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OK OK, I know this whole “green” thing is way overdone, but I’m still all about the concept, just not the tag line.. I want to share a few things that are really easy ways to become a little more eco-friendly in your home.  Now I’m not going to suggest solar panels or a fresh water collection unit, but I will suggest smaller things that don’t require a huge investment.

Cleaning Products

I’m not going to go into specific brands here, just because there are so many and I am definitely not an expert on which ones are “better” than others, but cleaning products are a super easy way to reduce the pollutants and toxins in your home.  The typical cleaning supplies have a ton of chemicals in them and can be really harsh to you, your home and the environment.  There are eco-friendly cleaning supplies in most stores that are specific to tasks, like glass cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, etc.  These are an easy transition because you’re cleaning with the same type of product, just with less chemicals.  Also look for concentrated cleaning supplies – especially laundry detergent. These concentrated products take significantly less water to produce, which is great for the environment.

If you really want to go “green”, go back to the old ways of using vinegar and baking soda as your two staples for cleaning pretty much everything!  The best thing about them is they’re really inexpensive in comparison to other cleaning supplies, and they’re super eco-friendly.  This website mentions a lot of uses for bakingsoda and vinegar.

Remember the home made volcanoes from science class? Yeah, that was vinegar and baking soda..

Reusable “Paper Towel”

If you’re a typical American household you go through a lot of paper towel.  Cleaning windows, mirrors, wiping up messes, using them as napkins, do I need to go on?  There are many uses for these, but they are HUGE waste creators.  This is a great place to find some details on paper towel usage.  There are a few alternatives to paper towel.  You can use reusable wipes, found in most large stores (ie Target and Meijer), these wipes come in larger packs and aren’t really washable, but are good for multiple uses.  You can also use birds-eye cotton for wipes.  You can purchase them online or make them yourself.  From what I’ve researched, birds-eye is absorbent but thin, and if you get the unbleached organic variety, it’s even a little more eco-friendly.  These can then be washed and reused over and over.  Making these is definitely on my to-do list, and I will be posting a follow-up review on how it goes!

You can replace paper towel usage for cleaning too.  You can find microfiber cloths for dusting and cleaning cloths for any glass or mirror surface.  The dusting cloths work great, a lot better than the disposable swiffer dusters that just push the dust around.

Florescent Light Bulbs

This may be old news, but I’m shocked at how many houses still use the typical incandescent lighting.  I wouldn’t suggest going out and replacing all of your bulbs at once, but one by one as they burn out, try replacing them with the compact florescent bulbs.  They last longer and use a lot less energy to operate.  They do take a little bit to “warm up” and get to maximum brightness, but it’s a small inconvenience for the benefits they bring.

Compost

There is so much information on composting that it can seem a little overwhelming.  But this is one thing I started this past summer that I am very excited about!  Think of all of the food scrap you throw away each week and the newspaper and yard waste..  It could all be saved from the landfills and give you wonderful dirt for your garden, whether vegetable garden or just a flower garden.  I purchased a composting bin from Menards, but these can be found on-line and at most gardening retailers.  If you have a larger area in your yard you can also build your own compost pile out of cement blocks or wood.

I also have a stainless steel countertop compost container that I keep under my sink.  This makes composting a lot easier, because I don’t have to go outside to the bin all the time.  I can collect things indoors and then when the container is full I bring it out to the large bin.

Gardening

This is another thing I started this year.  I made two raised garden beds and plan to add a third next year.  I also planted two blueberry bushes.  I guess I didn’t really do this to be more eco-friendly so much as to try and have fresh fruits and veggies around more often, but it really is a great way to be green.  It not only saves you trips to the grocery store, but it’s less transporting of veggies from the suppliers to the grocery store.  Plus, fresh picked fruits and veggies are SOO much better tasting than the ones from the store that have been picked for a few days.  Just thinking about the red pontiac potatoes that I have sitting in my basement from this years harvest makes me hungry!  Even a small container can be a host to tomatoes, strawberries, herbs and others.  So if you aren’t sure you want to commit to a space in your yard, try a container on your deck or porch – just make sure it has sunlight and water!

Line Dry the Laundry

I started this about 2 years ago and haven’t looked back!  I guess I can’t technically call it line dry because I don’t have a clothes line =) But I hang dry everything (except towels.. they get kind of stiff and scratchy..) and use a clothes drying rack because I don’t have enough hanging space in my laundry room.  Once everything is mostly dry I fluff the clothes for a few minutes in the dryer to get the wrinkles out.  Doing this does take a little extra time, but it’s not as harsh on your clothes and it saves energy usage from not using your dryer nearly as much!

If they can do it, we can do it, right?

Cloth Diaper

Do you have kids in diapers?  See my post on why to cloth diaper.  Being eco-friendly is only one of the reasons to take this step!

Recycle

This is a pretty common thing now days, and a lot of waste management places offer recycling, but a lot of people still don’t use it.  We switched companies a few years ago, and it actually saved us money to get recycling added to our service.  Some companies have separate bins for glass, paper and metal, we’re lucky though, our waste company gave us a huge bin (bigger then our trash) that we can throw every thing in to and not have to sort anything.  There is so much you can recycle, check this website out to view their extensive list of recycling information.  Your waste management company should also offer a list of recyclables that they accept as part of their recycling program.  If your waste company doesn’t offer recycling, check your county or surrounding cities for a recycling center that you can bring your recyclables to.  Between recycling, composting and cloth diapering, we usually only have about one bag of trash a week!

Reusable Bags

I can’t help but have a sense of pride every time I go to the grocery store with my reusable bags.. Boastful?  Maybe a little, but it’s not like I’m screaming “LOOK AT ME, I’M HELPING THE PLANET!” My husband and I started about 4 years ago just getting one each trip to the store, and soon we had enough to bag all of our groceries.  We have probably.. I would say 10 bags, and there has only been one that we had to replace.. which I’m sure was my fault for loading one to many cans inside of it.  Most big stores have these now for around $1, so they’re really inexpensive to buy.  They’re great for when you have to bring stuff to a party or just to throw some odds and ends in to take somewhere.

I do wish my reusable bags looked like these ones!

So these are just a few easy things you can do to help reduce your carbon footprint.  They don’t take a huge commitment, but they will make a difference!

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