With springtime in the air, a lot of us are looking to hit the re-start button. We’re opening up the house and planning home improvement projects. It’s the perfect time of year to think about renewal, take care of yourself, and enjoy nature. And, uniquely, it happens right around Earth Day. So, instead of Spring Cleaning – think Spring “Green”ing. This is about cleaning up your home and enjoying spring in a more sustainable, planet friendly way.
Here are a few green tips for families to consider as you begin your spring activities –
PAINT SAFELY, WITH RENEWABLES, & RE-USE
For spring, do-it-yourself home improvement projects are king right now – especially because of the economy. The great news is that there are so many green choices for your materials now, and that includes painting. Here are a few green painting tips:
- Choose zero-VOC or low-VOC paints. VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds - and these are toxic airborne particles that you don’t want in your paint. Sometimes if the paint smells strong, then that’s an indication of VOC’s but not always. So check the label — it will specifically say “zero VOC” or “low VOC.”
- Look for masking tape made from recycled content. 3M has a brand new Scotch Greener Masking Tape product available in basic and performance – made from 56 percent renewable resources. This helps to reduce your waste and conserve paper. And it has the same performance as regular masking tape — you can find it at retailers like Walmart.
- Recycle your old paint – don’t pour it down the drain or onto soil, as this could contaminate the soil or groundwater. Instead, look to donate your un-used paint to organizations; many need paint for graffiti cleanup or other community redevelopment projects. Talk to your local recycling center to find out details — here’s a link to more paint disposal and recycling information.
BE A BETTER SORTER TO REDUCE LANDFILL WASTE
With all the waste that can be generated from spring cleaning, one of the best tips for what to do with your trash is to be a better sorter to reduce landfill waste. Here are some green sorting tips –
- Reduce Landfill Trash: Aim to have only one bag (or less) go to the landfill each week. Look for more eco-friendly trash bags for that one bag – such as those with less plastic. Glad, for example, has a new and stronger tall kitchen bag BUT it’s made with 6.5 percent less plastic. With bags like this, it’s like keeping more than 140 million extra trash bags out of the landfill each year due to the less plastic.
- Compost: If you have a backyard, composting is not only feasible but also sensible. It takes you only a few minutes each week and gives you free soil amendment and fertilizer for your garden and landscape — a cost savings! Many recycling centers have free or discounted compost bins for residents. I have easy instructions on how to compost in my book, The Mom’s Guide to Growing Your Family Green.
- Recycle: Make recycling a breeze by placing bins in the kitchen, bathrooms, and office to immediate capture recycling materials. You can decorate the indoor bins with fun recycling labels and other earth-friendly images — it can be a fun project with the kids to decorate the bins.
- Green Waste: Avoid sending your grass and shrubbery clippings to the landfill. Instead use some of the smaller clippings in your compost, consider buying a bag-less mower that recycles the grass clippings back into your lawn as fertilizer, and put the rest in your city’s green waste bin to be recycled as mulch.
- Donations: Have a designated bin that captures all items for donation. Many non-profit organizations will arrange a free pickup on your doorstep or driveway for donated items, so donating has become easy. You get the tax deduction and the organization either sells or gives your donations to those who can use them.
- Take-Back Programs: One of the newest eco-sorting trends is called “eco-cycology.” This is when a company will take back your used product and recycle it for you — such as with shoes, electronics, or carpet manufacturers. Their factories might make new shoes or new carpet from the used items — or even a different product, such as grinding up the rubber from used shoes to make surfaces for athletic tracks and children’s playgrounds. So, be on the look out for such programs, which can often be found on a company’s sustainability or corporate responsibility website page.
JUMP ON THE PLANT-EATING BANDWAGON
One of the hottest food trends this year for Earth Day is to switch toward a more vegetarian or vegan diet - which essentially means going meat free. Spring signals the coming produce explosion this summer, which is the perfect time to learn how to eat better — by eating more plants and less meat.
A plant-based diet is considered environmentally friendly because plants, if grown in an organic or sustainable way, reduce your environmental impact. According to the Vegetarian Society, eating less meat helps to reduce your carbon footprint, save water, save land, and protect the oceans.
To help you eat more plant-based foods, there’s an explosion of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks and websites available to learn more. Many health-food stores also have vegetarian cooking classes. Here are some first steps you can take to reduce your animal protein and eat a more plant-based diet –
- Start slow: Start with going meat free one day a week for a month, then move to two days, and so on.
- Try new foods: Be committed to trying new foods and flavors — the more adventurous you are, the more fun it is.
- Educate on nutrition: If you do head toward vegan (which means you not only don’t eat meat but also do not eat any animal products — no cheese, dairy, or eggs), you’ll want to educate yourself on how to get B12 and other essential nutrients into your diet, such as by integrating nutritional yeast into recipes.
- Being a flexitarian is okay: Realize that while some people become 100 percent vegetarian or vegan, many remain flexitarians — meaning they end up eating mostly plant-based foods but now and then eat meat. This can be a great compromise for families in which not all members want to be vegetarian.
JOIN IN THE CELEBRATION
Earth Day activities are not just April 22 but all throughout the months of April and May. It’s a fun way for you to get out into the community and make Earth Day a family affair. The Earth Day Network lists activities near you.
Happy Earth Day!
Photos: Theblueplanet (Dreamstime), Reduce, Recycle, Reuse by andyarthur (Flickr)
Terra Wellington is working with the companies mentioned to bring you this Earth Day message.