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January 8, 2013 at 3:38 PMComments: 7 Faves: 2

3 New Year's Resolutions for the Lazy Environmentalist

By Laura Hogg More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the NatuREport Blog Series

Going green is kind of a weird thing. On one hand, with its buzzwords and celebrity endorsers, it’s very much in vogue. (Lest we forget, littering is officially a bigger faux pas than cheating on your taxes.) And yet, it also carries with it a kind of stigma. Go too green, and you’re labeled – if I may borrow a delightful phrase from a recent Marketplace report – a “crunchy granola hippie or a rich elitist snob.”


I hope (and believe) that we’ll eventually get to a cultural tipping point when eco-friendly products don’t even need to be labeled as such – when they become the new normal and effectively wipe out their unfair stigma. With the environment in its current state, we kind of have to get to that point sooner rather than later. But until then, many people feel the need to go green undercover. Ultimately, who actually wants the weirdo hippie label? 

Luckily for would-be environmentalists everywhere, there are plenty of ways you can be eco friendly without drawing attention to yourself – and while barely lifting a finger. Here are some super-easy green tips that have found their way onto my list of resolutions:

#1. Cut down on paper towels.

Paper towels are one modern amenity that just isn’t worth it. All in the name of convenience, Americans dump 3,000 tons of them to landfills – not in a year or even a month, but rather each and every day. Considering how light each individual towel is, that’s quite impressive (in a sad sort of way).

I don’t know about you, but I frequently feel guilty for all of the paper towels I use. After all, people somehow managed to clean their kitchens for centuries without Bounty around. Luckily, making the switch from paper is easy, and it’ll save you money to boot. Sponges, kitchen towels, and microfiber cloths can handle most of your cleaning needs. If you’re feeling especially green, you can easily upcycle old T-shirts into rags. Just toss them in the laundry when you wash your other towels, and voila – you’ve just saved your family $200 per year! 

If you’re out and about and the restroom has paper towels instead of an air dryer, here’s a tip: you probably don’t need more than one sheet to dry your hands. Shake off as much water as you can, and if your hands are still wet, one paper towel should do the trick. 

For more ideas, check out these tips from TLC!

#2. Stop buying bottled water.

Ahh, plastic. As I’ve written before, it’s bad. Like, really bad. And in the world of plastic, one of the worst offenders is also one of the most ubiquitous – and the most pointless. I’m talking, of course, about bottled water.

Despite the fact that it costs up to 10,000 times as much as tap water, Americans continue to buy 8.6 billion gallons of bottled water every year, usually because they think it’s safer than tap water. (Ironically, 40% of all bottled water comes from the tap anyway.) It’s also wildly inefficient – it takes three times the amount of water to make the bottle as it does to fill it. And as long as we’re talking about the bottle, consider this: 17 million barrels of oil are used in water bottle production yearly. Not exactly sustainable…and the bottles never, ever go away. It’s kind of freaky to think about, but as pointed out by documentary filmmaker Craig Leeson, "Every piece of plastic ever made since the fifties exists in some shape or form on the planet. We throw plastic into a bin, it's taken away from us and we never see it again — but it still comes back at us."

If that’s not enough to convince you to cut down on plastic, consider this: plastic is capable of creating never-dissolving invisible plastic continents and turning milk rings into turtle corsets.

So buy yourself a nice reusable water bottle – they’re cheap and will last you a long, long time. If for no other reason, at least do it for the turtles.

#3. Keep a cache of reusable bags in your car.

Let’s have a show of hands: who actually uses their glove compartment for gloves? 

…that’s what I thought. So why not put it to use?

I always have the best of intentions when I buy reusable shopping bags, but my problem is, I bring them into the house and then leave them there. So when I’m actually out and about, they don’t do me any good. The simple solution and my plan for the New Year: buy a lot of reusable bags, and keep them where they’re easily accessible!

Making this switch is one of the easiest ways you can “green” your life. Like aluminum water bottles, reusable shopping bags can last you a long time – much longer than the standard flimsy plastic bags you tend to get in grocery stores. An estimated 300 million plastic bags end up in the Atlantic Ocean each year (that’s one bag for every single person in the United States), contributing to countless animal deaths and disfigurements. Recycling them is a noble idea, but unfortunately, plastic bag recycling isn’t all that efficient. Hardly any recycling plants even bother to do it at all. Buying sturdy reusable bags is a cheap, easy way to cut down on your carbon footprint.

These days, many stores offer their own branded reusable bags, but if you’d rather have something a little more chic, there are plenty of options. For those handy with a sewing machine, you can even make your own wallet-sized fold-up shopping bag from a pattern. For the needle-and-thread-challenged (like myself), Baggu offers a whole range of really stylish bags that you can fold up to easily slip inside even a small purse.

What green resolutions have you made for the New Year? Share in the comments!


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  • I personally prefer glass water bottles to metal ones. The metal ones can get funky more easily than the glass ones from my experience. Also I wish cashiers would make the reusable bag option easier on customers. If you aren't aware of reusable bags or forgot yours, they're almost never conveniently located near the checkouts. Instead it's like they're hidden halfway across the store, or *past* the checkout area.

  • Great read. I'm going to have to do my part to help. I get teh plastic bags from the store because I use them as trash bags in my house instead of buying the huge Glad ones. I know its not a good thing, but I'm too forgetful for reusable bags.

    I love how you have to new (in comparison) poison symbol in there. It's funny how they had to change that because of a Disney movie.

  • I use my plastic grocery bags for disposing of the kitties "you know what" out of the litter box, so I do feel I am recycling, but now concerned that they don't break down easily in the landfills.

    I use plexi-glass type bottle for my water and LOVE IT!!!

    I always cut (with a pair of scissors) any milk rings or other rings (like from cream or my almond milk) prior to putting them in the recycle bin.

    Although the paper towel statistic are unbelievable, I have yet to make the switch!!! UGH! This is the area I need to work on.

    Great blog Laura!

  • Another great blog from Miss Laura. :)

    At our house, socks that get a hole are retired to the position of rags.(After being washed of course!) Men's socks are particularly absorbent and holey ones are abundant. :)

    @Dave - I agree with stores having reusable bags too far from the checkout.
    "Did you have your own bags?" should be part of greeting every person. And if they say no, they'd be smart to offer some for a little extra money. They are so much better and easier to handle than plastic or paper bags, I'll bet a lot of people would be willing!

  • Excellent blog, Laura. "Do it for the turtles" is good enough for me. Love my metal water bottle, and it's so much cheaper to take my own water places. Tried the one paper towel thing at work today... we'll see how that goes, but we use cloth rags at home and paper towels for only the most disgusting things (like cat puke).

    A couple of things with the plastic bags: I have some reusable bags, but frequently forget them. Maybe the glove box will work. Our local supermarket gives you cash back for each bag you bring of your own to use... like 5 cents. So, if I bring 20 bags (shopping for 6), they give me $1.00 cash, even if it's their own plastic bags that I got last time. Pretty cool to use the bag a few times and make 25 cents off of it before putting it in the recycle bin (at WalMart?!).

  • Thanks, everyone! :)

    Dave/Erin: I absolutely agree that stores should make it easier on people who want to use their own bags. Too often, while I'm busy at the self-checkout, grocery store workers put my groceries in plastic bags. I know they're trying to be helpful, but they really should ask first if I have reusable bags - because I usually do!

    Sprouty, I actually heard a really interesting tip re: things that are too disgusting for reusable cloths: use dryer lint! I haven't tried it myself, and it is kind of funny sounding, but really - it's also kind of ingenious...

  • Right! so I do the reusable grocery bag thing, as a matter of fact about 5 years ago my sisters neighbor was sewing (from cloth) brown reusable grocery bags so I purchased two of them. I have them in the back seat of my car so I won't forget to use them. Well even that is not a reminder enough for me - oh once in a while I will remember but most of the time I get out of the car, walk into the store and totally forget to bring my bags in with me - then I'm to lazy to walk back to the car to get them!

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