Waste Less: 10 Painless Ways To Get Green

There are times when saving money can be next to impossible. The same goes with making more money. But everyone can waste less, and thereby save money in the big picture.

For me, I truly want to leave a smaller carbon footprint. In this day and age, retailers make it really hard to achieve. In the first place, packaging is ridiculously over engineered.

Do you really need potatoes pre-washed and wrapped in aluminum foil? Then there's the packaging on everything from tools to batteries that demands you burst a blood vessel when removing the molded plastic housing.

Here are some ways I try to fight back.

• Buy in bulk. If you buy in bulk not only is there less packaging, sometimes there is no packaging. Always make sure that whatever you buy in bulk can be used up quickly or repackaged and stored for later use.

• Go paperless. This is still hard for me to do, but I've since become pretty adept at filing important documents electronically. Scan and store receipts, invoices, and instructions. I have a folder on my desktop specifically for such files. Need I say, also BACK UP your files on a jump drive or external hard drive.

• Compost. If you garden, start a compost pile. You will thank me in a year. It's black gold. Don't forget, hair clippings, coffee grounds, and the dust from your vacuum cleaner are perfect for the compost heap.

• Reduce your dependence on paper goods. This includes napkins, paper plates, plastic cutlery, and paper towels. Learn to rely on rags for cleaning, linen napkins, and washable dishware and cutlery.

• Walk more. If you live in a normal neighborhood (not like where I live) do your grocery shopping locally. Walk your dog or jog to the neighborhood park.

• Bundle your errands. One of the best things we do to save money and stay green is to limit our driving. If we go into town (which is an easy 30 minute drive one way) we never go unless we have two or more errands to run on the same day. It might not make as great an impact if you're only driving five minutes, but every little bit helps.

• Bring your own bags to the grocery store. Not only will your own bags be sturdier, but it'll save the environment from any more plastic bags. We do reuse some plastic bags from Walmart because they're sturdier than other grocery stores, but we much prefer our own bags.

• Reuse water. This is a big deal for me. I don't waste water. If I know there's going to be a lot of rain in the forecast, I make sure my wheelbarrows and buckets are there to receive it, then I reuse it on my plants. Same goes for pasta or potato water.

• Invest in a water filter. They're easy to install on your faucet. We drink a lot of water. Instead of buying bottled water, we drink our filtered water.

• Borrow instead of buy. This is where Greg and I are at odds. He doesn't like borrowing things. He'd rather own them outright. So if you happen to live near us and need a specific tool, you'd be in luck knowing us. :)

Bonus Tip: Buy used. I have a nice home with lots of nice decorative items and high dollar furniture. Except for mattresses and sofas, nearly 90% of what I own has been bought at garage sales, thrift stores, and auctions. Buying used is the best tip for leaving a greener world.

Can you add anything to the list? What's your favorite way to live a little greener?


We bring our own canvas bags to the grocery store. It took awhile for us to remember to bring them in every time but now it's second nature.

I'm not sure if this counts as going greener, but we unplug things if we're not using them - my coffeemaker, the toaster, etc. My understanding is that they still use electricity - sucking it up like a "vampire" - even if not actually being operated.
I'll second everything you said! Good list, and all of it is possible for people to implement. Things just need to become habits. I do have a hard time buying used items - I don't have the garage sale gene, and often won't know if something is in good condition or not. I'm happy to sell or give MY stuff to people - usually through Next Door Freecycle - but my nerves itch if I try to shop in other people's garages. Maybe I need training.

Let me add one thing to your list: in addition to using canvas bags, you can also buy produce bags - usually netting or mesh. Wash and reuse, store with your canvas bags. Some stores sell them - I know Whole Foods does - or you can buy them online. Also little cloth bags for bulk items. I have about 15 produce bags and 6 bulk bags.
Stacy McKitrick said…
Turn out the lights as you leave the room. And if it's a nice day, open the windows instead of using the a/c. Unfortunately we don't seem to have many "nice" days. Once it gets warm, it gets sticky, and then I don't want the windows open. :(
Maria Zannini said…
Madeline: Those vampires are everywhere too. We have them on the ceiling, the dishwasher, and fridge. I don't know how to turn them off without disconnecting the appliance. The ones on the ceiling belong to the security system I think, so we're stuck with them.

But that's a very good tip to unplug small appliances.
Maria Zannini said…
Marlene; That's true about making them habits. Like saving water, that's pure habit for me. I don't even think about it.

re: mesh bags
I remember in the "old days" my grandmother used to shop with those mesh bags when she went to the market. We call them farmer's market today but back then it was just the market.

I see them every once in a while in novelty shops but why they're not more prevalent where I live, I don't know. It's a great idea, and it makes me think of my grandma too. :)
Maria Zannini said…
Stacy: Amen! I'm a stickler for turning off lights when I walk out of a room. Greg is too. We don't have many windows that open, but on days like today when it's breezy and not too hot, we'll have them open. It freshens up the whole house.
Carole West, said…
Great list of ideas but I think if I get any greener or try to decrease our carbon imprint more than what we already have we may become extinct. Living with less has been such a blessing, our electric bill is now only 35 a month. Can you believe that? I love our life and doing for ourselves and not being wasteful is the best ever...
Jenny Schwartz said…
The law has just changed here and those one-time-use plastic bags are about to go out. We have to bring a bag to the shops now. With our climate being so sunny, one of the easiest ways to save electricity is simply drying clothes outside on a line. I've never owned a clothes dryer. Remembering to eat food in season and local is a green issue I need to get better at. So many carbon miles go into moving groceries around the world.
Maria Zannini said…
Carole: You're a poster child for green living. :)
Maria Zannini said…
Jenny: I like drying clothes on the line. The only time we don't do it is when it's cold out--or raining. :)
Mike Keyton said…
We are continually nudged to be greener - from having to pay for our plastic bags - so we re use what we have - to the latest policy of charging deposits on plastic bottles, and banning plastic straws and cotton buds. Small beginnings as they say
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: They haven't gotten to the point of charging us yet. But maybe they should.