Real Simple readers share their green tips.
Dirty Little Games
My husband and I bought his-and-hers composting bins and started a competition to see whose technique would yield results first. I am happy to say that, after six months, I have a healthy lead.
Beverly Hills, Michigan
When bugs invaded my garden, I purchased ladybugs, which took care of them very efficiently, thereby eliminating the need for anything Mother Earth would not appreciate.
I love to hang my laundry out on the line in the fresh air and sunshine, and I love the way my clothes smell after they’ve been drying in the breeze.
My husband and I switched to compact fluorescent bulbs throughout our new home nearly three years ago and have yet to change a single bulb! Even better, my darling husband also installed a motion-sensor light switch in our laundry room, which we all use as the primary entrance to the house, to combat our teens’ leaving the light on…and on…and on. It not only helps the environment but also goes a long way in lowering our electric bill.
My husband and I decided to stop using air-conditioning in our home. When it’s hot, we spend our time outside on our shaded patio, drinking cool beverages and thinking cool thoughts. We use fans in the house at night and haven’t missed the A/C.
Flanders, New Jersey
I pulled the plug on my top-loading washer and bought a front-loader. It cleans better than my old one did, it uses less water, and there seems to be less lint in the dryer trap. I like the fact that I’m helping the environment, lowering my water bill, and making my towels last longer.
Key West, Florida
We buy as much local and organic produce as possible. This means we also eat with the seasonal changes: more root vegetables, pumpkins, potatoes, etc., in the fall and winter. And in summer everything is up for grabs! Not only is this better for our health but it’s also better for the health of our Mother Earth.
I used to try to make lots of eco-friendly changes all at once, which made me feel overwhelmed. Now my family picks one or two things to focus on, and when they have become ingrained in our lives, we pick a few more. The most thrilling change is that we got rid of our noisy lawn mower and bought a manual version. Besides reducing our carbon footprint, it gives us a light workout and is peaceful and quiet. Now we listen to the birds and children playing instead of a loud motor. And our neighbors want to chat about our choice in landscaping equipment.
My family removed our thirsty front lawn and planted (mostly) native, drought-resistant shrubs. Wide-spraying sprinklers have been replaced by a targeted drip irrigation system. It’s good for the environment and good for my water bill.
I plant at least two trees every spring, and I have a beehive that is fully pollinating my neighbors’ plants and producing honey.
Pedal Off the Metal
I used to drive 50 miles back and forth every day to work using an SUV. Now I take a commuter bus to the office. It’s cost-effective and eco-friendly.
I was in the habit of driving my two small boys across town to the mall for amusement. As the price of gas has skyrocketed, we spend a lot more time discovering the parks and nature paths in our own neighborhood instead of driving all around the city.
My husband and I decided to switch to cloth diapers instead of disposables for our toddler. Cloth is not only easier on the earth ― it’s cuter on baby’s butt!
Wall Township, New Jersey
I love shopping for recycled (secondhand) clothes. With a little patience, you can find some really great stuff and save cash.
Cloth napkins. We save stress, and even takeout feels glamorous.
Miami Beach, Florida
When my daughter hands me notes from school that are on printable paper and blank on the opposite side, we use that paper for our home printer. I’ve extended this practice to mail we receive and any other printable paper with a blank side. We’re allowed to use good printing paper only on final copies of homework and other important documents.
I bring my own mug to my favorite coffee shop. For those of us who stop in every day on our way to work, that’s more than 250 paper mugs, plastic tops, and cardboard sleeves every year that won’t make it to the landfills.
Farmington Hills, Michigan
Walking the Walk
Why do we rip off paper towels by the dozen to wipe up a little spill and start a new bottle of lotion just because the old one doesn’t pump anymore? I believe the little things matter. We could learn from the homesteaders of the 1800s; they reduced, reused, and recycled. I’ve stopped wasting what I have. It’s amazing how far things will stretch, not to mention how much money you can save, if you simply use wisely.
Aside from our new Prius? Persuading my SUV-driving, conservative, old-school Texas husband to become a recycling, water- and electricity-saving, locally sustainable practitioner. (At least most of the time.) The power of love! One down, 6 billion to go.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Recycling wire hangers from the dry cleaner. I have found that most recycling centers will take them, and it clears up valuable closet space.