The simplest ways to go green this month

Apr 18, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. ET

Every day brings a new chance to do something positive for the planet, but Earth Day is a good reminder if you haven't been as eco-conscious as you'd like so far this year. We're helping you get back on track with some of the simplest ways to embrace your eco-side this year.

Woman shopping at farmer's market

Going green: Start small

If you’ve been thinking about bringing more eco-minded practices into your home, it doesn’t need to be a daunting prospect. Rather than overthink the idea, just get started — but tackle going green in smaller steps, advises Terri Babin, blogger at Eco Crazy Mom. “Someone once told me it's the start that stops most people, and it's so true,” she says. “Often times just making the change and getting started is the hardest part, so I like to encourage people to start their green journey one baby step at a time.”

Babin suggests picking just one area in your life or home where you'd like to be greener, make the change, get comfortable with it, and then move on to something else. “Simply switching to a green laundry detergent can make a big impact on the planet, and the health of your family,” she says.

Maintain your appliances

Keeping your appliances clean and running well can go a long way when it comes to your home’s energy efficiency. "By simply keeping certain appliances in the best working condition, you can save on energy costs," says Sally Morse, director of creative services for Hunter Douglas, an eco-focused company committed to lowering our energy usage and helping customers save energy the natural way by effectively using the natural power of the sun. "Start by servicing and cleaning your gas or oil furnace at least once a year and change or clear out furnace filters once a month during the heating season. Wipe or replace filters on air conditioners monthly or as recommended, and do the same with warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed," she advises.

Shop savvy

There are many ways to go green that don't require any extra time or effort for busy families. “It takes just as much time to clean your house with eco-friendly cleaning products as it does with toxic ones,” affirms Babin. So rather than clean with toxic products, switch to greener ones. “One really easy way to make healthier, greener choices is simply changing where you shop. Instead of shopping at your regular grocery store, start shopping at Sprouts or Whole Foods,” she advises. “Almost all of their products are greener and healthier than what you'd find at a traditional grocery store so you really can't go wrong.”

Go green, literally

Saving energy in your home isn’t all based on what you do inside. To cut down on utility bills, get a green thumb and update your landscaping with an eco-focus, suggests Morse. "For a natural and beautiful addition, plant deciduous trees on the south and east sides of the house, and evergreen trees and shrubs on the north and west to provide shade and act as a windbreaker," she says. "Well-positioned landscaping can save up to 25 percent of your home's energy."

Build a greener family (and have fun doing it)

Now that you’re shopping greener, planting greener and cleaning with eco-friendly products, it’s time to get your family involved in your quest for a greener home. Babin shares some tips for simple but effective ways to get everyone thinking about the environment.

  • Turn it off: Get everyone into the habit of turning off lights and electronics whenever anybody leaves a room unoccupied.
  • Get dirty: Start a compost in the garden, or even a worm farm.
  • Grow your own goods: Start or improve on an edible garden. Aiming to eat more homegrown food is healthier and saves money.
  • Have a tech-free night: Have weekly game nights when all electronics are turned off to boost your bonding as well as saving a little energy.

Celebs going green

Ever wonder what your favorite stars do to live a greener life? We do, which is why we asked Vampire Diaries star and green living advocate Ian Somerhalder to share some of his tips for going green at home.

Ian Somerhalder Find innovative ways to conserve energy: Somerhalder recently partnered with Cree, a company that produces residential LED light bulbs that are affordable, guaranteed for ten years, and most importantly, save 84 percent more energy than the standard incandescent bulbs commonly used today.

Be more aware of water usage: Turn off those taps. "It's the little things like leaving the water running while brushing your teeth that makes us waste hundreds of millions of gallons of water per day," says Somerhalder.

Shop less: Don't always subscribe to the idea that everything you purchase has a short life. "Unfortunately, our newly trained consumer instincts often trick us into believing we always need the newest products." Before you buy, think about whether you really need what you have your eye on.

Be more mindful of waste: We throw so many things "away" but when you take a minute and think about it, there really is no "away," notes Somerhalder. "Everything we build, buy and consume has to end up somewhere. With recycling and composting, your household contributes far less to landfills."

Encourage and empower kids: Don't forget about teaching kids to go green. "They are the most underutilized and yet hands down the most powerful resource for making longstanding worldwide change," affirms Somerhalder. "It's important that our youth have access to the tools needed to make their ideas solidify and grow."

Tell us

How to do you go green at home? Share in the comments below!

More green living tips

The paper-towel free challenge
Energy-efficient lighting that's actually chic
Etsy roundup: Cute, reusable shopping bags

Photo credit: Mr. Blue/