Sometimes it’s the small things that make the most difference. They are often the easiest to implement and to stick with long term. Here are some very easy ways to go green at home and even save some money in the process.
Easy ways to go green at home
Use smaller plates, pots & bowls
The smaller the pan, plate, glass or whatever, the less water you will use when it’s time to wash it. You will also need to use less plastic wrap if you are covering food to save for later. And whenever possible, opt to buy, use, wash and keep your drinking glasses. Even when you buy recyclable cups, it is still a drain on the environment.
Bundle your Amazon purchases
I know, we strive to shop local but Amazon has practically everything we could ever want, and it’s so darn convenient. If you have Amazon Prime, shipping is free for so many products which makes it tempting to order items as we think of them. Strive to break the habit of ordering one or two things at a time. Yes, you have Amazon Prime so it’s easy to click, click, click and in less than 30 seconds you can order whatever you want with free shipping. But it’s better for the environment to put them in your virtual shopping cart until you have a few items.
So many times smaller items can be boxed together. It also saves on the shipping and handling in order to transport the items to your home. Think of the planes, trains, and trucks it takes to get your item to your doorstep. While it may be “free” with Amazon Prime, it’s still taking a toll on our earth and taxing our resources.
Delay shipping for your Amazon purchases
Another Amazon earth-friendlier practice is to not automatically opt for the free 2-day delivery. You can opt to wait 4 – 5 days or a week or more to not rush your items. At times, Amazon offers a digital credit to your account as an incentive.
A few weeks ago I added something else to my Amazon cart and decided to pay/checkout. By delaying my shipment to the next week, I earned several dollars in credit toward an Amazon Pantry purchase.
Use the quick cycle on your washing machine
I’ve had my washer and dryer for five years. While I despise doing laundry, they are beautiful front loading machines, highly rated from Consumer Reports. How did I not notice the Quick Cycle until recently, I do not know. Now, in addition to getting laundry done faster, the washing machine is only running for 36 minutes instead of 62 minutes. It’s using less water too. I also try to use it later in the evening during high-energy use times during the hot and cold months.
Consider your dishwasher
I appreciate my husband cleaning up the kitchen but sometimes see he will take up valuable dishwasher space with a big bowl that maybe just had fruit in it and could easily be rinsed. Dishwashers use lots of water and energy too. Use it, but use it smart. Run it in the evenings instead of peak periods, especially during seasons of high-energy usage, like 100 degree or 15 degree days. This goes for your washer and dryer too.
Use what you have
So many times I’ll be in Target and just start filling up my cart with things I don’t really need. Do I need to buy another nail polish, or could I use what I already have at home? When I’m at Costco, this happens a lot too. I don’t want to make another trip, so I fill my cart without giving it much thought.
This happens with lots of purchases we make. Before you put something in your cart, consider: Do you really need it at this time? Have you ever tried to eat everything in your freezer before buying more things to freeze? Have you eaten all the boxed, bagged and canned foods in your pantry or cabinets? It’s a goal and can be an accomplishment to even eat through a shelf of food.
Use a shower timer
My son brought home a shower timer from school after a presentation on water conservation. What a great idea! My kids love it and are sticking to it most days. Even if we can’t keep to the strict 5-minute shower limit, it is great to be mindful of how long we are running the water. You can get one on Amazon or use a kitchen timer you already own.
Use reusable straws
Maybe this seems obvious to you, but I rarely think to do this. I’ll go to Costco when I’m low on produce and buy their organic spinach and kale mix, a large container of strawberries, a bag with 8 colorful peppers, and 5 – 10 pounds of carrots. So many times, for whatever reason, I just know we won’t be able to finish what I bought. I’ve made it my new year’s resolution to never waste produce again. I’m taking half of what I come home with and wash it, chop it (if necessary) and put it in freezer bags.
Yes, freezer bags are plastic and considered wasteful but I save them for future use. If the bag is empty before I have more vegetables to refill it with, I keep the empty freezer bag in the freezer for the next time. (Since buying a NutriBullet, our family has been consuming a lot more produce, and we are needing to freeze less and less.)
Reuse gift bags and tissue paper for immediate family
I’m a big believer in wrapping paper from the dollar stores. The problem with it is that because it’s so cheap, I tend to be wasteful with it. I still buy and use it but in an effort to save paper, I have started a small stash of gift bags and tissue paper, especially for gifts in my immediate family. We use the same 4-5 gift bags and the same tissue paper gift after gift, and it lasts a good year at least. Sometimes when I have a little surprise for one of my kids, I’ll even “wrap” it in a cloth napkin or tea towel.
Save the coffee
You can freeze your leftover coffee from your coffee pot for iced coffee. My husband sticks to the tried and true coffee pot and hasn’t been interested in the Keurig and other fast-brewing coffee makers. (He likes saving money by using the big container of Folgers and thinks it tastes better.) He usually drinks the entire pot. But for the times he doesn’t, I’ve been encouraging him to pour it into our ice cube trays, and I use the cubes when I have iced coffee. Or put it in your compost. Don’t have a compost? Sprinkle the grounds
Spend on others
Do you exchange gifts with someone just because you always have, even if you both don’t need anything? Is it a challenge to keep coming up with something? This past year, instead of my family of four buying gifts for my out-of-town brother’s family of four, we spent that money on those less fortunate in our area.
You can seek out a family through a school or a church or donate to a cause. We went to our church and picked four names off the tree in November. It was a great lesson for our kids. It was wonderful how they were carefully considering what to buy as what we were giving them were most likely the recipients’ only gifts. We Facetimed with my brother’s family and showed each other what their “gifts” were. It was great. Next year we are going to have the kids use some of their money too. We have too much and don’t need to buy more things just to buy them while so many people could use help.
Share magazine subscriptions
This sounds basic but when I realized how many duplicate magazines we had coming into the house, I was shocked. My two boys EACH get the free Lego Club Magazine, the ever-fun Highlights Magazine, and a Boys’ Life magazine from Cub Scouts. They get the Exact Same Magazine!
I seriously couldn’t believe it. The Lego one was free so I never really thought much about the exact same two Lego Club magazines coming into our house every other month. But after my boys joined Cub Scouts they both started to receive the same magazine also. A few months later it was the gift-giving holiday season, and a thoughtful somewhat distant relative asked for our address so she could send my kids a subscription to Highlights Magazine. When I realize she paid for two subscriptions, I felt terrible. It seemed to be a waste of money and also paper, not to mention the impact, albeit minimal for just one magazine, of getting that magazine to our home.
So we had six magazines coming in our the home — duplicates of the same three magazines — and now we have three without missing them at all.
I’m not a big magazine reader, mostly because I prefer books. However, when I do want one, assuming it’s not an impulse buy at the checkout counter, I get them from the library. Sure they are a few months old, but the types I’m interested in mostly aren’t timely like a Time Magazine. They are more like Real Simple, Oprah’s magazine, etc., so reading them a few months later doesn’t matter.
You could even have a magazine exchange at your next book club meeting; bring your kids’ magazines too.
Make a rain garden
It’s simple to start a rain garden. Learn how and harvest your rain for when you need it.
Buy at thrift stores and secondhand
Your attitude on thrift stores and Goodwill shopping probably depends on what kind of experience you have about the thrift stores near where you live: If they are good, you probably like them. If they aren’t – if they are too expensive or not organized or smell or just a bunch of junk – you won’t like them.
Working full time, I never had time to go to garage sales. Once I stayed at home and had kids, I sought them out and bought lots of toys and clothes at them. When we moved out of state, I mourned the good deals I found at garage sales but found my new town offered good consignment shops. They weren’t too high-end but they only took decent things. I bought lots of my clothes there and also shopped at the children’s consignment shops in town. It was a great place to bring our outgrown items as well.
Secondhand shopping is earth friendly
When we left that state and moved again, I mourned the loss and convenience of consignment shops. It was like an always-open garage sale. But I found something even better! There was a Facebook group that was for our town that people used to sell things. You would leave whatever you were selling in a bin outside your door or garage, and the person would pick the item up and leave the money. It was all done through Facebook, and you didn’t have to meet face-to-face. It was convenient shopping from your computer or mobile device. I could search “boy’s winter coat” or “soccer ball” or anything. Everything was cheaper, was convenient, and was able to be reused… so earth-friendly!
Another great thing in that town was the Goodwill stores. My children’s entire wardrobe of dri-fit shirts and sweatshirts, including Nike and Under Armour, are all from consignment shops, that Facebook group, and Goodwill.
My husband finds camping and sports equipment, tools, electronics… pretty much anything at Goodwill. And the best part? It’s a lot easier to part with stuff you no longer use when you paid just a fourth or less of the retail price. We can just donate it back and eliminate clutter in our home. It is a hit or miss and when time is of the essence, you usually have to buy it new, but we LOVE buying secondhand and not creating more demand.
Unique and easy ways to go green at home
There are so many positive things that come from going green. These easy ways to go green at home sound simple and they are. They also don’t seem like they will add up to much difference, but if you do them all the time, for a year and longer, imagine the significance they will have, on our earth and on your wallet.