I encourage you to read through the changes (grouped by category), click on links, and explore how these small changes can help our island and our planet. Check back, as I update this page often!
Buy local produce
Support your farmer's market! Learn what grows in your area, your state, or your region. The less food travels, the fresher and better tasting it will be with better nutrients and less environmental impact from having travelled around the world in a refrigerated truck or ship.
Check out our family's foray into local fruit!
Reduce your food waste
EPA has a great website with ideas
Shop in your fridge first: keep things that are going to go bad where they are visible so you can use them first
Think about our grandparents' era: stale bread goes to breadcrumbs, leftovers into casseroles, over ripe bananas and kids leftover fruit into bread or smoothies
Consider a freezer container of "scraps" to reduce waste
Over-ripe banana? Slightly wilted carrot? A few apple slices left on your kids' plates? In our house, they all go into a container for smoothies
Think outside of the box and google recipes and how to freeze scraps and leftovers. Some items you will need to peel or flash-cook before freezing. I had a few zucchinis I knew I would not get to (I was intending to spiralize), so instead I washed them, chopped them into cubes, and stashed them in the freezer to make this amazing dairy free cheesecake... (intrigued)? However, I didn't skin them, so the dessert had specks of green skin (thankfully un-noticed by my kids)
Say no to straws
When dining out, at the restaurant or bar, say "no straw please" to avoid one time use straws: it's a huge small change you can make
You need to speak up while ordering (those straws are served quickly!)
The amount of straws used per DAY are staggering: 500,000,000 per DAY (count the zeros!), more info on the global no straw movement here
Say no to bottled water
So. Much. Plastic. Do we really need 29 billion water bottles each year? Our landfills are choking!
Buy a reusable bottle. Use it. So many choices these days! The thrift store is awash in perfectly good bottles.
More importantly -- stash these bottles in your car, in your bag, and USE them at your kids' games, events, work, commuting.
I have guilt about the ones I already bought -- but they are stashed in our hurricane closet and I have vowed not to buy more!
Stay out of the drive-thru lane
Ok let's be real, the kids are whining and you are all hungry. Fast food is terrible, but sometimes you do it
If you must: park your car, get out, order, get back in the car: idling in the long dinner line wastes gas and is polluting
Same goes for Starbucks drive thru and the drive thru ATM ... don't idle!
Bring your own shopping bags to the store
If you live in a city that has adopted a no bag policy, this is a no brainer. I'm pleasantly surprised at how everyone is on board. I've even seen people carry their items out of CVS in their hands! Way to go!
These bags take hundreds of years to break down into smaller and smaller bits, kill marine life, and clog our water
Stash reusable bags in your car, your purse, at work. Avoid produce bags: use reusable bags or none at all. I'm loving these
Cook it yourself
Cooking food yourself will usually mean less waste -- less food waste, less packaging, and can save you money
If you are a regular take-out or convenience food person, start small. Your probably do take out because it is so easy -- don't jump into crazy recipes to start. Try simple meals first, look at food blogs for busy families, crockpot chili etc.
Eat Seasonally when you can
We love mango season here in Hawaii, when our tree gives us 1 or 2 ripe ones per day! Friends with overflowing avocado trees bring them to the gym and work!
Eating seasonally is eating locally, which means less transport and more support for your local farm
Replace zip lock bags with glass
I love the convenience of zip lock bags, and there was a time when I used and tossed ... not any more. The bags I do come across (snacks from the kids' sports etc.), I covet and reuse until they are tattered.
However, we have replaced most storage with pyrex and lids. Note: the lids can crack in the freezer, so take care to thaw first!
Apparently there is also plastic bag recycling (not in Hawaii that I have seen)
OK, I'll admit, its my new obsession: unplugging speakers, coffee machines, toasters and gadgets to save electricity. I know I am being annoying, but I also unplug seldom used lamps!
OFF but still plugged in = phantom energy that can be 15% or more of a total electric bill!
Save money and be green!
Turn off your oven early, a few minutes early and leave the door closed!
This is called residual heat cooking or carry over cooking and works on the principle that the oven is still hot (door closed) to finish the cooking (this works fantastic on yam fries and other things you want "crisped up")
Peeking at your dish allows this precious heat to escape, so look through the window or only open if absolutely necessary
I often don't preheat either: this works well for roasted veggie dishes
Keep a lid on it
Boy this may seem intuitive, but how many times have I set a pot and walked away? Put the lid on it, to avoid wasted, escaping heat
Try a pressure cooker
The steam and high heat cook foods faster and more efficiently than the oven or stovetop (up to 70% faster!)
Compared to electric ovens, these cookers reduce energy use
If you live in a climate like Hawaii, they help to keep the kitchen cool compared to a hot oven (I even plug my cooker in outside!)
Cut up dense foods
Chop your potatoes and meat -- shorter cooking times!
Thaw your foods first
Again, makes intuitive sense -- shorter cooking times!
Cook foods in as little water as needed/possible
This helps reduce waste water, but also retains more nutrients in the food
Choose a smaller pot or pan
A bigger pan means more energy to heat the whole thing up -- choose the smallest pot or pan that can accommodate your foods
Adjust your thermostat
Save money and energy by adjusting your thermostat during sleep or when you are away, according to the Department of Energy
There is a lot of information out there on different types of thermostats and where to place in your home and how to adjust: do your homework
Try a 1 degree change to allow your body to get used to it, then nudge it to 2 degrees or 3 degrees.
Try a broom, sponge and rag rather than disposable products
Think of all the disposal paper products you use for spills and wipes -- try switching to cloth, sponges (keep one for dishes, one for the floor etc.)
This is also a money saver!
Try natural cleansers
Instead of toxic harsh chemicals, try cleaning or removing stains with things like lemon, vinegar, or even cooking oil
Vinegar is inexpensive and non-toxic, check out what you can do here
Don't forget the vinegar's counterpart: baking soda
Opt out of carbon-heavy and super annoying junk mail
Junk mail destroys 100 million trees a year!!! More about the nasty carbon footprint here from NYU as well as ways you can mass unsubscribeHere's how to opt out from pre-approved credit mail
If you have time, you can unsubscribe from different store catalogues (see blog post here!) -- there is often an email address or website to stop snail mail, but it can take some sleuthing
Change all bills to e-billing -- less paper and less of a carbon footprint to mail to you
Hang your laundry
This is a simple, concrete thing you can do to save money and cut down on energy useHome clothes dryers are some of the home's highest energy users and they wear away at your clothing. Here is a nice impact summary from Green AmericaCold climate? why not start off in the summer/sunny days?
Live in NYC? London? Cold Climate? Try hanging indoors: the summary above has great indoor tips!
Paint disposal -- if you must trash it: check your local resources
This might not be intuitive to some people -- pouring paint down the drain interferes with water treatment processing
Check with your city on how to dispose of paint in the trash
In Honolulu, opala.org has guidelines on disposal of different types of waste. Paint should be absorbed and trashed: liquid poured into a plastic bag with rags or sawdust, once all absorbed can then be placed into the trash
Painting your home can be polluting
I got these tips below from 365 Ways to Save the Earth:
Take careful measurements and buy only the amount you need
Excess paint can also be donated or taken to paint recycling or exchange programs
Earth911 can help you find a paint recycling program
Reuse Hawaii will take new unopened paint
Tend plants and indoor gardens in your home
Potted plants add greenery, improve your air quality, and reduce stress
Again, start small if you are new -- try easy to care for plants, read up on their care, then move on to windowsill herbs, etc.
Wash your clothes only when soiled
We are used to tossing items into the laundry after each use, but not everything needs to be washed after each wear!
I think women do this inherently (i.e. think of your nice jeans, or lightly worn nice shirt!), but other members of the family might need some training. Also, realistically, I live with 3 stinky boys -- so I apply this tip to them unless it is a nice shirt worn for a short dinner or evening...
Wash your clothes on the cold cycle
Cold water leaves the smallest footprint -- less energy to heat up the water
I do this all the time -- they come out clean and your clothes will last longer
Check out this initiative and fact page from Cold Water Saves from The American Cleaning Institute (who knew we had this?) and The Sustainability Consortium
Use your energy efficient dishwasher
Check out this article about how your dishwasher actually only uses about 3.5 gallons of water per cycle -- handwashing uses 1.5 gallons per minute with a running tap
Only run the dishwasher when it is full
Don't run the water to wash and then rinse those dishes: fill up a sink to soak and scrub, then rinse
If you are a "pre-rinse" before dishwasher kind of household, scrape your plates into the garbage (or compost better yet!), place the dishes into a soapy sink, scrub away, then put in your energy efficient dishwasher
When your kids drop all of those ice cubes ....
Ice cubes that land on the floor can go into plants for water: stick them in the soil of your hard to reach plants
Designate a glass for the day
This one is intuitive -- less cups and glasses mean less water use
Fill your reusable water bottle, or pick a cup for water and use it all day
Put a pitcher of cold water in the fridge
Keep a cold jug of water handy in the fridge, rather than running the water from the tap to get a cold glass
Drop items in the trash instead of the toilet
Put your used tissues, dead bugs, etc. in the trash
Flushing them down the toilet wastes water
Lather up with the water off
Turn off the faucet when you are lathering soap over your hands
Brush up with the water off
It's true: turning off the faucet while your brush can save gallons per minute
Multiply this by a family of 4, twice a day, and you have saved a lot of water
Take shorter showers
Showers can use anywhere from 2-5 gallons of water per minute. Multiply this for a 10 minute shower for a family of 4, and you end up using 40-100 gallons per day
Tom's of Maine has a great post on how to reduce your shower time by using songs and cues
For most hard core: consider a sea shower (less than 2 minutes)
Kids take baths: make them more water efficient
Plug the drain first, turn on the water, then adjust the temperature (don't waste a gallon or two of colder water)
Use only as much water as you need (a full bathtub uses 70 gallons of water!)
Install faucet aerators in your bathroom
These little rings limit the flow of water through the faucet, giving the perception of pressure, while actually cutting down on water use
Read up on the different kinds and how they can save water and money
Fix a dripping tap
For each dripping tap, 5 drips per minute, 173 gallons of water are wasted per year
(I got this info from a super cool USGS calculator about dripping faucet water waste)
Upgrade older toilets and shower heads to more water efficient and water saving units
Look for the Water Sense label/designation from the EPA: it is a product that meets set specifications for water efficiency
Install a water butt on your drainspouts, or collect water in rain barrels
A water butt is a thing. It goes over your drainspout to collect rainwater, which you can use to water your plants
Use a watering can
A watering hose can draw 6-9 gallons of water per minute (think about dumping gallons of water on your plants, vs. from a can), where needed
If you need a hose: use a shutoff nozzle or pressure nozzle to reduce water waste
Plant your garden according to your sun pattern and your temperate zone
Place plants that require more water in a shadier spot where evaporation is slower
Water deeply and less frequently
Even in Hawaii, the Board of Water Supply suggests 2-3 times per week even during the summer!
Watering less allows deeper roots to form, which is better for erosion and the soil
Plant your garden with the "thirstiest" plants together
Save water and cluster them closest to the house for runoff water
As you go further out, add plants that can survive on rainfall alone
Water in the cool of the morning
You will lose less water to evaporation
Watering at night can encourage fungus growth and mildew
Forgo watering and plant a xeriscape garden
Xeriscaping does not mean you won't have pretty plants in your garden: it means planting a garden that requires no supplemental watering
Check out this link that explains the basic principles of xeriscape
Research xeriscape gardens in your temperate zone: in Hawaii, check out Halawa xeriscape gardens (I'm planning a visit as one of the goals is to reduce our garden footprint!)
Use a broom to clean off your lanai, sidewalk or driveway instead of the hose
Get some exercise and clean these areas off with a tool and your hands, rather than water!
When giving your pet water, use the old water for plants
Recycle your pet's dirty water into your plants or your garden
When cleaning out your fishtank, recycle the old water
Don't put it into the edible plants! Only the non-edible ones should get this nutrient rich water!
Rinse your pets outdoors in areas that need watering
Put Fido in an area of your lawn that needs water, and rinse away
I don't have a dog, but I am guessing that dog shampoos are probably toxic, and just like you wouldn't bathe in a lake with any sort of soap or even organic washes, you would not want to lather up your pooch outdoors
Take your car to the car wash instead of doing it yourself at home
New, efficient car washes actually recycle water and use less than older car washes or home washes
These newer car washes even recycle fresh water, have containers for waste water, and are regulated by the EPA
At home or at a hotel, reuse your towels
I can't imagine washing my towels every day at home, so I can't imagine asking a hotel to do it either but people must do it or else hotels wouldn't have those signs up!
Fashion and Self Care
Recycle your clothing or donate your clothing
Did you know that stores like Patagonia, Uniqlo and even fast fashion H&M will take back clothes and recycle them?
If the label won't take it back, take it to Goodwill: they will do their best to liquidate their used clothing supply, but some still might end up in the landfill
Better yet, buy less stuff, buy less trendy stuff, buy stuff to last
Think hard about "fast fashion"
Think about the life of your clothing and environmental effects of growing cotton, manufacturing clothes, laundering, and then disposal. A nice summary here about the price of fast fashion
Consider plastic free, sustainable beauty products
There are brands out there that use bamboo, cardboard, recycled plastic and metal refillable plates for lips, eyes and skincare. Here's good list from the Women's Environmental Network and another list of less wasteful brands from a fellow blogger
Do your homework before you buy another product
Use up your products in your home first, then buy sustainable
It is fun to try out new products, but suddenly we have bottles of shampoos, body wash, serums, soaps all over the place
Use up what you have first: the travel size, the freebies etc. (I read a blog where a woman went a year on what she had around the house)
Consider donating your unused, unopened products (my son's school collects small items and travel sized products for the women's shelter)
Offer the unwanted, unused products to family and friends (or even half used items if it comes in a tube or pump container: your sister or best friend might want to try them, or even a visiting guest who forgot their hand cream or serum!)
Buy soaps in bar form
My local Whole Foods has locally produced soaps with NO packaging! (compare this to the body wash in plastic dispensers shipped from the mainland)
Bar soap cut from a larger bulk item even allows me to get the thrill of "trying new scents" and products
Use a pretty dish (that you got from the thrift store or shopped from your own home!) to display new fresh soap for guests
Wash your hair less and save water
The "no poo" movement swung us away from daily washes to minimal washing, but I think the pendulum has landed squarely in the middle again: wash your hair less ... a few times a week? My sister swears up and down by Hair Story shampoo (once a week wash!)
Use cotton swabs with paper spindles
Ain't gonna lie, I got this one from Beyoncé: she advises to switch to paper spindle swabs
The doc in me has seen a bunch of "I inserted a swab too far" injuries (i.e. punctured tympanic membrane!) ... so we rarely have around in our house!
Bring your own cup to work
This is an easy one -- your work provides plastic cups for water or coffee: bring your own. Leave them at work, wash them at work
Urge your colleagues to do the same: check out my blog post
Practice eco-friendly camping
First: go off-peak if you can, our national parks are crowded and the environmental impact can be damaging
Of course, follow park rules and don't bring disposables
Use sunscreen that won't bleach coral
Zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in NON-nanoparticles won't harm a living reef
Avoid oxybenzone, octinoxate, Butylparaben, 4-Methylbenzylidine Camphor
Check out my blog post if you are confused about sunscreen: what to do about sunscreen
Pick up trash on your walk
Carry a small bag with you on a dog walk or exercise walk, fill it with trash
Carry another for recyclables
Holidays and Gifts
Buy recycled paper holiday cards, or send e-cards
I tried Paper Culture, a company that uses recycled materials and plants a tree with every order
e-cards and emailed newsletters are also becoming more popular (can I justify sending all these cards from Hawaii?!), Green Envelope does a very impressive looking e-card
Also consider trimming your holiday card list: if you haven't spoken to this person in many years, consider reducing your list size to save a tree
Green your holiday table
Decorate with nature: no need for plastic junk: think pinecones, gourds, leaves etc. (in Hawaii this would be fresh flowers and greenery!)
Don't use disposable or go compostable
Time to get out them good plates: use them instead of plastic plates, cups, knives, silverware
If you have to do disposable: consider recycled paper, sugarcane and corn (you can find many of these at Whole Foods)
Don't buy new containers to "meet" the food or leftover expectation
If you need more leftover containers, consider: (1) making less food (seriously) or (2) having family and friends bring their own containers, rather than buying more plastic containers