With so many environmental worries out there, it’s easy to understand why millions of Americans are making a concerted effort to be more eco-friendly in their shopping, eating and overall living choices. Reducing our carbon footprints and finding ways to live a “green” lifestyle can significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that get trapped in the atmosphere, meaning we may have a shot at keeping the planet healthy and livable for a lot longer. For some individuals, however, the thought of going green is intimidating, either because they’re afraid it will be expensive or because they aren’t sure where to start.
Fortunately, there are many simple ways you can begin making your home more eco-friendly, and they won’t break the bank, either. Taking small steps now will help reduce the amount of energy and waste your household expends, helping you protect the environment and giving you peace of mind that you are doing your part for the planet.
Here are a few tips on how to get started.
Change those bulbs
With all the changes in technology that have been made in the last 10 years, more and more people are able to work from home, and while this is a great way to reduce emissions from vehicles, it actually means we’re using more energy in the home because we spend more time there. You can reduce your electricity use by using natural light; throw open those curtains and let the sun shine in! You can also change your light bulbs and use energy-efficient LED bulbs. These will not only last longer than regular bulbs, they’ll also save you money on utilities.
Create a family garden
Even if you’ve never imagined yourself as someone with a green thumb, you can start growing your own veggies (and some fruits, depending on where you live) right in the backyard. Tomatoes, lettuce, peppers and herbs like cilantro are fairly easy to grow and can be labeled a “taco garden” to get the kids excited about helping out. Growing your own foods will save you money at the grocery store, help you eat a healthier diet and will reduce the amount of labor and emissions it takes to get food to your table. Click here for more info on how to start a family garden.
Conserving water is a great way to help the environment, and it’s fairly easy to do. Set a time limit for everyone in the family when it comes to showering, use a dishwasher instead of washing them by hand and install an energy-efficient shower head and toilet to help conserve the amount used everyday. If you do create a garden or have landscaping that needs hydration, do some research on landscaping techniques that conserve water and collect rain water during the wet season that can be used for landscaping during the dry season.
Seal it up
No matter what the season is, it’s important to make sure your home isn’t leaking cool or warm air. Go from room to room and check all the doors and windows to look for cracks that can be sealed up. If there are wide gaps beneath doors, seal them with a “draft snake”-- a tube sock filled with uncooked rice or beans -- or look for a rubber seal at your local home improvement store. Keeping cool air in during summer and warm air in during winter will lower your energy bills and will keep your utilities from working overtime, preventing emissions at the same time. Ask your utility company to run an energy audit on your home to see how much you’re using compared to your neighbors. If the number is high, you might have some sealing and insulating to do.
While there are plenty of ways you can update your home to make it more “green” that will cost a pretty penny -- installing solar panels, for instance -- there are still many smaller steps you can take to ensure that your home is eco-friendly. Talk to your family about how they can do their part in living a green lifestyle.
How to Improve Your “Bee-Friendly” Garden
As more and more people have become aware of bees’ vital role in our ecosystem (especially when it comes to pollination and food production), many have decided that they need to do all they can to help protect the bee population in their local area. For some, this means maintaining a garden that is bee-friendly. Planting a successful garden isn’t easy (for more tips, read on here), and planting a bee-friendly one is even harder. It’s not as easy as simply planting some flowers and not swatting at bees when they arrive. Fortunately, there are some easily-corrected mistakes that some novice gardeners should be aware of in order to maximize their garden.
You’re using pesticides/herbicides
Even if you’re purchasing a pesticide that is supposedly more “eco-friendly”, it can still be a danger to your local bee population. That’s right--it’s not just the few bees that come into contact that can be affected. Pesticides can negatively influence entire colonies.
“Don’t use synthetic pesticides, insecticides and herbicides. They’re known as harmful to bees and can reduce foraging, navigating abilities, fecundity, reproductive success and impair development, as well as being potentially lethal,” notes the LA Times.
Instead of using chemical pesticides, try to limit destructive insects the old fashioned way--by planting natural repellents like basil, lemongrass, and lavender in strategic locations. Check here for more on that. In addition, avoiding pesticides and chemicals could lower the frequency of pain flare-ups, as inflammation can result from toxins. Growing your own produce ensures that the food you ingest is fresh, and the addition of flowers brings beauty and pollination--a continuous circle of giving.
You’re not planting the right flowers
Bees have preferences. Not all flowers are as good for bees as others. Not only are they attracted to some over others, they also have an easier time extracting pollen from some plants. If you’re planting a lot of “double flowers” in your garden, you should reconsider.
“Single flowers — those with one ring of petals — provide more nectar and pollen than double flowers, in which extra petals have replaced pollen-laden anthers. Double flowers also make it more difficult for bees to reach the inner flower parts,” says Gardeners.com.
You should also focus on the colors of your flowers, as bees are more attracted to blue and yellow. Beyond that, it’s vital that you plant a variety and try to plant local flowers (flowers native to your specific area).
You’re not providing a place for bees to nest
If you're only thinking about your yard as a place where bees can use your flowers as a filling station and move on, then you’re not really doing all you can to make your garden bee-friendly. Many bees need a place to nest. For some, this means a clear spot on the ground. For others, it means a pile of brush or unkempt portion of grass and mud.
“Leave a patch of the garden in a sunny spot uncultivated for solitary bees that burrow. Some solitary bees also need access to soil surface for nesting. For wood- and stem-nesting bees, this means piles of branches, bamboo sections, hollow reeds, or nesting blocks made out of untreated wood. Mason bees need a source of water and mud, and many kinds of bees are attracted to weedy, untended hedgerows,” says HoneyBeeConservancy.org.
You’re forgetting about water
You wouldn’t just leave a food bowl for your dog without water, right? Bees need water to survive, but also to aid in digestion and to help them produce honey at the hive. Build a bee bath in your garden. Make sure it’s shallow and wide, and that it has some rock or stones for the bees to land on.
Maintaining any type of garden in your yard will be good for bees, but if you truly want to do your part to protect the population at a local level, you’ll do everything you can to make sure your garden is specifically bee-friendly.
Thanks to Clara Beaufort for guest writing our March article!
As we move into 2018, we wanted to share some green tips that don't cost any money. With all the spending and indulging over the holidays, we liked the idea of finding simple and free ways to care for ourselves and the environment. So, feel free to add these ideas to your repertoire of eco-friendly behaviors! And, as always, we invite you to share these tips with your family and friends. Happy New Year to you all:
It’s the holiday season, and that means food, family, and gifts abound. This year, let’s make our consumerism have a positive impact on our environment. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans throw away one million extra tons [900,000 metric tons] of garbage each week, including holiday wrapping and packaging.
Giving gifts: When looking for fun gifts for your loved ones, take these tips into consideration to reduce your environmental impact. Shop locally and buy locally made goods. Shopping locally keeps money in your local economy longer, and makes an investment in your community. Locally made goods reduce the vehicle miles traveled associated with your presents. Buy gifts from thrifts stores, reducing the need for raw materials and emissions from transportation and production of goods. Make something, harkening back to junior high when you’d make your parents a present. Remember how much they loved your handmade gifts? Utilize your skills and create something your loved ones will cherish (or laugh at) for years. Instead of buying a gift, have an experience. Take your recipient to a concert or museum, creating memories and eliminating the need for goods. For the presents you do buy make sure to wrap them in reused wrapping paper or-my favorite- old newspaper (especially the funny pages).
Decorating is a wonderful family experience and puts everyone in the holiday mood. To keep your impact down, only purchase decorations that can be reused each holiday. Avoid products that contain toxins or materials that leech into the environment. When choosing lighting go for the LED’s and/or solar-powered lights. Additionally, putting lights on a timer that go off after the family is asleep will reduce your energy consumption.
Upcoming holidays occur during the darkest, coldest time of the year. So, remember to dress accordingly, keep windows closed at night, and only heat areas of the house you are occupying. When hosting parties use reusable plates, forks etc., buy in bulk, serve less meat (especially beef), drive less and wear more clothes.
Thanks for caring and have a happy holiday season. For any questions about how you can get more green in the New Year, contact Jude Frates of Sustainable Business Solutions at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
SBS believes in the value of collaboration. Our post come from ideas and issues our team feels passionate about. We offer a combination of topical sustainability issues and applicable tips for every month of the year.