20 Ways You Can Help the Environment, Save Money, and Live a Healthier, Cleaner Life
If you’re anything like me, you lie awake at night and worry that your children will one day starve or drown to death, because idiot politicians and companies are doing nothing to curb the warming trend. Food allergies and asthma have skyrocketed. Cancer rates have increased. Weather is out of control, and food is becoming expensive. Soon it will become scarce. We need to be doing our part to help. Here are 20 ways you can, while saving money, boosting the local economy, and living your healthiest life.
Fire the pesticide service: You know the ones who knock on your door and name all the neighbors who’ve committed? You don’t need them, they’re expensive, and they not only kill ants and mosquitos but also beneficial bees and spiders. Instead, treat the real problem: what is attracting the bugs. If you have yard ants, you might have an easily treated grass fungus. If you have carpenter ants, you probably have water damage and rotten wood. You can also use natural methods to rid of bugs. A recent study showed that essential oils are just as effective as DEET for deterring mosquitos and ticks from biting. If your yard has ticks, don’t discourage possums from nesting there. They feed on ticks and are often harmless (unless you have horses). Bats eat millions of mosquitos a year. Spiders can do some damage to flies and pests, as well, so leave their webs be. By the way, no service will kill stink bugs or carpenter bees, no matter what they say.
Plug holes: Instead of paying an exterminator to kill all the critters in your house, plug the holes where they’re getting in. You may have a slow water leak causing rotting wood, which attracts carpenter ants, termites, mice, and squirrels. Taking care of the water leak will also save on the water bill and conserve water. Plugging holes will help reduce air leaks and save on the energy bill. Most holes occur where flashing hasn’t been properly installed, under decks, doors, and windows.
Use reusable grocery bags: Nothing irks me more than seeing someone wheel away a huge cart of groceries bagged in plastic. Reusable bags are inexpensive and stronger, and they save the landfills and waterways of nondegradable plastic. It’s SO easy, people. I’ve been doing it for 20 years. Get with the program.
Use less plastic: Instead of buying a six-pack of Gatorade, why not buy a tub of powder and make a pitcher of it? Instead of buying water bottles, get a filter for your faucet or refrigerator dispenser and fill a water bottle up before you leave the house. Ladies, switch to cardboard tampon applicators, or, even better, a Diva cup. We also buy refillable hand soap, large containers of laundry detergent (without dyes, harmful chemicals, and perfumes), and paper/wax sandwich bags.
If you haven’t made the switch to reusable bags, at least bring the bags back to the store to recycle. Or use them to pick up dog poop or line your trash cans with. If your building doesn’t provide recycling bins, ask Human Resources to set them up. With China’s ban on waste imports from the U.S., we are now not exporting our trash to be recycled, which means it all goes in our landfills. They are filling up fast. https://e360.yale.edu/features/piling-up-how-chinas-ban-on-importing-waste-has-stalled-global-recycling
Composting is easy, but not many do it. If you’re afraid of attracting critters, buy a composting bin. I like mine with wheels so I can cart it to my garden and lay rich, free soil on my garden every few weeks. https://mantis.com/product/back-porch-compostumbler/?nabc=1&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F I put all my kitchen scraps in it: coffee grounds, watermelon rinds, eggshells, overripe fruit, plus grass clippings, weeds, deadheaded flowers, etc.
Reduce food waste: Do you throw half of your food away at the end of the week? If you can buy less and find uses for leftovers, you can save thousands a year, reduce food waste, and help those in need get access to excess food. Try these tactics to help plan smarter: https://savethefood.com/
Help the bees: To help bolster bee populations (and therefore help pollinate local farm produce, which grants farmers larger yields), buy and use local honey as a substitute for refined sugar, and don’t kill beehives and nests. Instead, contact a professional or volunteer bee mover, who will come to your house and safely relocate the hive. If you live in Central Ohio, contact my neighbor Karen Cornwell, Golden Bear Bees, LLC, at 614-565-9231. Local honey also helps reduce seasonal allergies and throat inflammation during cold season.
Plant local (perennial) plants instead of grass or annuals: Grass might be nice to turn cartwheels on, but it’s a pain to mow and terrible for the environment. We burn gas to mow it, we treat it with harmful chemicals that run into streams and harm wildlife, and we spend countless dollars making it perfect. In areas, like hills, strips, and sun-soaked blocks, why not plant local flowers and trees that produce oxygen and attract pollinators? Or, grow your own vegetables and eat fresh, organic produce. You will save tons and beautify the neighborhood in the process.
Consume less beef and meat: Livestock can be blamed for anywhere from 15-80% the greenhouse gasses released into the environment. Half of that comes from cows. Phosphorus and nitrogen in cow manure can also harm local waterways and drinking water. You don’t have to go vegan, especially if you have young children or food allergies. Try cutting out meat on Mondays, limiting beef to once a week, or becoming a fan of the local South-Indian restaurant, for example, and go from there. As an added benefit, your heart will be healthier. https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/reducing-the-environmental-impact-cows-waste https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth
Drive less: Walk to church on Sunday. Walk to the nearest grocery store and buy only what you can carry (you’ll save tons and refrain from buying all that junk). Walk for ice cream on Saturday afternoon. Bike to the pool, to work, to the gym. You’ll lose weight, be healthier, save on gas, and help the environment.
Adjust the thermostat: In the summer, keep the house warmer during the day (above 70) and cooler at night for sleeping, and in the winter, keep the house cooler (below 70) and wear layers. It’s a myth that raising and lowering consumes more energy than keeping the thermostat at the same level. (This goes for your car, too: you can turn the car off for one minute and save more energy than it costs to turn it back on.) Each degree counts toward energy conservation.
Turn off lights, computers, you car etc. when not in use: Want to keep house lights on for safety? Switch them to LEDs. Otherwise, you learned about unplugging and turning off in second grade, so enough said.
Buy local, eat seasonal: Buying local doesn’t only support the local economy and businesses, but helps save gas and mileage from shipping. Food is fresher when sourced locally and in season, as well, containing more vitamins and minerals than shipped foods. Plus, you will know more about a local company’s practices than you will a foreign one. The food is way yummier, too.
Consume smarter: Learn about companies that pollute and don’t practice clean, safe production. According to Green Peace, five companies are responsible for most of North America’s trash: Nestlé, Tim Hortons, PepsiCo, the Coca-Cola Company and McDonald’s. https://recyclinginternational.com/plastics/greenpeace-reveals-the-top-5-worst-polluting-companies/17483/
Use fans: A typical fan only costs about one cent per hour to run and consumes very little energy. However, fans can help you feel cool so you can keep your thermostat set at a higher summer temperature. Keep your fan running on your HVAC and ceiling fans in the bedrooms. Make sure you’ve switched the flow of the ceiling fans according to summer or winter, counter-clockwise in summer to pull air down.
Conserve water: Fix slow drips, find slow leaks and correct them, and turn water off when you’re brushing your teeth or washing your hair. You can save water, too, by running your dishwasher on the Eco setting or hand-washing plates and using a rain catcher for the garden.
Replace outdated appliances and lights: Most of these costs can be cut with tax breaks. You can have your old refrigerator picked up for $50 by many energy companies, and you’ll see savings in your next month’s energy bill. Plus, it’s an excuse to do a remodel😉
Contact your representatives: Email or call your local and state representatives to advocate for environmental legislation that might incentivize companies to use energy efficient practices and give tax breaks to homeowners for installing energy-efficient appliances, windows, solar panels, and siding.
Vote green: Prioritize the environment when you vote!