Last week, we looked at different ways we can set green goals in our personal lives. Hopefully by now, you’ve had a chance to look over all the options, and you’ve narrowed it down to one thing that you will focus on first. Then, you may have even chosen a second and third goal to focus on next, with the hope that by the end of the year you and your family will have made two or three permanent changes in those areas.
This week, it’s time to take a look at our home life, and the ways that we can make small but significant changes at home. The list below is long, but don’t let its length overwhelm you. Just like with our personal goals, we will only choose one thing from the list – one place to start. And again, many of these items will also receive more coverage here in the future on Simple Organic.
Ideas for Green Goal-Setting: Home Life
1. Switch to natural, non-toxic cleaning products.
On Friday, I published some recipes for making your own natural cleaners at home – easy and frugal! If you would rather purchase your products, make sure to look for words like non-toxic, septic-safe, and biodegradable. The word “natural” is tricky – just because something is natural doesn’t mean it is non-toxic and safe. So, read labels carefully. It’s best to look for certified green products; Green Seal and EcoLogo are the two certifications recommended by the Environmental Working Group.
2. Carry your own shopping bags – everywhere you shop!
It’s become much more common to take your own shopping bags to the grocery store (hooray!). Most stores have them available for purchase, or you can sew your own. But don’t forget that you can use those bags almost anywhere, not just for groceries. For awhile, we cut back on bags from the supermarket but still brought home plastic Target bags. Take your bags in everywhere!
3. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).
Yes, they are more expensive up-front, but they will save you money in the long run. According to Energy Star, “An Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) will save about $30 over its lifetime and pay for itself in about 6 months. It uses 75 percent less energy and lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb.”
Photo by Siddy Lam
I am very fortunate to live in a city that offers curbside single-stream recycling. I know that many of you live in cities that don’t offer this service, or live in a more rural area. If that’s the case, then there a few things you can do.
- First, reduce and re-use. How?
- Buy in bulk as much as possible to reduce packaging.
- Cut back on processed, packaged foods.
- Buy a filter for your water at home and a reusable water bottle (stainless steel is best), and stop buying bottled water.
- Before you throw something away, ask yourself if it could be re-purposed for something else.
- Commit to collecting your recyclables at home and driving them in to the city once a month. That’s what my parents have done my whole life – they were my original “green inspiration!”
- Talk to your neighborhood association, your city council, your town leaders, and see what would need to happen in order to provide curbside recycling. Talk to your neighbors. Start petitions. Get involved in the process.
Photo by Recycle This
5. Reduce or eliminate plastic from your home.
- Slowly replace your plastic food storage containers with glass.
- Next time you buy new drinking cups, don’t buy plastic.
- For young children, stainless steel, wood, and enamel cups and plates are good non-breakable alternatives, but you can also teach your children how to use breakable items from a young age – we have done so with very little problems!
- Plastic toys can be replaced with wood or cloth over time, as children outgrow them.
Remember, it doesn’t have to happen overnight. Why does plastic matter? Plastic is made from petroleum, which not only depletes our natural resources but also requires extreme amounts of energy to make, and most plastics contain harmful toxins, as well.
6. Reduce the amount of paper you use.
- Sign up for paperless billing – many companies and creditors now offer this option.
- Pay your bills online – most banks offer this for free.
- Stop your junk mail. Here’s a how-to guide.
- If you don’t use phone books, sign up to stop receiving them.
7. Reduce the amount of energy your home uses.
- The obvious: turn off the lights and fan when you leave the room.
- In hot weather, keep your thermostat at or above 78 degrees. Try to wait longer in the year before turning on the A/C – use fans to circulate the air, and open your windows.
- In cold weather, keep the heat at or below 68-70 degrees. For every degree you lower the heat, you can save 2% of your heating bill. To keep warm, use sweaters, blankets, draft dodgers, and drink hot tea.
- Get your ducts inspected and make sure they are sealed tight.
- Replace your air filters on a regular basis.
- When your appliances need replacing, buy an energy-efficient appliance. Look for the Energy Star seal.
8. Plant a garden.
Even if you don’t have a yard, you can grow many things in containers. But you might be surprised at how much you can grow in a very little space! Growing even a little of your own food makes a big difference.
9. Consider your use of vehicles and transportation options.
Most of us in the United States would find it very difficult to live without our cars – for the most part, our cities and communities just aren’t built that way, and we need our cars to get around and make life work. But we can reconsider how we use them.
- Walk as much as you can. It saves you money, makes you healthy, and saves the environment, too.
- Biking is also a great alternative to using a car – consider a bike when possible.
- Carpool – if it’s an option, organize a carpool to work, to school, for your kids’ activities.
- Combine errands into one trip.
- If you have a good bus or train system and you’re not using it, try it for a month.
- Purchase the smallest, most efficient car that will work for your family.
- Consider buying a hybrid, or a diesel car. Clean diesel is now a great eco-option – read more.
Photo by Shaun Fox
Whew! I think that’s enough for now…
Like the list of options for green personal goals, this list isn’t exhaustive, either, but it’s a place to begin. Look it over and choose one goal for you and your family to focus on first – just one! And then try to select one or two more things that you could change before the end of the year.
Now write down these goals, alongside the goals you made last week for your personal life. Make a plan for how you will reach your goals. Put the list up somewhere you will see it often – inside a kitchen cabinet, on a family bulletin board, on your closet door. We will come back to these goals in a few months to see how we’re doing.
Personally, we are trying to eliminate as much plastic from our home as we can. That goes hand-in-hand with my personal goal, which is to eat more food from local sources.
Are you ready to share your specific goals? Are there other things you want to do that I didn’t mention?