7 Ways to Go Green in Spring
Spring is officially here! There isn’t anything better than an abundance of sunshine, warm temperatures and smiling faces. This is the season to not just go green, but to $ave $ome green too!
Here are a few simple changes you can make to reduce your environmental footprint and save money this spring.
1. Declutter Your Life
Get rid of all of your things you own that you don’t want or haven’t used in a year. While “spring cleaning” is not a new phrase, it’s definitely a daunting task to clean out your closet. What do you toss? What do you donate? What can be recycled?
- Keep It. One excellent rule of thumb to remember is if you have used it in the past year, you’ll probably use it again. If you haven’t, you probably won’t. Hang on to the essentials. Also, if it’s not broken, why replace it?
- Donate It. Make a list of your belongings. It’ll show you that your tastes change. Keep unwanted items out of landfills by donating them to Goodwill or asking family and friends if they have any use for them.
- Recycle It. Paper – old mail, magazines, or books – they all can be recycled. Something to think about: A family size of four uses 1.25 tons of paper per year on average. The EPA states that if you recycle one ton of paper, it saves 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, in addition to enough energy to power the average American home for six months.
- Trash It. Landfills are for items that have no use. When disposing of hazardous materials, be cautious, if the distribution is off, it can cause toxic components that could leach into the soil and groundwater. If something isn’t recyclable, most of the time it can be reused in some creative capacity.
2. Use Natural Cleaning Supplies
You’ve cleared off your countertops and hardwood floors, but there is dirt, grime, and grit from the winter (ick!) all over the floors. How should you clean them?
- Traditional cleaners may be more harmful than good. Many times they are responsible for 10 percent of toxic exposures reported to local poison control centers. “Natural” and “green” cleaning products are available at your local grocery store.
- You, however, can save some money and create your own cleaning product from supplies you already own.
- Spray Cleaner: Combine 2 cups of water, 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon of tea tree oil, and 1/4 teaspoon of lavender oil. Mix ingredients together and store in a spray bottle.
- Deodorizing Cleaner: Mix 1 part vinegar and 1 part water in a spray bottle to clean countertops, floors, stovetops, and other appliances. Try scrubbing dishes, surfaces, and stains with a lemon and this mixture with baking soda for a deep clean.
**Please remember that homemade cleaners may not completely eliminate all bacteria, such as the H1N1 virus. Read the product’s label and follow instructions as noted.**
3. Go for an Energy Upgrade
For many of us, going off the grid isn’t an option (unless your tax return is huge). If you’re looking to save money on your electric bill, here three easy changes you can make:
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with efficient CFLs or LEDs. Americans spend 20 percent of their electricity budget on lighting, period. If you choose energy-efficient lighting, the average household can save over 1,000 kilowatt-hours, 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide, and up $110 per year in electricity.
- Install a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts your home’s temp. If the thermostat’s initial cost (approximately $115 or s0) deters you, remember it can help to reduce your energy usage by more than 15 percent during the summer and up to 25 percent in the winter.
- Shade your windows. Window treatments, like light-colored blinds and drapes, can save you up to $210 per year on heating and cooling costs.
4. Wash Your Dirty Car
According to the International Car Wash Association, automatic car washes use less than half of the water used when you wash your car at home. The average home wash uses approximately 80-140 gallons of water, while the automatic car wash is about 45 gallons. Commercial car washes often reuse water and then send it to treatment centers instead of lakes and streams.
If you’re set on washing your car with your kids at home, consider these tips:
- Park on gravel or grass, so soapy water soaks into the ground, becomes filtered, and recharges the groundwater.
- Avoid soaps with labels that say “harmful, danger or poison.”
- Turn off the hose when you’re not using the water.
5. Start Your Compost
Composting is a way to recycle certain materials and scraps from your kitchen and turn them into a soil for home gardens. The EPA estimates that each American throws away an average of approximately 1.3 pounds of food scraps daily. This makes up 24 percent of our municipal solid waste. Items like food scraps, grass clippings, plant cuttings, dry leaves, hay, straw, simple paper products, crush eggshells, coffee grounds, sawdust, and wood clippings can go into the compost. Knowing what items go into a compost is essential for a successful outcome.
6. Plant the Garden You’ve Always Wanted
There’s nothing better than fresh fruit and vegetables from a garden… this year, make it your garden! Find a spot with plenty of sunshine, enrich the soil with compost (see tip #5) and fill it with things you love. A garden puts your favorite fruit and vegetables at your fingertips and can save you time (and gas too!) going to the grocery store.
7. Get Your Fitness On
Take steps to improve your health this season by increasing physical activity! While there are many forms of exercise and gyms to join, a good place to start is something most of us already do every day… WALK! Breathe in the fresh air on a daily walk and encourage your friends or family to come along too – just remember to socially distance yourself from people outside of your household! If you’re running local errands, consider riding a bicycle because it’s great exercise and helps to reduce pollutants from car exhaust.
For more tips, stay tuned to our blog here at St. Anne’s!
While your holiday will probably be different this year, we’re still asking the same question: do the gift wrap, tissue paper, and gift boxes go in the trash?
Regardless of if it’s the holiday season or any other time of year, sustainability starts at the beginning of the cart. Consider these tips:
- Encourage minimal gift exchanges such as a Secret Santa or white elephant gift experience.
- Reduce waste by giving someone an e-gift card or reloading an existing gift card.
- Get crafty and create DIY gifts, such as centerpieces, apothecary containers, etc. They can easily be personalized.
- Select items with recyclable packaging.
- When shopping, use your reusable bag.
- Reuse boxes from online purchases as gift boxes.
- Give rechargeable batteries (with the charging station) for toys that require batteries.
- Use a reusable face mask. Avoid placing masks, wipes, and gloves in the recycling container.
- Give a gift that may benefit charities, especially those impacted by the pandemic.
- Shop sustainably.
You’ve shopped sustainably. You’ve checked off your list and you’ve wrapped your gifts. Now it’s time to wrap the gifts.
- Purchase gift wrap made with recycled materials that can also be recycled.
- Wrap gifts in gift bags. Place a “Green It Forward” note inside asking the recipient of the bag to pass the bag and note along to the next recipient.
- Give existing materials a second life as gift wrap.
- Don’t use gift tags, tissue paper, and bows. They do not recycle.
For more information, recyclingpartnership.org
America Recycles Day is on November 15 each year and is the only nationally-recognized day “dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States.”
This year, the EPA recognizes our nation’s progress with recycling, and how it affects American prosperity. The recycling rate has “more than tripled over the last 30 years to the current rate of 35 percent.”
This growth helps to create an abundance of jobs and wages for Americans and support community development. The most recent data says that “recycling and reuse activities in the U.S. created 757,000 jobs and produced $36 billion in wages in a single year.”
A few GREEN tips for the office:
- Instead of printing hard copies of documents, save them to your hard drive or email to yourself to save paper
- Change your printer settings to be more environmentally-friendly. Set to double-sided, use smaller point fonts when possible, and the “fast draft” setting to help save ink
- Opt for paying bills online when possible to save paper
- Reuse envelopes with metal clasps and file folders by sticking a new label over the previous one
Interesting Recycling Facts
- 60 percent of trash could be recycled
- Aluminum cans can be recycled endlessly
- 80 billion aluminum cans are used each year around the world
- 500,000 trees are cut down just to produce the Sunday newspapers each week
- Each American uses almost 700 pounds of paper each year – most of which is just thrown away
- Americans throw away over 25 trillion Styrofoam cups per year
- 5 million plastic bottles are used in the U.S. every hour — most of which are not recycled
- Plastic bags in the oceans kill a million sea creatures per year
The holidays are approaching us quickly and the COVID-19 pandemic is something that may alter our holiday gatherings this year. Holiday gatherings can be an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. However, this year, consider ways to modify your gatherings to reduce the spread of COVID-19 amongst your loved ones.
Celebrating virtually or with only members of your household pose the lowest risk of spread. However, we realize that some will continue holding holiday gatherings. Here are a few tips to reduce the spread and keep your loved ones safe.
Considerations for Hosting or Attending Gatherings
- Check the local infection rates in the area you’re visiting. Based on the current status in the area you’re in, consider if it is truly safe to hold or attend the event.
- Try to limit the number of attendees, so that people can remain at least 6 feet apart. Guests should avoid any direct contact: handshakes, hugs, etc.
- Hold your gathering outdoors instead of indoors. Even outdoors, require your guests to wear masks when not eating or drinking.
- Set up an open-air tent, so that guests can still practice social distancing.
- Encourage attendees to wash their hands often with soap and water. Provide hand sanitizer.
Food and drink at Holiday Gatherings
- Encourage guests to bring food and drinks for themselves and members of their household only. Avoid any pot-luck gatherings.
- Consider wearing a mask when preparing and serving food.
- Try single-serve options or have one person serve shareable items, like salad dressings, food containers, plates, and utensils.
For more information on Holiday Celebrations and Small Gatherings, please visit the CDC website here.
When using Sani-Cloth hand wipes, remember to use each sheet until it’s dry, and make sure to keep the canister lid closed until the next use. You may also want to take advantage of multi-use, reusable cloth wipes instead of paper towels. They are great because they are:
- Reusable, durable, dry cleaning cloths
- Superabsorbent and multi-purpose uses
- Machine washable, for multiple uses
- Rinse and reuse up to 20 times
- An alternative to paper towels, rags, and sponges
A blog post from www.eater.com talks about why kitchen towels are so useful. Read more below.
By Lesley Suter
I have a paper towel problem. In a normal week, I tear through two to three of those jumbo-size rolls that barely fit on the countertop holder. I use them to clean up small messes, big messes, non-messes, every mess. I use them to dry my hands after each little rinse in the kitchen sink. I use them as dinner napkins, as makeshift plates, like Kleenex. And mostly I use them to wipe the schmutz off every square inch of my two children multiple times per day.
I am acutely aware that using so many paper towels is wasteful and killing trees and makes all the other small eco-moves I do (Beeswax wraps! Glass containers!) seem hypocritical. But yet, paper towels are ever-so-easy and hygienic and convenient and, under normal circumstances, readily available. Parents get it — we discuss our rampant paper towel use with the same hushed tones and side winks that we do when divulging our dependence on screen time and prescription edibles.
For years, every time I tore through those little select-a-size perforations (note: the correct size is always three) I felt a twinge of shame — an emotion that, as it turns out, was for naught because the novel coronavirus has finally exposed the American public for the selfish, paper towel addicted monsters they really are. We are a nation of roll hoarders.
So, as is the case with many aspects of modern life in the wake of COVID-19, I’m being forced to adapt. And out of the ashes of my crumpled paper towel heap has arisen an unexpected new savior: The humble kitchen towel. I’ve always had stacks of these thin, stiff, mismatched strips of fabric stuffed in a drawer, which I would break out from time to time to literally dry a dish, but that was about it. Now, with my multi-purpose disposable crutch unavailable, kitchen towels have emerged as an essential part of my kitchen — and honestly, life — toolbox. Here’s why:
They clean things
I don’t know why I had it in my head that kitchen towels are only for drying things. They also sop and scrub and, when damp, actually clean pretty great! Just as before I can spray my countertop cleaner of choice and wipe a dish towel over it like one would a paper towel or a sponge — a disgusting, unsanitary sponge.
But they do so much more than clean things!
Need to wring the moisture out of shredded potatoes or zucchini? Twist it in a dishtowel. Need to cover (but not seal) some proofing dough or steamed rice? Drape a kitchen towel over it. Is lettuce too wet? Dab it with that towel. A couple of wadded-up (and dry!) towels work just super as pot holders, and folded over they’re great makeshift trivets. The use of kitchen towels as table napkins has been well-documented, but now I actually tie one around my kids’ neck, tape the other end to the counter, and make a scoop bib for catching dribbles.
This seems obvious, but it didn’t really hit home until I started using them regularly. I can run a damp towel under my kid’s chair to snag all the gross cheerio crumbs and old wrinkly peas that are under there, take it to the sink, rinse it out, let it dry, and it’s good to clean something else gross and horrible in an hour or so. Plus, at the end of each night, I just grab all the rinsed sullied towels, throw them in the washing machine, and they’re ready for the next days’ worth of destruction.
They look great
Paper towels are about as good for your decor as they are for the environment — but kitchen towels can make a statement. There are all kinds of cute designer patterns available, or you can go classic with the bistro-chic white with a red stripe. I recently discovered I own six different variations of cat-themed towels, so there’s that!
So, have kitchen towels totally cured me of my paper towel addiction? God, no. Not even close. But do I now look at all those weird rags shoved in my kitchen drawer in a whole new light? Yes, sure. Scrub away!