Eco Tips

GENERAL

  • Encourage family, friends and anyone who will listen to refuse, reuse, recycle and reduce.
  • Buy less stuff.
  • Just like my decluttering approach you can gradually improve your carbon footprint by implementing a new environmentally friendly routine into your life on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be a chore but a fun challenge to not only help the planet but quite often it turns out will also save you money.
  • It is better to refuse and reduce than to have to recycle. So if you can avoid packaging and bags please do.
  • Share and borrow between friends and family rather than everyone owning/buying everything.
  • Challenge yourself to put every piece of recyclable material in the recycling bin no matter how small.. It is easy to be blasé about small pieces of paper or plastic but so long as they can be recycled they are best kept out of landfill.
  • Own less things. This way when something breaks you will be more inclined to fix it immediately because you need it rather than just utilising an alternative. Repairing things rather than just throwing them away is obviously better for the environment. (Thank you Sanna for the inspiration for this Eco Tip.
  • Be familiar with all of the recycling possibilities in your area. Local government websites usually have lots of information on this. Also word of mouth your computer are other good ways of gaining this information.
  • Buy local when possible or affordable. It is a good habit to break into even if only a little at a time. Because as I always say here at 365 Less Things “Every little bit counts.”
  • As adults it is our job to teach our children to conserve power and water. If you raise your children with good habits now conservation will come naturally to them when they become the adults themselves.
  • Take care of the things you do own so that they may last and last and not have to be replaced prematurely.
  • Where possible use less of things. You might be surprised how regularly you use more of some things than you need. Here are some products you could probably stand to use less of ~ less shampoo, less conditioner, less laundry detergent, less dishwashing liquid, less toothpaste, hand cleanser, car wash… Quite often advertisements and manufacturers instructions suggest more than what we really need use. So using even more than that is a fools game, wasting product, your hard earned cash and increasing supply due to demand.
  • Borrowing books from the library or reading them on a digital device saves on paper and print. This also is a good clutter avoidance opportunity.

AUTOMOTIVE

  • Don’t leave your car idling for unnecessary periods of time such as when you pull over to use your cell phone. 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting your car.  http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/myths/idling.html
  • The only thing you need to clean your car is a bucket of water a hose and a selection of microfibre clothes. One outdoor mitt for cleaning the car, one glass cloth for the windows and a multi purpose cloth for drying the rest of the car if desired. Here is a wikiHow article on the subject.
  • Carpool with friends when attending social events. Consider the possibility that you could compromise on when you need to arrive and/or depart. Sometimes we are a little too spoiled when it come to having things completely our way.
  • Let your fingers do the walking. When there is something you need to shop for, phone ahead to make sure the store has what you are after rather than making a wasted trip. Every small amount of petroleum product saved is a good thing.

CLEANING

  • Try some home made environmentally friendly cleaning solutions. There are plenty of recipes to be found on the internet so why not give it a go. I am experimenting with a vinegar solution as an all-purpose surface cleaner at the moment.
  • The only thing you need to clean your car is a bucket of water a hose and a selection of microfibre clothes. One outdoor mitt for cleaning the car, one glass cloth for the windows and a multi purpose cloth for drying the rest of the car if desired. Here is a wikiHow article on the subject.
  • Use a microfibre mop to clean your floors. All you need is a little water, no harmful chemicals. Even green cleaners have to be manufactured so why use them if you don’t need to.
  • Don’t throw away that old electric kettle or use harsh cleaners on it because it is all stained inside. Fill it with cold water, add a lemon wedge and bring to the boil, that stain will miraculously disappear.
  • Don’t use throw away cleaning wipes. They have them for cleaning wood, kitchen spills, television screens, make-up removal etc etc. They are usually made from manmade fibres, soaked in chemicals and sold in plastic containers, all of which are bad for the environment. You can do all these jobs with a little water and a microfibre cloth that can be washed and used over and over again.
CLUTTER AVOIDANCE
  • Buy less stuff.
  • Donate or sell under utilised items in your home in the hope that it will prevent someone else, who might have a use for them, from having to buy new.
  • Share and borrow between friends and family rather than everyone owning/buying everything.
  • Investigate product reviews before making purchases in an attempt to get it right the first time and not find yourself back at the store buying a similar but hopefully better alternative soon after. This isn’t foolproof of course but the more armed with information you are the better choice you are likely to make.
  • Be very selective about what you buy so that you are so satisfied with the product that you will use it until it wears out and not trade it in for something else soon after.
  • Give consumable gifts. Preferably one from sustainable sources.
  • Don’t accept free promotional products that you have no use for. Accepting these just encourages the continuation of this practice while the environment would be healthier without the manufacture of cheap throwaway or needless items like these usually are.
ENERGY USE
  • Turn off lights when leaving the room no matter how long you are gone for. It really doesn’t take much effort but in the long term all the energy savings do add up.
  • If you can’t live without heating try turning down the thermostat a couple of degrees and put on warmer clothes. You would be surprised at how much better this is for the environment and on your energy bills.
  • Decide what you need from the refrigerator before opening the door. Standing there with the door open while you think about what you want to eat just lets the cold air out. Then the fridge has to work harder and waste electricity to regain its optimal temperature level.
  • Save on electricity by sweeping your hard floors instead of vacuuming them sometimes.
  • Save water and electricity ~think twice about how often you really need to wash your clothes and linens. Underpants and perhaps socks are the only clothing item the really need to be washed after one use. Most other clothing items are usually clean and fresh enough to wear twice unless badly soiled the first time round or if the weather is extremely warm and/or humid. Sheets need only be washed once a week at most while towels can last up to a week provided they are air dried between use.
  • Eliminate the need for your second fridge. Often used only to keep beer and fizzy drinks cold, second fridges are such a waste of energy.
  • Consider doing some things by hand rather than using an electrical appliance. Mix that cake by hand, tighten that screw with an old fashioned screw driver rather than and electric drill, sweep the floor rather than vacuum…
  • Don’t leave tasks linger for so long that you have to redo them such as drying the washing or folding it. This can cause you to have to waste more electricity rewashing and ironing. Need I also mention your wasted time and wear and tear on your appliances.
  • Don’t leave the TV on during the day just for company. You may laugh but I have know plenty of cases of people doing this.
  • Watch less television. Find something to do for amusement that doesn’t require electricity in place of at least one session of your weekly television viewing. This of course will only work if the television gets turned off and not watched by someone else in the family. Perhaps you could instigate an old fashioned games night.
  • Use the stairs rather than the elevator. This of course has the added bonus of a little impromptu exercise.
  • Dress appropriately to lower or even avoid the need for artificial climate control. In the winter wear comfortable warm clothing inside and at least lower the thermostat. In the summer dress in light natural fibre clothes and at least raise the thermostat.
  • Using electricity off-peak doesn’t save electricity but it can lessen the strain at peak times which can result in a reduced necessity to  increase infrastructure.
  • Use the stairs rather than the elevator. This of course has the added bonus of a little impromptu exercise.
  • Fans merely move air around which helps keep you cool by evaporating sweat. Leaving them on after you vacate the room does not keep the room cool, in fact the power necessary to run a fan can slightly increase the temperature in the room. (Read more here) Save electricity buy turning off the fan when you leave the room and aren’t coming straight back.
  • Save electricity by not turning on electrical appliances, like irons, hair straighteners etc, too long before you use them and by not leaving them on while you decide to take a break during the task.

FOOD

  • Buy local produce where possible as this cuts down on fuel required to transport products from further away.
  • If you have take-away coffee on a daily or regular basis take your own reusable cup.
  • Only put enough water in your kettle for the reason you are boiling it. More water takes longer to heat using more electricity. What isn’t used just goes cold again.
  • Food takes a lot of resources to produce so never let it go to waste. Have a few recipes handy that are great for using up left over bits and pieces, like curryquiche or bubble & squeak.
  • When shopping for groceries try to choose items that come in the least environmentally offensive packaging or preferably no packaging at all. I have mentioned this before regarding soap, I only buy soap loose or in a cardboard box. Individually packaged snack food such a chips and candy bars are also big offenders when it comes to this kind of excessive packaging.
  • When all else is equal between one product or another choose the one with the most eco friendly packaging.
  • Try to replace at least a couple of meat meals a week with plant based offerings.
  • Drink tap water in preference to carbonated beverages. It doesn’t take a genius to work out how much better that is for the environment. Your waistline and your teeth will thank you for it as well.
  • Organise your weekly menu prior to grocery shopping. This will help avoid extra trips in the car to the store.
  • When boiling dried pasta, bring to the boil then turn the temperature down to low and once settled put a lid on. It will boil quicker and at a lower temperature this way thus saving electricity. When you think it is almost done turn off the heat and allow the residual heat to complete the cooking process. The same method works for rice. Rice will usually take 12 minutes to cook this way.
  • Buy local when possible or affordable. It is a good habit to break into even if only a little at a time. Because as I always say here at 365 Less Things “Every little bit counts.”
  • Use some sort of reusable splatter guard when heating in the microwave. This can be rinsed off and used over and over rather than wasting paper towel or plastic wrap. I use a large plastic microwave safe container lid when reheating most dishes or a glass casserole dish with a lid when cooking from scratch.
  • Add a few one pot meal to your weekly menu. Cooking everything at once saves on electricity and your precious time. I often also cook the meat portion of my meals separately but cook all my vegetable together one way or another. A slow cooker or a set of steamer saucepans come in handy for this method of cooking.
  • If you make coffee or tea after a meal boil a little extra water to soak the baked on food from the bottoms of pans. This saves having to run the hot water until it is warm enough for soaking. Adding a little bicarb soda will also make clean up easier.
GARDENING
  • If you have a garden purely for aesthetic reasons why not grow plants that require little or no watering. Purifying water uses a lot of energy and chemicals so the less we waste the better.
  • Try growing plants from seeds or clippings rather than buying seedling in plastic pots at the nursery.
  • Consider getting together with your neighbours to pool your food growing resources. Share space, supplies & tools. If you have limited space each neighbour could grow something different to the other and then share between you.
LAUNDRY
  • Stop using fabric softener some experts say that it is a waste of money and not that good for your clothes. Try using white vinegar instead. Not only will it remove chemical residue in your fabrics but will also help control mould and mildew in your washing machine. If you like to add a nice scent to your wash load add a few drops of essential oil.
  • Use less laundry detergent. The amount the manufacturers suggest is often more than you need. Try cutting back a little at a time. I am doing this, not only is it better for the environment but is also better for my bank account. Win Win.
  •  Cutting back on washing powder ~ combine a fraction of your regular laundry powder (1/4 for top loader or 1/8 for front loader) with 2 tablespoons of bicarb soda.
  • Hang your clothes to dry when possible rather than wasting power using a tumble dryer. A clothes line isn’t required, I mostly hang my wet washing on an airer either inside or out depending on the weather.
  • Save water and electricity ~think twice about how often you really need to wash your clothes and linens. Underpants and perhaps socks are the only clothing item the really need to be washed after one use. Most other clothing items are usually clean and fresh enough to wear twice unless badly soiled the first time round or if the weather is extremely warm and/or humid. Sheets need only be washed once a week at most while towels can last up to a week provided they are air dried between use.
  • If you are one for ironing just about anything ~ sheets, underwear, pyjamas, tea towels etc ~ do yourself a favour and give it up for the sake of the environment. Electrical energy won’t be the only energy you will be saving.
  • Return hangers back to the dry cleaners. Every little thing helps!

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Most people have digital cameras these days but some still think “old school” when it comes to printing and insist on hardcopies of everything. Why not save paper and ink and only get the photos printed that you intend to display. Even sending copies to family and friends can be done digitally. No need for waste there either.
  • Here’s one way to save paper. Write your grocery list on the fridge with a whiteboard marker and then photograph it with your cell phone and take that with you when you go shopping.
REUSE & RECYCLE
  • Don’t throw those old sheets, towels, blankets and pillows in the trash donate them to an animal shelter, humane society, wildlife rescue service, kennel or veterinary surgery.
  • Reuse all plastic that comes into your home. Little mesh bags like the one in the photo are great to reuse for bagging little grocery items like snap peas or mushrooms.
THROW AWAY ITEMS
  • Avoid using throw-away items where possible. Eg. paper napkins, batteries, paper cups etc. Instead, replace these with reusable items to reduce on waste.
  • If you have take-away coffee on a daily or regular basis take your own reusable cup.
  • Where possible replace disposable items with reusable one ~ coffee cups, batteries, food storage, coffee filters…
  • Challenge yourself to put every piece of recyclable material in the recycling bin no matter how small.. It is easy to be blasé about small pieces of paper or plastic but so long as they can be recycled they are best kept out of landfill.
  • Consider online magazine subscription rather than wasting paper.
  • When doing your weekly shop put a shopping basket in your shopping cart to put your fruit and vegetables in rather than bag everything up separately in plastic bags. I have been doing this for years and only once has the checkout person given me grief about having to weigh it this way.
  • When buying bars of soap, buy ones without wrappers or multipacks that come in a simple cardboard box. Every little bit of plastic saved from landfill counts.
  • Avoid using plastic straws. Even tiny little bits of plastic like that add up to lots of waste. The less demand we put on supply the less of these insidious little things add to the pollution of our planet.
  • Save a tree ~Stop junk mail. It mostly contains advertisements for stuff you don’t need anyway. In Australia this is as easy as putting a No Junk Mail sticker on your mailbox.
  • Any plastic bag that you do acquire can be reused. I use food packaging, such as bread bags, cereal box liners etc, to bag up meat scraps which I then keep in the freezer until bin day so I only have to empty my kitchen bin once a week.
  • When sending parcels do your best to use recycled packaging. Retail stores are great places to pick up boxes and packing materials for free. My hardware store has big cages full of boxes right at the check out. I go there when I need boxes to mail eBay sales.
  • Don’t throw away your old electronics cords. There is always someone out there who needs one. Either donate them, offer them to friends, list them on freecycle.org or try to sell them. You may be saving someone from having to buy new.
  • You can probably access sales catalogues online rather than receive them in your mailbox. In Australia catalogues can be accessed at www.lasoo.com.au . This could save a lot of paper. Better still avoid looking at them altogether so you resist the temptation to buy more than you need.
  • When entertaining, rather than resort to disposable crockery and cutlery, use all the non-disposable items you have on hand, if necessary borrow more from family, neighbours or friends or get the guests to bring their own. I put on the occasional neighbourhood get together and all guests are instructed to bring their own cups, plates, and cutlery. They never turn down the invitations so I guess they don’t mind.
  • When you are out and about and there is no provision to recycle bring your items home if possible and not ridiculously inconvenient
WATER USAGE
  • Keep a jug in your kitchen sink to save the water that would otherwise go to waste when waiting for the hot water to come through. This water can be used as drinking water, to fill the kettle, rinse dishes, water plants, rinse the sink etc.
  • When soaking dishes in the kitchen sink ,don’t waste fresh water to fill them. Just leave them in the bottom of the sink and allow them to fill up with water from rinsing the dishcloth and other wet tasks.
  • Install water flow regulators to all of your faucets. This will not only reduce the amount of water you use but may also help avoid those nuisance moments when you turn the water on to hard and it splashes all over the place.
  • Don’t ignore dripping taps. Replace the washers as soon as possible.
  • Irrigate your garden before dawn or, if you don’t have a timer, as early as possible in the morning. The water is less likely to evaporate before it soaks into the soil or is absorbed by the plants at this time when the day is at it’s coolest.
In the WORK PLACE
  • Why not engage your eco friendly habits in your work place. Scout around to find ways to save water and electricity while at work. Suggest changes to you boss and coworkers. Don’t be deterred if your ideas are met with rejection just do what you can do and hopefully others might follow suit in their own time.
  • Instigate a recycling bin in the lunch room for cans etc. Even if you have to bring the contents home and dispose of them in your own recycling bin, at least you will know they aren’t going to landfill.
  • If you use a printer in your workplace, only print what really needs printing and print double sided if you can.