8 Easy Ways to Start Being Green

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This story is part of Earth911’s “Green Eight” series, where we showcase eight ways to green your life in various areas.

It’s hip. It’s hot. And best of all, it’s a snap. A start-up approach to greening your routine is almost effortless. You do not need to go out, spend a lot of money and purchase fancy gadgets. For most of our tips, you don’t need to spend a dime. Actually, enjoying a more environmentally responsible lifestyle generally saves money. How’s that for motivation? Protect the planet and keep that piggy bank nice and heavy.

If you’ve been wanting to get started in the “green scene” but don’t know where to begin, these are our favorite simple ways to get moving:

ACCORDING TO THE DOE, 40% OF ALL HOUSEHOLD ELECTRICITY IS CONSUMED WHEN PRODUCTS ARE TURNED OFF. THIS COSTS THE AVERAGE HOME ALMOST $1,000 EACH YEAR. Image courtesy of Entrust Energy.

ACCORDING TO THE DOE, 40% OF ALL HOUSEHOLD ELECTRICITY IS CONSUMED WHEN PRODUCTS ARE TURNED OFF. THIS COSTS THE AVERAGE HOME ALMOST $1,000 EACH YEAR. Image courtesy of Entrust Energy.

1. Reduce

Use less stuff. Simple. Just rethink some of your habits. Take, for example, paper. You don’t always need a fresh sheet. If you’re writing a grocery list, grab something like a junk-mail envelope and scribble on a blank section. When you do use a whole sheet of paper, make a point of using both sides of each page.

Also, take advantage of occasions to skip paper entirely. Don’t automatically hit the print button on your computer. Send out party invitations by e-mail. Think how much paper, postage and effort you’ll save.

2. Reuse

This particular “R” offers fun and interesting potential. Think about inventive uses for items that you’re discarding. Here are some fun ideas to spark your creative juices:

  • Repurpose old jars as funky vases
  • Transform old socks into puppet projects for kids
  • Use junk mail and old magazines to make beaded jewelry

3. Recycle

Take advantage of convenient recycling programs offered by your local government. Many municipalities provide curbside pick-up for common items such as glass and paper. Other types of recyclables, such as electronics, printer cartridges and household paints, are generally accepted at specific sites around town. You can search for these regional drop-off programs as well as participating businesses on Earth911.com. Also, some companies take back items at the end of their usable lives. One example is Dell, which offers free recycling of old products.

4. Power Down

When you walk out of room, hit the light switch to the “off” position. When the MP3 player is fresh and ready to go, unplug the charger. Activate the low-power settings, such as sleep and hibernate, on computers, monitors and printers. You’d be surprised to learn how much power your toys consume, even when they are “off.” Some estimates put this phantom power drain at a cost of $4 billion annually in the U.S. alone.

5. Don’t Be a Drip

When you brush your teeth, turn off the tap. Doing so may save eight gallons a day, according to the U.S. EPA. Here are some other easy water-saving measures:

  • Install an aerator or a faucet that meets the EPA’s WaterSense efficiency standards.
  • Repair dripping faucets and showerheads quickly to reduce water wasted. Can’t get a plumber over soon enough? Collect the drops to water your houseplants later.
  • Water your lawn and garden during the cool morning hours, minimizing the amount of water that’s evaporated. Aim sprinklers where the water is needed, rather than allowing overspray on the sidewalk or driveway.

6. Shop Smart

Get empowered by reading labels and investigating environmental claims. Select products with genuine eco-friendly features, such as:

  • Nontoxic and natural contents
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Minimum packaging
  • Produced locally
  • Energy- or water-efficient

Take advantage of ratings by reputable organizations that promote products with preferable environmental attributes. Here are some to keep in mind:

  • Energy Star – This label indicates that various products, such as refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, televisions and printers, meet energy-efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. EPA and United States Department of Energy (DOE). “Energy-efficient choices can save families about a third on their energy bill, with similar savings of greenhouse gas emissions, without sacrificing features, style or comfort,” according to Energy Star.
  • WaterSense –  This label indicates products and programs that meet the EPA’s standards for water efficiency.
  • Green Seal – This nonprofit organization rates products based on its standards of environmental responsibility.

7. Don’t Tire Out

Keeping tires at their proper pressure improves gas mileage, according to the DOE. Plus, when properly inflated, tires are safer and more durable. You can also improve your gas mileage by 1 to 2 percent by using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil.

8. Be a Show-off

Let merchants know you support green products and services. Talk to the staff at local shops and restaurants to see how they’re working to improve their eco-efficiency, such as integrating composting or recycling processes at their facilities. Now is a great time to voice your green opinion, and strong consumer demand for eco-friendly practices encourages business to make that a priority.

Worried you might not remember these tips? Fun products like EcoMinders will help you remember these simple tricks to a greener lifestyle. If you’re ready to get more in-depth, check out our breakdown of the Waste Hierarchy, and how you can use it to improve your efforts.

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Patti Roth

Patti began her writing career as a staff writer for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Still based in Florida, Patti serves as editor for Fort Lauderdale on the Cheap. She regularly writes about environmental, home improvement, education, recycling, art, architecture, wildlife, travel and pet topics.