After a recent freezer cleanout, I realized we didn’t really need our secondary freezer. Both freezers had just become storage spaces for the food we weren’t using that was just getting lost. Now I’m better with using up the foods that good in the freezer and tracking our inventory. Food is getting used and we’re not wasting all the electricity running a freezer we didn’t really need.
Twenty: Reusable water bottles. I invested in several water bottles so that we could stop using individual water bottles. I have some for everyday use, 16 oz size for traveling (sized to fit in a purse or small backpack), and 40 oz size for outdoor camping or kayaking trips. The ONLY time I buy prepackaged water bottles is when going to an event that allows you to bring in water if it’s sealed. In Arizona, we need to drink water all the time and if I don’t bring in my own, I will need to buy water in the venue at a higher cost. Hoping, more venues will start to allow reusable water bottles.
5 Goals for this year to be more GREEN
Earth Day is the perfect time to evaluate what we are doing and set goals for what we can do. We came up with a few goals for this year:
- Start composting
- Gardening (herbs and some vegetables)
- line-dry laundry (especially towels and sheets)
- Switching electronics on a power strip that can be turned off at night (manually or with a timer)
- Purchase a propane fire pit instead of the wood firepit we were planning on buying for our backyard.
- Here in Maricopa County before burning using a wood fire pit, it’s always good to check if we in a no-burn day.