Earth Day is great; it's a wonderful opportunity for millions of people around the world to take action to help save our delicate planet; the only bummer is that it's only one day each year. With the big day squarely in our collective rear-view mirror, but still fresh in our minds, now is a good time to mention our favorite ways to make every day a little bit more like Earth Day. Each day this week, we'll bring you five things to do to take action and be a good TreeHugger.
25) Get a reel (human-powered) lawn mower (like this one -- they really work! Read our review here) instead of a loud, noxious gasoline grass-cutter.
24) Compost your garbage instead of throwing it all away; over 60% of solid household waste is fit for the compost pile, heap or bin. Check out our picks for composters here.
23) Buy clothes and other linens made from organic cotton. Conventional cotton farming uses only about 3% of the farmland but consumes approximately 25% of the chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and if you want it, you can get it organic: jeans and denim, towels and sheets, even designer couture and upholstery fabric
22) Ride a bicycle. The most efficient form of transportation ever devised was named the most significant innovation in a UK survey; in 2005, more bikes than cars were sold in the US, and it's certainly one of our favorites, from a myriad of killer folding bikes to bamboo bikes to bikes with an electric boost.We don't know how you can't love something that will alternately charge your iPod or make you a daiquiri.
21) Use eco-friendly household cleaners. It's never made any sense to us to use "dirty" chemicals and volatile organic compounds to try to get things cleaner around the house; we recommend ECover, Seventh Generation (if it's good enough for Liv Tyler, it's good enough for us), Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day (read our review of their products), B_E_E and method; between them all, there isn't anything you can't clean without dirtying yourself or the rest of the environment.
TreeHugger believes that if everyone comes together to make a couple small changes, we can make a big difference. As part of our continuing series, here are five more ways to green your lifestyle without breaking a sweat.
20) Eschew air conditioners (even though there are some nice designs, some pretty efficient window units and even an off-grid option out there, some think A/C is the killing frost sure to wilt the last fragile shoots of American culture) and go with a ceiling fan for year-round climate control. It'll help keep you cooler in summer; to push warm air back down into the room in winter, just flip the blades around.
19) Skip the energy-hogging clothes dryer for a drying rack or clothes line instead; it's easier on your clothes, your energy bill and our fragile planet. While you're at it, green your laundry practices or skip electricity all together.
18) Use rechargable batteries instead of single-use batteries. It'll save you some bucks and the hassle of trying to recycle spent alkalines (even though our friends at 3r Living make it a little easier by accepting them for recycling). For more info, check out Green Batteries for everything you'd ever want to know.
17) If given the choice, go for organic fruits, veggies, meat and dairy over conventional food. Organic food is becoming more widely available all the time in grocery stores across the world, and because it's all free of pesticides, herbicides and other chemical non-desireables, it's better for you and the planet.
16) When it comes to food, the only thing making more noise these days than organic is the local food movement. From the Eat Local Challenge to the 100 Mile Diet (so interesting that we added a part 2) to a growing number of resources to help you grow your own food -- it doesn't get more local than that -- it's tough to beat the "eat the season" mantra. If you're still not convinced, here are 10 reasons to give it a shot.
In part three of our ongoing series, we bring you five more ideas for ways to reduce your ecological impact, keep things green, and save some green by increasing efficiency while retaining function.
15) Fill your kitchen with bamboo. We just love the stuff, and its versatility makes for a variety of products that are inexpensive, functional and beautiful and long-lasting. Some of our favorites are Ekobo, Bambu (their new utensils are worth a look, too), Vessel's cutting boards, NorSing dinnerware and this dinnerware from Hammacher Schlemmer. While you're at it, bamboo is pretty great for the bathroom, too.
14) Get an efficient space heater to cut down on the cubic area you need to heat, reducing energy consumption and energy bills.
13) If a drying rack or clothing line doesn't make sense for your wet laundry, a spinning clothes dryer that uses centrifugal force is a much more efficient alternative to conventional clothes dryers.
12) Use recycled paper. There's no need to use virgin paper for things like computer printing, envelopes, paper towels, toilet paper or tissues; the best part is that it's all easy to find at office supply stores and grocery stores. Don't forget, you can get great stationary and cool journals from recycled paper as well, so there are more trees for us all to hug.
11) Many of us can't afford to get sustainable hardwood flooring, bamboo flooring or really cool reclaimed lumber flooring, but we can still make a difference with the rugs and carpets we put down. Interface's modular tiles are flexible enough to go in almost any-sized space, big or small, and these bamboo rugs are both sustainable and affordable. Angela Adams' Island rugs are are backed with 100% cotton monk cloth and a latex adhesive, and there are lots more planet-saving, money-saving ideas in our Top 5 carpets and rugs list.
Part four out of our five-part series has more easy, affordable things you can do by the end of the day today to make a positive impact on our planet.
10) When it comes to toilets, we've seen a lot of gadgets: dual-flush handles, controllable-flush handles, alternative toilets, the UnBathroom emergency toilet, a water recycling toilet and reviews of the best low-flow toilets. They're all valuable in their own way, but rather than rushing out to buy one of them, there's an even easier way to save lots of water: make your own frugal flusher. Just place a brick or similarly voluminous object in the tank of your toilet; by displacing some of the water, there's less of it to flush each time, and less valuable wet stuff goes down the drain.
9) We can't emphasize this one enough: replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. They're more energy efficient, last longer, and can even help clean the air in your home. There are too many other good things about them to list here, but, trust us, they're worth it.
8) Even though there are some good things going on in the bottled water industry, like biodegradable water bottles and this bottled water with a cause, you can't beat filtered tap water in a reusable bottle. Same goes for other widely-consumed beverages, like coffee, and if you're stuck on the aesthetics of the disposable cup, check out TreeHugger founder and fearless leader's ceramic solution.
7) Cut flowers are pretty and smell good, but are ultimately disposable after just a few days. The next time you're in the market for some, go for a potted version instead. They last longer, improve indoor air quality and can even be self-watering. If cut flowers are a must, go for organic and look for the Veliflora sustainable floral label.
6) A low-flow showerhead can save you gallons of water each time you use it. We've seen 'em as low as a half-gallon per minute, and for as little as $12 US.
We've arrived at the final installment of our quick-n-easy actions to take for a better planet. At just 25 items, we know there are a plethora of other easy ways to take action, and just because they're not on the list doesn't mean you shouldn't do them. The little things can make a difference!
5) Instead of buying bottled water, use a water filter instead. There are some pretty strange options for filtration out there, but they can be very simple and easy to use, so get one, use it to replenish your precious bodily fluids, and you'll never buy bottled water again.
4) To go the extra mile, get a rainwater storage tank; you don't even have to dig a huge hole in the yard to have one (we got all the facts at a rainwater harvesting conference). You won't be able to drink it (unless you do what this guy did, and bottle it), but your flowers, plants and garden will sure enjoy it. This will save the potable water your utility provides just for household use, and you'll use less of it.
3) Use "Tupperware"-style reusable food containers for leftovers and lunches; you'll save miles of plastic wrap and tons of plastic bags. While you're at it, get reusable versions of other stuff, like grocery bags, gift bags and (why not?) muffin cups.
2) Draft excluders at the base of your doors can save vast amounts of cold from getting in and heat from getting out. Your wallet will thank you, and you can do it with other doors around the house, like your fridge door, too.
1) Finally, a programmable thermostat will help efficiently regulate your indoor climate; it's like TiVo for your house. Warm it up and cool it down only when you want to, live more comfortably and cheaply. Isn't that what we all want?
Whew! Now that we've reached #1, it's time to go forth and take action: use the list, live clean, save money, save the planet. Godspeed, TreeHuggers!