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Tips for a Greener Earth Week and Beyond

April 16, 2021 11:00 AM

Spring tulips and skyline in Pittsburgh

Happy Earth Week, Pennsylvania! Here are some tips for easy changes we all can make in our daily routines at home to help protect the environment for all Pennsylvanians.

  • Getting takeout to bring home? Ask the restaurant to skip the plastic silverware, individual condiment packets, and other single use items you won’t need. When ordering online, many websites now have such a button, but you can always type this in the box for ‘extra instructions.’ If you’re ordering over the phone, just let them know when you place the order.
  • Many people are drowning in cardboard boxes from online shopping. Think about combining orders with other family members and to avoid extra shipments on forgotten items. Not only is cardboard a resource, but you can save on transportation costs such as packaging and emissions on each individual delivery.
  • Headed to the grocery store? Grab your reusable shopping bag. If you keep it near your keys, it’s easier to remember.
Vegetables in reusable cotton white bag

  • If you haven’t already, it’s time to be thinking about this year’s garden. Perhaps you started seeds weeks ago or you’re just now frantically wondering what you’re going to plant and where. Consider using cardboard as a bottom liner to stop weeds. The cardboard will breakdown by the end of the season and add nutrients to the soil in the process. If you’re starting seeds, consider using paper egg cartons instead of plastic trays. The egg pods can be planted directly in the garden when the time comes. 
  • Speaking of gardening, consider composting if you aren’t already. Not ready for a full-blown operation? Start small with coffee grounds, citrus peels, or leaves. All of these are easy to incorporate into soils and divert from trash cans. Learn more about composting
Flower pot and shovel

  • Try implementing a ‘Good Night Plugs’ routine before bedtime. Take a quick lap around the house and unplug anything that doesn’t need to be plugged in overnight. While some things like programmable coffeemakers make sense to leave on, other appliances like blenders and toasters can remain unplugged unless in use.
  • If you start cleaning out the basement or garage, you’ll probably come across some old paint. Check with your county or municipality on how to safely dispose of:
    • Aerosol paints, oil-based paint, turpentine, paint remover, paint thinner, stains, varnishes, paint strippers and other heavy-duty chemical-paint supplies need to be taken to hazardous waste collection events. Check your municipality’s calendar of events for the next drop off.
    • Water-based paints can be left out to dry or harden or be mixed with an absorbent material such as kitty litter, sand, or saw dust. Once it’s hardened, it can be thrown in your regular trash can (not recycling!!) for disposal.
      See if there is a collection event near you
  • Cut down on landfill waste by re-thinking your spray bottles and dispensers and consider easy swaps. Buy a nice hand soap pump and refill it from a larger jug of soap, rather than buying a small bottle each time. Consider researching dissolvable, concentrated cleaning tablets that can be dropped in water and used in the same spray bottle each time. There are plenty of options around the house.
Cleaning the fridge with a towel.jpg

  • It’s time for a trash-ventory. For one day, think about everything you’re throwing away and how you could have perhaps diverted whatever you’re tossing from a destiny in a landfill. Could you have composted the food scraps? Could you have used a towel, sponge, or rag instead of paper towel? Could you use a silicone baking mat instead of aluminum foil or parchment paper? The more conscious we become about our waste, the more likely and able we are to make changes to reduce it.
  • Same challenge, but now on to the recycling bin. Throwing a lot of single-use yogurt cups into the recycling bin? Can you make the swap to a larger container instead? Plastic water bottles? Drink tap water and keep a glass on the counter for easy use. And remember, plastic films like shopping bags, cling wrap, and straws are not recyclable through traditional facilities. The material melts in the machines, jams up the plant and is dangerous for workers who have to climb in and unclog the gears.
  • Give your appliances some love. Cleaning refrigerator coils, removing lint from all the hiding spots a dryer has, replacing various air filters, and cleaning the food trap of the dishwasher will all help your appliances to run better, easier, and more efficiently. Ready to upgrade? Check with local retailers and utilities for buy-back and appliance recycling programs and consider purchasing ENERGY STAR® appliances that expend less energy. Some options even come with cost-saving rebates or other incentive programs.
Rain barrels on the side of a house

  • Consider a rain barrel if you don’t have one already. Collecting rainwater to use for plants and gardens will save money and energy rather than using ‘new’ water and can help reduce stormwater runoff. If you live in a particularly concrete-heavy area, reducing stormwater can have a major impact on street flooding and run off. 
  • For a decorative way to improve air quality in your home, consider adding some indoor plants. House plants have a lot of hidden benefits, from reducing stress to providing a subtle humble brag about having a green thumb. There are even several species that actually improve indoor air quality and can do so without the added energy costs.

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