Celebrate Earth Day with Nontoxic Spring Cleaning and More
April is Earth Day month, a time when we find ourselves reflecting on our choices and how they affect the world at large. Some choices boast big environmental benefits, like installing solar panels or buying a hybrid vehicle. But small changes can have powerful results too.
Here are some easy and inexpensive ways to make the most of your Earth Day momentum.
Green Your Clean
- Today’s detergents and washing machines are optimized for use with cold water. Washing clothes in cold water keeps up to 15 gallons of water from being heated per load. Using the fastest spin cycle saves energy in the washer and the dryer—the fast-spun clothes dry faster.
- Swap out throwaway mops for reusable ones, and use only as much cleaning product as you need to do the job. Avoid toxic ingredients in home cleaning products or make your own. A great all-purpose scrub can be made by mixing equal parts natural dish soap and baking soda with a bit of water. To boost your mood while you clean, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the mix.
Handle E-Waste with Care
- Millions of tons of consumer electronics are dumped into our landfills every year or shipped to countries that lack proper regulations regarding worker safety. Instead of tossing broken or obsolete electronics in the trash, take the time to find a certified E-Steward that will dispose of them responsibly.
- If you have electronics, like tablets or computers, that are still functional but are no longer needed, consider donating them to a school.
Be Prudent with Paper
- Paper bills and notices can pile up, and most of them end up being thrown away or recycled. Many companies now offer e-billing options to cut back on needless printing. If you need a copy of a bill for your records, simply download it to your hard drive, or email it to yourself.
- If you must print, make sure to choose your printer’s double-sided feature (if available)—you’ll use half as much paper. To keep printed materials in order, choose paper clips, which are reusable, over staples.
- Swapping out older bulbs is a boon to the environment and your budget. An LED bulb uses just 10 watts of electricity to produce the same amount of light as its 60-watt incandescent counterpart. LED bulbs can last up to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, saving you $100 or more over the lifetime of the bulb.
- Today’s digital TVs often have a feature called Automatic Brightness Control (ABC) that allows the screen’s brightness to adjust to the light levels of the room it’s in. Instead of allowing your TV to glow at 100 percent capacity, enable the ABC feature to ensure that your TV will use only the amount of power necessary to give you an enjoyable viewing experience.
- Turn off all unnecessary lights before you leave the house for the day. Being mindful to flip the switch will save energy and help your bulbs last longer.
- Americans waste tons of food. Somewhere between 25 and 40 percent of the food we buy ends up in the landfill. To avoid over-buying, make a list and stick to it. Avoid making impulse buys, which might happen if you shop while hungry. Cook creatively: Freeze what you don’t need and find ways to repurpose leftovers into new dishes.
- Whenever possible, choose reusable bags over plastic ones destined for the dump. Many stores have reusable bags available for purchase. In some places, the initial investment will pay for itself: Stores in some states are now charging customers five to 10 cents apiece for throwaway plastic bags.
- Try to consolidate your shopping trips. Called “trip chaining,” combining as many errands as possible into one trip is both challenging and rewarding. It might take some extra time to organize, but planning ahead and grouping errands by location will save you money on gas and reduce your carbon emissions.
Be the Change Our Planet Needs
- Walking and biking, instead of driving, is healthy for you and the planet. Getting yourself from point A to point B under your own power cuts down on emissions and gets your heart pumping. Some cities even have bike share programs to help you get where you need to go, sometimes for free (though some programs do charge a fee).
- Whenever possible, choose tap water over bottled. Americans drink an average of 34 gallons of bottled water a year, and that habit comes at a price: $13 billion, to be exact, which is the estimated amount of money spent annually on bottled water.
- Concerned about safety? The Environmental Protection Agency insists that tap water is safe. In fact, some bottled waters are nothing more than filtered tap water. If you need to take your water on-the-go, invest in a reusable water bottle.
Take the Lead in Eco Friendly Education and Community Organization
- Get friends and family on board with your efforts by organizing a recycling drive in your neighborhood or local school. The usual suspects—glass, plastic, newspapers, and books—can be collected and transported to your recycling center.
- Start a composting program in your community. Designate an area of your lawn or a shared common area to collect organic waste. The resulting compost can be used to enrich local gardens or sold to benefit charities.