Jun 23, 2007

Save the Earth One Small Step at a Time

Having kids has made me more environmentally conscious. I'm not about to switch our house over to solar power or buy a hybrid vehicle when we're not due for a new car, but I look for little things that I can do. Here are 10 easy ways to conserve resources (and save money - it's nice how they often go together):
  1. Find other uses for your grocery bags. I always carry plastic grocery bags in my diaper bag for disposing of diapers. I also put a plastic bag on the kitchen counter to collect veggie scraps, egg shells, and other discards while prepping meals. (I don't garden - otherwise I'd save the organic scraps for compost.) Paper grocery bags are great for transporting things (I use them to tote things like lunch or large files to and from work). I also keep a paper grocery bag in an inconspicuous corner of my house to collect things to be donated to charity. When it fills up, I put out another bag, and after a few bags have accumulated, we drop them off.
  2. Run several errands at once to minimize gas usage. I plan my trips so that I take the most efficient route (which also saves me time). I love the idea of walking or riding a bike, but only the post office is within walking distance of my house.
  3. Run full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine. The dishwasher is actually more efficient than hand washing, so you don't have to feel guilty about using it. (I have to admit, though, that I've been known to run half loads just to get the kids' stuff sterilized.) And don't stuff the washing machine since that will reduce the effectiveness of the agitation. Just use less detergent instead.
  4. Use cloth grocery bags or reuse paper/plastic ones. I need to work on this one since I have plenty of paper grocery bags stored up that I always forget to take with me.
  5. Turn off lights in unused rooms. This one truly is a matter of habit and one we're pretty good about. An older child could be designated "light monitor" in charge of making sure unneeded lights get turned off.
  6. Reuse paper. Paper with blank space is great for lists or drawing. Junk mail can be used as packing material. The Sunday comics can be used as wrapping paper (twine makes a nice "ribbon" to give it a finished look).
  7. Swap with friends. Instead of buying new toys or DVDs, swap with friends for a set period of time. The kids in both families will have "new" toys to play with or movies to watch and both sets of parents will save money. For the adults, have a clothes-swapping party. Get your girlfriends together for a potluck and tell everyone to also bring clothes and accessories that don't fit or that they don't wear anymore.
  8. Shop at farmer's markets or buy locally grown produce. You'll be buying produce that's in season so it will be reasonably priced (and taste good too). The environment wins because less energy was required to bring the produce to you (due to the shorter distance). And some farmer's markets have family activities (one near us regularly has a pony ride).
  9. Make your own (natural) beauty products. It's easy to make your own masks, scrubs and conditioners. Also, consider using fewer products and less of them. You'll spend less money and generate less waste that ends up in landfills.
  10. Give to friends and to charity. When you no longer need something, if at all possible, give it away. Friends with (especially babies) will love getting your child's gently worn clothing. Ask around to see if someone else can use your old couch, or list it on a site like Craigslist. The Salvation Army is one charity that will pick up bulky items.