Going green can seem totally overwhelming — not to mention expensive. But if you break things down a little, converting to an environmentally friendly household isn't actually as tough as you think. Earth Day 2017 is just a little over a month away — and if you start now, you and your family can be well on your way to feeling good about your small carbon footprint before the day arrives.
All it takes is a lot of minor changes to make a really big difference. Start with one of our 52 tips each week, and by next year, you'll be blown away at how much you've accomplished.
1. Don't heat an empty house! During the winter, turn down your thermostat to 68 degrees F when you're home and 55 degrees F at night and while you're away. Upgrade to a programmable thermostat if you can.
2. Your computer may go to sleep, but it's still sucking up energy. Turn your computer and monitor off at the end of the day. In addition, take steps to create an eco-friendly workplace.
3. Clean your refrigerator coils — vacuum out the dust and wipe with a damp cloth. You'll be surprised at how much nasty stuff accumulates down there!
4. Look into carpooling. Need convincing? Read why your green commute will save you money.
5. Taking a road trip? Rent a hybrid car. Here are a few more eco-friendly travel tips.
6. Start a compost pile in your backyard. Here is your guide to compost gardening. Did you know you can even add your fireplace ashes to your compost pile?
7. Support green businesses.
8. Cancel your newspaper subscription and read the news online instead. (We'll bet you're already doing this one!)
9. Buy rechargeable batteries. Learn to dispose of old batteries properly.
10. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins at dinner.
11. Recycle — all the cool kids are doing it these days! Not sure what is recyclable? Check out this recycle chart.
12. Buy your dog a hemp or canvas leash instead of nylon.
13. Stop using your toxin-loaded dryer sheets and try these alternatives instead.
14. Share your magazines — read them then pass them on. Goodwill, the Kidney Foundation and other used goods collection agencies will usually accept them. You can also pass them along to a doctor's office for the waiting room.
15. Take a break from screen time and take a hike.
16. File your taxes electronically to cut back on paper usage. Look into having your tax forms emailed to you instead of mailed as well.
17. Donate old newspapers to animal shelters and take your plastic shopping bags back to participating grocery stores. Better yet, purchase cloth or canvas grocery bags and skip that part altogether.
19. Take your own mug to the coffee shop — some shops will even give you a discount for bringing your own cup. Find out if your coffee is triple certified.
21. Buy a new houseplant. For a greener home, read 10 Eco-friendly ways to green your home and family.
22. Schedule your errands back-to-back to consolidate your trip and save gas or ride your bike or walk when possible.
23. Repair your leaky faucet (especially if you live in a drought-prone area), install water-saving toilets and shower heads, and only run the clothes washer or dishwasher with full loads.
24. Pack your lunch in an insulated lunch bag instead of paper or plastic bags. While you're at it, choose organic food when you can — it's more affordable than you think.
25. Put a cover on your pool when you're not using it. Not only will it keep the water cleaner, but it will keep it from evaporating, saving you refills.
26. Ask your power company about purchasing green power like solar, geothermal, biomass and wind turbine.
Originally published December 2015. Updated March 2017.
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