Friday, August 28, 2009

Articles - Top Ten Ways My Family Reduces Our Carbon Footprint

Top Ten Ways My Family Reduces Our Carbon Footprint - Articles

When we read about global warming, dwindling water supplies or endangered animals, many of us feel helpless to make a real difference. If we can’t afford solar panels to heat our home or buy an electric car, what’s the use? I believe there is plenty everyone can do to make a difference to the environment and even to your pocketbook. We all know about driving less or setting our thermostat a bit higher or lower according to the season but here are some ideas you may have overlooked.

1. Eat your leftovers. Throwing away food is such a waste not only of the food, but the resources used to grow that food and get it to your table. Once a week, have a leftover meal to clean out the fridge or take leftovers to work for lunch. This saves money and time on cooking, cleaning and energy.

2. Reduce your trash by putting food scraps such as peels, coffee grounds or eggs shells into a mulch pile. You will have less trash and improve your garden soil, particularly if you add leaves and grass clippings. Find the recycling opportunities in your town and recycle every can, paper, magazine, cardboard or piece of plastic you can. My family of four easily fits a week’s worth of garbage into our can while our neighbor of the same size uses three cans.

3. Don’t give cheap toys for party favors, Halloween treats, or school rewards. In a few days, these items end up in the trash. For children’s parties, give granola bars or crackers and a drink, or coupons for ice cream. I once baked sugar cookies, wrapped them individually and decorated each with a bit of ribbon. These were the medal awards at our Olympics party. Kids are bored with trivial items that break easily anyway.

4. Limit your family to only one individually canned or bottled drink per day or do without altogether. Drink milk, buy liter bottles of soft drinks, make a pitcher of tea, buy reusable bottles or add flavored packets to your glass of water. Individual drinks are convenient but we generate an amazing amount of garbage this way. Unfortunately, a large portion of these cans and bottles don’t get recycled.

5. Buy some inexpensive cloth napkins or small bar towels to use as napkins. They are easy to throw in with other laundry and you will not miss the paper napkins. Use bar towels to clean around the kitchen to cut back on paper towels. I use white towels to clean with and colored for napkins.

6. Sign up at any website that reduces junk mail such as or get off catalog mailing lists. So much junk mail is thrown away each day that it staggers the mind. Share newspapers and magazines with a friend or neighbor or at least recycle them.

7. Teach your children to be considerate and not wasteful at other homes. This is a big issue at our house with my children’s friends. I am appalled at the amount children waste. After groups of teens leave, my husband and I find unfinished drinks and throw away plates of half eaten food. When serving children, give small portions. It is better to give seconds than throw away food. Teach children not to waste paper, craft supplies, water and electricity. Explain that these things cost money that the family could save or spend elsewhere. Save scrap paper to use for grocery lists, notes, printer paper or drawing paper.

8. Many grocery or discount stores now offer sturdy, inexpensive canvas bags for customers instead of plastic. These bags are so much better than plastic bags that you will wonder why we didn’t have them sooner. They stand up in the car so groceries don’t roll out and they don’t rip open spilling food everywhere. If you still use plastic, please return them to the store as most will recycle them.

9. Pick up trash in public places, even if it’s not your own. When we are at the beach, we always pick up any trash before we leave. Doing the same thing in parks or your neighborhood benefits everyone, not just the environment, and shows pride in your community.

10. Educate your family on environmental issues. The more you become aware of how your actions negatively impact the environment, the more you can change those actions. Another very important way you can help is to keep up with legislation that impacts the environment both on the local and national level. Then communicate with your elected officials about what you feel should be done. It only takes a couple of minutes to email your politicians about their vote.

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