This winter, I’ve noticed that fewer neighbors are rolling their recycling bins to the curb for pick-up every week. The cold weather may be to blame, but I hate feeling like the only tree-hugger in my neighborhood!
I’m a firm believer that incorporating small changes into our everyday lives can make a sizable impact on your bills, your carbon footprint and the environment. According to SimpleEcology.com, line drying your clothes just half of the time during the warmer months saves over $60 annually. Here are six things that you can do during the winter to be more eco-conscious:
Opting for firewood rather than turning on the thermostat in the winter months can save energy for many homeowners. But fireplaces and wood-burning stoves can emit large amounts of soot and carbon pollution into the air. Older model fireplaces and stoves can also harm the air quality in your home. Upgrading to a newer pellet or wood-burning stove is provides greater efficiency than traditional open-air models.
Using clean-burning stoves such as a biomass- and bio-fuel burning stove is more efficient alternatives to wood burning. Clean-burning stoves give off fewer toxic emissions and use cleaner fuel, such as ethanol or bigas. Biofuels used for home heating come in the form of logs, wood chips, wood pellets or other recycled materials. Contemporary stoves typically burn cleaner and can reduce home heating costs.
Plug Drafty Leaks
Walk around your home to check for leaky windows and doors. You may be surprised to learn that cold air is coming in. The potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home may range from 5% to 30% per year, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Thankfully, in most instances, solutions are relatively easy and affordable.
Homeowners can conserve heat and energy by weather-stripping and caulking leaks. I did this and realized that I needed stripping for my patio doors and had to ensure my screen door was properly secured to avoid a draft. Window treatments or curtains may improve your home’s energy efficiency by trapping heat in, but the U.S. Department of Energy also encourages homeowners to open curtains on south-facing windows during the day. Natural sunlight is a great way to heat your home for free.
Choose a Safe De-Icer
Another way to make winter a little greener is to avoid using toxic chemical de-icing salts and sand. Homeowners typically use salt and sand on icy sidewalks and roads to make them safer, but they aren’t the best for the environment. Before choosing a chemical de-icer, consider its impact on plant life, concrete, vehicles and animals. And although sand isn’t corrosive, it can clog storm drains and cause flooding in the spring. Even rock salt can cause environmental contamination and damage pavement.
Greener alternatives include Magic Salt, which is rock salt treated with magnesium chloride and a sugar byproduct. It has earned the EPA Design for the Environment label, which recognizes that the product is considered to be safe for the environment. Magic Salt is 70 percent less corrosive than rock salt and works to 35 degrees below zero. Ice-Clear, another green option, is a liquid you spray on the pavement and is best used before snowfall. It is made of a corn extract so the sugar reacts with the pavement to form a bond that prevents ice from sticking. Ice-Clear is 100 percent organic and noncorrosive. Also, Ice Melt by Earth Friendly Products is both animal- and eco-friendly salt.
Buy Seasonal Produce
When you buy vegetables and fruit out of season, not only are they being shipped longer distances, burning more fuel than usual to get to your grocer, but they also ripen during transport instead of being picked ripe. Season-appropriate produce requires less energy for transport, is less expensive and often tastes better. According to healthyeating.org, eating fresh fruits and vegetables provides the body with more nutrients, easier digestion and a boost to the immune system.
Examples of produce in season from October through the winter months includes apples, pears, beets, pumpkins, cranberries, blackberries, cabbage, celery, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflowers, potatoes, beans, winter squash, sprouts, leeks and spinach. I’m sure you can find something you love in this list!
Buy Eco-Friendly Clothes
Have you considered buying organic clothing? Organic clothing may be good for the environment. Chemicals used in the process of making clothes can damage the environment through run-off water after heavy rains, which poisons lakes and rivers. According to the Organic Consumers Association, cotton growers around the world often use liberal amounts of insecticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers to grow the cotton. Seven of the top 15 pesticides used on U.S. cotton crops are potential or known carcinogens.
Organic cotton apparel may also help reduce allergies and respiratory problems. So when you load up on warmer cotton clothes this season, consider choosing organic cotton. In the winter, wool, hemp or fleece are greener fabrics that will still keep you warm. Wool is a natural product, unlike many synthetic materials that won’t biodegrade. It is durable, which creates less waste since it will last longer.
Carpool If Possible
It’s no secret that winter is harsh on both humans and vehicles. If you know people who are taking the same route every day, consider carpooling to save on gas expenses and wear-and-tear on your car. Consider starting a driving rotation with three or four people to lighten your load. Even carpooling once or twice a week can save money and help the environment. If one person is driving, split the cost of gas between the other passengers.
Not only are you and the others minimizing your carbon footprint, but you may feel safer and get a sense of security from having partners to ride with in the event of a weather-related problem. Driving in the winter can be stressful at times. On days when you don’t need to drive, you can relax, read or just take it easy during the commute for a change.
The truth is that every thing we do every day can impact the planet – good or bad. Having a green lifestyle year-round doesn’t just help the planet, it helps the people on it. If you would like to share other ways to be green in the winter, please post them below.
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