Going green, climate change and our carbon footprint as a human race has been a constant topic the last decade. As a mother, of course I want to leave the Earth in habitable shape for my children and future generations, and I can’t help but feel like we as a human race are failing at that. But, it’s a really big problem and we are only one family. Not to mention that I already feel like I’m always doing 16 things at once. How can I possibly add one more? But, nonetheless, I’ve made it my goal in this new decade to be better about making greener choices because it’s that important. In my experience, moms (and women in general) can lead the charge of habitual change in their homes. I’m convinced that if busy moms like us go green, everyone will.
It’s easier than you think for busy moms to go green.
I often get discouraged because I can’t make large scale changes by myself. I’m not going to live off the grid, grow my own food and give up every last one of my consumeristic habits. While all of those things are great, I know many of us aren’t going to give up our creature comforts. And I think that’s ok, as long as you are making changes in other ways. There are a million little things we can all do that don’t require a ton of extra effort. Individually, these actions don’t make much difference and probably aren’t nearly enough, but if every house in the country did these things, it would definitely have an impact.
Another thing I get intimidated by deciding is where to start. There’s energy efficiency, fast fashion, transportation, consumer waste, clean beauty, food waste, food consumption- basically anything around food is the opposite of green. You get the idea. There are a million ways you can look at the way we humans live our lives and see failure. Which, of course, is how I see the world. But, the odds of changing behavior are better if you look at the positives rather than the negatives.
Since sharing a bit about this on Instagram, so many of you have messaged us saying that this has been on your mind too and you and your family are working on the same thing. My favorite thing, hands down, about this blog is the sense of community that we’ve built. I’m so excited to tap into the hive mind to share ideas (I’ve included many that you shared with us on Instagram below!) and offer support. This is a slow and steady journey to change our habits and thinking, and it’s always easier to do that kind of thing together.
The idea is to start training ourselves to be thinking greener and make these practices habitual to create a snowball effect. Once these simple ideas are second nature, we can tackle bigger issues. I’ll share on what I plan to tackle next!
I hope there are a few tips below that you can implement in your family. My goal was to compile a list of things that can be done easily, and for free (or for a nominal amount). Putting solar panels on the house and driving a Tesla are great options, but you don’t have to spend a million dollars to be green. The best part about most of these things is that they can actually save you money, and who doesn’t want that?!
36 Ways Busy Moms Can Go Green
- Set your water heater to 120℉. A water heater is the second biggest energy user in the average home. This is the optimal temperature to provide the hot water your family needs, but also save energy.
- Replace incandescent bulbs to energy efficient LED or CFL bulbs. LED bulbs are typically more expensive, but they last longer and use a fraction of the energy.
- Unplug anything when not in use. Devices, like chargers, still suck an electrical current from the plug, even if they are not in use. This term is known as standby power, or vampire energy. It may not seem like much, but if you think about how many things in your home are plugged in and not in use, it adds up. And then you think about that number multiplied by every house across the country. It’s a lot of energy being used on an item that’s not technically in use!
- Use a power strip to solve the vampire energy problem. A power strip can make it easy to turn them all off (like at your nightstand) so they aren’t sucking energy.
- Wash clothes in cold water. Clothes wash just as well in cold water, especially in modern washers with modern detergent and you are saving energy by not heating the water. Bonus- you don’t have to separate colors!
- Consider how much laundry detergent you are using. You may be using more than you need, as newer machines are more efficient and require less detergent.
- Switch snack bags to reusable snack bags or containers.
- Buy snacks in bulk instead of in individual bags.
- Experiment with your thermostat. Do you really need it as warm or as cold as you think you do? The HVAC system accounts for nearly 50% of a family’s energy consumption. We have a Nest Thermostat E installed in our home and it tells you what the energy saving range is. It also uses location services to detect when you are not at home to control temperature so you aren’t heating/cooling an empty house. Check with your power company. Many offer rebates for purchasing smart thermostats!
- Go meatless one night a week! A pound of ground beef takes almost 1800 gallons of water to produce. I will admit, this is the hardest for our family.
- Turn off lights when not in use. Maybe get the dads to spearhead this one. It’s in their blood.
- Shorten the length of your showers.
- Start conversations with your children about the importance of reducing our energy use. The sooner you can get their help with things like turning lights off, or unplugging their chargers, the faster the changes will be implemented in your home.
- Hang dry clothes as often as possible.
- Use curtains to keep heat out in the summer and cold out in the winter. AJ laughs at me because I have a drop dead time the shades have to be drawn in the summer, but it really does make a big difference. The warmer your house is, the harder the AC system has to work to cool to a reasonable temperature and the more money you spend to do so!
- Open curtains or blinds instead of turning on a light. But only if it’s not too hot or cold!
- Check the settings on the dishwasher. Try switching to an air dry setting versus a heated dry.
- Speaking of dishwashers, as often as you can, wait to run it until the load is completely full.
- Adjust the refrigerator. The ideal temperature for food safety and energy efficiency is between 37-40℉.
- While you’re checking on the refrigerator, dust the coils in the back. Dirt, pet hair and dust can collect back there can cause the motor to overheat or work harder, resulting in greater energy usage. It can also cut down the life expectancy of your fridge, and I don’t know about you, but a new fridge is not at the top of my list of things I want to spend money on.
- Use reusable water bottles and coffee cups as much as possible.
- Change your printer settings to print on both sides of the page instead of two separate pages. You can also use Print Preview to print only the pages with the information you need.
- Turn off water while you’re brushing your teeth.
- Check your car’s tire pressure regularly. Improperly inflated tires get lower gas mileage. If your tire pressure is low, the car isn’t working optimally, which means it’s creating even more carbon dioxide. Properly inflated tires wear more evenly, which means you get more life and your money’s worth out of your tires and you are also saving on gas money!
- Set up automatic payment on bills or opt in for online statements. Less mail means less paper and less driving.
- Celebrate your inner VSCO mom and carry metal straws with you to use at restaurants or with coffee instead of using plastic straws.
- Look for cardboard or paper packaging instead of plastic in things like detergent, milk, or soap.
- Buy clothes second hand. I admit, this one is really hard for me. I’m weirded out by wearing something that smells like a stranger. I’m working on it!
- Replace paper napkins and paper towels with cloth napkins or towels.
- Use a washcloth in the shower instead of a loofah. Did you know those are made of plastic?
- Buy less stuff in general. It can be easy to fall into the trap of “swiping up” on something you see on social media and being convinced you need it. I have fallen prey to this so many times. My shopaholic tendencies can certainly use an overhaul. I just love getting packages on my doorstep!
- Switch to shampoo and conditioner bars. This is something suggested on Instagram, and I’ll admit, I didn’t even know these products existed. I’m skeptical, but willing to try. Less packaging and cleaner products means better for the environment.
- Use refillable cleaning products, or create your own using household things like baking soda or vinegar.
- Use wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. I switched over to these ones about a year ago and have been very happy with them!
- Walk to your destination whenever possible.
- Start a compost bin.
This list is meant to be in no way exhaustive, or to completely eliminate my family’s carbon footprint. I think setting out with that objective is a formula for disaster. Slow and steady wins this race. So, if you happen to observe me using less than green products, or doing less than green practices, know that we are humans, there’s lots of room for error and changing my mindset and habits does not happen over night. I’m no expert and have lots to learn. But I’m committed to doing better because I know we as humans need to start making some serious changes.
Has your family made any changes to go green? Add them in the comments below!