It ain’t easy being green: the movement towards environmental sustainability is a fickle beast. Countless factors are at play in the push for a green planet. For a single person, the transition can feel daunting. Living in a world where major corporations and countries are the biggest offenders for global emissions (1) how much can a lone individual really do?
Fortunately, the world is slowly becoming more eco-conscious. We’re celebrating our own small accomplishments towards a cleaner planet and maintaining our momentum towards substantial change at a global level. There are plenty of small changes that can be made in the home that help to reduce waste, clean the air, and conserve nature.
Here are some small, super-easy, super-green ideas to reduce our carbon footprint!
Launder clothes with cold water
A staggering amount of energy used in our washing machines goes towards heating water: up to 90%! (2) Making the switch to cold water laundering greatly reduces energy consumption. Washing in cold water reduces the chance for fabric staining (whereas hot water can “set” stains) and keeps coloured and dyed fabrics looking sharp. Consider washing even 4 out of 5 loads in cold water to reduce CO2 emissions and save energy.
Our concentrated laundry detergent from The Bare Home is colour-safe, free of phosphates and dyes, and extremely effective in cold water! It even comes in a 3-litre refill box so you can refill your reusable dispenser at home; the use of bulk-size containers lower CO2 emissions and plastic waste by over 80%, so you can feel good about using The Bare Home. It’s good for you, your home, and the earth.
Hang to dry
Dryers are convenient. They’re quick, effective, and eliminate the hassle of hanging our clothes up on a line. But they are huge energy hogs, coming in right after the refrigerator in energy consumption. Investing in a drying rack or hanging our clothes out to dry – even just once per week – can drastically reduce carbon emissions and help save on utility bills. Not only that, by removing the wear and tear of a dryer cycle, clothes will last considerably longer, preventing the buildup of textiles in landfills. And now that it’s finally summer, many of us can dry our clothes outside!
If it’s cold or rainy outside, we lack the space, or simply prefer using a dryer, consider pure wool dryer balls. We like the ones from Moss Creek Wool Works. Made from the natural wool of happy sheep, they absorb excess moisture, remove static, and cut down on the time clothes need to be in the dryer.
Collect water from the shower
We’re not suggesting showering in cold water – we’re not monsters– but in that minute or so when we leave the shower running to warm up before hopping in, we’re literally letting money and clean resources run down the drain. Consider keeping a bucket or pitcher in the bathroom to collect that minute’s worth of water before getting in (we love the one from Redecker). We use it on our plants, or reserve for use in cleaning later in the day.
… But what about cooking water?
Fun fact: plants love starchy water! Water retained from boiling potatoes, pasta, beans, eggs, and vegetables can be marvellous for gardening purposes. The starch and nutrients leached into the water during cooking help soil retain moisture, thereby reducing the amount of times we need to go back and water our plants. It promotes the storage of nutrients within the soil and may reduce the amount of synthetic fertilizers we need to use later.
Just be careful not to use water that has been salted or seasoned in any way, and allow the water to cool completely before using.
Ditch the plastic shopping bags & cling wrap
This one feels like one of those “easier said than done” tricks, but with a little ingenuity it’s easier to say “no” to plastic waste than ever! Plastic bags and cling wrap are only a fraction of the global plastic pollution problem, but on an individual level it’s about making small, measurable changes to influence a larger impact.
Eco-Bags are perfectly suited for grocery trips, farmers markets, and most shopping needs. It is extremely compact when not in use and easily stashable in your purse or vehicle, which means you’re less likely to forget your reusable bags when heading out the door. Similarly, for bagged lunches, picnics, or everyday cold food storage, Beebagz is a fantastic alternative to plastic wrap! It’s made from ethically sourced materials and naturally repellant to moisture, odours, and bacteria.
Best of all, when paired together, Eco-Bags and Beebagz make the perfect low-waste picnic companion. Wrap your goodies in Beebagz, pack them in your reusable Eco-Bag tote, and head to the park or your own backyard to enjoy the summer sun!
Make homemade stock with food scraps
Don’t throw away those veggie scraps!
The root ends of onions, garlic peels, carrot skins, and other vegetable bits & pieces can be collected for homemade vegetable stock. Store them in a large bag in the freezer. When it’s full, empty it into a pot, cover with water, and simmer for at least thirty minutes up to several hours. Strain, season if desired, and use in your favourite soup recipes or pop back into the freezer for use when ready.
Avoid using leafy or cruciferous vegetables such as brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli, as these can turn bitter. The staple vegetables, like celery, carrots, onions, and garlic, all freeze extremely well and make an amazing low-waste vegetable stock.
Store your vegetables plastic-free with our new favourite food-storage bags from Stasher! Silicone, food safe, and with proper care, they’ll last you for years and years.
Get some air
Okay, we’re Canadian, so we’re used to keeping things cool. The height of summer can be a sticky, sweaty burden for those of us who thrive in colder temperatures. But did you know that air conditioners release roughly 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year? Nearly 6% of a family’s energy usage goes towards home cooling (3).
If you’re unable to invest in a high-efficiency air conditioning system, consider opening your windows at night when the air is cool. Allow it to circulate through the home, and in the morning, close them and shut the drapes to lock that sweet frigid air inside. Alternatively, keep the windows open with a fan to circulate air throughout the day.
To beat the heat even further, make some popsicles by freezing some lightly sweetened Earth’s Aromatique teas or juice! Choosing to forgo our precious air conditioners in the summer reduces the strain on our power grid.
Make our own cleaning products
Common commercial cleaners are made to make domestic life easier, but not necessarily safer: many conventional products carry health concerns for the family, and the manufacture and disposability of their packaging can contribute to environmental pollution. We can reduce the amount of conventional synthetic chemicals and plastics in our environment by switching to simple DIY cleaners. Using equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle, maybe a few drops of lemon or tea tree essential oil, will do the trick for most surfaces.
Practicing good green habits at an individual level is not to be underestimated. Collectively making small changes in the home can contribute to positive change for the environment.
- Climate Accountability Institute. “CDP Carbon Majors Report.” The Carbon Majors Database. 2017. Web.
- The United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Earth Month Tip: Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water.” The EPA Blog. 2014. Web.
- Department of Energy. “Energy Saving 101: Home Cooling.” Energy.Gov. 2014. Web.