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I do not consider myself an Environmentalist, tree hugger, or hippie, but I do consider myself a steward of this earth and the resources on it. I believe this planet with its abundant resources, and all of our modern conveniences, are a gift from God for me to use wisely and judiciously. So, I do think about my and my family’s carbon footprint, and how I can respect this Earth I call home. While I still can do much better in so many areas (most of us can!) there are several things we do in our home to live a litter greener, a little more eco-friendly. And this small changes are relatively easy to implement, but can make a long-lasting difference in the resources consumed or wasted.
3 Simple Ways to Live a Little Greener
1. Reusable Bags
Our family has been using reusable bags for our trips to grocery stores for years now, and it has been an amazing, simple, easy, and frugal way to shop! We feel great that we aren’t wasting and throwing away hundreds of plastic grocery bags every year, filling up our land and oceans with them. But, the best reason to use reusable bags is because they are so much better to use from a consumer’s standpoint than those small, flimsy plastic grocery bags! If you don’t believe me, read my post (from October 2013) about the 10 Reasons Reusable Bags Are Better Than Plastic Bags for Consumers. Once you get into the habit of putting them back in your car for the next trip, and remembering to grab them, it’s so easy to fall in love with using them over the provided grocery store bags! Plus, I love that not only is it green to use them, but it saves me some green at the bank when I use them for my shopping trip to Target! Each bag saves me $.05!
I grew up in Wisconsin, and we always had a recycling truck that came to our curb and collected our recycling every week. My mother would keep a brown paper bag from the grocery store to put all of the newspaper and paper products in, collapse down cardboard boxes to put into another brown paper bag, and rinse and clean all of the glass and plastic items that were to be recycled. At school there was always a giant red recycling bin for all of our papers that were to be thrown out right inside each and every classroom. In my hometown, we knew how to properly recycle from an early age, and it was normal, and it was great!
I naively thought that was the way it was done everywhere, only to discover, to my horror, that it is not once I moved to Utah for college. Seeing my roommates throw away countless recyclable items (and doing so myself) into our regular trash can felt so completely wrong. And I hated it! Even on campus, it was hard to find recycling bins for anything other than white and colored paper. Thankfully, during my time at BYU, they added plastic and aluminum recycling options in many locations throughout the campus. But, it was still hard to understand why it took them until 2007 or so to finally do this, when I had been recycling paper, plastics, glass, and aluminum since childhood.
After marriage and moving to Indiana, things still pretty similar to what they were in Utah. However, I really did want to find ways to recycle, even though I lived in an apartment. When we were feeding our twins baby food from glass bottles by the dozens every week, I hated to throw out the baby food containers because glass is 100% recyclable! So, we gathered them up in a cardboard box and took them to our local Target store, where there were recycling bins at the front of the store. It felt totally awkward to walk in with recyclables, and was even more embarrassing when dumping them into the container because the noise of glass on glass was deafening! In fact, a cashier came to know us as “the family who recycled baby food containers.”
Now in Texas, I am thrilled that in our apartment complex here actually has recycling bins right next to the dumpsters! I’m thrilled to finally be able to easily recycle glass, aluminum, plastics, and papers right outside my front door!
I am pretty passionate about recycling and think everyone should at least make some effort to recycle, no matter where they live. So find out where the closest recycling bins are, and what can be recycled there. Most grocery stores offer at least a place to recycle those plastic shopping bags (in case you aren’t using the reusable ones I mentioned above), and even growing up my mother would recycle ours there too.
I especially encourage you to recycle things like electronics and appliances appropriately. I know Best Buy has an electronic recycling bin at the front of their stores. But, even things like eye glasses can be donated or recycled (I once donated a pair at my local library). And if you recycle ink cartridges at Staples, you can receive store credit. Please, seriously look at ways to recycle in your community.
Once you start recycling, it feels pretty great to see and use recycled materials on the market, knowing that your efforts have made a difference! It’s exciting to see things like recycled paper products, fabrics made from recycled plastics (like in vehicles), and even appliances made from recycled metal.
Recently we purchased the first battery on the market to use recycled batteries and materials – the Energizer New EcoAdvanced Recycled Batteries. Available in AA or AAA at Walmart, they are Energizer’s longest lasting alkaline ever and hold up to 12 years in storage. It’s awesome to see something as simple, and as commonly used, as batteries being recycled.
3. Skip the Throwaway Products
I know convenience is king in today’s busy, fast-paced world, but don’t get stuck in a wasteful rut! There is so much excess waste and trash because of people wanting things convenient for them. While, I agree that these products are so helpful at times, it should not be normal to use them.
The products I’m specifically referring to are throwaway plates, cups, utensils, napkins, and so on. While paper products are biodegradable, plastic and styrofoam ones are not. So, while it is super tempting to just buy disposable eatery for your lunches everyday, or for guests in your home, think about what products you are using, and if you really need to use them.
We rarely buy these products, even with our no eating out goal for the year. When we pack lunches, we pack utensils, put things in reusable plastic or glass storage containers, or in Ziplock bags (okay, so we should use reusable snack and sandwich bags – I said at the beginning we still have room for improvement). We throw away only the truly food trash, and then bring home our lunch bag and containers and silverware and clean them.
We also try to bring a water container from home as well, so as not to constantly be using plastic water bottles (which is one of the biggest disposable wastes out there). We use a Brita Filter for our water (because it doesn’t taste great otherwise), and use that for our water source. Last week I even bought myself a nice Thermos water bottle to keep my water cool and encourage me to drink more throughout the day. I feel great grabbing this instead of a plastic water bottle. Now I really want to get some for our kids, and perhaps say goodbye to those plastic bottles much more often.
So, I encourage you to buy high quality reusable products (glass is better than plastic, and stainless steel better than plastic, but plastic works for many things still) and plan on using them instead.
I am thrilled to present you with another exciting giveaway! Now until April 10, 2015 at midnight EST you can enter to win one of two prizes:
- $250 Walmart Gift Cards (2 Winners)
- $500 Walmart Gift Card (1 Winner)
Enter below and good luck!
GuiltFreeEnergy Giveaway – $1,000 in Gift Cards