8 Simple Tips for a Greener Household
Rachel Quenzer of The Everyday Mom Life shares some of her personal tips and tricks.
At this point, most of us are aware about the environmental benefits of a greener lifestyle, but getting started can feel overwhelming. The good news is that you don’t have to overhaul your entire lifestyle or bank account in order to do your part. Rachel Quenzer of The Everyday Mom Life shares the small and easy household steps that can make a big impact when it comes to helping — or at least not hurting — the environment. The best part? Your little ones can get involved too because it’s never too early to start teaching them how to care for their planet.
1. Commit to Recycling
According to Quenzer, perhaps one of the easiest things you and your family can do for the environment is getting your hands on a blue bin. “This is one of your best shots at keeping reusable materials out of landfills, along with our oceans,” Quenzer says. In addition to our regular trash can, we fill a recycling bin that is picked up every other week.”
While common recyclables include glass, hard plastic and cardboard (more guidance from the EPA here), Quenzer suggests doing some research on your state and city for any special instructions, schedules, and services. If you live in a local area or building that doesn’t support recycling, explore other options such as finding the nearest drop off area or talk to your elected officials about starting a recycling program on your own.
Quenzer also points out that recycling might have some economic benefits to it. “Some states, grocery stores and organizations will offer a small kickback for certain items, such as cans.” Even more, an EPA study found that every 10,000 tons of materials recycled generates nearly 16 jobs and $760,000 in wages.
2. Support Brands That Recycle
In addition to recycling in your own home, Quenzer recommends looking for plant-based and recycled packaging when shopping for household essentials; it’s a great way to incentivize and reward environmentally-minded brands.
“Pay attention to the language and logos, such as the triangular recycling symbol, used on the fronts and backs of containers to help decipher how they’re made and what materials were used in the process. A lot of personal care brands are making strides when it comes to post-consumer recycled hair, body products and beyond,” she suggests.
3. Prioritize Natural and Organic Ingredients
While examining labels, Quenzer also makes a conscious effort to review the ingredients that are used inside the product itself. “Look for official stamps of approval, such as the USDA Organic label and non-GMO symbols, that indicate ingredients are good for you,” she says. “I’ve found brands that focus on better-for-you ingredients are typically more prone to take care when it comes to the ethical sourcing of those ingredients, as well.” That’s why Quenzer likes Robitussin Naturals; because of it contains familiar ingredients like ivy leaf and honey and in their non-GMO formulas.*
4. Grow Your Own Food
Quenzer also points out that you can minimize uncertainty around the integrity of ingredients by taking matters into your own hands and growing fruits and vegetables at home. “Not only does gardening allow for quality control, but it helps cut back on packaging and CO2 emissions traditionally involved in the preservation and transportation of produce,” Quenzer explains. “It also gives people an appreciation for the environment and what it takes for plants to prosper.” Plus, gardening is a great activity for kids to get involved with, too.
For those with smaller spaces and no backyards, Quenzer recommends herbs and other hardy, helpful plants, such as aloe, as a great place to start. All it takes is good soil to grow a fruitful garden. If you need to purchase dirt, Quenzer recommends buying organic soils, adding that some packages specify which kinds of plants they’ll suit best.
If you have access to soil at home, you can have it tested to determine what kinds of produce might grow well there. “For example, nitrates can help if you have cucumbers that are yellow or roses that aren’t blooming,” Quenzer adds.
5. Compost If You Can
Another way to set your plants up for success, while cutting back on the amount of waste you’re contributing to landfills, is through composting. “Just like with recycling, we have a dedicated composting bin,” Quenzer says. “By using byproducts to foster new fruits and vegetables, you’re continuing the cycle of life.”
According to Quenzer, you can compost a good amount of what you consume from day to day. “Some of the things we compost include plant-based foods (such as banana peels), paper products and grass clippings,” she explains. “Coffee grounds are also really good for fruits and vegetables.”
One pro tip for creating a compost bin is to get a good mix of dry and wet materials for ideal soil consistency. Try to avoid seedy food like tomatoes (to prevent any scattered sprouting) and any dead plants, Quenzer warns.
6. Conserve Rainwater
In addition to nourishing her flowers with rich soil, Quenzer recycles rainwater to keep them hydrated and healthy. “Look for barrels made of recycled food-grade plastics (they should have a mesh covering) and attach them to your downspouts,” she suggests. “If you have a metal roof — not asphalt — you can also use fresh recycled water for herbs, vegetables and other food-grade items.” Like with recycling, Quenzer also recommends checking with your city ordinance regarding special instructions, and especially restrictions, surrounding rainwater conservation.
7. Get Creative with Upcycling
This holiday season, Quenzer’s family is making a commitment to decorating with items they already have or that are purchased second-hand. “By reusing items, you’re cutting back on materials and CO2 emissions used to manufacture and transport more goods. It’s also fun to revisit an old item or discover someone else’s discarded item and get creative about ways to use it in a new way,” she says. This includes furniture, textiles and other decor items. “Old silverware, wooden spoons and cast iron make great second-hand finds. You’ll just want to properly inspect the makeup and materials used for each piece, especially when it comes to kitchen items, to ensure its safety.”
8. Go Solar in Small Ways
Because solar energy doesn’t come cheap, Quenzer advises chipping away if you’re able to do so. “We use solar lighting for our chicken coop and are exploring ways to incorporate it into our greenhouse next year,” she says. However, there are smaller steps you can take to incorporate solar energy into your home by gradually replacing your lights with solar energy ones. Even teaching your kids about the importance of solar energy through fun crafts and activities is a great place to start!
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.