As I have gotten older, I have become a documentary obsessed, total nerd. This means getting informed on the struggles our Earth faces was unavoidable. Slowly our family started transitioning and finding little ways to reduce our carbon footprint. While I am way ahead of my family in the sense that I have deeply researched Earth Homes. Some are extremely modern and beautiful, others are made of the tires and recycled material. Tom was not feeling having walls made of rubber (so picky) so for right now I’ll settle for our little house and just keep doing my best to make small changes where I can when I can. So I compiled a list of over 35 of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint without losing your sanity (or living in a house of rubber.)
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When turning on your faucet for a bath or to wash your hands, sometimes it can take a while before the water is as hot as you want it. Make use of this water and save it up for other purposes. If you have a garden, this water can be used for watering. Planning on boiling rise or noodles later? You’ve got your water all set! Fill the ice cub trays (do people still have those?) Capturing this water may seem like an added pain-in-the-butt task but it can save gallons of water every single time you use the faucet.
To reduce the amount of water that fills your toilet bowl stick a brick in the back water tank. It may seem small but doing this will save you a half gallon of water per flush. There are now products on the market like Toilet Tank Bank and Drop A Brick that essentially do the same thing.
So gross, I know. The line from the movie Meet the Fockers sticks with me, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” I know, it seems like I post a lot about poop, but I promise, it’s all relevant. We live by this rule in our house to an extent. I myself go to the bathroom between 3-5 times from night until morning. This is a time that I usually skip flushing mostly because I still have post traumatic stress from having to children wake up in the middle of the night after the slightest noise. However, it also saves on water immensely! What’s the point? I know I’ll be back at it in a few hours anyway! The kid’s bathroom is also the guest bathroom so we run a little tighter ship just so people don’t think we are running a makeshift outhouse.
No! I don’t recommend showering together as a family! You totally thought that for a second though, didn’t you? I mean get a bucket buddy. I saw this hack on a show about people who are extremely tight with their money. One man showered with a bucket and then recycled that water to flush his bathroom toilet later. It’s a simple and easy thing to do. The bucket will fill up with otherwise wasted water and to then avoid having to flush a full bowl of water down the toilet, you can use the shower water. After using the toilet, simply pouring your shower water down the bowl will cause the toilet to automatically flush and will use no additional water.
Yeah, this one seems kind of out of place, but the fact of the matter is, raising animals requires an awful lot of water. Out of all livestock, cows require the most water. It’s awesome that veganism and Meatless Mondays are becoming more and more popular. It’s a great reminder of the fact that one person really can make a difference; because other people catch on!
Meatless Monday recipes
I’m talking wash your dishes by hand, like a peasant. I’m teasing of course, but you have to admit that dishwashers are pretty much standard in homes these days and the old school way of doing things has gotten a bad rep. Using one side of your sink filled with soapy water to soak and scrub dishes and then using the other side for rinsing can cut back on the amount of water wasted; as long as you avoid just letting that water run!
Avoid tossing clothes into your hamper after just one use. Unless of course that one use left you covered in mud from head to toe; then I understand. Storing your jammies under your pillow and re-wearing them is no crime, I promise. We do the same with jeans around here. I will check my kids jeans before any of them make it into the wash. If they aren’t covered in chalk or spaghetti sauce, back into the drawer they go. If you have kids, this can be a more time consuming task, but it will not only reduce your carbon footprint, it will reduce your water bill and prevent you from having to do laundry any more than necessary!
There is a reason messy buns and stylish hats are all the rage: it’s because people are choosing to skip washing their hair. Most people do this because it’s well known that your skins natural oils are healthy and beneficial to have in your hair. It’s also good to let your natural oils do their work on your skin. Personally, I don’t skip days of washing my bod, because I get stinky and quick. Skipping a shampoo here and there is a habit I definitely had to work toward and I’m so glad I did. Not only does it prevent the waste from chemical-filled shampoos, but it makes your showers a little bit shorter.
Speaking of shower time, cut back even more with a low flow shower head. By releasing less water, these shower heads cut back on the amount of water that goes down the drain!
I have this suggestion in two sections because it really can be a big way to reduce the amount of wasted water and also a way food wise for you to make a difference. So not only meat, but also dairy. Again, those cows take a lot of water, so dairy goes hand in hand with this.
Buying local food from local farms is a great way to cut back on the amounts of foods that are transported across the country. Food that goes through a big travel process is not good in the sense that the food has more chances to go bad but it also means pollution through transportation means. Also, this just helps our your local community farmers, which is so crucial.
Again, cutting back on the pollution created during transportation, buying seasonal fruits and vegetables is helpful as well. If fruits and veggies are in season, not only will they be less expensive, but chances are they won’t travel as far to get to you either!
Skip the process all together and start your own garden (and water it from water you catch!) Personally, I have failed repeatedly at starting a garden, but I know so many people have great success! Here’s to next year!
The amount of pesticides and chemicals used to raise food are truly destroying our planet. While they mean well, insects are dying, plants and covered in chemicals and so are you. Earth requires these insects we’re losing, you can read about honey bees here: Why You Should Take the Honey Bee Shortage Seriously.
Using your food scraps and saving them for vegetable broth or to put into a compost are both great options. Composting is completely natural, super easy and great for soil. I recently shared some different ways to start a compost.
Sorry, I got away from the catchy titles for a while, thought I’d stat back up again. If you live close to local stores, restaurants or other places that you frequent, try walking or biking the next time you go. My husband and I recently had a date night at home. The kids were at grandmas for the night and in the morning we walked to the local coffee place to get a nice hot cup-a-joe. We do this with our kids every Friday and take a family bike ride to get a donut at the gas station. When we make it to our gym, the kids and I will also take the opportunity to walk to the library nearby. These are small ways to cut back on pollution and we also get fresh air, exercise and time together!
If you have foods that are about to go bad, pop them in the freezer. Muffins, bread, spinach, green beans, berries. There are a number of foods that you can freeze for later use and prevent them from getting tossed!
So many things get thrown away each year and wind up in landfills. The amount of toys, gadgets and contraptions that people buy and disregard is overwhelming to me. We are constantly going through things and yet, we already live very simply. So the best way to avoid a giant landfill dump, is to avoid filling your house with future garbage in the first place. Not to side with Jim Carrey’s version of The Grinch but, the guy had a point. A lot of Christmas presents just wind up garbage within a year. Instead consider giving the gift of experiences. Go places, do things together. Travel. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.
If you are going through old clothes, take the time to get them to a local thrift store. Some used places you can actually get cash back. I generally opt for the “get this out of my house NOW” approach and jut donate them. I’m also not going to shy away from shopping at those same places. While I don’t get my whole wardrobe strait off the Goodwill rack, I also don’t mind digging for bargains. I can’t tell you how many pairs of bran new $3 boots I have in my closet, just because I wasn’t afraid to get thrifty.
Garbage companies have made is super easy to recycle these days. I remember as a kid we used to have to save our pop cans and then bring them to this giant recycling place that I totally loved going to. Now I can toss all my papers, plastics and glass into one big bin and know that it will all be sorted through and taken care of. I recently YouTubed to see exactly how this was done. If you’re a geek like me, feel free to check it out! Recycling goes way beyond the basics. There are so many places these days that are willing to take old cell phones, electronics and batteries. Check out this company that actually comes to you: Battery Recyclers of America
I first heard about a paperless home through fellow blogger, Abby at Just a Girl and Her Blog. She and her husband even have an ebook to completely break it down and get you started. Check out there resources here: Paperless Home.
My kiddos and I are big bakers. They love practicing cupcake frosting and new recipes. This means we go through a ton of cupcake wrappers! Imagine how pumped I was to learn about reusable Cupcake Liners!
Lick cupcake wrappers, Ziplock bags are another huge way you can reduce waste. If you use them frequently consider washing them out and reusing them. I used to make fun of my step dad for doing this and now I totally get it and my kids make fun of me. One step better, they also make Reusable Silicone Food Preservation Bags
It’s no secret by now that the amount of plastic bottle waste is overwhelming and causing serious damage to our planet. So, opt for a refillable water bottle. Everyone in our family has one that we usually use daily. Even in place of cups at the dinner table. Which also cuts back on the amount of water we need for dishes.
Along with reusable cupcake liners, start using reusable coffee filters or K cups if you have a Krueig. Just like skipping the water bottle, start bringing your own coffee up along for the ride. The biggest perk being you can choose one that fits your style. Take it one step further and invest in an insulated one to prevent the inevitable microwave warm up later in the day.
Alongside plastic bottles are plastic bags. Avoiding using them because even if they are reused, chances are they are winding up in a landfill. Try using paper bags to store your recycling. It will make for a quick trip to the recycling bin or you can use them in your compost!
Avoid the waste all together and just bring your own bag! So many stores today have the option for you to purchase bags and may even give you a discount if you do.
To cut down dramatically on the amount of waste or recycling each week consider buying in bulk. Not a giant box filled with individual bags of chips…that adds up to a lot of non-recyclable material in the garbage. Instead of packs of trail mix, make your own. My family and I buy a few large bins of nuts, toss in some raisins and you’ve got a super easy trail mix on the go with minimal waste. Trust me, Costco shopping can be your best friend.
Besides just skipping the shampoo a few times a week, cutting back on body wash, face scrubs and even household cleaner is huge. There are so many more natural DIY ways to do most of these things these days. My exfoliator is just a half and half mix of coconut oil and organic cane sugar. For most of our cleaning we use Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap. Less than a teaspoon is needed for most cleaning jobs and we use them in our foaming soap dispensers. About 1/2 teaspoon of castile soap the rest just water! Major way to cut down on waste especially if you are a household that buys new foaming soap dispensers every month.
When using the stove, turn off the burner as your food gets toward the end of cooking. You can do this with a frying pan or food you are boiling. When you know you have 5-10 minutes left, turn off the stove, put a lid on it and let the remaining heat finish the cooking!
It’s been suggested that leaving the thermostat set at 69 year round will save immensely on your energy bill.
Those hot days, forgo the air conditioning all together and just let your house breathe! I think this is an instant high for people living in states like Minnesota. The second we can turn off the heat and open the windows is almost celebrated like a national holiday.
Using a power cord strip for your appliances is a quick way to shut the power down at the end of the day. If you have a TV, DVD player, gaming system and a lamp all plugged into one power strip, you can just turn them off at the end of the day.
Unplugging appliances all together is a great habit to make. The toaster, blender and coffee maker are all one use a and day easy to unplug and be done with.
If you unwind at the end of the night with your favorite shows, consider setting a sleep timer for your TV. Letting them run all night long is a huge energy drain and isn’t good if you hope to get a good night’s rest.
To skip on using the dryer after washing clothes, consider hanging them out to dry. Yes, this takes an added investment but let me tell you what I remember about Grandma’s laundry: 1. It always smelled great 2. I loved playing hide and seek in the sheets. Something to think about.
Lastly, just flick that switch when you leave the room! Create this habit for your family as well. When it’s daylight and there is natural sunlight, leave those lights off. When you can see, you don’t need them, when you’re not there, you don’t need them. Easy peasy!
I promise, starting any of these new habits is super easy with minimal change to your lifestyle, plus you will be doing our Earth a world of good!