In honor of Earth Day this year, I wanted to write about some really easy ways to cut back on our waste. Lately I have been making more of an effort and truly, when I say effort, it takes very little. A lot of what we waste can be cut back with just a tiny bit of effort. Here are some ideas. DON’T BE LAZY. It doesn’t take much and if these ideas are overwhelming to you, just pick one for now. In our house, it is still an ongoing process of learning to make changes in our lifestyle to help the environment:

1. REDUCE YOUR JUNK MAIL! My mom taught me long ago a way to cut back on the junk mail you receive. I don’t know about you but we definitely get more junk than we do anything of any importance and it is a ridiculous amount of paper waste.  An easy way to cut back on it is to open the junk mail (ie. Credit card applications, magazine and newspaper offers, etc…) and send back the application with the note “REMOVE ME FROM YOUR MAILING LIST” in big BOLD letters across the front. Use the return envelope they have sent you with the postage paid for and just pop it back in the mail to them. It may take a couple of weeks to stop the junk, but it will do the trick.

An even quicker and possibly more affective way to stop the credit card/loan/insurance applications is by calling the consumer reporting agencies who get your information from the credit companies: 1-888-567-8688  and your name will be removed from all of those lists for five years! It will take you a matter of minutes, if that, and in the future when you would like to apply for a credit card, you can reach out to the companies and apply instead of receiving notices regularly.

Another thing I finally started to do recently was call the catalog companies and get removed from their lists. Oh my catalogs! I get so many of them as a recent home buyer! Every day I take one or two that I receive and call their sales number (always ask for an agent to get the fastest service) and simply ask them to remove me. It is so easy to be lazy about just throwing them out or recycling them, but why not stop them from being sent all together? It also keeps me from looking at a bunch of stuff that I really don’t need to be tempted to buy.  Three easy peasy ways to cut back on wasted paper.

2. BE FABRIC BAG HAPPY! Taking your fabric bags beyond the grocery store is another simple way to cut down on waste. The canvas, reusable bags are nothing new to most of us, but do you ever think to bring them with you when you are doing other types of shopping? For me, I would always bring them grocery shopping but leave them in my car when I stopped for something at Bed Bath and Beyond or CVS. Why not use them anytime you are shopping? Cut down on those terrible plastic baggies in another simple way! They make so many small ones you can now fold up and put in your purse, so they are easy to bring along (I like the products at Eco Bags). In fact, why not always keep one or two with you in your purse in case you need it?

3. GO GLASS! Switch from Ziplock bags to glass storage containers. This is not only better for the environment, but also better for you health as it will cut down on your exposure to plastic with your food! You can buy a big group of them inexpensively at Bed Bath and Beyond, Target (even some grocery stores) and will cut back on the constant use of throwaway bags. If you insist on sticking with Ziploc due to space issues or whatever, reuse them when you can. Have a drawer for bags that can be rinsed and reused (maybe not such a good idea when baggy contains raw meat or fish. Just throw those away).

4.  COMPOST! I have finally begun to compost (thanks, Beth, for the inspiration to get to it already!) and it really is not hard to do. As a novice composter, I decided to purchase a ridiculously simple compost tumbler bin (I found mine for half the price on Ebay after finding this one that I liked at Composters.com) that basically does all of the work for me. All I had to do was buy a little Compost Maker, mix in some green waste from our yard, moisten with water and roll the tumbler around to to mix it all up. I can keep adding food scraps and yard scraps to it and all I have to do is turn it once or twice a week to keep it mixing. Once the compost develops (depending on the weather, could take 4-8 weeks) I can roll it around the yard and use it in my garden, planters, etc…apparently I am cutting our waste down by 1/3 and it really is so easy to do (I keep a small, ceramic container under the sink that I can put the week’s food scraps in to then transfer to the yard. Again, it’s so easy to do and can be found on composters.com or ebay). This whole project can be done for under $100!  If you don’t have a yard, obviously this tip isn’t for you but if you do, buy this very inexpensive book (buy used like I did on Amazon) and learn how simple it is to compost yourself! Or just check out info how to compost on the web!

5. SHOP ORGANIC AND LOCAL! This is something we have all heard and these days it is very easy to find a farmer’s market or a grocery store that carries locally grown food near you. Please seek them out and do wonders for both you and the planet.

Other easy things I am sure we have all heard but doesn’t hurt to get reminded: walk when you don’t need a car. Carpool when you can. Recycle. Donate things – don’t just throw them away. Buy energy-efficient appliances, lightbulbs, cars, when you can. Grow drought resistant plants. Report any street cleaners you see using water; in California, it’s ILLEGAL! Cut back on car washes or these days, seek out the places they use recycled water (Whole Foods in Santa Monica now has one!) Collect rainwater if it’s available to you (thanks for another great idea, Beth!) and reduce your use of water when showering, brushing your teeth, and washing your clothes and dishes (can you wait a little longer to run the wash or dishwasher? Does it really need the extra rinse?) Grow your own trees, fruits and vegetables. Go meatless on Mondays (or just one day of your choice a week). Use paper instead of plastic when necessary. Re-use plastic shopping bags for dog walks, paper bags to carry things or store things, and re-use again when you can.

The other day on the Today Show they featured a family that has learned to waste nothing! Check them out for some more stellar ideas and inspiration that really are so easy to do (and better for your health!):

http://www.hulu.com/watch/233257/nbc-today-show-zero-waste-family-says-it%E2%80%99s-easy-being-green?from=fb_share

This video has created quite the reaction in many people because they believe it is unrealistic and it make some feel guilty. The point of sharing it with you is to inspire you and give you some more ideas about how much we really can reduce our consumption. More info can be found on their blog: http://www.thezerowastehome.com/

Pick just one thing you can change today and stick with it. Just one thing can make so much difference. The average American consumes 12 times as many resources as the average 3rd world citizen (in other words, 1 American = 12 people most other places), but we all share the world together. Please take a moment to think about at least one easy thing you can do to reduce your consumption today. Thank you.

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