Tag Archives | green lifestyle

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.

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?

How to Make Your Workplace a Little Greener By 2020

Given the growing number of consumers who care about sustainability, it’s no wonder that many businesses are at least making an effort to go green. Not only can your actions help to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change, but you can also prove to customers that you care about the planet — and appeal to their inclinations in the process. What’s more, creating a more eco-friendly workplace doesn’t have to translate to a large sacrifice. In many cases, it can allow you to save some money without ever noticing a real difference during the workday. In others, it can bring your team together and make your business that much more profitable. But how exactly should you get started? Here are some basic tips that will make your work environment — and the environment at-large — a little greener by 2020.

Go Paperless When Possible

Did you know that China, Japan, and the United States account for 50% of the world’s total paper production? Although we depend largely on our technological devices, many offices still use a lot of paper in unnecessary ways. You might already be using shared drives and store files in the cloud, but if you’re printing out packets for a meeting or hanging memos up in the break room, you’re still not as eco-friendly as you could be. What’s more, you’re probably spending a lot on office supplies like paper, ink, paperclips, and staples. Encourage employees to think before printing and consider donating at least some of your printers and copiers to organizations in need. If you haven’t already, adopt digital sharing and storage measures that will allow you to cut down on paper usage overall. This minimal change might have less of an impact on your day than you might think; you’ll just need to create new habits to ensure everyone’s on the same (virtual) page.

Conserve Your Energy

Offices come with a lot of necessary overhead. Keeping the lights and the HVAC system running can translate to high costs for business owners. But you can mitigate those costs and reduce unnecessary waste by being smarter about how you use your energy. Switching to LED bulbs and unplugging lights, small appliances, and computers at the end of the day can do wonders for your energy expenditures. You’ll also want to pay close attention to the thermostat. While studies have found that productivity levels are highest when temperatures average 71.6 degrees, that’s a high level to reach during the winter. Be willing to compromise a bit with temperature settings and consider installing a smart thermostat to ensure that the building isn’t being heated or cooled after work is done for the day. Having employees bring in a sweater or a portable, handheld fan may be a sacrifice they’re willing to make to have a greener office in the long run.

Offer Remote Work Options

Telecommuting is becoming a more popular option for businesses across the country. Employees enjoy the flexibility of being able to work from home or from a nearby coffee shop, while employers benefit from decreased overhead. Workers are more productive, fewer work days are missed, and everyone obtains a more balanced life as a result. It’s also an excellent way to support green initiatives. Not only can you keep heating and electricity needs to a minimum with fewer people in the office on a given day, but you can also have a direct impact on emission reduction from commuting vehicles. In other words, you can brag about your sustainability and your employee perks — both of which may make you one of the top employers to beat in your area.

Eliminate Single Use Items

During company events, picking up paper plates and plastic utensils is an easy way to ensure everyone can join in. But this practice is incredibly wasteful, which puts a damper on the fun. Instead, invest in some communal mugs, cups, plates, and cutlery and recommend that employees bring some of these items in, too. Since Americans produce 4.4 pounds of trash every single day, eliminating at least some of these disposable items will cut down on your company’s waste (and need for trash collection!). If you really want to go the extra mile, float around the idea of starting a composting program. At the very least, make an effort to purchase disposable items (like coffee filters) that are made from recycled materials and ensure that your own recyclables don’t end up in landfills.

If it seems like these changes are too small to make a difference, remember that there are nearly 28 million small businesses in the U.S. alone. By making minimal adjustments, you can be part of a bigger impact and show your community how serious you are about protecting the planet. With your help, we can make the earth a little bit greener by the time the new year rolls around.

5 Eco-Friendly Ways to Plan for Thanksgiving Dinner

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Hello, Friends! I am pretty excited, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Are you hosting the big dinner this year? There are many eco-friendly ways to green your Thanksgiving dinner – all of which are easier to implement if you plan ahead. Many of these ideas will save you money and time while cutting down on the amount of waste that can accumulate from a big family dinner. Read on to learn my 5 favorite eco-friendly ways to plan your Thanksgiving dinner and start planning today!

1. Decorating 101
You don’t have to spend any money when decorating for Thanksgiving, instead use items that you already have or consider bringing natural items indoors. We always have a handful of pumpkins leftover from Halloween that we use as Thanksgiving decorations. And Eben and I like to take a nature walk to collect natural elements (pine-cones, acorns, branches and leaves) to display as our Thanksgiving table centerpiece.

2. How Much is Enough?
It is really easy to go overboard when planning the Thanksgiving menu. Consider the dishes that you will be serving and ask yourself if you are making more than is necessary. Choose a few dishes that you are sure your guests will love and skip the rest. Also, consider which parts of Thanksgiving dinner you want to or can afford to purchase organic and whenever possible, avoid pre-packaged items.

3. Consider the Table
Do you have enough dinnerware for everyone in your dinner party? If not, consider borrowing place settings from close friends or family members instead of purchasing new. If you aren’t a china and tablecloth kind of family and choose to go with disposable place settings, choose a great compostable version that is made from 100% recycled materials.

4. Think Seasonal
When choosing fruits and vegetables for your Thanksgiving menu, think seasonal. You want to avoid purchasing produce that are imported from far away. You may consider joining a local CSA for the holiday season – not only will you have delicious, local foods to serve this Thanksgiving, but you will be supporting a local farm too.

5. Plan for Leftovers
What do you plan to do with the Thanksgiving dinner leftovers? If you are planning on sending goodies home with your guests, have glass resuable storage containers ready to go. If you made more than your family can consume, you could donate some of the leftovers to a local food bank, freeze them for later or have a menu plan for the days after Thanksgiving so all of the leftovers will be used.

How do you green your Thanksgiving dinner? I would love to hear – please share your thoughts in the comments!

How to Make Simple Upcycled Halloween Lanterns

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One of my favorite areas to decorate for Halloween is our front porch. It’s the perfect spot to share your Halloween decorations with visitors and neighbors! These painted glass lanterns are one of my favorite projects to pull out of storage every year. They are just so delightful!

What you will need:

What to do:

1. Spray the glass containers inside and outside.
2. Once dry, paint on the design or face that you would like.
3. Place a rechargeable or solar powered tea light inside.
4. Watch the delight on the faces of your neighbors as they walk by.

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What do you think of my Halloween lanterns?