20 Green Things in 20 Minutes


TIP #1: Shop for local food. Many major grocery chains now offer a section for local foods. Photo: Amanda Wills, Earth911.com

Think one person can’t make a difference? Think again. With every American producing 4.6 pounds of trash per day, the little things we do to reduce our impact can make a huge difference.

Here are 20 little things you can do to help the environment and your world in less than 20 minutes.

1. Shop local for produce.

Next time you’re headed out for groceries, take a few minutes to make an extra stop at a farmer’s market for fruits and veggies. Buying local reduces your footprint and helps support farmers in your community. Local fruits and vegetables are also packed with way more nutrients than produce with a passport, and they’re tasty too!

2. Click to give.

The web is full of sites that allow you to contribute to charitable causes with a click a day. That means no cost, just clicks! Use the power of your right index finger to support The Rainforest Site, The Animal-Rescue Site, The Hunger Site and more.

3. Make a reusable survival kit.

Having trouble getting through the day without using disposables? Think ahead, and make yourself survival kit for daily use. Include items such as a reusable water bottle and coffee mug, and put it all in a canvas bag for impromptu shopping trips. Leave your kit in your car or desk.

4. Switch to eco-friendly cleaning supplies.

Next time you’re stocking up on cleaning supplies, trade your standard brands for supplies labeled eco-friendly or biodegradable. Or play chemist, and make your own! Vinegar, salt and lemon juice are all great natural cleaning solvents.

5. Do a quick closet cleanse.

We’re not talking about a deep clean here, but are those jeans from 1984 really necessary? While you’re cleaning, take a second look at your duds. Cutting up clothes is in, and you may have a few diamonds in the rough that will keep you away from the mall for another month. Cut those pants into shorts or capris. Break out the scissors and start re-fashioning old T-shirts.

6. Re-adjust your computer.

Learn to adjust your computer’s viewing settings for easy reading. This will reduce your need to print out emails or pages of interest. When you do print, use both sides to reduce paper waste. Also, change your power settings to optimize battery usage and activate sleep mode after a period of inactivity.

7. Fix that leak!

A leaky faucet or a running toilet may not seem like a big deal, but little leaks can waste loads of water. Make sure all your faucets are leak-free and your toilet is always working properly.

8. Donate paper scraps to a local classroom.

Kindergarten classes and daycare centers can always use extra pieces of wallpaper, scrap paper or newspaper for arts and crafts. Just think, your paper scraps may soon be hanging on a proud parent’s refrigerator.

9. Go unplugged.

Vampire power is the energy your appliances use when they are plugged in but not running. Cut back on wasted energy by unplugging cell phone chargers, coffee pots and toasters when they are not in use. Keep bigger items such as televisions and sound systems on a power-strip, and flip it off when they are not being used.

10. Switch to cloth napkins

Not only do they add pretty accents to your table, but cloth napkins significantly reduce paper waste. Take it one step further and switch to handkerchiefs instead of tissues and rags rather than paper towels for cleaning.

12. Organize a carpool.

Think outside the box with this one. Planning a weekend trip to the beach or mountains? Ask around. A few of your friends may be shore-bound too! Piling together in one car not only saves on gas and emissions but also adds extra fun to your weekend vacay.

13. Start composting.

Composting food scraps is a quick and easy way to reduce waste in your home. Once your pile is set up, it’s as simple as tossing your food scraps into a bowl and taking it outside every day. Check out Earth911 for tips on starting your compost pile.

14. Do a weekly purge of the fridge.

Take a weekly account of what’s in your fridge. Throw perishables a few days from spoiling into a crock-pot or casserole for tonight’s dinner. For food you know you won’t use, don’t let it go bad! Donate it to a local food pantry or church to reduce food waste.

15. Check your pressure.

Having your tires at the proper pressure increases your car’s gas mileage. It also increases the longevity of your tires, which reduces rubber waste. Most gas stations and service centers have pressure gages and air dispensers available.

16. Make the switch to paperless.

Banish endless paper bills by paying bills online and opting to receive e-mail statements. And open up some of that junk mail before tossing it into the recycling bin. It’s usually as simple as calling a service line to get your address removed from a company’s mailing list.

17. Make fruit juice concoctions.

Throw some of your locally purchased fruit in a blender for a healthy drink. For something more refreshing, run your creation through a strainer and add some water. Or you can never go wrong with homemade iced tea or lemonade! Pour your tasty tonics into pitchers, and stick them in your fridge for the week.

18. Pack a lunch.

Instead of stopping at the lunch truck when mid-afternoon hunger hits, reach for a packed lunch in a reusable lunchbox. Check out reusable sandwich containers as an alternative to plastic bags, and don’t forget the reusable silverware!

19. Save your water.

Set aside water used for washing veggies or boiling eggs or pasta. Allow it to cool and reuse it to water your houseplants.

20. Compare and contrast when you shop.

Next time you’re at the store, take a few minutes to compare products before buying. Not for price, for packaging! Reach for items with as little packaging as possible, and buy items packaged in recyclable material whenever possible. You’ll be shocked at how empty your trash can gets!

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Mary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian and enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, biking and relaxing in the park. When she’s not outside, she’s probably watching baseball. She is a former assistant editor for Earth911.
Mary Mazzoni