How to give your household a green makeover
You don't have to become a green machine overnight. Just go one step at a time.
Fri, Mar 09 2012 at 12:26 PM
EASY: Reduce waste and add some style to your kitchen with fabric towels. (Photo: Andy Martini/Flickr)
Making a major lifestyle shift can often seem daunting, and sometimes the simple act of getting started is enough to stop you in your tracks. That initial hurdle can be so intimidating. It’s new. It’s foreign. It’s appealing ... but scary! You want it, but you don’t know where to begin, and you’re overwhelmed.
Whether it’s committing to a gym routine or easing into a plant-based diet, quitting your job to pursue a passion or moving to a brand new city (like Dallas!), the story is always the same. What’s the best way to start?
"Going green" is no different. Even though these days it’s more and more common, with most mindful folks looking to lighten up their environmental footprint, it can all still feel a bit foreign and, well, unfeasible. But if you’re ready to take this eco thing beyond the recycling bin, then you’ve come to the right place.
And don’t worry. Nobody says you need to become a "green guru" overnight. The truth is that lasting life changes don’t happen instantaneously. "Fast and furious" usually leads to "burned out and abandoned" — just like all those fad diets. Permanent shifts occur in incremental patterns, so cut yourself some slack. Ease into it, turn off your electrical devices when you're not using them and make sure you’re enjoying yourself along the way.
In your quest to keep a greener home, your best bet — both environmentally and financially — is to use up what you’ve already got before you move on to something "cleaner." Throwing it away just creates more waste, so you might as well finish it off first. The key is to slowly work through all of your old conventional household items, replacing them with new sustainable stand-ins, as needed. Here are a few pointers to get you started.
1. Cleaners are the easiest thing in the world to switch, since the eco-friendly versions work just as well, if not better, than the creepy harsh-chemically ones. As each of your home cleansers run out, simply restock your cabinets with some gentler, nontoxic alternatives.
2. Perhaps surprisingly, your grooming routine is another easy exchange. Vegan, organic and all-natural bath and body products are totally en vogue, so they’re everywhere these days. Extra for experts: you can also make your own!
3. The kitchen is also the perfect place to “green up” your act. Some starter ideas: Try using pretty cloth napkins instead of paper at the dinner table. Trade in the paper towels for awesome cotton dishrags, and use a designated sponge to clean up spills. Replace your bleached white paper coffee filters with the unbleached, recycled paper version — or better yet, use a washable hemp filter (or brew in a French Press). Save large glass jars to use instead of plastic bags and plastic food storage containers (big ones, like pickles and pasta sauce). These also work great for storing dried goods, which you can buy in bulk to save on packaging and pinch your pennies!
4. The bathroom is the final major area where you can get your green on, and I’m not talking about those beauty products mentioned above. Think outside the box, like: doing away with disposable items such as like Q-tips, cotton balls, etc. Believe me, you can learn to live without them (or find a reusable alternative). As well, investigate brands like Preserve, which offer toothbrushes, razors and more. Not only are they made from recycled plastic, but also when you’re done you can send the product back to them (with free postage!), so that they can recycle it all over again. Pretty amazing! Finally, for the females, please look into reusable “monthly” products, such as cloth pads and menstrual cups. This may seem like a crazy leap to make, but please just trust me when I say, I’ve never met a woman who’s regretted the switch. Look into it!
As you can see, there are a million minor adjustments that you can make in your own home. Each one is tiny, but working in congregation they’ll create a massive shift in your consumption and your impact. One little step at a time. And have fun!