The Everyday Environmentalist

With Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris agreement yesterday, those of us who are passionate about care of the earth are, if not surprised, still frustrated. What we are not is powerless. If the data in this chart, or this one is accurate (and as I’ve been hearing variations on this theme a lot the last two days, I have no reason to think otherwise), then we, as individuals in the U.S., have a lot of room to reduce our carbon footprint. There’s no rule that says we have to wait for our leaders to mandate it. Why don’t we, as individuals, take the lead?

Today I re-present:


35+ ways to green up your real life (and often save money in the process)


In the Kitchen

  1. Take your own bags to the grocery store. Cloth is even better than paper or plastic.
    2. Buy fresh, not prepackaged. Making mac & cheese or pancakes from scratch really doesn’t require more time, and veggies you cook yourself lose less nutritional value.
    3. Buy organic.
    4. Buy local.
    5. Grow your own vegetables.
    6. Compost.
    7. Recycle.Yes, even so far as bringing home the plastic ware from the fast food restaurants which don’t offer recycling. This is a biggie!
    8. Wash and reuse Ziploc bags.
    9. Wait to run the dishwasher till it’s full.

Vehicles and driving

  1. Turn off the car. (Another biggie.) Why run your engine while you check your phone, wait for kids at their lessons/practices, or for your spouse at the grocery store? Every bit of that is unnecessary pollution. Turn it off.
    11. Slow down! The faster you drive, the more gas you burn, and it really doesn’t make a significant difference in time, anyway.
    12. Make one trip to the grocery store for the week—IOW, plan and shop with a list.
    13. Combine trips & walk from errand to errand when possible. Not when convenient–when possible.
    14. Take advantage of public transportation.
    15. Carpool.
    16. Make sure the tires are at the proper pressure (you get better gas mileage).

Around the house

  1. Buy refills on cleaners instead of a new squeeze bottle every time
    18. Buy used, and don’t buy things you don’t need. (Another big one!)
    19. Use compact fluorescent bulbs.
    20. Turn the lights off.
    21. Turn the computer off, or at least put it to sleep. Why have it running while you’re sleeping? And in the summer it’s adding to the heat that the air conditioner has to fight.
    22. Unplug electronics. They draw power even when not in use.
    23. Use Recycled Paper.
    24. Print on the back sides of used paper for rough drafts.
    25. Turn the thermostat up a degree in the summer and down a degree in the winter.
    26. Seal doors & windows with caulking or weather strips.
    27. Get double pane windows.
    28. Replace old appliances.
    29. Set the water heater no higher than 120.
    30. Take shorter showers.
    31. Dry clothes on a line instead of in the dryer.
    32. Plant a tree
    33. Replace parts of your lawn with native plants–wildflowers, low-maintenance ground cover, and so on–so the mowing takes less time and gasoline.

For the Family

  1. Use cloth diapers. There are diaper services that can do the cleaning for you.
    35. Toilet train early. In my experience, the success or failure toilet training has much more to do with parental commitment than a child’s “readiness.” (Since I’ve toilet trained four kids, and the only one who was over 2 was the one with a disability, I stand by that statement.)
    Bonus: Practice Natural Family Planning. No plastic, no chemicals going into the water supply, no waste. And despite what you may have heard…it works.

(This post was originally published on May 29, 2007, but I fine-tune it every time I re-post it.)