15 Simple Ways to Green Your Routine—and Help Save the Planet
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A famous song lyric laments that "it's not easy being green." But when it comes to saving the environment, it’s actually a lot easier than you might think.
There are myriad ways you can do your part each and every day to live more sustainably—like these 15 tips we culled from Care To Recycle®, a program of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., and Brit + Co founder and CEO Brit Morin, whose popular site (125 million readers!) features smart, creative, do-it-yourself household-improving ideas.
"As a healthcare company, we care about future generations," says, Senior Manager, Worldwide Sustainability, Johnson & Johnson. "In order to continue to serve the millions of people who rely on our products every day, we need to be more efficient with the resources we have, and reusing materials is one way to achieve that."
Another is through the company's Care To Recycle program, which is aimed at raising people's awareness of the importance of recycling personal care products. Since the program launched in 2013, the number of Americans who report consistently recycling bathroom items has nearly doubled, according to a 2017 survey conducted by the Shelton Group on behalf of Care To Recycle.
The same study showed that, five years ago, nearly 40% of Americans said they didn’t recycle any bathroom items. Today, thanks in part to Care To Recycle and changing consumer trends, that figure is down to 21%.
So this Earth Day, consider adopting some of these simple practices for greening your routine every day.
Invest in recycling bins
You may have one in your kitchen, but what about in your bathroom and office?
“As a busy mom and entrepreneur, I use every little trick to save time,” Morin notes. “So having a recycling bin in the bathroom has been a lifesaver.”
Placing multiple bins throughout your house will make it easier to recycle toilet paper tubes, soap boxes and other empty containers you might normally toss in the trash. As Kaufman points out, you can recycle any plastic products with a small number 1 or 2 stamped on the container's bottom, including shampoo, mouthwash and lotion bottles. Just be sure to rinse and discard the pump first.
Need an extra bin? You can get a Care To Recycle bin free with a qualifying purchase at CVS.com/caretorecycle through May 6.
Take shorter showers
Cutting showers down to five minutes, instead of your usual 15 (or longer!), can help save thousands of gallons of water per year.
An easy way to track your time: Sing the national anthem twice while you're soaping up—the average performance time of the song is about two minutes—or set your phone to play one of these five-minute-long pop songs.
Buy in bulk
Get the largest size possible of products you use all the time—think liquid hand soap or shampoo—and refill smaller bottles when you run out.
The same principle applies to food: Buying larger sizes of items you know you’ll need again and again will cut out a lot of unnecessary packaging waste. Plus, it can help reduce car trips to the grocery store, lowering your carbon emissions and reducing gasoline consumption.
Swap out light bulbs
Consider using LED light bulbs instead of CFL or incandescent ones. While LEDs can be more expensive initially, they last 25,000 hours or more per bulb, on average—that’s 25 times as long as incandescent bulbs. Plus, unlike other types of bulbs, LEDs are recyclable.
Use the Cold setting on your washer
Bet you didn't realize that almost 90% of the energy consumed by a washing machine goes to heating up the water. Lower that stat by doing your laundry in cold water instead.
Bring your own bags
Keep a cotton or nylon reusable bag in your car trunk or tote. They don’t take up much space when rolled up, but can save a lot of paper or plastic when you go on drugstore or small grocery runs.
Banish junk mail
Stock up on power strips
Even if electronics and appliances are turned off, they may still be using up electricity if they’re plugged in. So when you can, keep phone chargers, lamps and other small devices on a power strip, leaving its switch flipped off until you need them on.
Go paperless with your bills
Consider signing up for paperless bank statements and bills. Some companies will even give you a slight discount for enrolling in auto-billing or e-statements—helping you save a little money and the environment at the same time.
In most instances, hot water and soap is all you need to eliminate germs and dirt. Vinegar and water works well to clean surfaces, windows, walls and cupboards. For the kitchen and bathroom, baking soda can help take off stuck-on messes and stains without scratching. And lemon juice will dissolve soap scum and hard-water deposits.
Save your scraps
Don't be intimidated: Composting—or recycling food and plant waste back into the ecosystem—is easier than you think, and keeps it out of landfills and waterways, while helping to enrich the soil. Some communities have local composting programs, or you can start your own compost indoors.
“Even if you don’t live in San Francisco, like I do—where composting is the mandate—it can easily become part of your daily kitchen routine," Morin says. "Plus, it’s a great way to teach your kids about food waste.”
Make food last longer
Throwing away food can feel like throwing money away. Extend the shelf life of every edible in your kitchen by keeping the fridge and freezer cool enough, and unpacking groceries as soon as you get home from the store.
Fix bathroom leaks
A running toilet or dripping faucet can waste gallons of water every month. Not sure if your toilet has a problem? Put a little bit of food coloring in the tank. If color shows up in the bowl without flushing, there’s a leak.
Water the lawn in the morning
Cooler temperatures and less sun mean water will better soak into the roots, instead of immediately evaporating. Note, too, that most lawns really only need one inch of H20 per week.
Need to file something important? Try to organize the info digitally, keeping it in organized virtual folders, and backing it up to an external hard drive for a little extra insurance.
When you do need to print documents, set your printer or copier to make double-sided copies. You'll substantially reduce paper use—and the number of trips to the store for more.