17 Easy Ways to Be Eco-Friendly (without Exerting Any Effort)
Make Laundry Cooler
With washing machines and detergent more efficient than ever, almost all laundry can be done on the "cold" setting, saving the gas it requires to heat gallons of water. And consider air-drying your clothes: It can reduce an average household's carbon footprint by 2,400 pounds a year, cut down your energy bills and will help keep your clothing in good shape longer.
Don't have a clothesline? Start small with a thoughtfully designed drying rack (like this one from our sister magazine Real Simple) to dry different types of clothing at once.
Reevaluate Your Hygiene Routine
Other easy ways to limit your plastic use in the bathroom:
- Ditch the disposable safety razors (2 billion get thrown out annually) for a cartridge-using razor like Harry's.
- Buy unlabeled glass soap bottles and refill them from a bulk container of soap (with the added benefit of makng your countertop much chicer).
- Since you've got to toss toothbrushes every three months, try bamboo instead of the standard plastic variety. (Or switch to something like Quip, which only has disposable heads.)
Call It a Wrap on Plastic Wrap
Replacing single-use sandwich bags and cling wrap as your food storage methods of choice will help keep you from contributing to the nearly 8 million metric tons of plastic in the ocean. Bee's Wrap infuses organic cotton with beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin to create a washable and compostable version of plastic wrap. (You can also rinse, dry and re-use sandwich bags if you want to start smaller.)
Paperless Bills Are the Way to Go
If 20 percent of households paid their bills online, we could save 150,939,615 pounds of paper and 1,811,275 trees a year. This simple switch can have a huge impact and it only takes minutes to do it. (Also, though it's incredibly annoying, set aside an hour to call everyone who sends you a catalog and ask them to take you off their list.)
Don't Throw Away Your Clothes
On average, a person throws away 70 pounds of shoes and clothing a year - which is a grim statistic when you consider that almost 100 percent of clothing can't go into standard recycling. For items that you love but have seen better days, take them to a tailor of cobbler to see if they can be repaired or reworked.
Sick of the style, or the clothes simply don't fit? Try selling clothes on sites including Thredup, The Real Real and Poshmark, or organize a clothing swap for family and friends - you'll get a refreshed, new-to-you wardrobe without creating waste.
And finally, many municipalities now offer textile recycling drop-off locations; hit up Google to find one near you.
Compost Your Food Scraps
A typical household tosses away about 474 pounds of food waste a year, which won't break down in plastic bags in landfills.
Intimidated by the prospect of at-home composting? Good news: Because the practice is gaining popularity, it's easier than ever to collect the appropriate food and plant scraps (pretty much everything besides meat, dairy and cheese) in your freezer and drop them off at a local collection site, where they deal with the worms.
Conserve Water Creatively
You already turn off the water when you brush your teeth, take short showers and fill up your dishwasher and washing machines before starting a load.
Now, try some other easy tricks, including: using ice cubes you’ve accidently dropped to water your plants instead of tossing them in the sink; soaking your dinner dishes in the biggest dirty pot rather than filling up the sink; and avoiding pre-rinsing dishes before you put them in the dishwasher (most newer models don't need the extra rinse!).
Take the Plunge on Non-Plastic Food Storage
Plastic straws, disposable utensils, plastic-lined coffee cups and takeout containers are all rapidly accumulating in landfills and actively work against recycling efforts.
You already know that it's time to carry your own to-go mug, but it seems so inconvenient! Take our word for it: Once you've gotten a set of reusable containers (glass is especially good, as it can be safely microwaved) to bring your lunch to work, and you throw some reusable sandwich bags and stainless steel utensils in a tote so you're never caught needing a straw or to-go container, you will be surprised at how easy (and rewarding) ditching the disposables is.
Start Giving 'Green Gifts'
Try something different for a family member or a friend's birthday by giving a "green gift" that can be any act of service, like cooking dinner or offering to babysit.
And don't get guilted into giving "goody bags" or favors for big events! Skip straight-to-landfill giveaways and consider donating to a charity you care about in your guests' honor instead.
Switch to Energy-Efficient Lighting
Replace all of your traditional light bulbs with energy-efficient ones, which use a lot less energy and can last much longer than incandescent ones - and will save you money in the long run.
Eat Organic as Much as Possible
Organic farming leads to better soil and water quality, less pollution, and a self-sustaining cycle of resources. Non-organic food can often contain growth hormones in livestock, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers, which are linked to a variety of health problems (and are killing off needed insect species).
Not in the budget to eat all-organic? Start by prioritizing the EWG's "Dirty Dozen," a list of produce most plagued by pesticides.
Unplug ... Literally
Items that you leave plugged in all the time - think computers, electric kettles, cell phone chargers and video game consoles - can use electricity even when they're not actively "in use." An easy solve? Plug them into power strips, then switch the strip off when you don't need the appliance.
You already avoid printing if you don't have to. Might as well take 30 seconds to go into your printer settings to automatically print double-sided whenever needing a hard copy is unavoidable.
Review Your Recycling
We know you're already diligent about sorting your plastics and papers, but are you positive that everything in the bins can be recycled? Some items (like greasy pizza boxes, plastic bags and containers with food still in them) can contaminate a whole batch and send it to the landfill. Check this list (and your local ordinances) to be sure that you aren't doing "aspirational recycling" and potentially creating bigger problems.
Green Your Clean
Don't Get Tired Out
Two easy ways to eco-nomize your ride: Check the air pressure in your tires (in addition to safety concerns, underinflated tires can create more greenhouse emissions) and unload any heavy items in the trunk that don't need to be there (carrying extra cargo has a negative effect on fuel efficiency).
Water Your Plants at Off-Hours
Choose to water them either early in the morning or at night when it’s cooler. Watering your plants in the afternoon, when the sun is at its strongest, can be less effective, as much will be lost to evaporation.