We all know we should be more aware of the things we do to harm the environment. Sometimes, I say to myself “This is such a huge global issue… what can I really do to help?” As it turns out, there are easy things we can do every day to lessen our footprint on the earth.
Most communities offer curbside pick-up for recyclable items. You need to know what they accept and what they don’t. Your village has a list on their website of materials that are acceptable for curbside pick-up. Print out the list and tape onto a separate receptacle in your home; so no one includes non-recyclable items. Try to clean out recyclables as often as possible.
On average, we waste a pound of food per person, per day in the US- and almost half of that is produce. Be aware of how much you buy! Are you sure you’re going to use it all? Share with neighbors, family, and friends. Freeze produce before it goes bad. Sauté onions, celery, and peppers to use in recipes. Freeze fruit for smoothies. Consider buying frozen fruit and vegetables too. They have as many (or more) of the nutrients that fresh produce has; as they’re frozen at peak freshness. And you can use just the amount you need. Organic produce is available at low prices at member stores, like Costco, or all organic stores, like Aldis. Be sure to freeze leftovers too!
You can even “green” grocery shop! Bring your own bags. If anyone told me 10 years ago, I would be bringing my own bags shopping I would not have believed them. Now I use them all the time! Anything can become a habit- especially if your city adds a bag tax! Buy local when possible and buy perishables in season. Do buy in bulk to reduce packaging but only if you are going to use it all or freeze things. Buy cleaning products that are eco-friendly. One of my favorites is CLR. It cleans well in both the kitchen and bath, has many uses, and is safe for the environment.
In your yard and garden, plant native species. They are made to thrive in your area and shouldn’t need extra water. A huge part of landscape conservation is saving water. Mulch around plants two inches. Compost garden waste- but read up on it! Certain plants should not be composted, like ones with disease. Install a rain barrel and use for all your watering. Purchase one with a hose hook-up to make it easier. Speaking of hoses, it might be time to upgrade. Our old vinyl hoses, it seems, are degrading in the sun and leaching lead and phthalates into the water. Look for natural rubber or polyurethane hoses.
Many of these are common sense but we need to make them habits! They are all easy and if more and more of us follow these practices, we can really make a difference.
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO