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After Earth Day: 40 Tips To Live Greener All Year Round

To celebrate the 40th Earth Day, we asked you to share your favorite green living tips. Here are 40 tips to make this year your greenest yet!

the earth viewed from space

Photo: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

Today is the 40th anniversary of the founding of Earth Day (April 22, 1970). It's a day to appreciate the Earth and to think about your environmental impact.

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the founding of Earth Day, and to celebrate, we asked you to share your favorite green living tips. Your response was overwhelming — thanks for sharing all the great ideas!

So, as promised, here is a list of 40 (naturally) of your favorite ways to work off your Earth Day hangover by living greener the other 364 days of the year:

  1. Compost, Compost, Compost. Overwhelmingly, fans seemed in agreement that composting is a great way to green your life (and your garden!). Some readers suggested using worms for composting…and you’re in luck! We just recorded an interview about worm composting that we’ll share on a future episode of our podcast (subscribe in iTunes).
  2. Start a Garden. Looking for local, organic food? What’s more local than your local community garden, or, even better, your own backyard? Thanks Linda Brunner and Lynn Kalita Hausch for this tip.
  3. Reusable Grocery Bags. Several fans suggested this, and we wholeheartedly agree. Apart from keeping plastic bags out of the landfill and reducing our reliance on petroleum, it also helps reduce the annoyance of plastic grocery bags around the house. If you do you have a stash of plastic grocery bags in the house, at least find ways to reuse them. Lisa Clarke-Lewis recommends using them as trash bags and to stuff purses and winter boots.
  4. Reusable PRODUCE Bags. Carissa left a comment saying: “I bring my own fabric produce bags to the grocery store and farmers market. I found mine on etsy, but there are a lot of places to get them now.” If you’re ready to take your plastic bag reduction to the next level, this is a great way to do it!
  5. Recycle. Everything you can.
  6. Including Paper Towel Rolls. Thanks April Goff Smithson! Recycle your toilet paper rolls, too! April just informed us she went even further: “I recycled my PLASTIC paper towel holder. As of yesterday, we have gone TOTALLY PAPER TOWEL-LESS!!!”
  7. Use cloth…Everything. Convert to cloth napkins and rags instead of disposable napkins and paper towels. And if you have to use disposable paper products, like toilet paper, there are “green” brands that offer more environmental products.
  8. Including Cloth Diapers. And for the eco-conscious with young children, Jacob Kipfer suggests using good old fashioned cloth diapers.
  9. “If its yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down” You get the idea. Thanks Darren Benford.
  10. Breastfeed. “A breastfed baby is not reliant on formula, nor it’s packaging,” says Candace L.
  11. Make Your Own Household Cleaners: Several readers suggested using homemade concoctions for household cleaners and detergents. Lisa Beth Lindstrom Wilder says “Vinegar and baking soda are both great and environmentally friendly!”
  12. And Your Own Body Cleansers, Too. Other readers suggested making your own shampoo or body wash. Karen Regan Wylie makes body soap out of epsom salts, apple cider vinegar, olive oil and sugar. If you can let go of the sweetly scented body washes, shampoos and household cleaners (they give a false sense of cleanliness, anyway), this is definitely a way to save money, reduce waste and avoid toxic materials found in some cleaners.
  13. Consume Less Meat. One of our Facebook fans Donna Burris wrote in with this tip. This is often debated, but eating lower on the food chain is generally considered to be more sustainable. for more on the issue, check out this blog post: The Great Sustainability Debate: Meat or No Meat?
  14. “Teach your KIDS to love and respect the earth. Good habits start now,” says Eileen Sarett-Cuasay. The best way to perpetuate environmentalism, is indeed to start teaching your kids to make environmentally friendly choices at an early age. But, considering the young generation is a major source of excitement for the green movement, the NY Times teaches kids: How To Green Your Parents.
  15. Become a Diva: This may be lost on our male readers, but women can reduce the amount of trash created by tampons (the package, the applicator, the tampon itself) and switch to the Diva cup ! It will reduce your monthly expenses, too. Health food stores and organic grocery stores usually sell this product, if not, you can order it online at (a great tip for women from Missy Stillings)
  16. Use Reusable Water Bottles. Keep plastic water bottles out of the landfill and work to keep soft-drink companies from depriving local communities of their water supply. Buy a bottle, fill it with tap water (If you’re wary of tap water, buy a filter!).  For more on the bottled water debate: The Bottled Water Industry: Buy The Bottle Or Trifle With Tap?
  17. Reuse Food Containers. Buying packaged food is almost unavoidable, but making waste out of all of the containers isn’t. Morel Stackhouse recommends reusing old food containers to store food and carry out leftovers from restaurants.
  18. Buy In Bulk. Another great way to reduce the amount of packing you consume (it’s usually a lot cheaper too!). Thanks, David
  19. Pack Your Lunch. “Saves you money and the environment. You also know what’s in your food,” says Erin Eberhardt. She also recommends making your own sandwich wrapper or snack bag using scrap fabric (like an old, clean sheet). Re-purposing keeps trash out of the landfills and also saves money.
  20. Make Your Own Junk Food. Or any food, for that matter. But, as Daniel Green suggests, skip buying junk food from the grocery store that creates waste and unhealthy bodies. Make your own cookies, potato chips and fries.
  21. Organize Your Errands and Outings. DeeAnn Forrest mentioned that she organizes all of her errands and outings for one particular day of the week, including trips to the grocery store, to save time and gas.
  22. And, Ideally, Use Public Transportation. And if you live in a place where public transportation isn’t very good, ask your local government why not. Thanks Cary Cuevas Fardal.
  23. Or…Ride Your Bike! The environmental benefits are clear: reduce auto emissions and our dependence on petroleum products. The physical benefits are clear, too. Enjoy a stronger, healthier body when you switch from a car to a bike. Thanks to Marisa Vines Gray for this one.
  24. Wash Clothes In Cold Water. It takes energy to heat up the water. Save your energy bill and save the planet at the same time. Thanks, Cookie Cinquemano.
  25. And Hang Your Clothes Out To Dry. Robert Louis Osborn and Teresa Kelly wrote in with this one. Hanging your clothes out to dry is less abrasive for your clothes (so you have to replace them less often) and also saves on costly electric bills.
  26. Share More! Living communally not only builds community but reduces consumption. Thanks Nicole Celaya for the great tip.
  27. Switch From Plastic to Biodegradable Coffee Stirrers. Tom Winter suggests switching from plastic coffee stirrers to wood ones, and if you work in an office, encourage your employer to do so. This is a simple way to help the environment by thinking about the what everyday products are made of and their environmental impact.
  28. And Give Up Disposable Coffee Cups. If you really NEED that daily latte, at least bring your own travel mug instead of taking a paper one each day. Thanks, lorakolodny.
  29. Eat What’s In Season. Whenever possible. If your food is not in season locally, you’re not supporting local farmers and the environment pays the price for shipping fresh produce from wherever it was grown.
  30. Shop at Farmer’s Markets. Know your food, know your farmer. It’s the next best thing to growing your own, and you support your local community and economy as well. Maria LeMay Erlandson and Tanya LaMothe wrote in with this tip.
  31. Join A CSA. A great way to reduce your food miles and support local farmers. Even better, encourage local food service providers to buy multiple shares. Thanks Daniel Green!
  32. Become A Locavore. “You’ll save much more than just your local economy by eating what grows near you,” says Murdoc.
  33. Think Before You Buy. suggests Ritamayi. You’ll consume less if you stop and consider whether you really need to buy all of the items on your shopping list, helps you save money too by avoiding impulse buying.
  34. Go Organic. Less pesticides, less herbicides, better for the planet. Cary Cuevas Fardal writes, “Walk or ride my bike to the local New Season’s grocery store to buy local and organic foods!”
  35. Learn To Preserve The Harvest. “Growing your own food, or going to u-pick farms in your local community, and then using that through to the next harvest supports local farms, lets you eat organically (by controlling what goes on your garden) and allows for more healthful eating.” says Tracey Wilson. Need help? Earth Eats has you covered.
  36. Turn out lights during the day. Turn down thermostat at night. Thanks Emily H!
  37. Educate yourself. Jeri’s best tip for going green is to read about all the ways you can help the environment.
  38. Sign up for Electronic Bank Statements and E-bills: A great way to avoid wasting paper. Thanks for the tip Elaine!
  39. Count Your Trash Bags: Aaron Clanke says that his family is down to one trash bag a week. How many trash bags do you produce a week? It’s a good indicator of whether you are over-consuming.

And finally (I know this is the one you’ve been waiting for) a signed copy of Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” goes to Justin Huhn, who writes:

Let go of whatever society-induced guilt you might be carrying for turning on the lights or driving your car. do what you can to educate yourself on ways of simplifying your life to the extent that this culture allows. if you have knowledge, share it! grow as much food and medicine as you can, and teach those who want to learn.

Congratulations Justin! and thanks again everyone for all the great tips. If you try any of these out, let us know! Leave a comment and tell us what you’re doing to make this year the greenest yet!

Earth Eats Staff

Earth Eats Staff is a weekly podcast, public radio program and blog bringing you the freshest news and recipes inspired by local food and sustainable agriculture.

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  • Carissa

    I bring my own fabric produce bags to the grocery store and farmers market. I found mine on etsy, but there are a lot of places to get them now.

  • Debra Yvonne Mathis

    One of the best practices I've integrated into my daily routine is the growing of sprouts. In this way, anyone can have a totally fresh salad any day of the year, which is awesome in winter! While organic seeds are the best, someone 'breaking into' the habit can just pick up a bag of regular lentils from any grocery store, and begin there. The sprouts one buys in the grocery (IF they are available) usually have a well developed green leaf, which means they are almost too mature, and do not have the energy available in younger sprouts. If you don't have access to a seed source in town, you can buy them online; my suggestion is to mix alfalfa with red clover, broccoli and radish (more radish if you like spicy, none if you do not). This mix is incredibly tasty, you won't care to go back to just alfalfa after growing your own mix.

  • meghanbrannon

    Plant a garden (even a small one, even in pots). It is economical, rewarding, and delicious!

  • Aaron Klenke

    My family of four is down to one tall kitchen trash bag a week due to composting, recycling, freecycling, donating, and consuming less of everything (including buying more fresh, local produce).
    I believe that there are winners all through the cycles we are touching. :)

  • David

    Buy local and in bulk to cut down on packaging costs and materials. Also, bring your own bags to the grocery store. It is super easy and you will save the world!

  • Morel

    When I go out to eat I bring along my own containers for leftovers. That way I don't have to take the styrofoam container that restaurants often have. If we all did this it would keep a lot of junk out of our landfills.

  • nenkc

    Live next door to someone with a compost pile and they will gladly take all your waste………better yet start your own compost pile

  • reblfox

    Buy/trade (or grow) local produce.

  • lacihill

    Things that I do to help save our planet:
    Only consume animals that walk on four legs once a week, use reusable grocery bags, wash and reuse takeout food containers and reusable food containers from the grocery store (i.e. yogurt/hummus containers), shop at local farmers' markets, and RECYCLE!

  • Jamie Brazel

    I use reusable shopping bags, cloth hankies, cloth kitchen towels, and cloth napkins. The only disposable paper products in my home are paper towels (for the occasional truly icky mess) and toilet paper.

  • Julia

    I'm eating Morning Star Grillers California Turk'y for lunch… I haven't tried this particular product before, but we have enjoyed many of Morning Stars products… last night it was spaghetti using Morning Stars sausage grumbles.

  • Terriw2

    I belong to an organic CSA, and have a small garden of my own. My kids and I are vegetarian but I also joined a local meat CSA for my husband. I try to buy local whenever possible. We also recycle and compost.

  • Elaine

    Sign up for electronic bank statements and e-bills.

  • Jeri

    The best tip I got for going green was to read all about it and start with the one that stood out the most. I searched the internet, read articles and the first thing we did was change our light bulbs out.

    Get educated, have fun doing it, and share it with others :D

    Now we love finding new ways to get even greener.

  • Emily H.

    Turn out the lights when you leave a room and turn down your thermostat during the day.

  • Rachel

    Consume Less (of everything).
    - Don't be pulled into the “buy our new GREEN product” thing. Buying a new “green” product still uses more resources than fixing or continuing to use what you've already got, or buying second-hand.
    - Eat lower on the food chain, if only for a few extra meals a week.

  • 14monthsto50

    Try to go organic with your diet, grow your own food, too. Use the reusable shopping bags. Change out the lightbulbs. Walk or bike when you can. So many things you can do and most are soooooo easy to do!

  • Mary Ann Reynolds

    walk more. it’s good for you and good for the planet!

  • Murdoc

    Become a Locavore. You'll save much more than just your local economy by eating what grows near you:

  • tracey wilson

    Learn to preserve the harvest. Growing your own food, or going to u-pick farms in your local community, and then using that through to the next harvest supports local farms, lets you eat organically (by controlling what goes on your garden) and allows for more healthful eating.

  • lorakolodny

    Give up disposable coffee cups. And don't use those wooden stirrers! So silly. You can just swirl the cream, sugar, or soy milk (etc.) around in the mug carefully.

  • Jennifer M

    We freeze all our veggie peels, trimming, and meat bones to make stock with. There's too much urban wildlife around here to compost cleanly, so this is a great solution for us. We have soup and bread night once a week, using these scraps as the foundation and building from there.

    We walk to school – it's just about a mile each way, enough for a nice walk, even for the 4-year-old.

    Bento lunches – using reusable lunchboxes, cute silicone cupcake dividers, and leftovers – are a great way to eat healthier lunches, use up leftovers, and minimize trash. All the kids, moms, and teachers at school think I'm way cool, too – a bonus side effect!

    Of course, other suggestions given here are also ones we use, but these are two of the ones that seem to surprise folks the most.

  • Super Hot Chica in Training

    I love growing my own food – so much that I got a degree in horticulture! Even if you live in urban areas, you can still do some gardening. Take it to another level by also composting your kitchen waste – better for the landfills AND your garden.

  • laurabethf

    Line dry clothes instead of using a dryer…smells like a more authentic fresh spring breeze and doesn't require dryer sheets…

  • Peta

    Reduce our waste by composting, use reusable Bento lunch boxes, and we don't own a car! we get around by foot or public transportation and we love it…keeps us mobile, fit, saves money and more importantly helps the environment.

  • namenikki

    We are slowing switching to organic and always use reusable bags.

  • ritamayi

    *Use natural cleaning products like vinegar or baking soda instead of bleach based or other chemical, products. They work much better and are not harmful.
    *Go vegetarian even if only for a day a week, cuts down on your carbon footprint dramatically and makes you feel better.
    *Become as much as a locavore as possible, sometimes it is hard to find fresh food grown locally, but try to get it as close as possible. Pay attention to country of origin labels, if it is December and you are craving strawberries, wait until they are ready in your area and freeze or can them for your winter months.
    *Grow your own produce, window farming is becoming popular in urban settings where rooftop gardens are not permitted.
    *Compost or re-purpose, I feed some of my veggie scraps to my rabbit, he loves the fresh veggies and fruit.
    *Stop and think before you buy. Is it necessary? Is it needed? Do I have something or know someone with something that could be used for the same purpose?
    *Don't throw out things unnecessarily, Re-purpose or reuse items- Freecycle post a want or an item u don't want any longer and see if someone else in your area wants it or is willing to part with it. I got a patio furniture set through freecycle as well as my bunny!
    *Transform old cloths into blankets, bags, decorations, dust or garage rags or even new clothes!
    *Go to the library and search for a new book to read instead of buying it first they may have it and it would save you a few dollars and a few trees.
    *Sharing and bartering with friends and neighbors. Share nice kiddies!

  • Candace L

    As a new mom….my tip is to breastfeed your baby and use cloth diapers. A breastfed baby is not reliable on formula, nor it's packaging. And it takes years for a disposable diaper to break down. Cloth diapers help save the planet, baby is less likely to to have diaper rash and will potty train much sooner.

  • Christine Candice

    *find out if your local solid waste company accepts food waste in yard bin (for composting), encourage friends to compost.
    *when eating out at a restaurant, ask if they have local meat and produce available. if not, request they have the option. cut back on meat all together, perhaps treat it as a luxury for a while
    *purchase food at small local markets, buy organic, grow your own food.
    *consider that most grains are GMOs so avoid buying any grains that are not organic

    and finally, please demand that residential pesticide use gets banned.

  • Daniel Green

    -Join a csa (+1 for encouraging a local food service provider to buy multiple shares)
    -Eat less: decrease environmental impact and you might lose weight too…
    -Make your own less healthy foods: fast food, potato chips, cookies, cakes- making them from scratch reduces carbon emissions from transport and superfluous packaging

  • Erin Eberhardt

    Pack your lunch and bring it to work with you – saves you money and the environment. You also know what's in your food.

    When you pack your lunch, use re-usable containers or wrappers.

    Make your own sandwich wrapper or snack bag using scrap fabric (like an old, clean sheet) and the foil/plastic bags that coffee comes in. Re-purposing stuff that would otherwise be trash not only keeps trash out of the landfills (so then we don't have to build new ones), but it also saves lots of money. If you're using homemade sandwich wrappers, then you don't have to buy plastic wrap or ziplock bags!

    Shop a the local farmers market and eat the produce that is in season. Bring your own bags, or even a basket. You might even meet the people who grow your food!

  • buygreen09

    Wonderful post. You have done a good job and your tips are pretty informative.

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