Earth Day 2014: An Eco-Stravaganza of Sustainable Tips and Tricks (Part 1)

This Earth Day, the Ecocentric team is celebrating by sharing our favorite eco-friendly tips and tricks! Whether you're an old hand at ninja energy efficiency tactics or setting up your first apartment, hopefully you'll find, as we did, that there's always more to pick up by way of sustainable living. This is post 1 of 2.

Hack Your CSA Shares, Cut Food Waste

Last summer, I decided to clean up my diet and eat more fresh food from local, trusted sources, so I joined a CSA. I picked up a full share every other week, filling my fridge with food - but I only cook for myself. Gah! I had to do something; otherwise, the money I spent and the hard work, effort, water and energy the farmer put into growing such wonderful food could be wasted.

My solution: I found a small white board at Kmart and hung it on my fridge. I read the newsletter that my CSA sent out telling me what would be in each share. As soon as I got the food home, I separated it into containers and bags and listed the greens, veggies and fruit on the board before stowing them in the fridge. This process helped me remember what I have, making it easy to look for recipes using those ingredients.

After I organized my fridge, I did a lot of cooking and ate some mighty fine-tasting food. If you join a CSA, set up and shop for a more sustainable kitchen, you may find that your food tastes better too!

-Robin Madel


"Recycling is so environmentalism 101," you say. "Give me something more useful!"

I used to think the same way, but recycling is important because it keeps waste out of our streets, woods, waterways and landfills. As the world gets packed with more people who buy more items and throw out more stuff, we need to be more mindful of our waste. How can each of us do so?

  • First, buy only what you need and reuse what you can.
  • Then consider that most items can be recycled, which means don't look sideways at smashed aluminum cans or shredded paper: think recycle, don't toss.
  • Start an easy system where recyclables are collected and sorted daily; it only takes a few minutes. Find nice, compact indoor bins so that you don't always have to go outside or to the curb. Make it fun and get the family involved. Satisfaction is digging through the trash for cardboard toilet paper rolls, right? (Sorry, maybe that's just me.)
  • Find out which materials can be recycled and where drop off facilities are located by contacting your local waste disposal and recycling office.
  • Go to Earth911 for DIY reuse ideas, recycling tips and a recycling solutions search.
  • For your viewing pleasure, watch this thorough set of "How to Recycle" videos by Seattle Public Utilities.

Check out this Ecocentric post on the many environmental benefits of recycling and reducing the waste stream!

-Kai Olson-Sawyer

What about Those Old Plastic Bags?

Plastic bags are the second most common type of refuse found in our oceans and take up to 1,000 years to degrade; they also pose real threats to our wildlife and ecosystems and can introduce toxins like lead into our homes. Some cities have taken steps to ban plastic bags or apply bag taxes, but most of us still use them regularly. Let's face it: remembering to bring your reusable bags whenever you leave the house doesn't always happen, and frankly, many foldable cloth bags are too bulky for every outing. My solution: stuff used plastic bags in all of your personal totes! I keep at least two used plastic bags in all of my purses and have reduced my plastic bag intake to almost nil. To avoid lead, try to reuse white plastic bags with little lettering. Using a compactable cloth or mesh bag is absolutely better than using plastic, but until you can outfit all of your purses and daypacks accordingly, this option is helpful.

-Audrey Jenkins

Bicycle for Burritos

I ride a bicycle. Sometimes for recreation, but mostly just to get around. I'm convinced that there's no better way to travel and I've long recognized that I could never continue to live and work in a place like New York City if I didn't ride a bicycle. Confession: While my own motivation for cycling really has very little to do with my environmentalist ideology, the positive environmental impacts of bicycle travel are certainly compelling. (Perhaps you've heard of global climate change induced by transportation-related CO2 emissions? Or the host of other air pollutants that spew out of our tailpipes?) If you know how to ride a bicycle, meeting some (or all!) of your local transportation needs by cycle (couldn't resist) is super easy: get a bike, get a helmet, ride, repeat. Then consume extra burritos to help fuel the fun.

-Chris Hunt

Cut Your Energy Footprint - and Your Electric Bills!

Energy efficiency is very important to me not only because it cuts my environmental footprint; it also saves me money. When I used to rent an apartment, I had little to no control over the landlord's choice of major appliances like washers and driers, refrigerators and other kitchen units. Now that I own a house, I only buy ENERGY STAR appliances and have double paned windows for extra insulation.  My next step is to get an energy audit to find out if I still have more room for improvement. Check out GRACE's energy efficiency guide, Doing More With Less, to learn more about what you can do where you live.

-James Rose