“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

School is back in session, and lots of kindergarteners are learning their ABCs: The foundations of  learning for the rest of their lives. Just like the kids, sometimes we need to go back to the basics to learn new things. 

When it comes to green living, there are a lot of things that you can do to create positive changes in  your home and your life. So many things, in fact, that it can be difficult to know where to start. That’s  why we at Love Green Living have created the ABCs of Being Green.  

The best part is you don’t have to start with A (unless you want to). Start with the first initial of your  name. Or use the first initial of your pet, your spouse, or the kid who’s behaving best right now. The most important thing is simply to start. 

Begin with one thing. Master that and then add something else. A B C, 1 2 3, Let’s love green living for you and me! 

A is for Avoid Single-Use Products When you use something only once it creates a lot of waste. It doesn’t stop when you throw it away. Products that go to the landfill can last a very long time before breaking down. Aluminum cans, for example, can take up to 200 years to break down. Look for multiple use options for everyday things.

B is for Bags Bring your own when you’re shopping. Not just at the grocery store. Choose a reusable bag anyplace you go to purchase something. If the store won’t let you bring your bag inside, consider putting your purchases back into the cart and packing them into bags in the back of your car. A plastic bag can take 10 years or more to break down. It’s worth it to bring your own eco-friendly bag.

C is for Compost Don’t throw away food scraps and yard trimmings. They all go to the landfill, get trapped in the waste stream, and create methane. This creates eco-pollution which poisons the soil and the water. Instead, create a compost pile.

D is for Dishwashing Use your dishwasher instead of hand washing your dishes. Sure, it sounds old-timey and comforting to think of washing dishes by hand. Unfortunately, studies find that it uses 3.5  times more water. A high-efficiency dishwasher is best, but even a standard one saves water (and more energy too). Be extra eco-friendly by using a dishwasher soap without dangerous toxins that leave chemical residues on your plates, pots, and pans.

E is for Energy Star If you’re in the market for a new appliance, be sure to get one that’s Energy Star certified. These appliances are more efficient and use up to 50% less electricity. That saves you money on your energy bill. Plus it’s good for the environment. A double win. Learn more and find Energy Star rated appliances at EnergyStar.gov.

F is for Freecycle You’ve got stuff you don’t want. Often it’s still useful, you just don’t need or want it anymore. Rather than throwing it away and adding to the landfill, freecycle it. Freecycle.Org is an online community with over 9 million people around the world all looking to re-home still useful stuff.  Some of them live near you. If you can’t freecycle it, donate it to a charity shop. If you can’t donate it then dispose of it responsibly.

G is for Grasscycling Mowing your lawn every 7-10 days generates a lot of clippings. More than you can use in your compost (review C above). You can actually leave those clippings on the lawn to help nourish your grass, reduce how much you need to water, and even help reduce weeds. Proper grasscycling calls for mowing every 5-7 days, and leaving 2-2 ½ inches of grass to create your best looking, eco-friendly lawn. 

H is for Hazardous Waste It’s a fact of modern life. Sometimes you have products that are difficult to dispose of. These items need to go to a special facility. Before you just pitch things in the trash –  especially automotive products, batteries, building materials, electronics, and pesticides or garden chemicals – be sure to check this resource by Waste Management to learn how to properly dispose of harmful trash.

I is for Insulation Insulating hot water pipes and your hot water heater helps keep the heat in, saving you both money and energy. You can save even more by insulating AC ducts, the inside of your garage door, and the inside of the door or opening to your attic. That helps keep cool air where you want it so your home is a more comfortable temperature without spending a fortune on the heating or cooling bill.

J is for Junk Mail There’s too much junk in your mailbox. Some days it’s an overwhelming amount.  What do you do with it? You throw it out (hopefully into the recycle bin). Rather than dreading getting your mail, stop the junk. If it’s a catalog you no longer want you can call or go online and get them to stop sending it. For unsolicited junk mail, you can call 1-888-567-8688 (it’s toll-free) or visit OptOutPrescreen.com

K is for Keep plants in your home Plants are wonderful for a green home environment. Not just because they’re green, but because having plants in the home helps with indoor air quality. According to the Clean  Air Study by NASA, plants help to release oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide, and remove environmental pollutants. The recommendation is to have one plant for every 100 square feet of living space. These 10 plants are supposed to be among the easiest ones to keep alive: air plants, anthurium, bamboo,  bromeliads, kalanchoes, braided money trees, orchids, peace lilies, pothos, and succulents (cacti).

L is for Laundry – Skip the enviro-toxic sulfates, parabens, and other harmful ingredients by choosing an eco-friendly option. Not only is this laundry soap good for the environment, but it’s also delivered in refill packets. That means you’re also not creating more plastic laundry bottle waste.  (review item A above).

M is for Markets Farmer’s Markets, that is. By shopping at a Farmer’s Market (with your reusable bags) you are helping to support a local farmer, stimulating the local economy, and getting food that doesn’t come from far away. According to the Worldwatch Institute, food travels on average 1,500 miles to get from where it’s grown to your plate. That’s a huge environmental impact. Buy local and eat better.

N is for Notepads Where’s a notepad when you need one? Sometimes you just have to write something down. Be eco-friendly and use the other side of a piece of paper to make a notepad. Tear once-used 8.5  by 11-inch paper into quarters. Use a piece of cardboard and a big clip to hold it together. You’re generating less waste by using the paper at least one more time. Plus, you can make as many notepads as you need so you’ve always got one close at hand.

O is for Organic When it comes to our food and how it’s grown, organic agriculture helps to create a  clean environment. It prohibits the use of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, antibiotics, added hormones, and more. Yes, it can be expensive to purchase organic. But you don’t have to buy 100%  organic for everything. Start small and buy what you can. As you make changes, chances are you’ll discover you can do more. The items which give you the biggest bang for your organic dollar are: the dirty dozen produce items, animal products, and anything that might otherwise be grown with GMOs  (corn, canola, and soy are the top offenders here). Reduce the toxic load for your family and the environment by choosing organic where you can.

P is for Paper Paper towels and napkins contribute a lot to the waste problem that we have here in  America. In fact, paper is – by volume – the largest amount of trash that we generate. Treat yourself to actual cloth napkins, unpaper towels, and some great dishcloths to reduce your paper waste. They’re easy to clean by running them through the laundry cycle and they’re much prettier.

Q is for Quit Using Disposables There are so many disposable items in your daily life that you almost don’t even notice them. From to-go cups to takeout containers to personal care items like razors. Use them a few times – sometimes only once – and then throw them out and buy a new one. It’s not great for the environment. Remember to bring your own cup with you to your favorite coffee shop. Bring a takeout container from home for restaurant leftovers. Look at other disposable items in your daily life and see if there’s a solution that doesn’t generate as much trash.

R is for Refills Have you ever noticed that when you buy cleaning supplies the first ingredient is usually water? You’re paying for that. You’re also paying for the cost to ship water (which is really heavy, by the way) all the way from wherever it was made to your store. Get your cleaning supplies the right way. Buy products with a reusable container and simply get refill packets. That way you’re not paying for water. You also generate less waste while getting things clean.

S is for Straws – Bring your own reusable straw with you when you go out. It saves a lot of plastic and tons of waste. It’s estimated that Americans use 500 million straws every day! With millions of them ending up on shorelines around the world, every plastic straw you don’t use adds up to a big impact.

T is for Toilets Low flow, that is. Switching to a dual flush or low flow toilet is a great way to save water. Don’t forget to make that toilet sparkle with a non-toxic, lemon-based cleaner that is sustainable,  safe, and doesn’t have all the chemicals of those other bathroom cleaners.

U is for Unplugging Saving energy means saving money. It also means saving resources.  Remembering to turn off the lights when you leave a room is always a good idea. Another one is to be aware of vampire energy. It’s those appliances that continue to use energy even when they are shut off.  While you’re not going to run around unplugging your tv every time you’re not using it, there are some great strategies to help reduce these energy vampires. If plugs are easily accessible (blender, toaster,  wall chargers, video game consoles, etc), unplug them when you’re not using them. If it’s something you use a lot, consider plugging it into a power strip. Then you can simply turn the strip off when you’re not using the devices.  Energy vampires can be responsible for as much as 20% of your electric bill. You’ll be saving resources and money.

V is for Veggies (and fruit) Eat your veggies! They’re tasty and good for you. The recommendation for health is to get 5-7 servings per day. What you don’t want though is to eat produce that has foreign contaminants, fungus, or other things on it. How to avoid those? Wash before you eat. Just be sure to choose a safe fruit and veggie wash without toxins or other unsavory ingredients.

W is for Windows How many windows do you have in your home? However many there are, you want to be able to see out of them. So you clean them. The problem is that most conventional window cleaners use harsh solvents or other nasty chemicals. If the window stays closed after you clean with it,  you’re adding these toxins to your home environment. Don’t do that. Instead, choose a high quality, safe, gentle glass cleaner. One that doesn’t use harsh chemicals and gives you the best streak-free clean you can see through.

X is for Xeriscaping Water is getting expensive. Costs to keep up your landscaping can be overwhelming.  One solution is to use the principles of xeriscaping to design your garden. Originally created for drought restricted areas, it’s gaining more attention because it can reduce water usage by as much as  75%. Check out the Eartheasy Guide to learn the principles of xeriscaping and what to grow. You’ll reduce your water usage and improve your landscaping at the same time.

Y is for You! This green living lifestyle is about you and me, and people like us, all coming together to make small changes that help us do the best we can for our families.  When we create a green living home, we do our bit to support the world we all depend on. Taking small steps, making changes a little at time, allows us to work together to create a global impact. We support each other; we’re in this together. It starts with you. 

Z is for Zzzzz Sleep. Thomas Dekker said it best, “Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our  bodies together.” If you’re not sleeping well, you are missing a piece of your wellness plan. Healthy sleep depends on a healthy mattress. One that doesn’t have VOCs, PBDEs, Benzene, and other harmful ingredients that are off-gassing right into your face while you’re sleeping (and breathing those things in).  Focus on your health and get a great night’s sleep. Choose a mattress that doesn’t have toxins.