Last month’s issue of Body and Soul magazine had an article on Small Changes, and how many people making small changes on a consistent basis can start to make a very noticeable difference in the environment. That article inspired me to make my own list of small changes, and to commit to actually making those decisions consciously for at least the next month. Hopefully after one month these will have become a habit.
Change #1: Turning off my computer’s power strip at night
In college, I used to leave my computer all the time. Within the past year, I started shutting down my computer at night because I realized that it was sitting idle for almost 18 hours until I got home from work the next day. Now, though, I’m going to commit to shutting off the power strip, so my monitor, speakers and printer are also off, and none of it is drawing phantom power. I’ve always thought of this as a miniscule money saver, but in an environmental context, it seems more meaningful.
Change #2: Unplugging chargers
Our phone chargers are plugged in all the time, even though we each charge our phones for about an hour a day. I am going to unplug these unless our phones are in them.
Change #3: Printing on both sides of the page
When I print lesson plans and worksheets at home, I usually print them one sided, then take them to school and make double sided copies for my students. It would only take another few seconds for me to just double side the originals as well.
Change #4- Defrost things in the refrigerator.
When I need to defrost things, I’m going to take them out of the freezer the night before and put then in the fridge. This does two things: it keeps me from using the microwave or stuff and it cools off my refrigerator, thus saving energy and money twice.
Change #5- Eat one fewer beef meal per week.
Beef is one of the most expensive things we eat, and to tell the truth? It’s not my favorite thing. It’s also terrible for the environment, full of saturated fat, and much more concentrated in chemicals than non-organic foods lower on the foodchain.
Change #6 – Use reusable containers instead of freezer bags.
I have a cabinet full of tupperware, rubbermaid, and other permutations of leftover containers, but I find myself using freezer bags. So many people talk about washing out freezer bags, which is a serious pain. I’d much rather wash out plastic containers.
Change #7 – Banish one chemical
Choose one chore for which you now use a harsh chemical (scrubbing the tub, cleaning the toilet, washing the floor, cleaning the oven) and try it with something healthier. Maybe baking soda will work or vinegar water. Maybe all it takes is dish soap and water. Maybe just water. You could be buying chemicals you don’t need at all, and you’ll never know unless you try. I keep spray bottles of soapy water, vinegar water, and clear water under my sink so that it really takes no more effort to clean this way than it would with chemicals
Change #8 – Ditch disposables
Lately it seems like there’s a disposable version of everything: disposable wipes, dusters, scrubbers, even toilet bowl brushes. You don’t need to give all of these up to make an impact; just try to cut back. In place of paper towels or treated wipes, use cloth rags cut from old clothes or reusable microfiber cloths. I use microfiber in place of the disposable static dusters and the Swiffer mop pads, too. I think they even work better.
Change #9 – Make a clean sweep
I’m not sure where people got the idea that vacuuming is so much easier than sweeping. By the time I’ve lugged out my vacuum and plugged it in, I could have swept my entire kitchen floor, and I think it gets just as clean with a broom, without using any electricity. I still have to vacuum my carpets, but at least it’s reducing the impact a bit.