It’s known by most people the impact that humans have on the planet. From carbon emissions in our vehicles, semi trucks, and airplanes to improper disposal of hazardous waste to landfills of garbage and garbage in our oceans, it’s time that a movement of eco-conscious people become the majority. It’s also known that I am a sort of hippie in a sense that I try and repurpose, reduce, reuse, and recycle everything. Below I’ve assembled some tips that will save you time, money, and the environment without costing you too much time out of your daily routine.
Get 3-7 reusable grocery bags
I personally love these- they are usually found near/by/in the checkout aisles or some stores have a special area where they keep them. They can be made of a water-resistant material or canvas or other types of materials. I have tried canvas ($5 at Target), the traditional ones ($1 at Publix), and a larger sized more plastic-type one ($2 at TJ Maxx or JoAnn Fabrics). The traditional ones are my favorite overall- they are a good size, have a piece of plastic at the bottom to keep the “form” of the bag, and have strong handles. I also really like the canvas ones (bought mine at Target for $5) because they have longer handles and are more comfortable to carry in hand or on shoulder. The larger one that I have from TJ Maxx is not intended for groceries, unless you’re only putting produce or light items in it- these get heavy, quick!
Invest in a reusable water bottle
When I was in college, the thought of using a reusable water bottle and washing it DAILY was a no-go. I was wayyyy to busy for that. Since then I’ve become more eco-conscious and have also come to learn that it’s cheaper to use a reusable water bottle over time. We also get 3 Zephyrhills 5-gallon water jugs delivered to our door monthly and that’s the water we use for drinking ($30/month, includes cooler rental). I bought a soft bristle bottle brush ($3-$5) and use hot water and dishsoap to clean them, rinsing very well afterwards. We have a total of about 6-7 now since we’ve tried different styles. These reusable water bottles come in a variety of materials, sizes, methods for drinking out of it, colors, and prices. Materials include stainless steel, plastic, glass, and other materials. They come in sizes from 16oz to 32oz. Some have a straw with a silicone mouthpiece, some have a button you constantly push while drinking, others have a flip-lid to access the water drinking hole, and there are many more options available. Colors range from clear plastic to purple, pink, blue, grey, black, etc. They range in price from $10-$20 each. You can find them at Target, Publix, other retailers, and online.
Reuse any plastic grocery bags you have
If you have a dog, you could easily use these as “poop bags” for walks, to pick up the waste. Put your hand inside the bag and grab the waste, then flip the bag inside-out and tie it. Dispose in an outside trash can lined with a garbage bag. We have a designated “poop pail” outside for dog waste, baby diaper bags, etc. We also use these bags for our smaller trash cans in the bathroom, living room, and bedroom. When it’s time to change the bag, we tie it up, put a new grocery plastic bag in it, and toss the full one in the poop pail or in the kitchen garbage. You can also use these bags to donate items to Salvation Army, Goodwill, homeless centers, churches, etc since you won’t be needing them back.
Everything you use and are about to toss out, check if there’s a recycle symbol on it
There are quite a few things that are recyclable that you may not know about: the containers for berries and mushrooms, fountain drink cups and/or lids, canned goods, glass jars and liquor/beer bottles/containers, junk mail and ad circulars, laundry detergent containers, newspaper, etc. Things that are NOT recyclable (because they have food contamination): pizza boxes, styrofoam meat containers, paper&plastic cream or milk cartons (like how they looked in the 90s).
–Below Are All Tricks I Use–
Saving Energy and Natural Resources
Turn off lights when you leave the room. Only have lights on that you need to use
Turn off the faucet if you’re not using it that moment
Get CFL or LED lights to save on energy costs and to get a longer bulb life
Try to lump your errands together in one day and plan the route for maximum gas and time efficiency
Turn off the oven or stovetop a few minutes before the food looks “done” cooking
Turn off the oven before you take the food out to avoid leaving it on accidentally
Only preheat the oven when you’re less than 5 minutes away from putting the food inside
Use a toaster oven to conserve energy vs a regular oven when possible (these are great for reheating pizza or fried items!)
Keep the AC unit as high a temperature as you’re comfortable with and use fans to keep cool
Use the dishwasher versus handwashing whenever possible (dishwashers use 1/2 the amount of water than washing by hand- think of how much water is used in filling the sink, rinsing, etc)
Saving Money, Food, and Waste
Freeze the bread you buy immediately. Save endpieces of the bread loaf to use to grind into breadcrumbs at a later date
If butter is on sale, stock up and freeze the amount you won’t use in 2 weeks.
Buy a larger portion of meat and portion it out into 1 pound increments (ground meats)
Consider chopping up and preserving veggies in the freezer
Use the correct amount of toothpaste, hand soap, dish soap, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, olive oil, etc in your daily routine (the amount you truly need is a lot smaller than you think! see “how low can you go” to get the same effect with less product usage!)
Find ways to DIY (do-it-yourself). You can easily make homemade (ie: not from a mix): taco seasoning (and many other mixed-ingredient seasonings), yogurt, roasted red bell peppers, scalloped potatoes, pesto, spinach artichoke dip, queso, cheesecake and cakes and brownies and cookies, pancakes, biscuits, pudding, custard, crepes, gourmet butters and fancy rolled cheeses, stuffing, gravy, roux – pronounced “roo” (thickening agent made of flour and butter used for soups and sauces), and many more. All it takes is just a quick search of whatever you’re looking for online to find it. I recently made a homemade sun-dried tomato butter for a salmon recipe I made. At the store it was $3-$5 for 4oz and I made it for about 50c.
Find ways to preserve food or use it before it goes bad (or compost it if it’s too far gone)
Grow a small veggie garden and expand it over time
Make your own “yogurt melts” for young children. Just put some yogurt in a ziplock bag, cut off a small part of one of the bottom corners, and pipe small dots onto a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan lined with parchment paper or wax paper (no larger than 1/2″ diameter for these!). Put in the freezer, flat, until hardened, about 2 hours. Remove pieces and store them in a freezer-safe ziplock bag. While freezing yogurt kills the probiotics that yogurt is known for, kids love them and they make a great, safe way to explore picking up food with little hands.
Make your own baby food (it’s easy!!) Just cook some cut-up veggies or fruit in a saucepan on the stove. Fill water up 1/3-1/2way up the volume of food, and cook 10-15 minutes or until soft. Items like bananas and avocado don’t need to be cooked. Put the food AND liquid into a blender or small food processor and puree until smooth. Add more water if you want a thinner consistency. Add ground rice cereal to thicken the mixture. Portion in ice cube trays or silicone baby food trays (Beaba) and freeze until solid. Remove from tray and put in freezer-safe bags, labeling what the food is. Defrost in the microwave, test the temperature on your wrist, and serve to baby when needed. Lasts up to 6 months in the freezer.
Wash your child’s hands and face over the sink after meals versus using a wipe (or 5!). This also gets them in the habit of washing their hands. It saves money because wipes are expensive and also is more fun for baby! You can either sit the child on the edge of the sink with their feet inside the basin or you can keep their body outside the sink as you wash them. Some parents may even opt for a washcloth but you’d go through so much laundry this way…