These days practically everyone has heard about the environmental benefits of buying energy-efficient appliances, flying less, and recycling, but those are hardly the only ways to go green. Here are four simple and flexible strategies for going green that you can adapt to suit your tastes and habits.

Go Green: Embrace Plants

You’ve probably heard that meat and dairy farms are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, so reducing the number of animal products in your diet is an excellent way to lower your carbon footprint. The key here is to take on a fun challenge rather than deprive yourself. You don’t have to go full-on vegan to make a difference; even swapping a 5-oz pork chop for a veggie stir fry topped with an ounce or two of bacon is an improvement.

Experiment with new recipes and restaurant choices to find plant-centric dishes you like just as much as your meat-heavy regulars. Invite friends over to taste-test several different brands of plant-based meat alternatives or to determine whether almond, oat, or soy milk works best with cereal or cocktails.

Even your pets can help: several companies introduce pet foods made from insect protein that requires far less energy to produce. If you do end up dropping dairy or meat almost entirely, you might want to consider supplements such as vitamin D gummies; consult your doctor or a nutritionist if you need guidance.

Reuse Creatively

You don’t have to be an expert crafter to turn all sorts of so-called trash into treasure, or at least give it another use before disposal. It’s even better when repurposing an old object means you don’t have to spend money on a new one. The plastic clamshell that originally protected a sprig of fresh herbs holds a lunchbox-sized serving of blueberries or baby carrots. Larger jars and tubs can store everything from leftovers to craft supplies to ice (a full freezer is more energy-efficient than a partially empty one, so fill surplus containers with water and use them to take up space).

Go green by saving bread, cereal, and chip bags for doggie duty or litter scooping.  Make a stained sweater or a pair of socks with holes in the toes into fingerless gloves; cut worn-out towels into cleaning rags or knot them into dog toys. Many recycling programs don’t accept bottle caps, wine corks, breath mint tins, and similar bits and pieces, but your local arts center or elementary school might be thrilled to have them, or you can add them to a creativity box for your kids and their friends.

Shop Secondhand

Choosing a previously-owned version of an item you need avoids the environmental impact of manufacturing a new one. The quality and selection at thrift shops can indeed vary dramatically from town to town. However, there are other options if you aren’t happy with the stores near you. Online resale shops are booming (especially for clothing and accessories), and there are several local websites and social media groups devoted to sharing or swapping goods. You might even have access to a local tool lending library!

Drop Disposables

You’ve undoubtedly heard over and over about bringing your own bags to the grocery store and your mug to the coffee shop, but have you thought about other disposable items that reusables can replace? Instead of stuffing those old t-shirts into a donation bin, cut them into washable tissues. It will be softer on your nose and eyelids than paper ones. Cloth napkins are also gentler on lips than the paper version.

The rough texture of an old washcloth makes it better for scrubbing down counters than a paper towel. Additionally, kitchen sponges can be run through the dishwasher to kill bacteria and used over and over. And of course, there’s an endless variety of reusable wraps, boxes, and bags available for storing food and packing lunches.

Going green doesn’t have to be boring or unpleasant; there are all sorts of fun and creative ways to lower your environmental impact without sacrificing enjoyment.

Author: Finnegan Pierson

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