Reader Tips: How to Be Green

So maybe you don’t live in a home the size of a closet or drive a car that runs on vegetable oil. You can still make environmental choices that matter. This month, readers share their smartest strategies and innovations for going green.

Photo by Christopher Silas Neal

I replaced my daughters’ electric night-lights with solar-powered lanterns to keep by their beds. Every morning, the girls put them out in the sun to charge; after dinner they collect them. We made the change to conserve energy but wound up teaching our kids about responsibility, too.
Kate Clark
Colorado Springs

Instead of relying on tap water to hydrate my outdoor plants, I use rainwater that I collect in a plastic barrel. (I transport the water around my yard with a watering can.) One night of rain fills the container with enough water to sustain my garden for an entire month.
Jackie Littleton
Tyler, Texas

My two chocolate Labs track mud into my house on a daily basis. I used to combat the mess with paper towels, but six months ago I got tired of all that wastefulness, so I crafted a roll of washable cloths. To make this handy invention, I sewed snaps onto 12 fabric squares, then attached the squares together so they wouldn’t get lost. When I have a mess to pick up, I just pull a towel off the roll, use it, then toss it in the laundry bin.
Bettina Kidd Quinn
St. Peters, Missouri

For as long as I can remember, my family kept a 13-gallon garbage can in our kitchen. Its vast size dwarfed the pieces of trash we tossed into it, making each one seem inconsequential. So about a year ago, we swapped this old trash holder for a receptacle that fits a standard grocery bag. The smaller size gives us new perspective on our waste and motivates us to recycle more. As a result, we’re throwing away about 15 gallons less each week.
Cody Alvey
Louisville, Kentucky

When my husband and I refurbished an old farmhouse two years ago, we removed the natural-gas furnace and central air conditioner and installed a geothermal system that minimizes the amount of energy used for controlling the air temperature. Our system doesn’t burn fossil fuel. Instead, it transfers heat from the ground to the house to keep us warm in winter, and from the house to the ground to cool us down in summer. This move was expensive up front, but it’s very energy-efficient and cost-saving in the long term.
Paula Deppe
Pecatonica, Illinois