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Going green has never been easier

Ten ways to embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle.

Want to live a greener lifestyle? Recycling is a great start, but if you want to do more for the environment, these small changes can make a big difference.

1. Clean green. You don’t need industrial-strength chemicals to tackle dirt and germs. All-natural cleaning products are widely available, or you can easily make your own using everyday items from your pantry. Clean up naturally with old-school staples like vinegar, baking soda and essential oils. They’re easy to use, they smell great and you’ll be amazed at how effective they can be!

2. Wash it, don’t toss it. The next time you plan a backyard barbecue, rethink using plastic tablecloths, foam cups and paper plates. You can set a green standard by avoiding disposables and borrowing dishes and silverware from friends if needed. Or, if you’ve got the budget for it, rent them from a catering company.

3. Power down. Reduce energy consumption by turning off TVs, computer monitors, printers and other electronics when you’re not using them. Even in standby mode, they still draw energy. One option is to attach everything to a power bar; then you only have one switch to turn off. Another way to save energy in your home is to always turn off the lights when you leave a room.

4. Keep your cool – naturally. Instead of running an air conditioner all day and night during hot summer months, try alternative stay-cool strategies. Open the windows at night to let in the breeze, then close them in the morning and draw the curtains to keep the sun out and the cool air in. Use the barbecue instead of the oven to avoid heating the house, or make cold meals like salads or sandwiches. You could also invest in ceiling fans – spinning them counter-clockwise in the summer to draw warm air upwards (and clockwise in winter to blow warm air down).

5. Learn to sew. A whopping 85 per cent of Canadians’ discarded clothes end up in landfills, making the clothing industry one of the world’s biggest polluters. Instead of throwing out unwanted garments, you could donate or sell them. Or take it a step further – a simple needle and thread can give an old sweater a new look or prolong the life of your socks.

6. Choose items with less packaging. An easy way to reduce waste is to buy products with little or no packaging. If what you purchase does come wrapped in paper or plastic, try to stick to packaging that can be recycled (hint: most plastics have a number from 1 to 7 – since not all plastics can be recycled at every plant, check with your municipality on which plastics to avoid). And don’t forget to bring reusable bags when you go shopping.

7. Recycle electronics, batteries and light bulbs. Don’t throw these items in the trash! Batteries, bulbs, phones, computers, printers and TVs can all be recycled to help save energy and keep harmful materials out of landfills. Many large retailers offer drop-off recycling programs, or check with your local municipality to see what materials it accepts.

8. Garden naturally. Instead of using chemicals in your garden or on your lawn, try time-honoured techniques like companion planting. For example, plant basil beside tomatoes. Not only does basil discourage aphids, whiteflies and mosquitoes, it also attracts pollinating bees and improves the flavour of your tomatoes. As for your lawn, control weeds by setting the height of your mower blade to about three inches – weeds don’t grow as well in the shade of taller grass.

9. Drive greener. With the skyrocketing price of gas, you’ll be glad to know there are ways to reduce the amount of fuel your car uses. Small things like turning off the engine when you’re parked, using cruise control during highway driving, sticking to the speed limit, and avoiding sudden stopping and starting can all help reduce gas consumption. It’s always a good idea to ensure your vehicle is properly maintained with regular engine tune-ups and tire pressure checks. The environment and your wallet will both appreciate these efforts.

10. Walk, cycle or share the ride. Moving under your own steam not only lowers your carbon footprint but is also a great way to stay fit and healthy. When possible, consider transit instead of taking the car, organize a carpool or work from home.

By adopting some or all of these strategies, you can lead a greener, healthier life and have a positive effect on the environment. Who wouldn’t feel good about that?


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