How to Be an Environmentalist at Home

Even if you think global warming is an urban legend, it is hard to ignore the environmental impact of modern life. Most people will agree that wanton use of resources and energy is irresponsible at best. Many will even go so far as to say it is downright dangerous to the environment and to the well-being of future generations.

Yet, when asked, most people don’t know what they can do to help. Many aren’t even sure there is anything they can do. After all, the problem is so enormous, it is surely something that the world governments and large corporations should tackle. There is nothing that any one individual can do. Or is there?

Here are 10 ways to cut down on your personal environmental impact:

1. Line-dry your laundry. Laundry can be hung outdoors in good weather and hung inside, on clothes bars, in not so good weather. Hanging laundry has many benefits, in addition to lower energy usage for your home. Frugal people have been hanging laundry for decades. If you make the switch to hanging all of your family’s laundry, you will see a real decrease in your energy bills. Hanging laundry inside during the dry winter months also helps to put some much-needed moisture back in the air. And, in the spring, summer and fall, nothing beats the smell of line-dried laundry. No fabric softener in the world can duplicate the real thing.

2. Cut back on paper products. Paper towels and napkins are a modern convenience that most of us have come to think of as the only way to tackle certain household jobs. Paper towels are easily replaced with rags. Old towels make excellent rags that are far more absorbent than the most expensive paper towels. Cloth napkins add an elegant touch to the simplest family meals. They are easily washed with your regular laundry. If you own two sets of cloth napkins, you will always have one set ready to use at dinner time. Like line-drying laundry, doing away with paper products in your home will also save money.

3. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, consider buying one. You can program it so that your heat goes down when you are sleeping and when you are not home. You can then program it so the heat goes back up about a half hour before you wake up in the morning or before you get home in the evening. Your heating bill will decrease considerably, so the expense of a programmable thermostat is well worth it.

4. Unplug your television and computer when you are going out of town. If you frequently travel, or are out of town for the occasional long weekend, it is prudent to unplug your electronics. Not only will this save your equipment if you happen to have a power surge, but it will also decrease your electric bill. The instant-on feature of modern televisions and computer screens draw energy even when they are not on.

5. Buy local produce when possible. Local farmers’ markets are great places to buy seasonal produce. Not only are you getting a fresher product, but you are supporting your local farmers and saving the energy costs that arise when food is shipped cross-country to your grocery store. If you are lucky enough to live in an area that has year-round farmers’ markets, then you can make this a part of your weekly shopping routine.

6. Shop garage sales. Garage sales are fantastic places to buy children’s toys and clothes. Not only will you save money, but you will also save the environment by recycling these gently used items. Toys for babies and toddlers are especially good finds at garage sales. These items are usually over-priced and over-packaged when new. Very young children don’t know the difference between a new toy and a like-new toy. If you plan ahead, this is a great way to cut down on the expense of holidays and birthdays.

7. Recycle. Most counties in the United States require recycling, but you may be surprised at exactly what you can recycle. We recently learned that we can recycle cereal boxes and similar packaging with our newspapers. A phone call to your garbage company or your local landfill can prove productive. Since recycling is often free, and garbage disposal is not, the more you recycle and the less you throw away, the more money you save.

8. Cut down on laundry. Consider washing clothes less often. Clothing items, such as pants, usually don’t need to be laundered after each use, especially if there is no visible dirt.

9. Use natural cleaning products. Most store-bought cleaning products are toxic. Items such as spray cleaners can be replaced with simple white vinegar. Not only is it less expensive to clean with vinegar, it is less toxic for the environment and your family.

10. Consider replacing your gas-powered lawn mower with a reel mower. The modern reel mowers have improved a lot over the mowers your grandparents’ used. They are lightweight and easy to push and maneuver. Better yet, there is no need to fuss with the starter, change the oil or make a trip to the gas station when it’s time to mow. Maintenance consists of a yearly blade-sharpening. Reel mowers are gentler on your lawn than gas powered mowers and take up less storage space.

We all have a responsibility to tackle the environmental problem. If we wage the war against environmental destruction in our own homes, our individual contributions will have an enormous impact when added up with all the other individual efforts. Better still, we will be teaching others how to be good stewards of the environment. Teach your children and convince your friends to join you in being a part of the solution.

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