How to Reduce Your Waste and Start Living a Greener Life in 2020

Whether you like it or not, it’s become apparent that Americans really need to embrace going green. And while U.S. businesses are starting to embrace eco-friendly methods as a means of appealing to consumers and keeping up with the competition, protecting the planet typically starts at home. In fact, Americans threw out over 258 million tons of municipal solid waste (or discarded trash) in 2014. A separate study estimates that Americans throw out seven pounds of trash per person every day — or 2,555 pounds of materials per person every year.

But unnecessary waste doesn’t merely refer to garbage. We also regularly waste electricity, water, and heating energy without a second thought. Whatever your green goals, there’s no better time to tackle them than the new year. If you want to make good on your environmental resolutions in 2020, here are some simple ways to reduce waste and start living a greener life.

Let There Be (LED) Light

Reducing waste doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. Start by switching out your traditional lightbulbs for LED ones. The U.S. Department of Energy maintains that LED lighting has the potential to reduce nationwide energy usage by nearly 50%. By using LED bulbs, you’ll need less energy to light your home, lower your monthly bills, and end up saving money in the long run (as LED bulbs last longer than incandescent bulbs).

Of course, you should still make an effort to turn off lights when you leave a room or go out of the house. If you’re going away, invest in a timer so you don’t waste too much energy while you’re gone. Be sure to unplug electronics and appliances while you’re at it, as these can drain energy sources even when they’re not in use. These steps are simple enough once you make them a habit — and since you’ll be financially benefitting at the same time, they’ll be easy to remember.

Pay Attention to H2O

We tend to take water for granted, but this precious resource needs to be protected. For one thing, you should make an effort to locate and fix any leaks. If an undetected leak continues for a year, you could waste thousands of gallons and approximately $164.50 (or more, in some cases). Even if your home doesn’t have any plumbing leaks, you’ll still want to be more cognizant of your water usage. Be sure to run the washing machine or dishwasher only when full, as this will save water. Keep in mind that washing in hot water will require more energy, so washing your clothing in cold water is a good idea when possible. Of course, you’ll need to use hot water when washing dishes, but make sure to shut off the faucet when washing by hand. You should also consider taking shorter showers and turning down the temperature on your water heater. Data shows that 15% to 25% of all energy consumed within a home is due to a running water heater. You can probably stand to lower the temperature (it should be no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit) to save energy without sacrificing your comfort.

Get Ready For Winter

Winter has only just begun, but you’ve probably started feeling the effects in your home. You might already be cranking up the heat — and if your home has leaks or cracks, your HVAC system is probably working harder than necessary. It’s a good idea to keep your thermostat on the lower end in order to save energy. But if heat is escaping, you’ll have a hard time being comfortable. If you haven’t already, make an effort to seal any vulnerabilities to keep the warm air inside. You might also consider adding extra insulation or upgrading your windows. And while the winter isn’t an ideal time to get a new roof, choosing the right roofing material can help you save as much as 30% on your home’s energy needs. In other words, you might want to get started on the process now and at least schedule an upgrade to prioritize greener living in 2020. You might also want to take this opportunity to have your HVAC system serviced, as you may be able to avoid problems this season if you’re proactive.

Be Smart When Shopping

Water and energy waste are big problems, but food waste should also be a major concern. The USDA estimates that 30% to 40% of the nation’s food supply is wasted. That means most Americans need to be more intentional in how they shop, how they cook, and how they eat. Organic is typically best in most cases; in SEO, it’s over five times better than paid search ads, and it’s usually the higher-quality option in the grocery store, too. But if you’re not using that organic food and end up throwing it away, that’s a huge waste.

It’s a good idea to stick to a list and buy only what you need. If you plan out your meals in advance, this can help you to prevent impulse buys and make sure you use everything possible in the fridge. Try to stick to multi-purpose items that can be used in a variety of ways throughout the week, rather than specialty ones that might be allowed to go bad. Whether you prep your meals each Sunday or cook every night, mapping out how you’ll shop and eat can help your family reduce food waste next year. While you’re at it, bring your own reusable grocery bags to go plastic-free and make sure to invest in reusable food storage containers. In general, cut down on single use plastics at home to reduce the other items you’ll throw away.

Repair or Buy Used

Another good way to reduce waste is to take stock of what you already have. If you have a piece of furniture that’s seen better days but is structurally sound, you might consider having it professionally cleaned or repaired. It’s recommended that you have upholstery cleaned once a year anyway (though you should try to ensure the cleaning methods used are eco-friendly!), but you might even consider having a piece reupholstered with vintage fabric or fixed using reclaimed wood. Appliances and electronics may also be repairable, so don’t be so quick to throw them out and buy new. Shoes and clothing can often be fixed, as well, particularly if the problem is something like a zipper or a heal. By having these items repaired, you’ll be able to keep them out of landfills, save money, and support local businesses.

While it might not be realistic for your family to get your waste production to zero, it’s simpler than you think to reduce it. By keeping these tips in mind, you can go a lot greener in 2020 without much effort.

How to Make an Eco-Friendly Gift Card Snow Globe as a Holiday Gift

If you are giving a gift card this holiday season, don’t just slip it into a card – make it into a snow globe. It will take giving a gift card this holiday to a whole new level – especially if you are giving it to  a child. Eben and I decided to do this project for a Secret Santa party that he will be going to – it was a super fun gift to make, read on to learn how. These are perfect for last minute gifts too!

What you will need:

  • glass mason jar
  • water
  • eco-glitter
  • glue gun
  • gift card
  • tiny ornaments

This is actually a super easy do-it-yourself project that only takes a few minutes to complete. Secure the gift card to the lid of the mason jar with hot glue. Fill the mason jar with water, add eco-glitter and a couple of tiny ornaments, screw the lid on super tight – you now have the perfect way to give a gift card!

Give the Gift of Experience This Holiday Season + 5 Ideas

Give the Gift of Experience This Holiday Season + 5 Ideas

Hello, Friends! Can you believe Christmas is only a handful of days away? If you haven’t finished your holiday shopping, you are officially a last-minute shopper! No worries, you can still surprise everyone on your holiday list and those gifts can be eco-friendly too! Read on to discover five of my favorite last minute holiday gifts that don’t require you to even leave the comfort of your sofa.

1. Give the Gift of Experience
One of my favorite gifts to give is the gift of experience. A few years ago I gave the mister scuba diving lessons and this year part of Eben’s holiday gift is art lessons. I have given the gift of annual memberships to botanic gardens and science museums. The possibilities are endless, just consider what your recipient enjoys and go from there.

2. Give a Gift that Helps Someone Else
Have a do-gooder on your holiday list? Consider giving a gift certificate to Kiva – your recipient will go through a list of loan applicants and pick a hard-working borrower to give a micro-loan too. This is a great way to help entrepreneurs in other countries who need a little help, the best part when the entrepreneur pays the loan back, you get to re-loan the funds to another entrepreneur!

3. Give the Gift of Your Time
I was telling the mister the other day that the best gift that I could ever receive is the gift of someone offering to take Eben for the weekend. Since we live very far away from most of Eben’s grandparents, we have never left him for a long weekend. Wouldn’t a romantic long weekend with your loved one be the perfect gift! The possibilities here are endless as well, just think of something that you can do for someone else and wrap that up as a gift.

4. Give the Gift of Nature
I love to receive a gift in the form of a living plant or something that can be planted in the yard. Even better when the plant is of edible variety. Eben and I gave the mister a lemon tree one year as a birthday gift – and it is a gift that he seriously enjoys every day. He is always watering, pruning and checking for lemons – and seeing how much the tree has grown is a delight. Plus, giving him lemonade all year long has been a sweet gift that he really enjoys.

5. Give the Gift of Your Expertise
Are you a fantastic chef? Can you sew a mean pair of pajamas? Are you great at web design? A beautiful photographer? Whatever it is that you are an expert at consider giving that as a gift this holiday season. If you are a fantastic cook, arrive at your recipients home with all of the ingredients necessary to cook a fabulous meal for them. Spend the time teaching your recipient how to prepare and cook the meal and then enjoy it together!

Do you give the gift of experience during the holidays? I would love to hear about the gifts you are giving this holiday season.

Helping Holidays: 4 Green Gifts That Give Back

The holidays are all about celebrating acts of giving, making it the perfect opportunity to make your gift giving smarter this season. There are so many amazing businesses out there that give back when you purchase one of their products. These companies are tied to doing good somewhere in the world every time a purchase is made. Read on for my 4 favorite gifts that give back – and if you hurry you can still get these goodies by Christmas.

1. Warby Parker Glasses
Eben and I both wear glasses and love the stylish, affordable frames from Warby Parker. For every pair of glasses that you buy, a pair is donated to a person in need. If you don’t wear glasses, that is alright – Warby Parker also offers fantastic sunglasses.

+ Warby Parker  

2. Feed Bags
I have been familiar with FEED Bags for a very long time – I remember first seeing them in Whole Foods back when we lived in Georgia! FEED Bags come in a huge selection of styles and sizes and with each purchase a portion of the proceeds go towards feeding the children of the world.

+ FEED Projects

3. TOMS Shoes
Most likely you are already familiar with TOMS shoes – for every pair you purchase a pair is donated to a child in need. With a great selection of shoes for everyone on your list, TOMS is the perfect holiday gift!

+ TOMS
4. Smile Squared
Every year I stick a toothbrush in the holiday stocking – this year I will be stuffing a brush from Smile Squared! Smile Squared is another company that donates a product to a child in need – in this case, an eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush – because a healthy smile is a happy smile.

+ Smile Squared

Do you have a favorite gift to give that gives back too?

5 Budget and Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Shopping Tips

5 Budget and Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Shopping Tips Sweet Greens

While this time of the year is the most wonderful  – it is also the busiest. You may feel like there are so many things that you need to prepare and buy and deciding where to start can be overwhelming. Instead of getting things done ahead of time, many of us tell ourselves we will get everything done when the holidays get closer. Then, the next thing you know the holidays are upon us and we end of spending too much money, getting completely stressed out, and not making the best choices – not exactly the feelings that you want to experience. It happens to the best of us, right?To get your holiday shopping off on the right foot, I thought I would share my favorite budget and eco-friendly holiday shopping tips. These are all tips that I use every year to make sure that this time of the year is definitely the most wonderful without breaking the bank or losing my head!

1. Make a List – Check it Twice
Every year, I create a simple holiday gift list in my iPhone. It includes the name of everyone on my holiday shopping list, gift ideas for each of them and my spending limit per person. Since my list is on my phone, I can consult and update it at anytime. Then, I mark off each person as I finish their holiday gift shopping. This has saved me a lot of time and money and I never have to ask myself – did a buy a gift for so and so? Or, how many gifts did I buy for Eben or the mister? I just check the list and I am done!

2. Start Early
The earlier that you start your holiday shopping, the better. Just think, if you finish all of your holiday shopping early, you can spend the day after Thanksgiving at home, snuggled up with your family and a yummy warm beverage. I can’t think of anything more stress-free then having all of the holiday shopping done before December even arrives. It really frees up all of December to focus on making fun memories with my family. This is another place that #1 comes in, if you shop early picking up items when you find them on sale – you save a ton of money.

3. Shop Locally
Instead of hitting the closest big box store this holiday season, consider supporting small, independently owned businesses. Many towns have a shopping area that is filled with adorable shops that focus on the work of local artisans and many have eco-friendly options. In my opinion, a handmade gift is the best gift! You could also give a gift from your local farm, such as; fresh vegetables, fruits or dairy items. Another option is to check out Etsy for fantastic handmade goods, you can click here to shop Etsy shops located in your local area.

4. It’s All About Quality
Each year, I like to focus on purchasing the mister and Eben quality gifts that they will enjoy for years and years to come. I focus on items that I think they will really enjoy and steer clear of items that are disposable, or would only be enjoyed temporarily. My favorite items to purchase for them include; books, experiences (see below), heirloom quality items that they will keep forever and gifts that focus on their favorite hobbies.

5. Give the Gift of Experience
I am a huge fan of giving the gift of experience, some that I have given in the past include annual passes to local nature and science museums, state parks, botanical gardens, art centers and even scuba lessons. I think gifts that allow the recipient to learn something new or go to place they have always wanted to see builds memories and brings much more happiness long-term than any material gift could ever could. Plus, it’s just another excuse to spend more quality time with my family – and that is the best gift of all.

What are your favorite holiday shopping tips? Please share them in the comments section – I would love to hear!