April 22 is Earth Day, and what better way to celebrate than by making meaningful changes at home? We’ve all been spending a lot of time inside this past year, which means we’re likely producing more trash, using more energy, and wasting more water. Here are some easy ideas for how to go greener.
According to the EPA, in 2018, the average American created nearly five pounds of municipal solid waste per day. Of this waste, only 32% was composted or recycled. More than 50% ended up in the landfill.
Municipal solid waste includes a spectrum of disposable organic and non-organic materials, such as “bottles and corrugated boxes, food, grass clippings, sofas, computers, tires and refrigerators.”
One of the quickest ways to build up non-organic trash is with single-use packaging. Luckily, there’s an easy way to cut down on packaging-related waste: buying in bulk. Buying in bulk requires an initial investment in reusable glass jars, canisters, or containers, but eventually the savings will pay off, both for your wallet and the environment. Another benefit? You don’t have to worry about harmful chemicals from plastic leaching into your food or body products.
At Living Pantry Refillery in Blaine, you can buy practically anything in bulk: shampoo, conditioner, spices, oils, laundry detergent…the list goes on. Bring your own containers or buy a starter set at the refillery. Another local company, Essential Organics, has an online shop where you can buy organic herbs, spices, and foods in bulk. Everything is ethically sourced, minimally packaged, and shipped right to your door.
Local grocery stores with bulk food sections include the Community Food Co-op, Skagit Food Co-op, WinCo, and Haggen. Although some bulk sections are on pause because of COVID-19, some (like those at WinCo and the Community Food Co-op) are currently up and running.
Doing a remodel? When it comes to disposing of home items, try donating to the RE-Store or Habitat for Humanity. The RE-Store takes everything from wood furniture and flooring to bricks, fencing, plumbing fixtures, and more. (Check their website for a full list.) Habitat for Humanity takes various home items, including gently used mattresses, dishwashers, and other heavy items you may not be able to get rid of otherwise. They also happily accept and recycle copper, aluminum, wire, and light steel.
There are tons of ways to save energy around the house. When added up, these easy fixes can reduce your bills while helping the environment. Here are a few places to start:
Outlets: When you’re not using electronics, unplug them. Have a guest room you never go in? Unplug everything. Not charging your phone or laptop? Unplug the chargers until you need to power up.
Cooking: Although it may be tempting, try not to look in the oven when you have something baking. Opening to look can reduce the internal temperature by up to 25 degrees.
Laundry: If your laundry isn’t very dirty, wash it in cold water. If it’s nice outside, let your clothes air dry on a clothesline. In the winter, you can buy a drying rack and place it near a fire, wood stove, or any dry area of the house.
Dishes: Rather than heat-dry your dishes, simply leave the dishwasher door open and let them air dry before emptying. One easy trick is to run the dishwasher at night and then leave the door open while you sleep, so they’re dry and ready to be put away in the morning.
One of the easiest ways to use less water is by installing low-flow showerheads and toilets. New toilet models, for instance, use up to 50% less water per flush than earlier models. There’s also the age-old saying: If it’s yellow, let it mellow.
When washing your face, brushing your teeth, or shaving, turn the water off when you’re not actively using it. Over time, this can save hundreds of gallons of water a year.
By the Numbers
3 or more gallons of water per flush for toilets made in the 80s or earlier…
1.6 gallons for toilets made after the mid-90s
1 gallon of water if you leave the sink running while you brush your teeth…
.25 gallons if you turn the water off while you brush
9-27 gallons of water to wash dishes by hand…
16 gallons of water to run a dishwasher
36 gallons of water for the average bath...
16 gallons of water for an eight-minute shower
40 gallons of water to wash clothes in an older model washing machine…
25 gallons to wash clothes if the model is newer