You’ve heard them before, the usual guidelines (like these) for being nicer to the environment. Compost and recycle. Bring your reusable bags. Turn off the lights. Take public transportation… And it goes on repeating itself in your head every time you forget to bring your reusable travel mug at the coffee shop. If you’re at this point, great! Thank you for doing these things.
Working at terra20, I’m around this kind of info everyday but I still learn new tricks and also develop my own with time. So I’ve put together another list of eco-tips for you. Ones that aren’t necessarily advertised quite like the others. Take them or leave them, but I feel like if you are reading this you might just give these a try.
- Use compostable bags for your garbage too. Because, why not! If you still have garbage after your composting and recycling is done, you might as well green-up your garbage with something that will biodegrade. Easy peasy.
- Use less water for hand-washing dishes. I use an oil bottle with a pour-tip for my (biodegradable) dishwashing liquid, and dilute it with about equal parts water and detergent. When I do my dishes, I use a small amount of that liquid directly on the dish to scrub it and rinse it quickly. This saves lots of water, since you don’t have to fill up the sink with soapy water. I like this method because it’s easy and it works just as well as the traditional method.
- Reuse all food jars. Clean out old glass and plastic containers from peanut butter, pickles, jam, etc. I like to reuse them for leftovers, but you can also use them for seed starting and plant pots, for bulk food storage, and to store beauty products (great for home-made beauty products like these). Check out this list of ideas for new uses for them.
- Buy the ugly produce. Food waste is a huge issue, and I try to avoid contributing to that by shopping at the clearance section of the grocery store. There might be 10-30% of the food that is damaged, but you’ll be paying 50-70% less for them. You can learn to live without that last strawberry that’s just too mushy when you’ve only paid for half of them. I like to buy bunches of bananas when they are spotting because they are perfect for freezing. This will save you some decent cash, and you’ll be saving food that would have been sent to the dump in a day or two.
- While on the topic of produce, save your discarded greens! You can use leaves from strawberries, carrots, celery and others to put in smoothies, baked goods, infusing tea and more. Also keep stems from leafy greens such as kale and collard greens. I like to give them to my rabbit, but you can also chop them up to put in salads, blend them in smoothies, sauté them into all sorts of recipes.
- Borrow instead of buy. You’ll be surprised at how many things in your life that you could still use without owning. Public libraries have a huge (and free!) database of books and eBooks, newspapers, magazines, movies, printing services, etc. Netflix is another great idea, since everything is digital and nothing can get broken or scratched. You can ask friends and family to borrow small appliances like stand mixers, bread makers and slow cookers. If all else fails, try to buy used items from thrift stores, yard sales and on-line classifieds.
- Get a Razorpit! This one-time purchase can save you hundreds of dollars per year by reducing your razor needs. This unique tool “sharpens” your razor in between uses, simply by cleaning the build-up between the blades. It works with any razor, and you can use your blades much longer therefore reducing the amounts that end up in the dumpsters.
- Skip a shampoo. If the “No-Poo” movement isn’t for you, just stretch out your wash one extra day than you’re used to. Dry shampoo helps with this on the last day or two, until your scalp adjusts to a slower oil production. Not only is it great for your hair, but you’ll save water and your shampoo will last you much longer. I’ve been working on this for a while now, and I’m now down to shampooing once a week. My hair feels great and it splits much less.
- Lose the tea bag. Don’t get me wrong, the tea itself is incredible. It’s the bag I have a problem with. Sure, some bags are compostable, but most of those are still using paper resources which are then bleached and processed. There are also “fancy” nylon mesh bags that are not compostable or biodegradable. Some say they pose a similar risk to the chemicals leeching from plastic water bottles, since the bags are steeped in boiling hot water. More info on the bags and the potential risks here. Avoid these by getting loose leaf tea, which is almost always better quality, and using a metal infuser to steep it. I like using the TeaForte Stick infuser.
- Everyone knows that hanging your laundry is best for the environment so I hang all my clothing, even my socks. But what about things that should go in the dryer like towels and sheets? If you have the space to hang them, by all means do! If not, please ditch the disposable dryer sheets! You can get yourself some handy dandy dryer balls to speed up drying time and naturally soften fabric. Some, like Nellie’s, even have slots for fragrance sticks if you still want some scent.
- Bonus tip for the ladies: Try a menstrual cup, such as the Diva Cup. These leak-proof cups are reusable for years and they aren’t full of chemicals. This can save you tons of money every year that you would have spent on disposable items, which all end up in the trash. I encourage you to at least give it a try, and be patient because it takes a few tries to get it right. In the end, if these aren’t for you, try to switch to organic cotton feminine hygiene products, like Natracare.
There you have it! Let us know if you try any of these, and if you have any other unique tips to share.