What mom doesn’t want to leave the world a better place for her child? Since North America is home to a mere 8 percent of the world’s population yet consumes a whopping one third of its resources and produces half of its garbage, what U.S. moms do at home can make a real difference. Follow these tips and you’ll not only help save the environment, you’ll also save yourself some green—and maybe even burn some calories in the bargain. Just one new habit each day can make a world of difference.
1. Make every drop count. Did you know that only 1 percent of the Earth’s water is drinkable? So, take shorter showers, turn off the faucet while brushing teeth and washing dishes, fill the dishwasher and washing machine before using them, fix leaky plumbing, and collect rainwater for gardening. By installing water-saving features like low-flow faucets and showerheads, Americans can conserve billions of gallons of water every day. To personally save more than $1,000, along with helping cut back on the 1.5 million tons of plastic used for bottling water each year, invest in a water filtration system. Chill glass bottles of filtered water in the fridge. On the go, use a stainless bottle or a Pure Glass Bottle with a coating that makes it shatter resistant and has two different size screw tops—a large one for ice and a smaller one for drinking ($20, pureglassbottle.com).
2. Drive less. Set up a carpool, take public transportation, ride your bike, and walk. When you have to use the car, limit idling time, combine trips, and map out your route efficiently. To save gallons and gallons of gasoline, tune up your car, replace the air filter, inflate tires, and observe the speed limit.
3. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Each year, people generate enough trash to fill a row of garbage trucks halfway from the Earth to the moon. Remember, “reduce” comes before “reuse” and “recycle.” Packaging makes up about one third of our trash, so buy products with minimal packaging. We wouldn’t have to truck, sort and recycle mountains of plastic bottles if we used fewer of them in the first place. If everyone in America sorted their trash and recycled, we could decrease landfill waste by 75 percent. Composting food scraps and leaves would reduce about 23 percent of solid waste that must be carted away and yields a nutrient-rich, chemical free asset to your home garden.
4. Save the planet’s lungs. Read newspapers, do your banking and pay your bills online. This not only reduces transportation pollution and subscription and postage costs, it also prevents millions of carbon dioxide absorbing/oxygen producing trees from being cut down and tons of paper from winding up in landfills. Choose recycled paper goods, and use cloth when possible. Each Skoy Earth-friendly cloth saves 15 rolls of paper towels, absorbs 15 times its weight and is machine washable (4 for $7, skoycloth.com).
5. Green your home. Use programmable thermostats. You could save $100 yearly by lowering the heat and raising the air-conditioner temperature by only one degree. Save even more by cleaning filters, insulating around leaky doors and windows, and planting trees to block sun in summer and wind in winter.
6. Conserve energy. Opt for compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer than standard bulbs. Turn off lights when you leave a room, and unplug chargers and appliances and turn off computers when not in use. Replace old appliances with Energy Star models. You could conserve 25 percent of the energy used in your home by lowering your water heater to 120 degrees and insulating it. Hanging clothes to dry will spare your clothes and your utility bill.
7. Shop locally. This helps save on transportation costs, reduces air pollution and aids the local economy. Enjoy freshly grown produce—and grown your own. In addition to the flavor and health benefits, frozen foods take 10 times more energy to produce.
8. Moove away from cows. Cut down on red meat to reduce up to 100 gallons of the greenhouse gas methane a cow produces each day (which is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide and comparable to the pollution of a car) and the huge amounts of water needed to produce beef. You may improve your health, too. Try Gardein and MorningStar Farms meat substitutes (available in grocery stores); your family won’t know the difference. To decrease the reliance on milk cows, try delicious, cholesterol free, nondairy alternatives from Silk, Galaxy Nutritional Foods and Daiya.
9. BYOBag. Bring your own bags to the market, and send the kids to school with reusable lunch containers. Flip & Tumble Produce Bag Set are a washable alternative to plastic vegetable bags (5 for $11, www.flipandtumble.com). Send the kids to school with reusable lunch containers like Klean Kanteen Wide bottles to keep food and beverages warm or cool (12 oz, $17 or 18 oz, $18; kleankanteen.com). Stock your desk with a pretty coffee mug, plates and flatware. Each family member could reduce waste by more than 50 pounds a year!
10. Give eco-friendly presents. This Mother’s Day, for example, give fun, clutter free presents like gift certificates for pampering treatments, tickets to a show or enrollment in a cooking or painting class. Accompany your mom to her favorite nursery and buy flowers that you can plant together.