Why do we try to make our lives just a little greener? It is because we care about our planet and the future that our children will face someday. They inherit the problems we have created as a society and the problems we fail to do something about. We are also concerned about the present. Numerous global challenges we now face… air pollution, water pollution, climate crisis, wildlife facing extinction… these things impact us all every day and give us cause for alarm and motivation to do what we can to affect change.
There are reasons though that going green benefits us personally and perhaps will help sell those who don’t identify as environmentalists on the idea of “greener” pastures. Going green can help us save money and it can be better for our own health and the health of our families. Most of us are amenable to ways to save some cash and ensure that we have the healthiest and happiest lives we can. Maybe we won’t all unite for the exact same reasons but there are plenty of reasons in general to unite and do better by our planet.
Greener Living Saves Money
Green home building an renovations are all the rage right now and it is only partly because the home owners care about Mother Earth. They also care about saving money! Adding solar panels and wind turbines allows them to produce their own energy. Others insulate their homes with reclaimed jeans or install uPVC double glazed windows to keep their homes warm in winter and cool in the summer so that energy costs are reduced. Working with a home improvement company or sourcing your local experts gives you a variety of ways to reduce your carbon footprint while making your wallet just a bit fatter.
There are many of us though that cannot afford snazzy solar panels or the price tag of some of the greener building and renovation materials. There are options for just about any budget though. We can reduce energy costs by replacing our old appliances (washing machines, dishwashers) with energy efficient models. They cost about the same as any high end appliance.
Shopping used at thrift stores, consignment shops, and yard sales is good for the planet and the wallet too. We reduce the amount of new products entering the marketplace because we lower demand. We give new life to products already out there, keeping them from the the landfills. Buying used can save us an outrageous amount of money in the long run. Once you get used to that cost savings, paying full price for anything starts to leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Greener Living Is Healthier
Fixing our broken food system benefits not only the planet but also our health. All the pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers we use to grow food with on a large scale are doing terrible things to our soil, to our groundwater, and to local wildlife and ecosystems. They are also extremely bad for our health. Going back to organic, local, and smaller space food production systems will benefit our health as well as the planet’s health, and it will invigorate local economies. Also important is the fact that is takes money away from gigantic corporations who actually work against our interests and health.
Many conscious consumers are now creating their own green cleaners, making batches of crockpot soap, and growing and preserving their own food. They are returning to homestead activities of days past. This is beneficial for saving money but also it allows us to control the ingredients and products we allow to enter into our lives. Conventional cleaners are often filled with nasty ingredients that can make us sick. Good old baking soda and vinegar though is effective and healthy. Growing food at home allows us full control over how it is grown and what is used to control weeds and pests…usually just some brainpower and some bodily effort.
Many greener living enthusiasts moderate their use of a car. This can mean public transportation, which is certainly better for our planet but it can also mean more walking and bicycle riding. This translates into less impact on the planet and a more active lifestyle, which in turn improves our health. We are far too sedentary as a society but the green movement is helping us move away from so much car driving and pushing us toward people powered transportation and more walk/bike friendly cities. Everyone benefits.
How has greener living helped you to save money or improve health?
According to a research, the average kitchen wastes approximately $1000 in food per year. Roughly 40% of all food produced worldwide ends up in the garbage. Think of how many hungry people could be fed if we cleaned up our act and actually used what we purchased and thus only purchased what we actually needed. Our budgets would be immediately helped by making a few changes and wasting less food. I know personally I cringe at the idea of throwing away $1000 a year. I can think of many ways I would rather spend that money.
Food waste also impacts the planet because we are wasting resources to grow food that we allow to rot and then eventually throw away. Just think about all the energy used to grow crops and the taxation of the soil. Throwing food away is highly wasteful and hurtful to our planet.
Here are a few very simple ways that you can avoid unnecessary waste in the kitchen…
Don’t buy food without plan: Probably the biggest mistake we can make when grocery shopping is buy food without a meal plan of some sort. We need to know when we buy something how and when it will be used. Sometimes we buy things on impulse and think will figure out later what to do with it. Perhaps those tomatoes look ultra appetizing or asparagus is in season, so you buy. Then they end up sitting in the frig or on your counter to rot because you had no clear idea what you would do with them. It is essential to make plans before buying so that everything is used per your plan and does not get wasted. 20-30 minutes spent planning a menu and ingredients list will save you money and it will reduce waste.
If meal planning is not your thing. Outsource!! I like eMeals. They even have a paleo meal plan.
Buy Foods At the Right Time: This is part of the menu plan. If you buy a bunch of avocados because they are on sale then taco night needs to be within 2-3 nights of purchase, not a week later. Coordinate your menu plan with what is on sale, what is in season, and what is available at your local farmer’s market and then use them up within that week.
Buy Less Food: Some people like to buy in bulk and/or buy most of their of food at once. Others like to make several shopping trips a week and buy a little bit at a time. The latter method will be more advantageous if food waste is a problem for you. Lots of groceries means you have to be very good at prioritizing and planning so that nothing goes to waste. If that is you then congrats…if not change your shopping habits and pick up groceries a couple times a week rather a couple times a month.
Organize the Kitchen: A big food waste culprit is a disorganized and cluttered kitchen. If your frig is stuffed to capacity and your pantry is overflowing how do you even know what you have in there??!? Once a month do a pantry overhaul. Once a week do a frig clean-out. This keeps your inventory fresh in your mind and it allows you to see what you need to use up. Make a list of the stuff you need to use pretty quickly and build your menu plan around that.
Store Foods Appropriately: If you buy apples by the bushel then you need to know how to store them so that they last. Wrapping the best apples in newspaper and keeping them in baskets or a boxes in a cold place for instance. Potatoes and onions are usually kept in well ventilated wicker baskets. I like these.
Also some fruits and veggies emit high levels of ethylene gas and can cause your other produce to go bad more quickly so make sure to keep them separate. Don’t keep your peaches and apples anywhere near the greens and celery. Do a bit of research on the foods you buy and find out how to store them properly.
Use Up Leftovers: Some families have a night set aside to enjoy leftovers so that they can use up the food in their frig/freezer before it goes bad. This may mean that your meal includes a mish mash of different foods but you aren’t allowing good food to go to waste. Just call it buffet night!
I also like to pack leftovers in school and work lunches and usually design our dinner menu plan around meals that will work well as lunches the next day.
Freeze Food Before It Spoils: If the food in your frig or on your countertops is looking pretty sad make sure to freeze it before it goes bad. Bananas that are browning can be peeled and frozen for fruit smoothies or for baking. Apples that are starting to go bad get turned into crockpot applesauce, which is then frozen. Greens that are not looking terribly fresh get frozen for green smoothies or for homemade vegetable stock. Small bits of meat get frozen for use in frittatas. Small bits of veggies can be frozen and used later in stir fry or casserole.
Buy Dried Foods: If you have a problem using up mushrooms before they go bad then make a switch to dried mushrooms. I love using dried mushrooms and wood ears in soups. Yum! They last a long time in the pantry and you don’t have to worry about using them up fast. Fruit is another thing you can buy dehydrated or dehydrate yourself (to use up seasonal fruit stores). It can then be used in smoothies, baked goods, snacking. etc. If your kids let bananas go to waste but they love dried banana chips, think about making a switch.
Don’t Toss It – Compost It: If the food is too far gone make sure to compost it and turn it into black gold for your garden and your houseplants. If you don’t garden, compost it anyway…I am sure that many folks would love to take the compost off your hands when it is ready.
Consider the Packaging: Waste in the kitchen isn’t just about food. What about all of the packaging waste that ends up in the landfill?? To mitigate this buy food without packaging whenever possible…its usually healthier food anyway. Buy fresh broccoli rather than frozen, buy ingredients to make bread rather than buy it in bags. Choose packaging that can be recycled before any that cannot be recycled. Bring your own glass jars and shop the bulk bins for grains, beans, cereal, etc. Be intentional when it comes to what you purchase.
You can also go a step beyond…
Be a Freegan: Freegans look for free food (usually in grocery store dumpsters) that has been discarded. The food is usually still perfectly good but it is thrown out on freshness dates that are very conservative. If you want to explore this option read my post on Freeganism or watch the movie Dive. It’s a great film!
We live in a society where people frequently purchase huge lavish houses in an effort to flaunt their social status and fit in within a certain “lifestyle” they deem superior. For many the cost of these homes digs a huge hole in their pockets and they ultimately have to forgo their other desires and expenses. Or they may work extra jobs or hours to keep this lifestyle afloat at the expense of their families and their health.
On Facebook this weekend I saw some discussion about a new Cadillac commercial that aired during the Olympics. I didn’t see it myself, as I am not interested in watching the games, nor do I watch much (any?) live TV. I did catch it on YouTube though after I heard some rumblings. Many are saying it highlights the American dream and sums us up as a society perfectly. Others are rightfully looking at the message a little more deeply and thinking we are being sold a bunch hooey.
Here is the commercial:
Obviously the intent is to sell cars and make their car and brand desirable. It IS a commercial after all. Though IMO we should all be alarmed that so many can identify with and glorify the attitude so prevalent in it. Basically…European cultures are lazy for taking vacations and for taking leisurely strolls to the cafe to enjoy themselves. Americans are so much better because they keep their noses to the grindstone and skip all that family time and relaxation because it allows them to enjoy fine things… like a $75,000 car and a huge house. Vomit.
If you take a quick look back in time, you’ll see that smaller homes historically were the norm for most of us. In 1950, the average home size was roughly around 900 square feet but home size made a significant jumped up to 2350 square feet by 2004. That is a huge leap for just a few decades. Lately the trend has reversed a bit, with the increasing price of real estate and the cost of maintenance going up. People are again shifting towards the purchase of much smaller and compact houses rather than purchasing a huge house which is not in their budget. The tiny house movement is gaining some traction as more folks realize that bigger is not better. Here are some of the reasons why small houses are an investment in a happier, richer life:
Small homes costs less
Homebuyers tend to forget the fact that the expense of buying a huge house does not end with the initial purchase. The cost of maintaining it and decorating it also tends to get steep. A big house means a big roof. A big house means a large furnace, perhaps two. The bigger the house the more square footage needs to be maintained. It also costs more to heat and cool large houses, LOTS more. On the other hand, small homes costs less in all these areas and your money can go to more important things and you can usually pay off your home faster, because it was more affordable to begin with.
Small houses save time
It takes a significant amount of time to clean a big house and maintain the yard, unless you hire a cleaning crew and a landscaping company to come in every week. In that case see the point I made above about money. Living in a small house means you spend less time cleaning and maintaining.
Small houses help you live with simplicity and intention
When you live in small house you have to think carefully about what you buy and what you keep. A small house can get cluttered because space is an issue. Thus you are forced to make purchases carefully and mindfully. You are also much more likely to attack clutter and to simplify. A lifestyle that requires you to “think” rather than exist on autopilot is much preferred.
Smaller homes mean more quality
It costs a small fortune to upgrade countertops, hard wood floors, cabinets and appliances in a restaurant sized kitchen. You have to buy so much more that you may have to make sacrifices in terms of quality. You can renovate or improve a small home using your first choice materials because you don’t need much. You may also be able to buy better furniture, art, or tech because you have more wiggle room in the budget thanks to your humble abode. Your money goes further and buys more.
Small homes may be easier to sell
Energy costs continue to rise. The economy is unreliable at best. That means energy efficient homes, especially small affordable homes, will be always be high in demand in the future, which makes them easier to sell off if one needs to.
Smaller homes mean more togetherness
A happy benefit of having less room to spread out is that families spend more time together. You spend more time together at home because you have less room to sprawl out and it may also mean that you opt to get out together more often.
The advantages of living in a smaller home are pretty clear and hopefully this is a trend that will gain some steam in the future as more people realize they are overworked, in debt, and losing out on meaningful family time. The new America dream should be about seeing past the consumerist bull-crap being sold to us and saying “no thanks, I don’t need it.”
Some people like indulgences and luxuries as gifts for the holidays. Items such as glittery body lotion, jewelry, and handbags really appeal to them. Other folks like sensible, practical gifts that will make their every day life a bit easier such as kitchen appliances or a new vacuum cleaner. Personally I take a page from both worlds I think. One of my favorite gifts is new gym gear. I may not really NEED them but I just know I will be able to backsquat #250 lbs if I have those lovely pink Olympic lifting shoes. I like practical gifts too. A new water bottle is always welcome as would be a steam cleaner for my carpets. I think usefulness makes a gift a real winner for me.
Sparkly body lotion? No. Baubles? No. Give me something I truly need or at the very least something that will be helpful to me. This is why reusables top my list of great gift ideas for the holidays. They are practical and they will hopefully be used by the recipient for years to come. They make sense in our fast paced, hectic world where everything is go, go, go. If we aren’t prepared to pack lunches and eat on the go or carry our own water to events then we will be sucked into the world of disposables, convenience food, and the utter waste of money that comes along with that.
Reusable Gifts for the Eco Conscious
If you’re looking for a gift for the eco-conscious person in your family (or maybe YOU are the eco-conscious person), why not give them reusable water bottles and other reusable containers? As you well know pollution is a major problem in the world today, with non-biodegradable materials like plastic clogging up landfills, washing up on beaches, killing wildlife, and generally interfering with natural ecosystems. The massive amounts of trash in our environment is in part due to our dependence on disposable plastic cups, utensils, bottles and the like. By using reusable containers, you help cut down on the amount of waste that humans produce, ensuring a cleaner earth for future generations.
Reusable Gifts for the Financially Conscious
What though if your giftee does not care about any of that?? That may be the case. There are many who are blind to environmental issues. It may not be something that touches their life in a direct manner or perhaps politically they see environmentalism as something unsavory. Kinda unfathomable I know, but this attitude exists. So they may not care so much about saving the planet but they may care a great deal about saving money. Who doesn’t? Well, reusable containers are also a great gift for the financially conscious. Using disposable containers is expensive, adding hundreds of dollars to your yearly budget. What’s good for the earth is also good for your wallet!
Practical Reusables As Gifts
My number one recommendation has to be the classic water bottle. I have a fairly large collection of them and they get used ALL the time. I have a family of five and we all go the gym (CrossFit and CrossFit Kids). We all need a water bottle to stay hydrated. We also like to take them on long drives and other outings (trips to Grandma’s house) because if we don’t then inevitably someone will want to stop for something and that something always comes in a disposable cup or bottle. Plus these are the slippery slope purchases. Donuts or fry pies might also be requested. It’s just better all around not to go there.
Water bottles are a lifesaver for us. We have many different kinds (plastic, glass, bamboo, stainless steel) but my personal favorites (and my husband’s) are our stainless Klean Kanteens. We have bigger ones and little ones in many different colors, my two favorites are pictured at the top of this post. They are durable and quite lovely. We love the sport tops for the gym but I also have some with wide mouth lids for when the sport top is not required. You can also get double-wall vacuum insulated bottles if you want the contents to stay hot or cold for any length of time. You can use them at local coffee shops and cafés to avoid disposables. Plus we have used this brand since my kiddos were wee ones. We had the sippy tops way back then so Klean Kanteen is the gold standard in reusable bottles and always has been in this family.
Another clever reusable gift idea is a lunch box or tote. Kids need them for school and adults need them often times for work. Without them it is easy to get sucked into eating out for lunch or buying from the workplace cafeteria or vending machines where the food isn’t the greatest, everything is wastefully packaged, and you pay a hefty price for it. If you gift stainless steel lunch boxes or tiffins then the whole family can use them. We prefer LunchBots for ease of use.
Yet another gift idea is a set of reusable utensils in a carrying case. These can be stored in a purse or lunch tote and then the recipient will be able to pass on plastic cutlery when eating out or when eating at work. That waste adds up and you are eating off of plastic which can leach nasty ingredients.
If you have someone in your family who is into sustainable living or is just financially conscious, consider getting them reusables this holiday season. They truly are the gift that keeps on giving.
One the the easiest places we can conserve water is in the bathroom. It only makes sense because we use lots of water there too. Baths, showers, washing faces, brushing teeth, flushing waste…we use lots of water in the loo. One very simple trick that I learned long ago from a friend though is to keep a clean bucket in the bathroom. You can use a plastic one that you already have or you can get a nice metal bucket/pail so that it looks nice when sitting out.
Every morning when you turn the shower on and wait for the water to warm you are letting perfectly good water go down the drain. If you let the shower run for even a single minute you are wasting two gallons or more. Use the bucket to catch that water for use elsewhere in the home. Just think about how much water you can save if you do this every day!
Here are nine ways you can reuse the water you catch…
1. Use it to flush the toilet. Keep the bucket next to the toilet and the next time you flush, refill the reservoir manually with your captured water instead of letting it fill automatically.
2. Use it to clean – Add some soap and you have soapy water for cleaning the toothpaste off the sink, scrubbing the shower, washing your car, mopping the floor, cleaning fruits and veggies, or cleaning virtually anywhere in the home.
3. Water plants – Houseplants and also outdoor plants can be watered with this re-use water. If they don’t need any water, toss the bucket in your rain barrel.
4. Wash your delicates – Got some hand wash only lingerie or play silks? Add your favorite detergent or soap and get to washing.
5. Clean muddy boots and gloves – Your wash bucket comes in handy in the mud room to help scrub a little dirt and mud off work boots, rain boots, and any shoes that happen to see a bit of mud and grime. Works great for dirty garden gloves too!
6. Foot Soak – Add some magnesium flakes and some essential oils and you have a relaxing and healthy foot soak.
7. Refill your bird bath – Forget the garden hose, grab your re-use bucket.
8. Wet your washcloth – If you like to use a wash cloth to clean your face or wash off makeup simply dip the wash cloth in your re-use bucket to soak it. If it needs to be warm and you happen to have a microwave, 10-20 seconds ought to do it.
9. Do the laundry – Pour your bucket in your top loading washing machine to cut down on the amount of water used during the wash.
Saving a bit of water from washing down the drain is simple and easy to do and there are many ways you can reuse that water and if you can, why not?
Do you have a clever reuse idea for greywater or recaptured water? Please share!