Eco-tips for living gently on Earth
Take shorter showers
Conserve water by taking shorter (or fewer) showers. Turn water off while soaping, shaving, etc. to save even more water.
Use natural cleaning products
Did you know that dishwasher detergents are 30-40% phosphorus? Cleaners that degrease, sanitize and remove allergens contain ammonia. Glass and floor cleaners contain nitrogen. Products that whiten, degrease and disinfect can contain these and other Volatile Organic Compounds. These are the worst environmental hazards because these chemicals cannot be removed by waste treatment processes.
Consider making your own natural cleaning products. Use ingredients such as baking soda, fresh lemon, pure soap flakes, salt, soap nuts, washing soda and white vinegar as they all have cleansing and scouring properties. Shop for products that disclose ingredients and buy those that are plant- or bio-based, biodegradable, pH neutral, packaged in pump-spray bottles, not aerosol cans; and packaged in recyclable containers. For more ideas: www.womensvoices.org/get-involved/green-cleaning-parties/green-cleaning-recipes.
Work to eliminate the use of plastics in your life. One way to do this is to avoid disposable plastic dinnerware. Bring washable plates and silverware with you when eating outside the home.
Did you know that 86 percent of ocean debris is plastic and that more than 1,000,000 seabirds and marine mammals die each year from plastic ingestion or entanglement? Learn more about plastics and pollution at http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/green-guide/quizzes/plastics/ or http://plasticpollutioncoalition.org/.
Wash full loads
Wait to run the washing machine or the dishwasher until you have a full load to avoid wasting resources.
Did you know? You can save 1,000 gallons of water each month by running your dishwasher only when it is full?
More tips for greener dishwashing: http://www.treehugger.com/htgg/how-to-go-green-dishwashers.html
More eco-tips for laundry: http://www.uswitch.com/energy-saving/guides/energy-efficient-laundry
Fix leaking water
Check for and repair any dripping faucets or water leaks in pipes.
Did you know: The average household’s leaks can account for more than 10,000 gallons of water wasted every year? That’s the amount of water needed to wash 270 loads of laundry.
Learn more at http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/pubs/fixleak.html
Adopt an attitude of “everything is on loan.”
Save energy, money and other resources by eating leftovers.
Did you know: In the U.S., we waste around 40 percent of all edible food?
Buy and eat organic.
Pesticides and herbicides contaminate land, water, food chains, workers, and us. Organic foods are grown naturally without pesticides and herbicides.
One way to purchase organically grown produce is to join an organic fruit and vegetable share program. In the Terre Haute area, learn about our very own community supported agriculture program at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice
Buying and eating organic is good for the environment and for your body. Can’t afford the higher cost of organically produced items? Consider growing some of your own veggies organically.
Use reusable cloth grocery bags.
Bring your own to the store with you. Did you know that it takes 1000 years for polyethylene bags used by most stores to degrade/break down?
Be aware of wasteful over packaging in items you buy and avoid buying those items. Better yet, buy used and avoid packaging all together.
Recycle whatever you can
Did you know more than 75 percent of waste is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30 percent of it?
Don’t have curbside recycling? Check out options in your area. Did you know that some Goodwill stores accept recycling items? They’ll even sort it for you.
Cook and eat meals at home
Use as many fresh ingredients as possible. You will use less packaging and will have more control over what you eat.
Support healthy, nutritious foods in schools
Support schools in their efforts to provide healthier and more natural foods. Learn more about the “farm to school” program . Read about the Sisters of Providence teaming up with St. Patrick’s school in Terre Haute in such an effort.
Turn off the water when brushing your teeth
(Did you know that running water while brushing the teeth wastes up to eight gallons of water?)
Become aware of the dirty dozen and the clean 15
(two lists to help consumers know when they should buy organic and when it is less necessary.) The list is compiled using data from the United States Department of Agriculture on the amount of pesticide residue found in non-organic fruits and vegetables after they have been washed.) See the list here.
Shop for local produce and goods in season at farmer’s markets
Avoid the energy waste of foods being trucked over long distances and eat foods at their freshest before they lose nutrients.
Composting keeps unused produce scraps and yard waste out of the garbage and creates a great natural fertilizer for your lawn or garden in return. Did you know if we composted the 21.5 million tons of food waste generated each year, it would reduce the same amount of greenhouse gas as taking 2 million cars off the road? Learn more about composting at https://www.loyalgardener.com/what-is-compost/ or http://eartheasy.com/grow_compost.html
Avoid bottled water
Make an effort not to buy bottled water. Bring your own refillable water bottle with you.
Did you know that if you fill one quarter of a plastic water bottle with oil, you would be looking at roughly the amount of oil used to produce that bottle? Americans throw away 25,000,000 plastic bottles every hour.
Use reusable cloth napkins instead of disposable.
Minimize paper towel use
Use reusable cloth rags instead. If you do buy paper towels, buy brown paper towels which are more natural.
Use cloth diapers
Encourage cloth diapering. Learn about modern cloth diapers (and their fun designs!) Did you know that Velcro, snaps and the cloth-grabbing “snappi” have made diaper pins a thing of the past?
Disposable diapers last centuries in landfills. An average baby will go through 8,000 of them!
Buy some cloth diapers or wipes for a baby shower gift.
Have a yard sale
Items you no longer need can be passed on to others who have a use for them. Good for the environment, good for reducing your clutter and a way to help others.
Go meatless once a week
Eat meat-free at least once a week. It’s good for the environment and for your body. Raising animals for food requires more energy, land and water than raising vegetables. Lentils and beans are good protein sources for some tasty meatless meals.
Learn methods for organic pest control
and use them in your garden or around your home. Did you know that planting marigolds can keep rabbits and other garden pests away? Share your ideas for organic pest control.
Did you know that taking a shower instead of a bath can save water?
What other things can you do to conserve water?
Purchase energy-saving appliances
Old refrigerators can waste up to three times the energy of new energy efficient models. Take into account the energy cost savings over the lifetime of your appliances when figuring the actual cost of your appliances.
Did you know that glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled over and over without loss in quality or purity? No other food and beverage packaging can claim that. Over a ton of natural resources are saved for every ton of glass recycled. Not every facility accepts glass. What options for glass recycling have you found?
Donate what you no longer need
Donate unneeded clothing and other items to a local thrift shop so they can be reused by others. Or participate in freecycle, a local online email group, to give away items you no longer need.
Use water that would be wasted
Have you ever thought about the bath or shower water that wastes as the water runs while you are waiting for it to warm up? Consider using it to water plants or flush toilets.
Print on both sides
Print on both sides of computer paper. Save your paper that has only been used on one side and use it for scrap paper. Have access to a lot of paper already printed on one side? Give a stack to a child to draw on.
Adjust your driving habits
Adjust your driving habits to conserve gasoline: Don’t drive as fast. Keep tires properly inflated. Combine trips. Carpool. Walk or bike for nearby trips. How else could you adjust your driving habits to conserve fossil fuel?
Buy and use only what you really need.
Get creative in repurposing
Reuse or repurpose items you have. What creative ideas do you have for reusing and repurposing?
Choose the right size house
Be conscious of the size of your home. Too much space is wasteful in energy usage.
Keep usable items out of landfills
Don’t throw away anything that could be used. Donate it, give it away or reuse it yourself.
Gratitude and prayer
Remember that how we treat the land is connected to how we pray and experience gratitude. Take some time to reflect on your attitudes and spiritual practices and how they impact your connection with creation.
Use less, consume less, eat less, buy less.
Provide for wildlife
As people take over more land, wild animals have a harder time finding habitat. Provide food, water and shelter for animals that are displaced. Get tips at the National Wildlife Federation’s The Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program
Stop using Styrofoam
Eliminate Styrofoam use. Buy eggs in cardboard instead of Styrofoam. Bring your own reusable containers for carrying out leftovers. Bring a reusable coffee mug with you to events. Did you know that many recycling centers will not accept Styrofoam? Did you know that the manufacturing of Styrofoam is the 5th largest creator of hazardous waste?
Preserve in season
Pick and then freeze or can fruits and vegetables that are in season for later use. What is in season in your area now?
Bring others to nature
Help someone who has a hard time getting out because of age or ailments to be able to get outside and enjoy nature. Volunteer to give residents of a health care facility a walk outside or take a small child to the park or to a nature trail.
Adjust your thermostat
Set timers on the thermostat for your heat so that it is a lower temperature when you are not at home or at night.
Buy in bulk
Try to avoid individually packaged items. Buy in bulk when possible and divide into reusable containers.
Use energy efficient lightbulbs
Switch out all incandescent lightbulbs for energy efficient ones. Did you know that both CFLs and LEDs use at least 75 percent less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb and can last much longer?
Use insulated window coverings
Honeycomb blinds are great for blocking hot and cold air coming in through windows. Better insulation reduces energy needed for heating and cooling.
Avoid consumerism this holiday season. Make homemade gifts or shop at a Fair Trade store. Fair Trade products respect workers’ rights and minimize environmental damage. Fair Trade items available include chocolates, coffee, craft and clothing items. Did you know that the Sisters of Providence Linden Leaf Gifts carries a wide variety of Fair Trade items? And you can shop online!
Avoid paper copies
Receive and pay bills online. Work from digital copies instead of printing.
Rethink gift wrapping
Did you know that in the U.S., annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags for special occasions totals 4 million tons of waste?
Replace gift wrapping paper with reusable cloth bags, decorative tins or baskets. Or create reusable gift boxes from decorated oatmeal canisters or boxes.
Repurpose old posters, comics, colorful shopping bags, even old maps for wrapping gifts. Colorful pages torn from magazines can be used to wrap small gifts, and Sunday comics can be used for larger boxes
Reuse gift bags, decorate newspaper as wrapping paper or re-use wrapping paper more than once. And when you receive gifts, be sure to save the ribbons and bows.
Use dryer balls
Eliminate dryer sheets. Reusable dryer balls are a good alternative. Wool dryer balls are a great choice. They are all natural and chemical free. They cut drying time and can decrease the energy needed to dry clothes by helping the hot air circulate more easily and by absorbing and redistributing moisture. They also help keep static down and soften clothes.
Involve others in treating the earth with respect. Start a book club or other club. Bring up issues in church groups or other groups you are involved with. Read works related to eco-justice (Michael Pollen, Wendell Barry, Mary Oliver, the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice webpage.)
Avoid over-packaged food items
Limit convenience foods that tend to be overpackaged and unhealthy.
Keep at it
Take living sustainably one step at a time and keep working at it day after day and year after year.
Don’t be wasteful
Emulate the behavior of loved ones who lived through the depression.
Make use of downed wood (or share it with someone who will)
Have access to broken limbs and downed trees? Burn them in a fireplace or wood burner as a heating supplement during the cold of winter. Don’t have a fireplace? Share your downed wood with someone who needs it.
Reuse or re-purpose plastic food containers
Butter tubs, sour cream, cottage cheese and yogurt containers can be used for many other things, from storing leftover foods to planting seedlings. What ways have you found to re-purpose plastic containers?
Urge your lawmakers to consider the effects of climate change. Consider a political candidate’s stance on environmental issues when choosing for whom you will vote.
Be an advocate of Earth
Advocate for eco-justice. One Providence Associate shares that she has met with officials at a local state park to explain the problems with profuse mowing (cutting down butterfly habitat and killing native plants and wildflowers.) How can you be an advocate for the environment where you are?
Plant for your area
Research and plant native plants for your area and plants that benefit bees and butterflies. What plants are native for your area?
Harness the sun
Consider installing solar panels on your home. It costs more money up front but it can save money and energy over time.
Build a rain garden
Plants in a rain garden are sown in a low area and act as a sponge, absorbing excess water after large rainfalls. This absorption helps keep run off and its oil, dirt and other pollutants out of rivers and sewers. They also create habitat for birds and butterflies and can help beautify a community.
Learn more about wetlands and work to support or promote wetlands in your local area.
Install a rain barrel at your home
It allows you to use nature-supplied grey water collected from rainfalls for watering plants and yard. If there is a drought this can help in watering plants. Learn more at http://www.rainbarrelguide.com/
Eliminate the use of toxic yard fertilizers
Did you know the average suburban lawn receives ten times as much chemical pesticide per acre as farmland? Eliminate the use of toxic fertilizers that leak into groundwater on your lawn. Learn about healthier alternatives here.
Stop using throw-away items
Eliminate throw-away items from your life, such as disposable cups and cutlery, paper napkins, plastic baggies, etc. Bring your own reusable plate and fork with you. Switch to cloth napkins. Use reusable food storage containers.