10 Easy Ways To Green Your Lifestyle

Recycling & compost bins

Living green doesn’t have to be hard, or even involve major changes to your lifestyle. Here are a few things you can do to start living green today!

1. Change Your Light Bulbs To Compact Fluorescents

Compact Fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) have come a long way since their initial introduction a few years ago! If you were turned off by the flicker and sickly green glow of early CFL bulbs, give them another chance. They produce virtually no heat, and put off the same light as incandescent bulbs with only 25% of the electricity. Yes, CFLs contain some mercury, but if your power utility is burning coal, there’s more mercury being released into the atmosphere keeping those incandescents glowing than in your CFL bulbs!

2. Plug Electronics Into A Power Strip

Any electronic device that can instantly power on from a remote control, such as a TV, stereo, DVD player, etc. draws power all the time even when not in use. This power draw is called a ‘phantom load’ because we generally don’t see it, but it’s still costing you money and wasting energy. Plug your TV, stereo, etc into a power strip and switch it off when not in use. Anything that needs power to retain programming or operates autonomously, like a cable box or DVR shouldn’t be switched off, but most of your devices can be.

Kitchen appliances are notorious for the mysterious phantom load, especially refrigerators, which is not surprising when you take its size into consideration. Unless you have Energy Star rated appliances, you are not getting the most efficiency out of your kitchen. However, new appliances can be expensive. You can still do your part by performing preventative maintenance. Visually inspect for any faults in your appliances. If one is found, you can order replacement parts online. Newer components will help your existing appliances run as efficiently as possible.

3. Turn Off The TV!

Even if your TV is plugged into a power strip from the last tip, it’s not saving power if the TV is on all the time. If you’re one of the many people who leave a TV on while doing housework or just for background noise, consider a radio or personal music player like an iPod.

4. Reduce Car Use

Walking, biking, taking mass transit and carpooling are all excellent options for reducing car use when appropriate, but sometimes you still need a car. Most major cities have car sharing programs, where you can pay a monthly fee to have access to a vehicle when needed. This is a great option for people that might only need a car for a few hours per week. One great benefit of this type of system is often very efficient vehicles are available, such as a Smart Car or Toyota Prius. If you need a car for a bit longer, consider renting one. If you spend most of your time in the city, you can always rent a car for the weekend to head out of town. Another important thing you can do is plan your shopping trips ahead of time, to eliminate unnecessary trips back to the store for forgotten items.

5. Reduce The Carbon Footprint Of Your Food

Did you know that the average distance travelled by your food is about 1,500 miles? Food production, processing and transportation uses a huge amount of energy and emits a lot of carbon dioxide. You can reduce the footprint of your food by eating local and organic produce, and also by eating lower on the food chain. The production of meat requires vast amounts of water and grain, so the lower on the food chain you eat the more efficient you are. There are thousands of delicious vegetarian recipes available for free in cookbooks and online, try a couple of them each week to eat greener and for some food variety! You can read more about this topic in The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan, as well as The 100 Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon.

6. Recycle

Most cities have recycling programs in place, and they can probably recycle more than you think! Call your local government and ask for information on what else you can put into your recycling bin. You can set up a recycling station in your kitchen, hallway or garage to make things easier, having a bin on each floor of your home could also help to remember to recycle those empty shampoo bottles from the upstairs bathroom instead of putting them in the trash.

7. Switch To Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

Typical chemical cleaning products are hard on our skin, and even harder on our lungs. They’re also mostly unnecessary. Eco-friendly cleaning products are becoming very common now, and they work very well. Avoiding harsh chemical cleaning products will improve the air quality in your home, and are much safer for your family and the environment. Look for brands that are based on natural ingredients and that are biodegradable.

8. Switch Bills To Electronic Format

Are you still receiving that telephone bill in the mail each month? Even if it’s printed on recycled paper, you’ll save more trees (and have less clutter) if you don’t receive a paper copy at all. Most companies offer electronic billing now, which is great for reducing the amount of paper you use, but also offers convenience by allowing you to easily store the bills online!

9. Start Composting

Around half of kitchen waste is food scraps which can be turned into compost, a nutrient rich natural fertilizer. Properly made compost is a crumbly brown substance that has a slightly sweet earthy smell. It’s great for your garden, and a liquid fertilizer can even be made from it that is great for potted plants and even your lawn. If you don’t have room for a composter yourself, your city may have a composting facility you can drop your scraps off at. Ask your friends as well, any of them with gardens would probably be thrilled to get a bucket of scraps each week!

10. Read & Learn About Environmental Issues

This list is just a start, by starting to learn about the issues and the solutions you’ll see other ways you can make a difference. Understanding the issues isn’t just important at election time, it will help you make informed choices about the products you buy, and your daily activities. For example, organic beef isn’t green if hundreds of acres of forest were clearcut to raise the cattle. Read an article online, go to the library, go see what your local bookstore has to offer. The more we know, the more options we have for making things change. It’s not too late.

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Steve holds a degree in Environmental Engineering Technology from Humber College in Toronto, is a LEED Accredited Professional and a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor. He currently lives in Victoria BC and works as a green building consultant specializing in residential projects.


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