Sunday, July 16, 2017

Easy Ways to Reduce Trash and Energy Use

  1. Trade paper napkins for cloth

Get your cloth napkins that only get used on Thanksgiving and Christmas out!  Or if you really want to preserve your fancy ones for special occasions, there are tons of inexpensive ones on Amazon.  Or maybe you have some unused tablecloths that you could cut up. (I do, tell me if I should send you one.)  Or you could find some at Goodwill, or a garage sale.  Yeah, you have to wash them, but aren’t you doing the laundry anyway?Here’s a picture of mine.  I’m particularly fond of the chili pepper ones.  (I admit I did a bad job of hemming some of these.  My mom is looking at this picture and saying “Doggone it, I taught her better than that!”)

2) Reduce use of paper towels
I had a whole drawer full of dish rags that hardly ever got used.  It’s not hard to reach for one of them to wipe the counters or clean up a spill.  I also cut up some raggedy old towels to make some rags just for cleaning.  Or again, lots of cheap cloth towels on Amazon.  
3) Make sure you’re recycling everything that you can.
It’s easy to overlook things that can be recycled - some of the ones that I tend to forget are toilet paper rolls and toothpaste tubes.  Look for information about what materials are accepted by your city recycling service (if you live in a city that picks up recycling along with trash).  Olathe’s list is here: Johnson County Recycles is also a great local resource.
Plastic shopping bags, bread sacks, and produce bags can all be recycled in the bins for shopping bags grocery stores.  Just start a ‘bag of bags” in a corner of your kitchen and haul them to the store with you once a month or so.  Here’s a picture of my little recycling center in a corner of my pantry.  The blue bin is for glass (to take to RippleGlass), then my bag of bags, then a basket for dirty cloth napkins, dish rags, and dish towels.  The big garbage can for cardboard, metal and plastic is right behind me.)

4) Stop using plastic baggies as much as you can.
Using reusable shopping bags has become pretty common (and you can recycle plastic shopping bags when you do get them), but what about other kinds of plastic bags?  I’ve been using mesh produce bags when I go grocery shopping, instead of the plastic produce bags available at the grocery store.  I admit I was a little apprehensive the first time I approached a cashier with my mesh bags,  but I’ve done it several times now and no one’s batted an eye.  And you can trade out Ziploc bags and sandwich baggies for reusable containers.  (The one that you do use can be washed out and reused many times, and recycled with your other plastic bags too, if you just rip the zip-top off.)
5) Don’t take straws or lids for drinks in restaurants.
If you’re not taking a to-go cup with you, why do you need a lid?  If you are taking a refill with you, pour it in your water bottle.
6) Use reusable cups for coffee, and water bottles instead of buying bottled drinks.
I know Starbucks will gladly make your coffee in a travel mug - they actually have a corporate goal to serve more drinks in reusable cups.  I have to think the other coffee chains will too. 
7) Line-dry your clothes.
String a clothesline, or use a drying rack (this is the one we use).  You save money on your electric bill and your clothes don’t shrink.  
8) Replace your incandescent lightbulbs for LED bulbs.
I know LED bulbs cost more than other types, but they use a fraction of the electricity of incandescents.  We bought two LED bulbs a month until we had replaced all the bulbs that get used regularly in our house.
9) Install a programmable thermostat
If your house is empty during the day, turn the A/C or heat (depending on the season) down when you leave every morning.  And turn the heat down at night during the winter, when you’re all snuggled up in bed anyway.
10) Compost your food scraps and yard waste.
Ok, I know I promised this would be a list of easy things, and this one does take a little bit of work, and maybe a little money to get started.  But it’s really worth it!  There are many websites and books that go over all the ways to get started composting, what to put in your bin and what not to put in your bin, how to harvest your finished compost, etc.  So I’m not going to recreate all their good work here.  Or I’ll gladly talk to you about how I do it, if you want.  I’ve been composting in a tumbler bin I bought online since January (I am that pigheaded woman who decided to start composting in the middle of winter) and I’m looking forward to having black gold to add to my garden next spring.  

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