How can I be green? Often the simplest of solutions meets the mantra of “less is more”. The less you buy the more you will save both financially and environmentally. This mantra is not an easy sell, particularly in the U.S., where bigger is viewed as better and having is viewed as leading. I personally don’t take well to these ideas and consider simplicity and minimalism more fulfilling than complexity and consumerism. Below is a laundry list of changes that almost anyone can make in the household in order to save cash and resources.
- Paper Towels: Replace with cloth towels that can be washed and reused for many months.
- Paper Napkins: Replace with cloth napkins or do not use napkins at all. Another option would be to purchase napkins for use when having guests over for a meal. When in the presence of family and certain friends, forego napkin use altogether. How messy could your mouths and hands be?
- Toilet Paper: Just kidding.
- Ziploc bags: Use them less frequently, or reuse. Mark bags for specified use, such as nuts. Replace with durable plastic or glass containers.
- Paper plates, bowls, and plastic utensils: Buy, use, and wash durable alternatives.
- Cleaning Products: Conglomerate your cleaning products, but not literally. Purchase fewer products that can be used for a variety of purposes. Begin using simpler, non-processed (what I would call natural though I have been told that even the most complex cleaning products could be considered natural) cleaning products such as distilled white vinegar, lemon, and baking soda. These items clean and sanitize without leaving toxic residue throughout the kitchen, bathroom, and elsewhere.
- Clothes washing: Before washing, wear certain items of clothing two or three times instead of once. Perform the smell test. Do not perform with underwear and socks. This will save water, detergent, electricity, and clothes (longer shelf life due to reduced wear-and-tear from the washer and dryer.
- Clothes drying: Invest in a drying rack or hang a clothes line outdoors. This will save electricity.
- Bathing: Take shorter showers.
- Shaving: Turn the water off while shaving.
- Brushing teeth: Turn the water off while brushing teeth.
- Lights: Turn the lights off when leaving a room. Use natural light by opening the blinds.
- Electronics: Turn these off when not in use.
- Heat: In winter wear extra layers and use extra blankets. Recognize that it is winter and accommodate as best as possible, using the heat to accompany any other techniques that can be used to feel comfortable.
- Air conditioning. In summer wear fewer layers, open windows for circulation, or close windows if your residence stays cooler that way. Sleep naked. See above comments on heat.
- Oven: If you have a toaster oven that can bake or broil, use it for smaller items.
- Lawns: Unless there are some HOA requirements that require having a lawn, forego the green. Save the water and the cash.
- Automobiles: Wash less frequently—it won’t hurt your image. Save the cash and water.
Some of the above points (ex. cloth towels) require greater initial investment but will save money in the long run. Using the same example (cloth towels), sometimes additional effort is required, in this case washing the towels. But for the most part, these items require the acceptance and implementation of minor behavioral changes. If these actions seem small, they are anything but. Consider their magnitude when applied across one country as large as the United States. What if everyone stopped purchasing paper towels? Imagine the financial, economic, and environmental resources that would be saved annually.
Energy companies will continue to seek out new forms of energy, or new ways to exploit old energy (think shale exploration and fracking). Not only will energy companies seek such energies, but they will undoubtedly put more important resources (specifically water) at risk in order to exploit and sell them to you. Money is the bottom line, not only in driving the energy companies, but in dictating demand. If we use fewer resources and less energy, both individually and together, demand will drop, prices will drop, and we will save money while benefiting the environment.