Millions of us will find ourselves with an extra day off work for Memorial Day this May, leading us to ponder up some positive ways to spend that time off.
Whether you’re planning to barbecue with family or friends or pay special tribute to the men and women who have served their country, we believe you’ll come up with a creative green touch to your day with a little effort.
1. Ride your bike
May is National Bike Month, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists. Though temperatures are rising, May is still a nice time of year to get outside and travel on two wheels instead of four.
Try replacing a trip to the movies, dinner, grocery store or wherever you might be headed Monday with a bike ride. According to the WorldWatch Institute, a short, four-mile round trip bike ride will keep about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air!
And if the environmental benefits of ditching that car weren’t enough, the American Heart Association estimates a 150-pound cyclist will burn 410 calories while pedaling 12 miles in one hour – representing the equivalent calorie loss of a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder!
2. Green up your barbecue
Memorial Day has long been one of America’s favorite days to host a good ol’ fashioned barbecue. Though red, white and blue are the dominant colors on this day of remembrance, green can join the party as well with a few simple changes to the regular routine.
In prepping the backyard, consider a manual lawn mow on your day off. You’ll have to work a little harder, but burning a few extra calories will just make you look all the better in your Grill Master apron! The EPA estimates that 54 million Americans mow their lawn each weekend using 800 million gallons of gas per year and producing tons of air pollutants.
If a manual lawnmower is just out of the question, at least consider an electric mower. To calculate the environmental and financial benefits of turning in that gas-powered mower for an electric or reel mower, visit the EPA’s Lawn Mower Exchange Program Calculator.
The lawn is mowed, now on to the rest of the party. When planning the menu for your guests, consider organic when purchasing the most important of menu items: the beer. A simple search will yield some local supermarkets and breweries, organic beers, like Eel River. These beers are made from barley, hops and other ingredients that have been spared the application of pesticides and fertilizers.
3. Clean up…DIY style
If you plan to ditch the BBQ’s, pool parties and parades and stay indoors, consider using the time to clean up a bit. Leave the store bought household cleaners on the shelves and try making your own household cleaners this year.
Making your own household cleaners is easier than you may think and can represent a significant savings in yearly cleaning expenses. It is also a great way to clean your home without using harsh chemicals and environmental pollutants. But keep in mind that these household cleaners may not kill all germs and viruses.
The EPA recommends some great alternatives to traditional cleaners that are less harmful to human and environmental health:
- Glass Cleaner: Mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in 1 quart of water
- Furniture Polish: Mix 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in 1 pint of vegetable oil
- Rug Deodorizer: Sprinkle liberally with baking soda and vacuum after 15 minutes
- Mothballs: Use cedar chips, lavender flowers, rosemary, mint or white peppercorns in place of mothballs
White vinegar represents one of the best and least expensive all-purpose cleaning agents around. From deodorizing the garbage disposal to cleaning up pet accidents, there are countless ways where vinegar works as an amazing and natural cleaning agent. Try visiting VinegarTips.com for 1001 uses for non-toxic white distilled vinegar – you’ll be amazed by all the tips!
Take out the recycling
Just 20 years ago, only one curbside recycling program existed in the U.S. By 2006, that number had grown to 8,660 curbside programs, making it convenient for us to recycling items like glass, paper and plastic at the curb. For other items, like plastic bags, plastic bottle caps or electronics; they usually have to go a bit further than the curb.
When you have a large enough supply to warrant a trip, using an extra day off might be the perfect time to make sure those recyclables get to the recycling center. Most grocery stores and big-box stores, like Target, accept items like plastic bags and cell phones for recycling, making your day-off trip to the store the perfect time to gather up those recyclables and bring them with you.
Heading to the mall on your day off? Bring those plastic bottle caps you’ve been storing up to Aveda, or those empty makeup containers to Origins. Both retailers gladly accept these items for recycling.
If you are planning to pay tribute or memorialize a loved one this Memorial Day, consider a living legacy memorial in their honor. Trees Instead offers “condolence tree” dedications in place of cards or flowers in honoring a loved one.
From a single tree to an entire acre of trees, planted in reforestation projects, the family will receive a certificate with the name of the honoree, sender and tree number(s) planted in their loved one’s honor.
The Trees Remember is another great website for memorializing a loved one through tree donation and planting. The site even posts the current planting location of the trees, most being in reforestation areas previous devastated by forest fires.