Simple living makes us more aware of the environment and the impact we have on it.
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For Ami Voeltz, executive director of Do It Green! Minnesota www.doitgreen.org, living green is not a modern concept. “The practices of growing our own food, buying only what we really need, repairing and reusing have been deeply rooted in the history of our culture,” she says. “Learning the lost skills from our grandparents’ generation will not only reduce our environmental impact, but save us money.”
Ami and her husband, Andy, offer the following green living tips:
Start recycling and composting your household waste.
Household recycling may save you money through a city or county rebate or credit. According to the EcoMom Alliance, “Nearly one third of all garbage in our waste stream is comprised of food scraps and other organic matter. The sad fact is that virtually all of it ends up in a landfill, where its nutrients and water content cannot ever be integrated back into the earth’s soil. As we look at our rapidly filling landfills, and the constant need to build more to accommodate our growing waste, we know that one of the easiest and healthiest things to do is to compost organic matter. It is one of the easiest, and most immediately effective things you can do to help the environment on so many levels.”
Buy local, seasonal and organic when possible.
Knowing where your food comes from and how it is grown gives you safer food choices. Organic farmers constantly replenish the nutrients in their soil to avoid using potentially harmful chemicals. When you buy local and in season, the money you spend supports local farmers and stays in the local economy.
Buy used before new.
Find used clothes and household items at a fraction of the financial and environmental cost of new. Garage sales, secondhand shops, upscale consignment stores, www.craigslist.org, www.twincitiesfreemarket.org, and eBay help our planet—and our personal budgets—by encouraging reuse.
Repair before replacing.
Spend the extra money to purchase quality products and repair them before replacing them to extend their life.
Grow your own food!
Start a vegetable garden or grow herbs and tomatoes in pots this summer.
Eat low on the food chain.
Half of our carbon food print is from the production of meat. Commit to eating meatless meals once or twice a week. To find out more about your carbon food print visit www.doitgreen.org.
Choose less processed or packaged food.
Shop the produce and bulk foods sections first before hitting the packaged and processed aisles. Buy and consume foods as close to their natural state as possible. It’s healthier, it costs less, and it is more environmentally sustainable.
Switch to nontoxic products.
Choose personal products without dyes or toxic ingredients. Look for non-toxic on the label or visit www.reduce.org.
Drive less/drive smart.
Try using the bus, lightrail or walking or biking to distances five miles or less. Set up a carpool when possible. Drive efficiently and plan errands geographically. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you can improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by going easy on the brakes and gas pedal, avoiding hard accelerations, reducing time spent idling, and getting rid of unnecessary items in your trunk to reduce weight. If you have a removable roof rack and you are not using it, take it off to improve your fuel economy by as much as 5 percent. Use overdrive and cruise control on your car if you have those features.
Get an energy audit.
Sign up for an energy audit through your energy provider to seek out areas of your home that are leaking perfectly good heat or cool air. Home energy audits help you improve your home’s energy efficiency, saving you money and helping the environment. Also visit www.mnenergychallenge.org.