So you've put a brick in your toilet tank and turned down the heat. Now you're working on your acceptance speech for this year's Green Living award. Not so fast – you're not finished yet! Here are ten tips to prepare yourself and your family for a seriously green future.
1. Turn your hot water heater down to its lowest setting
Let's face it. The only real thing we need steaming hot water for is our dishwasher, and it has a mechanism to heat the water internally.
Showering, laundry, etc. is just as easily done with lukewarm water. It may not be as comfortable, but the quality lost compared to benefits gained is negligible.
2. Flush toilets sparingly
Follow the old adage, “If it's yellow let it mellow; if it's brown flush it down.” Gross by many people's standards, this used to be the rule to live by.
It still is in many parts of rural America where public sewers don't exist and septic systems are temperamental.
3. Discontinue use of paper towels, paper napkins, facial tissues, and most toilet paper.
These items are mostly unnecessary. Replace all four with a cloth. Yes, toilet paper, too. Gross again? Think diapers… what did we do before disposables?
Keep a roll of TP handy for the poops and use cloth for the rest. It can be done, don't think about it – just do it!
4. Walk or bike to all destinations less than two miles away
Many people living in large US cities already follow this rule, out of necessity if not a concern for the environment. Leave the car keys in the drawer when your trip is of a short distance. You'll save money, the earth, and maybe your health as well.
5. Organically grow your own fruits and vegetables
Millions of tons of greenhouse gasses are released into the atmosphere in the process of transporting food to market. This is because many common produce items consumed in the U.S. actually travel tens of thousands of miles to our grocers' shelves.
And when you grow them yourself, you can opt out of toxic herbicides and pesticides that poison our soil and groundwater.
6. Eat all leftovers
You know what they say, “Waste not, want not.” This reduces greenhouse gasses emitted in the food distribution process and trips to the grocery store, as well as the energy used to prepare the food and clean up after the initial preparation. It also results in an overall positive impact on waste reduction.
7. Nix the AC and use a fan
Do you say it's 90 degrees outside? So what! Our ancestors didn't have thermostats. Buck it up and carry a fan around with you from room to room. Why use energy to cool down an entire house when you can only be in one room at a time?
8. Shower only once a week
Now we're back to the gross stuff, huh? Not at all. You'd be surprised how clean you can get with a washcloth, bar of soap, and sink full of water. Thoroughly cleaning your body once a day is a necessity, but showering to accomplish that is not.
9. Shop at thrift stores and garage sales
The U.S. has become a disposable society, and as a result, our landfills are overflowing with perfectly good, usable items. Buy used – it's as simple as that. And when you have no more use for an object, sell it or donate it to someone who does.
10. Compost all biodegradable kitchen waste
This couldn't be easier and reduces landfill waste while at the same time benefiting our nutrient-leached soil. After sufficient time in the compost heap, you can use your spoils to help grow that vegetable garden we talked about earlier.
These suggestions are probably not welcome from those looking to make a few superficial changes in order to feel better about themselves and have something to boast about at the water cooler. But for those who are serious about affecting substantial environmental change, these are only the tip of the iceberg.