By Mary Mazzoni on Jul 5, 2010

20 Green Things in 20 Minutes

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TIP #1: Shop for local food. Many major grocery chains now offer a section for local foods. Photo: Amanda Wills, Earth911.com

Think one person can’t make a difference? Think again. With every American producing 4.6 pounds of trash per day, the little things we do to reduce our impact can make a huge difference.

Here are 20 little things you can do to help the environment and your world in less than 20 minutes.

1. Shop local for produce.

Next time you’re headed out for groceries, take a few minutes to make an extra stop at a farmer’s market for fruits and veggies. Buying local reduces your footprint and helps support farmers in your community. Local fruits and vegetables are also packed with way more nutrients than produce with a passport, and they’re tasty too!

2. Click to give.

The web is full of sites that allow you to contribute to charitable causes with a click a day. That means no cost, just clicks! Use the power of your right index finger to support The Rainforest Site, The Animal-Rescue Site, The Hunger Site and more.

3. Make a reusable survival kit.

Having trouble getting through the day without using disposables? Think ahead, and make yourself survival kit for daily use. Include items such as a reusable water bottle and coffee mug, and put it all in a canvas bag for impromptu shopping trips. Leave your kit in your car or desk.

4. Switch to eco-friendly cleaning supplies.

Next time you’re stocking up on cleaning supplies, trade your standard brands for supplies labeled eco-friendly or biodegradable. Or play chemist, and make your own! Vinegar, salt and lemon juice are all great natural cleaning solvents.

5. Do a quick closet cleanse.

We’re not talking about a deep clean here, but are those jeans from 1984 really necessary? While you’re cleaning, take a second look at your duds. Cutting up clothes is in, and you may have a few diamonds in the rough that will keep you away from the mall for another month. Cut those pants into shorts or capris. Break out the scissors and start re-fashioning old T-shirts.

6. Re-adjust your computer.

Learn to adjust your computer’s viewing settings for easy reading. This will reduce your need to print out emails or pages of interest. When you do print, use both sides to reduce paper waste. Also, change your power settings to optimize battery usage and activate sleep mode after a period of inactivity.

7. Fix that leak!

A leaky faucet or a running toilet may not seem like a big deal, but little leaks can waste loads of water. Make sure all your faucets are leak-free and your toilet is always working properly.

8. Donate paper scraps to a local classroom.

Kindergarten classes and daycare centers can always use extra pieces of wallpaper, scrap paper or newspaper for arts and crafts. Just think, your paper scraps may soon be hanging on a proud parent’s refrigerator.

9. Go unplugged.

Vampire power is the energy your appliances use when they are plugged in but not running. Cut back on wasted energy by unplugging cell phone chargers, coffee pots and toasters when they are not in use. Keep bigger items such as televisions and sound systems on a power-strip, and flip it off when they are not being used.

10. Switch to cloth napkins

Not only do they add pretty accents to your table, but cloth napkins significantly reduce paper waste. Take it one step further and switch to handkerchiefs instead of tissues and rags rather than paper towels for cleaning.

12. Organize a carpool.

Think outside the box with this one. Planning a weekend trip to the beach or mountains? Ask around. A few of your friends may be shore-bound too! Piling together in one car not only saves on gas and emissions but also adds extra fun to your weekend vacay.

13. Start composting.

Composting food scraps is a quick and easy way to reduce waste in your home. Once your pile is set up, it’s as simple as tossing your food scraps into a bowl and taking it outside every day. Check out Earth911 for tips on starting your compost pile.

14. Do a weekly purge of the fridge.

Take a weekly account of what’s in your fridge. Throw perishables a few days from spoiling into a crock-pot or casserole for tonight’s dinner. For food you know you won’t use, don’t let it go bad! Donate it to a local food pantry or church to reduce food waste.

15. Check your pressure.

Having your tires at the proper pressure increases your car’s gas mileage. It also increases the longevity of your tires, which reduces rubber waste. Most gas stations and service centers have pressure gages and air dispensers available.

16. Make the switch to paperless.

Banish endless paper bills by paying bills online and opting to receive e-mail statements. And open up some of that junk mail before tossing it into the recycling bin. It’s usually as simple as calling a service line to get your address removed from a company’s mailing list.

17. Make fruit juice concoctions.

Throw some of your locally purchased fruit in a blender for a healthy drink. For something more refreshing, run your creation through a strainer and add some water. Or you can never go wrong with homemade iced tea or lemonade! Pour your tasty tonics into pitchers, and stick them in your fridge for the week.

18. Pack a lunch.

Instead of stopping at the lunch truck when mid-afternoon hunger hits, reach for a packed lunch in a reusable lunchbox. Check out reusable sandwich containers as an alternative to plastic bags, and don’t forget the reusable silverware!

19. Save your water.

Set aside water used for washing veggies or boiling eggs or pasta. Allow it to cool and reuse it to water your houseplants.

20. Compare and contrast when you shop.

Next time you’re at the store, take a few minutes to compare products before buying. Not for price, for packaging! Reach for items with as little packaging as possible, and buy items packaged in recyclable material whenever possible. You’ll be shocked at how empty your trash can gets!

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Comments

  1. mary says

    Thanks for putting all these ideas together in one place. Although I do some of them (not always consistently) – this article reminds me that if I develop consistent habits – in all of these areas – I can make a bigger difference than I might expect.

  2. bryan says

    a lot of these are not all that innovative, and most seem impractical given how accustomed we are to using paper napkins. who would make their own fruit juice?

  3. Lisa says

    I have an 8yr old that would love to make her own juice. Its a great Idea and initiative for kids to try and be healthy. Most juices sold contain more sugar and filler crap that a bottle of soda or cup of cho milk. If you’ve got a child thats not so into veggies its a good way to sneak them in to their diet. Also the emergency bag is a great Idea. One I shall soon put to use. Thanks for the great ideas and keep them coming!!!

  4. says

    It takes an INTENTIONAL BEHAVIOR CHANGE to accomplish any of these 20. That’s the beauty of each tip – they are easy and low or no cost. PRAIRIE GODMOTHERS love to share tips like these in our community workshops because we believe going green is not difficult, expensive or disruptive.

  5. R. says

    These are nice, easy, good reminders. Thanks!!!
    I think it would be helpful to post more link for people. For example, many cities don’t have composting infrastructure, and many apartment residents don’t have land to use/care for their own compost. You could suggest sites where people can contact sources closest to home: landscapers, farmers, compost donation centers, etc. Composting is one of the greatest ways people can minimize their trash, but it can be daunting without access to outlets.
    Dehydrating foods, homemade pickling and preserves are a great way to save perishable food for months, and it’s easy to do. I am not sure I understand the fruit juice advice?

  6. says

    These are all great “green” ideas that could and should be put to use. I have not gone to cloth napkins…actually I hadn’t thought of them, but I will now. I stopped buying paper plates and plastic silverware a long time ago. I also want to start using the eco-friendly cleaning supplies if they aren’t too expensive. I do already use vinegar, salt, lemon juice and baking soda. The idea about having somewhere to donate compost material is great. There are some places that won’t let you have one unless you put the expense into a proper barrell to keep critters away. Right now I do put all I can out for the birds to eat, like seed from peppers, strawberry scraps, etc. They love them and now I have a strawberry plant from a bird dropping the seeds in just the right place.

    Another good idea is mulching your own yard waste. I actually just do it with the lawn mower every fall and then use any big piles that build up from the wind to put around my trees. It works very well and no waste..it all goes right back into your own yard.

    And…to “bryan”…come on, do we really need the negativity on this “green” site? Try it…you might like it. Meow….

  7. says

    It’s great to have a laundry list like this. I have found that even though I’ve made big changes in my household, sometimes I let things slide. Articles like this help put me back into the mindset of being aware of my actions.

  8. says

    these are simple adjustments to your daily routine – make them a habit, teach your children, educate the youth, develop a better structure for the next generation. It IS possible – we have ignored this issue for far too long.
    Great article thank you Mary

  9. says

    These are useful reminders and suggestions! Even if we can’t do all of them, we can at least do as many as possible.

    Check out http://www.freecycle.org to give away usable items that you might otherwise toss in the trash or take to the dump. Furniture, baby clothes, toys, you name it. It’s a great resource for people just starting out.

    I’ve been using fabric napkins now for 30 years or more. It’s easy. I started as a young person, sewing my own very inexpensively from fabric matching hand-sewn kitchen curtains. Whenever they needed replacement, I used the old ones for cleaning rags. Now, I purchase good quality cloth napkins, catching them on sale. Cloth napkins can last for 5 or more years. The key is to have enough so you will always have clean ones on hand while waiting for laundry day. They don’t take up much room in the washer, so the energy and water used to clean them is minimal.

    I understood her “fruit juice concoction” suggestion to mean that you just blend up your own fruits to make slushes and smoothies. Instead of tossing out over-ripe fruit, cut up and freeze your excess fresh fruit (berries, bananas, peaches, etc.) in their prime. Then you just toss them in a blender, either alone or with other fruit plus ice, water or yogurt and a touch of sweetener. Smoothies make a great quick breakfast or hot weather snack. You can also use these frozen fruits as a base for mixed drinks with alcohol. Watermelon or peach daiquiris made from scratch are so good!

  10. WillowsMom says

    Before tossing things out, first ask yourself if it can be used for something else. I.E. Coffee can. With a little creativity, you can turn that washed coffee can into cannisters for storing dry goods, craft items, or used to package a gift. During holiday giving time, instead of buying wrapping paper, a box, tissue paper, make the entire gift, including the packaging a present. Make or buy re-usable cloth bags and put the gift in that. That way, the person receiving the gift has a re-usable bag for shopping. The cost for re-usable cloth shopping bags is less than $1.00. Far cheaper than buying all that waste to wrap a gift.

    I purchased, a juicer many years ago and use that to make my own fruit and veggie juice. You can not compare making your own juice to any store bought juice. Veggie juice can also be frozen and used as broth in soups and stews, and you can also freeze fruit juices for popsicles. The pulp from the fruit can be used in baking, and the pulp from veggies can be used in soups, stews, casseroles, or you can, simply toss the pulp into your compost pile.

    Recycling cloth is very easy. Turn old curtains or sheets, pillow cases, even clothes into something else. I made potholders out of old kitchen curtains my mom had in her house and gave each of my sisters one. They brought back a lot of memories. Turn them into re-usable shopping bags. Re-usable shopping bags aren’t just for the grocery store. Use them wherever you shop. You can also make quilts, or use the cloth in scrapbook craft. If the cloth is beyond re-using for any craft project, cut it up, as someone suggested, and use as a rag. If the cloth is still usable but you don’t do crafts, donate the cloth to a senior center. You will be surprised by the creative uses an elder will come up with.

    If you absolutely MUST use plastic for your trash pick up, you can buy from most grocery stores plastic bags made from recycled material and they are biodegradable. They cost a few cents more, however, they are very sturdy and earth friendly.

    Be an activist in your area. Encourage your local stores to stop using those cheap, flimsy plastic bags. Suggest they have a ‘green day’ every month and give shoppers a re-usable bag with their purchase. Most stores will partner with a large company for this promotion and it won’t cost either company a penny to run such a promotion. Work with your local government to encourage the ban of those plastic bags. In some states, if a customer wants a plastic bag they have to pay 10 cents for each used. This is to encourage people to stop using them.

    Buy only earth friendly products. Not only what is inside the package but the package itself. Save earth. Everything in life is connected. When everything on earth is affected by pollutants, it affects humans as well.

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