The Beginner’s Guide to a More Eco-Conscious Lifestyle



You know about eating organic, turning off lights and carpooling to work to save energy as well as gas. But what else can you do to lessen that heavy carbon footprint most of us are leaving in our wake? What about the little things that make our lives healthier and happier, as well as others'? Think of these tips as the beginner's guide to a more eco-conscious lifestyle.

Donate Your Paper

Setting your mags and newspapers in the recycling bin, to be properly handled by your municipal waste authority is never a bad idea. But there's a more gratifying why to get rid of the paper you don't have a use for anymore. Aside from creating mood boards (so fun!) by clipping from your favorite fashion magazines, consider taking a few past issues to your doctor's office the next time you visit. They'll gladly take them for the waiting room. The nail salon? Yep. Hospital lobbies or dialysis centers? Absolutely. Goodwill and the Kidney Foundation will take them too. As for your newspapers, the animal shelter will appreciate using them to line kennels and cages. By donating, you're making someone else's job easier or someone else's day a bit brighter. And the warm fuzzies you get from it are priceless too.

Don't Throw Away Your Wire Hangers

Wire hangers aren't accepted by most recycling programs. So what do we do? Let them pile up, mostly. But guess what? You can swing by with your old hangers the next time you're dropping off your dry cleaning. Many dry cleaners happily take them back to be reused and have access to recycling them, even though we don't. 

Feather Birds' Nests

Got a clothes dryer at home? Need to clean out the lint tray every so often? Instead of wasting the lint by merely tossing it in the trash, try littering it in your back yard. Birds will add it to their nests, keeping their little ones safe and warm. 

Skip Paper Coffee Cups and Stirrers

These days, any urban dweller (and many suburban ones) have a corner coffee shop they visit daily or on the weekends. If you've got a place close to home, there's no reason not to bring in your favorite mug (or travel mug) and ask the barista to fill it up instead of using one of their paper (or worse, styrofoam) cups. You can even pour in your creamer and sugar first, asking for the coffee to be poured on top, so you don't need a stirrer. According to 50 Ways To Help, Americans add 138 billion stirrers and straws to our garbage each year. They also suggest using a dry piece of pasta at home to stir your coffee. You can eat it afterward or toss it. It biodegrades much faster than plastic.

Insulate Your Lunch

Buy an insulated lunch bag if you bring lunch to work. The benefits here are pretty obvious: fresh food, less paper and plastic used. Money saved!

Go for a Cold Wash

Here's another jarring statistic: If all American households switched the cycle on their washing machines from hot-hot to warm-cold, we could save energy that's similar to 100,000 barrels of oil per day. And if you have your laundry sent out, you can tell them to wash it in cold water. I always do. 

Do a Craigslist Decor Redux

So many of us have yet to tap into the the green potential of Craigslist. By that, I mean all the stuff that's being given away or sold at a deep discount—and it's just there for the taking. We're more mobile than ever, moving between states for jobs and relationships, so people need to get rid of their stuff—fast. Before you hit up that sexy furniture store, see what gems you can score on Craigslist first.

Get Cash For Your Old Cell Phones

You probably know that putting your cell phone in the garbage is an eco no-no. So sell it instead. Sites like Gazelle and USell pay for old phones. And this article lists several other outlets for you to sell your old electronics. 

Clean Green 

Standard issue cleaning products sold at the grocery store are just gross. Filled with unhealthy, polluting chemicals, they're a green-living person's worst nightmare. Did you know you can make your own cleaning products with natural ingredients that work just as well and are super cheap? Baking soda, lemon and vinegar are major natural cleaning solutions. It's kind of embarrassing to think the cleaning industry has fooled us into believing we need a dozen separate products, depending on the cleaning job. That's hardly the case. Read more here

Skip Store-Bought Gift Wrap

Finally, save some paper and see what you have around the house to wrap that bridal or birthday gift. Paper maps, cloth and old print ads from glossies are fun alternatives to expensive gift wrap.