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Top 12 tips for going green

Updated on September 25, 2014
ecogranny profile image

An environmental enthusiast and activist her entire adult life, Kathryn shares her secrets to reducing waste and living greener.

San Francisco's Green Grease Truck collects tons of used cooking oil to be made into biofuel for our buses, saving money and helping America become energy independent
San Francisco's Green Grease Truck collects tons of used cooking oil to be made into biofuel for our buses, saving money and helping America become energy independent | Source

An even dozen easy tips to help us all live greener and save the Earth for our grandchildren

Looking for ways to live more sustainably? Here are twelve simple things you can do right now.

Sure, they're just little drops in a great big bucket, but think about this: Either way, you're dripping into one bucket or the other.

When my grandchildren are raising their own children twenty years from now, I want them to be able to say with pride that their grannie helped make sure they got to live in a world as pretty--or prettier--than ours is today. Wouldn't you like to say the same?

These tips are easy enough to implement. As more and more of us add them to our routine, we'll make a bigger and bigger impact.

It's fun walking down the street and spying a refillable water bottle peeking out of someone's bag. Or to count how many people are holding refillable mugs in line at the coffee bar. We smile at one another, compare mugs, get to chatting and before you know it, we're giggling and having a great time. Join the party!

Green Tip #1 for living a greener life and protecting the planet - Ditch the bottled water

Quite often the water we buy in bottles is the same water we would drink from the tap. Or, worse, it's from a tap thousands of miles away and had to be shipped to us.

Either way, we can get fresher, frequently safer water from our own taps. I carry a handsome Kleen Kanteen everywhere I go. You can too.

Save money. Save the planet. The following collection gives you an idea of the versatility and variety of reusable, easy-clean stainless steel bottles available for all your family's needs.

Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Stainless Steel Water Bottle (64-Ounce)
Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Stainless Steel Water Bottle (64-Ounce)

Fill this 2 quart water bottle with ice and your favorite beverage and you're good to go for a family outing.


For the toddlers in your life

I have four grandkids, one of whom is still a toddler. Ever since the first one came along, we've had a couple of these in our house for those times we need a sippy cup.

This easy-hold 1-1/2 cup bottle comes with an adapter cap for the children in your life. No spills!

Easy to clean, with the wide mouth, and has a BPA-free insert that keeps the juice, milk or water coming out slow enough for the little ones. When they get older, leave it out.

Stainless steel, BPA-free baby bottles

To avoid plastic or glass baby bottles, for those times Mom isn't nearby, these stainless steel bottles have about as little plastic as you can get..

No BPA or pthalates in this silicone nipple, and no worries if the baby tosses the bottle while you're out and about. The stainless steel won't break.

Once again, easy clean. Stainless is as odorless and tasteless as glass, so this is a win-win however you look at it.

A different color for every member of the family

Save with a family pack in four colors. Everyone has their own bottle.With a couple of these family packs, Mom and Dad--or Mom and Mom, or Dad and Dad, however it goes in your family--get to pick their favorite color. So do the kids.

Same 18/8 food-grade stainless steel, but a different brand, these bottles have an all-steel lid, with the exception of the rubber gasket that makes them leak-proof.

Do you carry a reusable water bottle when you leave home?

How often do you carry a reusable water bottle with you?

See results

Green Tip #2: BYOB--Bring your own bag

Carry your own bag to the grocery store. Old and basic as this tip is, it's one of the easiest to adopt. If you're just starting out on the green trail, get in the habit of grabbing a reusable bag every time you go out the door.

Help eliminate plastic bag pollution in our trees, on our sidewalks and, most importantly, in our oceans, where millions of innocent wildlife strangle and choke to death every year on plastic bags and other discarded plastic bits, like toothbrushes, combs, and water bottles.


Pop one of these little gems on your key chain

You'll never be without a reusable bag again if you attach one of these to your key chain.

Too big for your keys? Tuck it in your handbag or attach it to your belt loop. It's easy enough to carry, one way or another.

There's a full-sized sturdy shopping bag inside each one of these tiny stuff sacks, which is part of the bag, so you'll never lose it.

Unfurl the bag at the market. Holds as much as a typical grocery sack. The easy-carry handles are wide enough to be comfortable on the hands, unlike plastic grocery-store bags.

When you're home, unload the groceries and stuff the bag back in its attached pocket. Takes ten or twenty seconds, even for my arthritic hands.

Use unbleached cotton muslin bags for most of your produce

Organic cotton muslin produce bags are an easy way to replace those plastic film bags when shopping for produce. Clean and simple.

Who needs to bring home brand new one-use plastic produce bags after every shopping trip? Keep a few on hand for your celery and greens that do better in plastic. Just wash and reuse them.

For everything else, carry reusable, washable unbleached muslin bags in an assortment of sizes. They get your bulk goods and your produce home in fine shape.

A heavy-duty canvas bag is handy for bigger shopping trips

This is one of my favorites.

Big, roomy, and made of recycled cotton, eliminating manufacturing waste, this bag is sturdy enough, with its flat bottom, for large squashes, milk bottles and the like.

What is your opinion about resuable grocery bags?

How easy--or difficult--is it for you to carry reusable grocery bags?

See results

Live simply that others may simply live.

— Mohandas K. Gandhi

Green Tip #3: Refill your reusable mug at the coffee shop--Or fill it at home and save $$$

According to the Clean Air Council, "Every year, Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times." What's more, those of us who work in an office discard about 500 one-use coffee cups a year.

Most coffee shops offer a small discount when you bring your own mug. At Starbucks, it's 10 cents every time you buy coffee. That's $50 a year for the average office worker. For me while I was working downtown, at 3 vente's a day, that added up to $78 a year! What would you do with an extra $50-$75?

Bring your own mug!

Highwave Original Joemo Tea Brew Insulated Mug
Highwave Original Joemo Tea Brew Insulated Mug

This is my personal favorite, now that I've switched to tea, because it comes with its own little tea-brewing basket that fits right inside. Also comes with a handy carrying case.


How excited do you feel when you see someone carrying a reusable coffee mug?

When I see another person standing in line with a reusable mug at the coffee shop,

See results

Green Tip #4: Go meatless on Monday

Sir Paul McCartney is a champion of Meat Free Mondays, and his song tells how choosing to go veggie just one day a week can help to green the planet and improve quality of life for all of us. Enjoy the slide show, or listen to the tune while you read the rest of this page.

Visit Meatless Mondays for more info and lots of tasty recipes.

The Plant-Powered Diet - by Sharon Palmer

Just out, and one of the best books available on choosing a diet high in protein-rich, nutrient-rich, delicious plant-based foods.

The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Optimal Health, Beginning Today
The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Optimal Health, Beginning Today

Includes lots of savory and sweet recipes and a two-week, all vegetarian meal plan, designed by a dietician. One of the things I love about this book is how Palmer gives little tidbits about the ways the ingredients in her recipes help maintain health.


Share your thoughts--Meat or veg?

Where do you fall on the omnivore/vegetarian/vegan continuum?

See results
1/2 pound food waste from my fridge
1/2 pound food waste from my fridge | Source

Green Tip #5: Eat the food you buy while it's fresh

Reduce food waste

We're getting better, since we installed the peel and stick dry erase board below, but I still had to discard these once gorgeous organic lettuces and veggies today, along with leftover French toast. I still have a ways to go on this one.

Thankfully, San Francisco collects food waste and composts it in their industrial-sized composting facility. These scraps will make black gold for someone's garden. Still, I'd rather have eaten this food before it started to slime.

Check your refrigerator often. Eat creatively.

Tracking your perishables in and out - Helps reduce food waste

Peel and stick dry erase board on our fridge
Peel and stick dry erase board on our fridge | Source

This handy removable board on our refrigerator, with its companion marker, serves three purposes.

  1. Tracks dates we added fresh veggies, dairy products and leftovers, so we always know what needs to be used before it's time is up
  2. Keeps tabs on frozen foods that might get buried, forgotten and freezer burned
  3. Provides a convenient place to jot down grocery items for our next shopping trip

The marker, on the right above the board, is attached with removable peel-and-stick Velcro, so we never have to hunt for it. The butterfly magnet is our granddaughter's creation. We enjoy seeing it there as much as she does.

How much money do you expect you could save or do save tracking your groceries in and out each week?

Can you or do you save money tracking your perishables?

See results

This removable dry erase board is similar to ours

With white on white, you can hardly see the image, but this peel-and-stick dry-erase board is very similar to mine.

It comes with a marker that attaches with Velcro and an eraser, so you never have to look for the pen.

Green Tip #6: Keep a veggie stock freezer bowl

Freezer bowl full of peelings, bits and pieces of veggies, ready to make delicious vegetable soup stock
Freezer bowl full of peelings, bits and pieces of veggies, ready to make delicious vegetable soup stock | Source

Veggies getting old? Chunk 'em and toss 'em in a freezer bowl! Add all the peels, butt ends, tough kale stems--any edible but not so pretty parts to your freezer bowl. When it's full, make vegetable stock for delicious, nutritious soups and stews.

Learn how to make Easy Veggie Soup Stock From Scratch using this money-saving, food-saving method.

GreenTip #7: Use your leftovers and produce before they have to go to the landfill

Cabbage and black bean soup made entirely from leftovers in our fridge--yet tastes like a brand new dish because it is
Cabbage and black bean soup made entirely from leftovers in our fridge--yet tastes like a brand new dish because it is | Source

It's easier to use that food than you might think

It's true for any family these days, but especially if you buy organic: Saving money on the grocery bill counts. Saving perfectly good produce and leftover dishes from the landfill is just as important.

Make every ounce of those expensive vegetables count, and keep that food out of the landfill. Here's how: Stretch Your Organic Food Budget with Leftovers So Good They Taste Like First Time.

America's Wasteland - by Jonathon Bloom

According to Jonathon Bloom, we in the United States throw away nearly half the food we buy. But that's not all. We pay for that food loss in more ways than cash from our pocketbooks. We pay for it in lost energy, increasing our dependence on foreign oil, or worse today, fracking. Take a look.

You and I have a choice. We can be drops in the food waste bucket, or we can be drops in the food well-eaten bucket, saving energy, helping to make the United States--or wherever we live--less dependent on foreign oil, conserving our precious water and feeding our hungry children.

In America's Wasteland, Bloom gives statistics that will knock your socks off, but he doesn't stop there. He also gives us practical tips on how to make sure we're dropping our food into the right bucket.

Green Tip #8: Make your own brown sugar to order - Avoid plastic bags and wasted rock-hard brown sugar

Homemade brown sugar
Homemade brown sugar | Source

Refined, white granulated sugar is raw sugar that has had the molasses removed. Brown sugar is granulated white sugar with molasses added back. Why bring one more one-use plastic bag into the house when you can make your own in just a couple of minutes every time you need it.

Eliminate those hard rocks of unused brown sugar forever. Make your own in minutes, just in time. Here's how.

If your recipe calls for 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, measure 1/2 cup evaporated cane sugar and stir in a teaspoon or so organic unsulphered molasses, depending how dark you need your brown sugar.

A common table fork makes the mixing go fast. That's all there is to it!

Remember this simple rule of thumb: One cup granulated sugar, mixed with molasses, makes one cup packed brown sugar.

Green Tip #9: Make your own powdered sugar

Easy-to-make homemade powdered sugar
Easy-to-make homemade powdered sugar | Source
Bormioli Rocco Fido Canning Jar, Set of 3 (17.5 oz,33.75 oz,50.75 oz.)
Bormioli Rocco Fido Canning Jar, Set of 3 (17.5 oz,33.75 oz,50.75 oz.)

Homemade powdered sugar keeps beautifully in tight-sealing, easy-release Fido jars.


Just as you can make your own brown sugar, you can make your own powdered or icing sugar.

This is another easy way to reduce the number of one-use plastic bags you bring into your home, and it saves on the grocery budget too. It's so simple!

It's best to make this in small batches of 1-2 cups. A cup of organic, evaporated cane sugar makes almost exactly a cup of powdered sugar. Put a cup of sugar in your blender, make sure the lid and top pour cover are on tight, then power the blender on high until you have a fine powder. It usually takes about five minutes in my small blender.

Not only will you save one-use plastic bags, but your powdered sugar will be pure sugar, unlike the stuff you buy in the stores, which apparently has additives of one kind and another. A popular brand, C&H, for example, contains 3 percent corn starch, according to their product page. Who knew?

I store my homemade powdered sugar in Fido jars--my favorite bulk storage solution--and have never had a problem with it clumping or pebbling. I found one container at the back of the pantry that I had labeled over a year before, and it made a lovely, smooth icing with no trouble at all.

Green Tip #10: Kick your paper towel habit!

No more paper towels in our house! It was easier than we thought it would be.
No more paper towels in our house! It was easier than we thought it would be. | Source

Save money, save the planet, and keep plastic out of our trees, waterways and oceans.

My family and I didn't think we could do this. Boy were we wrong! It turned out to be far easier than we thought. Learn how easy it is to kick your paper towel habit once and for all.

By the time you reach the end of that page, you will have a doable plan for easing into what may, at this moment, seem like an impossible task. Give it a look.

GreenTip #11: Use bread heels no one wants to eat to make savory, gourmet croutons

Cubed whole wheat bread drying on cutting board
Cubed whole wheat bread drying on cutting board | Source

Cube bread heels and let dry on cutting board for an hour or two. Freeze in airtight container until ready to use.

For crunchy croutons in salad, thaw till break apart without crumbling. Toss with your favorite spices and toast in a hot, dry, cast iron skillet for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, till lightly caramelized.

For a crunchy-tender casserole topping, thaw as above. Toss with spices, salt and pepper to complement the casserole flavors. Lay single layer over top of casserole and bake as usual. Excellent with shredded cheese sprinkled over the top.

Green Tip #12: Replace wasteful incandescent bulbs with long-lasting energy-saving bulbs

LED bulbs are even safer than fluorescent bulbs on the market today, and they give lovely light, like daylight.

The manufacturer guarantees this bulb for 5 years, and says it should give light four hours a day for 25 years! Low energy, it consumes only 7 watts but provides the illumination equivalent of 60 watts.

Thank you

Thank you for visiting this page. I'd love to hear from you. Which of these tips are you already using and which, if any, are brand new to you? Got a favorite of your own you didn't find here? I encourage you to share it so the rest of us can give it a try.

© 2009 Kathryn Grace

What is your favorite tip for living a little greener every day?

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    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      So true! Thank you for adding that important tip, @CherylsArt. Now it's a Baker's Dozen.

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 

      4 years ago from West Virginia

      I grow some of our own fresh veggies, and that helps and is tasty too.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      @rob-hemphill: I am a huge fan of solar power, both large and small, and feel we could save kajillions of megawatts as well as reduce the world's carbon footprint if our governments subsidized solar power with as much money as they currently subsidize fossil fuels.

      I'm curious if you know of any bacterial or leaching studies on the coiled hose method for heating cooking water. I know for rustic showers, many campers and some who live off the grid hang water bags in the sun so they can have a nice hot shower at the end of the day.

      Thank you for participating and for your suggestions. I'm pleased to receive them and would love to hear more.

    • rob-hemphill profile image

      Rob Hemphill 

      5 years ago from Ireland

      Great information. What about solar power in any form, even just a long coiled up black hose pipe for hot water - we did this in Africa 50 years ago!

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      @Paula7928: Thank you, Paula. I'd love to hear some of your favorite "green" tips.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens! Lots of great advice!

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      @JoshK47: You're welcome, Josh. Nice to see you in the neighborhood, so to speak!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What excellent advice! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      7 years ago from Colorado

      I think about you every time I don't use a paper towel, or I fill my reusable bottle with water, or I choose to build with bamboo (or another green construction material), or I save my food scraps for delicious homemade vegetable soup, or I reduce waste in any way. You have made me much more mindful about the choices I make every day. Thank you!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Simple, fun, usable tips. Good lens!

      Li Li

    • Ninche profile image


      7 years ago

      This is great topic. Simple and easy tips that can make a difference. I'm reusing and recycling us much as I can. Love your lens!

    • Shoputopian profile image


      7 years ago from Lower Mainland of BC

      What a great topic I believe everyone should go green, I use no plastic bags when I shop and if I forget to take one of my reusable cotton bags I go without a bag, here most stores have started charging 5 cents for their plastic bags so people will start using reusable bags...

    • cuteordeath profile image


      7 years ago

      I use a reusable water bottle (SF tap water is yummy) and I walk or take the bus everywhere (I've never owned or even driven a car.)

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image


      10 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Great Tips. My hubby bought a stainless steel water bottle. Every bit helps! :)

    • greenerme profile image


      10 years ago

      Great tips! Another green tip: Cut down on your purchases of ziploc/reusable containers by reusing plastic butter containers. Lensrolled to my 30 easy green tips lens.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Great idea - lensrolled to my green lenses.

    • Kiwisoutback profile image


      10 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great work! Just posted my response. I haven't created a Twitterstrm lens just yet, I'm trying to think of a topic right now...

    • kellywissink lm profile image

      kellywissink lm 

      10 years ago

      Great Lens!

      Welcome to the group Twitterville.


    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      10 years ago from San Francisco

      [in reply to awelldressedbullet] Thanks, Kathy! Happy to belong. I've already visited and posted on a couple of storms. Looking forward to doing more.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Welcome to The Twitter Storm Group - Kathy


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