Practical Sustainability: Efforts Around the Home

What You Can Do at Home Without ‘Green Washing’

Bird Island: Zero Energy Home in Kuala Lumpur

Bird Island: Zero Energy Home in Kuala Lumpur

With the efforts around “going green” taking up so much of our consciousness these days, from magazine articles to news reports to websites and more, it’s easy to label people and products as part of the American tendency to turn everything into a fad. Green washing, or reducing the effort to go green to nothing more than a simple marketing aphorism, is a problem to be sure, but doesn’t every little bit help?

Homes like the one pictured above are the absolute when it comes to sustainability and eco-consciousness, reportedly turning in a zero energy rating. But none of us really live in Bird Island, Kuala Lumpur, so what can be done to make the house a more green, sustainable thing in the world?

Let’s start with the kitchen. We’ve all heard about switching over the light bulbs, trying to cut down on energy usage by eliminating efforts like pre-heating the oven before meals, etc., but what about the things we use every day, and what we tend to use a lot of? Aluminum foil. Plastic baggies. Paper towels. Things of this nature that we might have worked into such a regular routine in our lives, we don’t even think about them anymore. But rest assured, lots of cutbacks can make a real difference here, when taken in total among thousands of households. Think about it.

If you use a ton of paper towels, why not slow down. If you merely dry your hands of water after washing them, then is the towel really worth throwing away? Why not buy extra strength paper towels from now on, and when they’re just absorbing “clean” water, leave them on the towel rack or the sink afterwards, to dry. Then, you can reuse these towels for bigger messes like spilled grape juice or tomato sauce on the floor. Afterwards, don’t toss them in the trash. Start reminding yourself that paper towels, even (and especially) the ones covered in food, can be composted. Set up a bin underneath the sink, or a pile in the backyard.

Aluminum foil — it seems like it’s never going to be in any kind of short supply, right? But in reality, this is just the kind of thinking that has gotten the planet in a state of turmoil, because we take for granted the fact that not everything lasts forever, and there are more important things besides human convenience. Have you ever re-used tin foil? Why not scrape the food bits off, give it a quick soap-down, and then reuse the foil, especially if it’s just giving it another life in the oven when you reheat things.

plastic reuseable storage items and baggiesPlastic Baggies. From the time we’re kids, when our moms made us lunch sandwiches, to the time we’re adults, when they seem like the perfect answer to dealing with leftovers, plastic baggies are another one of those things in the kitchen that we fail to think enough about. If you use them for relatively “clean” storage purposes, consider giving them a light soap-down and rinse, and use them twice. They won’t last forever, and you don’t want to re-use cheap plastics infinitely, but why not use them twice? If you’re done with the avocado, and about to cut open another one, rinse out the bag from the first one, and use it again!

Further, why not consider glass “tupperware” instead of plastic. Anything is better than the stuff we take away from restaurants, even if it is compostable — but stuff your silly pride down there a bit more, and next time you go out to eat, when you know you’re not going to finish what is typically too much food, take out your own glass storage items or tupperware (if you must), and take your leftovers home in your own containers, without using the paper and plastic matters from the restaurant.

Just a few little tips — tiny steps toward making the planet a bit healthier. Have you got another idea? Why not share it with us in the comment section below?

[Photo Via: inhabitat; peachygreen]

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