I know that talking about "going green" can sometimes seem a bit like a fad that some people mainly want to do because it’s trendy, but I for one am so happy that’s it’s trendy and talked about more and more. I really think trying to reduce waste, limit toxins, and make your overall environment healthier is so necessary and beneficial to not only the environment, but also to your own personal health and well-being. So no matter why someone might be doing it, I think it’s still a great idea either way! I’m always trying to look around our house and find places where we can do better or make a change to be a bit greener, and here are a few simple tips, room by room, to change your home for the better, too!
One of the biggest ways you can reduce waste in the kitchen is to change your paper towel habit into a reusable system instead: unpaper towels to replace the paper version, rags for cleaning dirtier jobs, and cloth napkins for mealtime can cut down on a ton of paper waste and you can keep all the dirties in something like this under your sink and wash them together as needed. Setting up a recycling station in your kitchen is also a big help and it makes it easiest if you have a system where you can separate the recyclable from non-recyclable items right there instead of having to go outside to your recycling bin for every item. We have something like this installed under a cabinet or you could use a double trash can set up too. To cut down on unwanted junk mail that you’ll just throw away immediately (and who doesn’t want to do that?!), you can follow the FTC’s guidelines to help reduce the amount of unwanted mail you receive. When you are at the grocery store, try and find food options to buy that are unpackaged (like bulk items or produce) that you can put into containers you brought from home or choose glass jars over plastic when possible (or go to a farmers market or food stand and bring your own bags). Plastic can only be recycled a limited amount of times (and it has to be a certain kind of plastic to begin with), but glass can be recycled an unlimited amount of times. And speaking of glass jars, they are a great way to store leftovers in your kitchen instead of plastic containers (and you can buy them in sets like these too). I keep several in different sizes so I always have one to fit the food need. You can also get rid of kitchen toxins by switching out your dish/dishwasher soap and cleaners for non-toxic versions (check out our DIY dish soap with essential oils!).
The bathroom can be a big spot where you can trade in some toxic cleaners for a more green approach. Adding one tablespoon of this cleaner in a spray bottle (we love this one from Grove!) with 8-10 drops of lemon essential oil is a great option for a general bathroom cleaner and this cleaner is great for scouring a tub. Switching your toilet paper to a recycled paper or sustainable bamboo option is an easy way to help out and using dispensers like this for hand soap can be easily refilled with a non-toxic bulk soap option (or try an unscented option and use essential oils to create your own scent!). To save on cotton ball and face wipe usage, you can use these instead and simply wash to reuse again! You can also replace your shower head with a low-flow option to save water and that’s usually something that you should be able to do yourself pretty easily (low-flow toilets are another good option but more expensive and probably not a DIY job for most people).
You spend one-third of your life sleeping, soooo it’s a good idea to think about what you’re sleeping on so you aren’t breathing in gross chemical and pesticides while you sleep (Elsie has and loves this organic mattress brand). A big chunk of the world’s pesticides are used just on cotton, so choosing organic cotton sheets will also help you sleep cleaner and greener, too. Speaking of chemicals, the bedroom is where I tend to get bitten by spiders the most so using an essential oil spider spray is a great way to keep the 8-legged little guys away from your space without the use of harsh pesticides. Switching out your lamps and overhead lighting with LED bulbs is a great way to save energy as well as money as they can last up to 10 years (and you can get bulbs like this that let you choose how warm or cool the light appears).
Switch out your artificially-scented dryer sheets with some wool dryer balls! The wool will help your clothes dry faster by helping to suck up moisture (thus saving energy) and you can also add some essential oils onto the balls so that your laundry still has a delicious natural scent fresh out of the dryer. You can also make your own dryer balls if you want more of a custom look. As a side note, if you decide to make a bigger purchase of a front-loading washer (which are generally more eco-friendly as they use less water), just remember to keep your washer door open when the washer is not in use so the rubber ring around the front can fully dry between washings—otherwise you can get a lot of hidden mold growth that can affect you by remaining on your clothing. If you have a front-load washer, just pull open that rubber lip and check for any black areas to see if you need a good cleaning on your machine (I know I did when I first checked). Wash your items on cold when you can and use a drying rack for clothes when possible—you’ll save energy and won’t shrink your favorite items on accident anymore!
This tip can work for every room in the house, but especially in rooms where you have a lot of electronics plugged in. Plug them all into a surge protector power strip with an on/off switch so that you can turn all the electronics off at night or during the day when you aren’t home and the items aren’t in use. We tend to think that if we don’t have an electronic item on there isn’t any power flowing, but there is as long as it’s plugged in! If the thought of all that switch flipping is getting you down, you can get a smart power strip where you can set a timer for when you want the power flowing, so it’s all set up automatically—cool! You can also add air-purifying houseplants to your space to clean up the air and diffuse essential oils rather than use artificially scented candles or air fresheners.
Of course, there are a lot bigger (and a lot more expensive) things you can do, like solar panels, for example. But I feel like trying to be more conscious is more of a process where you change small and easy things first and work your way up to bigger things in the future as you can afford them. It may be too expensive to switch out all your lighting to LEDs at once, but a lot more doable to just switch each bulb as they burn out so eventually they are all energy efficient. It can feel overwhelming to think you have to change every aspect of your life overnight, so don’t beat yourself up too much as you begin—it’s a journey, and hopefully, to paraphrase Maya Angelou, as you know better, you’ll do better. Let me know if you’ve made some simple green changes lately that you would suggest! xo. Laura
Credits // Author: Laura Gummerman. Photography: Laura Gummerman, Amber Ulmer, and Alyssa Rosenheck. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.