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When “Earth Day” Should (And Can) Be “Earth Life” – 23 Easy Tips To Make Every Day A Little Greener

So, pals, we’re starting to wrap up Earth Month…but we wanted to keep this momentum going for the rest of the year (and our whole lives), too. The best part: we’re not alone in that quest! Later this week, Em will be dropping an IGTV that we shot in partnership with the awesome folks at Imperfect Foods and Mrs. Meyers Clean Day, where she’ll be sharing some easy tips or swaps you can make in your life to get you living a little greener every day.

But y’all, there were SO MANY GOOD TIP IDEAS – and so many things that I didn’t know that didn’t make it into the video – so I wanted to pull everything that I learned from these two brands over the past few weeks into one non-sponsored master list so we can all benefit from their knowledge in perpetuity. There are so many easy-breezy changes that you can make right now that can help make the world a little bit cleaner and less wasteful! OKAY, ENOUGH YAPPING FROM ME. Let’s learn!!!

In The Kitchen

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: about those integrated appliances in the mountain house kitchen

Socially Distance Your Onions & Potatoes: Let’s start with an easy one, yeah? Keep these guys in separate cool, dark places to reduce your food waste.

Stand Up for Broccoli Stems: You can blend these into hummus OR thinly slice them and stir-fry them. My favorite hack, though: TURN THEM INTO PICKLES. Pro tip from a pickle/vinegar/fermented food-addict: use this NYT recipe and then get that extra fiber in your diet, pal!

Upcycle Your Coffee Grounds: Y’all, coffee grounds are one of the most commonly thrown-out food items in America!! Now that you’re in the know, you can turn your grounds into a DIY body scrub (#luxury – this 3 ingredient one looks lovely), food for your houseplants, a natural fridge deodorizer, or a helpful scrub to get burnt-on gunk off your pots and pans.

Switch to Biodegradable Trash Bags: Traditional bags can take centuries to decompose, which is obviously bad. And we’re super lucky now, because this is a totally easy switch you can make today that can make a huge difference! After doing some testing to find my new go-to brand, I would definitely recommend these kitchen-sized trash bags, which are just as strong and functional as my standard black plastic trash bags.

Em Soup Lores 19
photo by veronica crawford

Turn Veggie Scraps into Stock: Oh hey, soup lovers. Try adding leek greens, scallion roots, fennel tops, and herb and mushroom stems to your vegetable stock. Start practicing now so you’ll be ready for Souptember, Crocktober, Novembroth, etc. You know, all the cool and normal holidays we celebrate here at EHD.

Store Herbs Like Flowers: Extend the life of herbs like parsley, mint, and cilantro by keeping them in a jar of water in the fridge. (And check out this full post on preventing all kinds of food waste if you want to get really in the weeds!)

But Give Basil a Vacation From the Fridge: Basil is a special exception because it does not like cold temperatures! To keep it fresher for longer, keep this one in a jar of water on your counter. (Bonus: it smells delightful.)

Get Scrappy with Herbs: But if any of your herbs are in danger of going to waste, try poaching them in oil to make an infused oil. You can also create an herb butter (very fancy) by letting butter soften before mixing with herbs. Here’s a great recipe for rosemary olive oil and here’s some herb butter ideas!

Eat More Plants: So uh, as it turns out, what we eat has a huge impact on our environmental footprint. Plant-focused meals take way less water/land/fuel to produce than animal-heavy ones, so if you’re able, try adding one plant-forward meal a week. (FWIW, Jess switched to a plant-based diet last year and Imperfect Foods delivers a ton of plant-based meats, cheeses, milks, etc. in addition to their veggies which has made her switch easier!)

Imperfect Foods Lores 10
photo by veronica crawford | from: the five cooking mistakes i’ve been making (as told to me by a chef)

Use Lemons to Get Rid of Smelly Hands: Okay, we’re getting a little niche here, but if you’ve squeezed out all the juice, you can use a lemon peel to get rid of any fragrant smells (think onions or garlic) that linger on your hands. Hit ’em with the peels, rinse them off, and you’ll be good as new.

Give New Life to Old Condiments: Don’t discard your almost-empty end condiments! Use leftover jarred mustard to whip up a vinaigrette or marinade some pork or chicken in your leftover pickle juice. (TBH I drink straight pickle juice after workouts because I don’t love bananas and it’s full of potassium and sodium, which helps me feel less sore!) In any case, get creative with those leftovers!!  

Rethink Expiration Dates: This is your official sign from the universe to trust your eyes and nose. Confusion around expiration dates causes millions of pounds of waste every year. These dates are just an estimate of peak quality, and they don’t indicate when a food will become unsafe.⁠ You really can tell! You got this!

Teach Kids About Food Waste: Start them young, folks. This is the world’s cutest downloadable coloring book for a kid-friendly introduction to preventing food waste. (Also, fun for adults who find something really soothing about coloring in sweet illustrations of food. You know. Like me.)

Give Root Veggies a Haircut: You can keep your vegetables fresher for longer by removing the tops from beets, carrots, and radishes! (Since the tops are a water suck, they’ll make your veggies go bad faster.) But wait, there’s more: you can also use the beet tops how you’d use chard AND you can swap in carrot tops for parsley in recipes to mix things up. WHO KNEW?

Around the House

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: working with what you’ve got – an $8k budget kitchen makeover with a lot of vintage charm

Upcycle Your Candle Tins: Once you’ve enjoyed your candles, empty the tins – there’s a great tutorial here – and turn them into planters, make-up brush storage, or a coin catch-all so you can empty out your pockets at the end of the day. (I love this soy lavender tin candle that’s only $4.49 and perfect for winding down before bed!)

Air Dry Your Clothes: I can hear the EHD heavens opening up and angels singing as I type this. Like, yeah, sure, you can save money and energy but I recently learned that the sun’s UV rays can help deodorize your clothing (!!!). So if you’re still, uh, let’s say…wearing the same sweatpants 5 days a week (definitely not a personal anecdote), maybe give them a rinse and then let those bad boys breathe outside for a second?

Use Lavender to Mothproof Clothing: No. more. mothballs!!! Try hanging dried lavender in your closet or drop some in your sweater drawer – it will perfume your clothing (so you won’t smell like a haunted house) AND it can repel moths without pesticides. WIN/WIN. (I actually scooped this scent sachet from Target after learning this! When I flew back to LA after 4 months on the east coast, I ended up discovering that some moths had moved into one of my closets. This tip was, in fact, a total lifesaver.)

Wash Your Clothes with Cold Water: Another hot topic on the site lately – washing machines. Here’s something WILD I just learned: 90% of the energy used by your washing machine actually goes to heating the water! Even switching a few loads a month to cold water can save a bunch of energy (and it’s nice for your clothes, too).

Outside the Home

Emily Henderson Flea Market To Haggle Or Not 5
from how to haggle (or not) at the flea market like emily henderson

Shop Secondhand: OH BABY, MY FAVORITE. We’re huge lovers of all things vintage here at EHD – if you’re confused on how to get started, I wrote a pretty comprehensive guide on how to find the best used furniture online near you!

Mulch Smarter to Prevent Weeds: To prevent weeds from overtaking your vegetable beds, you can mulch them with grass clippings or rhubarb leaves! It’s a super easy way to get extra life out of the things you already have while protecting your beloved lil’ veggie patch.

Turn Eggshells Into Planters: Give your eggshells a second life as a nursery. Fill them with potting soil and a veggie seed before placing them somewhere warm to sprout. Transplant them into a bed once they’re big enough. Plus, this is a super fun activity for the little ones 🙂

Start Composting: Ah, yes, the en vogue topic on the site right now. There are so many helpful composting tips in the comments on Em’s recent kitchen planning post! But if you want to get join in the composting fun, you can start a pile in your backyard, get a worm composting kit, grab a countertop composter (this one is pricy but awesome because it has no smell!), or find a curbside service near you. Fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds, and eggshells are great candidates for home compost!

It’s Not Just Earth Day: Sure, it’s great to really celebrate the earth once a year, but try to keep sustainability at the front of your mind every day. An easy way to help is by supporting your favorite local charity working to make our planet better and stronger. We were recently introduced to Edible Schoolyard through our upcoming partnership, which provides hands-on cooking and gardening education for kids (amazing!!), but we’d love to hear about your favorites, too!

Now, if you’ve learned something and have a second to spare, you can make an even BIGGER difference. Our old pals at Imperfect Foods & new pals at Mrs. Meyers Clean Day already donated $10,000 to Edible Schoolyard, but they’ll give an extra $1 for every post that includes one of these tips…so if you have any time today or tomorrow, grab your phone, shoot a quick photo, and tag @imperfectfoods and @mrsmeyerscleanday to raise funds a great cause. I can’t wait to share what Em created and THANKS to these brands for letting me hijack all their smart, thoughtful work so I could turn it into a post for my internet pals. ANY OTHER EASY TIPS? Let’s chat!

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Veronica Crawford | From: The Five Cooking Mistakes I’ve Been Making (As Told To Me By A Chef)

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Kj
14 days ago

This is great. Hope it becomes a regularly updated list. Two new things I learned recently:

  1. “Never buy viscose rugs. Sold as “luxury” products to uneducated consumers. Viscose fibers are some of the worst performing in the world & viscose rugs have a very short lifespan as they stain, fade and damage easily. Even a water spill can permanently damage viscose carpet. Viscose is known as rayon, art silk, artificial silk, bamboo silk, banana silk. It is plant material that has been turned to pulp, with many toxic chemical baths & spun into yarn in a production cycle that is one of the most toxic production processes in our history (banned in the US).” From Greg Turcotte, Heirlook Rug Cleaning
  2. Check your toilet paper. Most “famous” tp companies are still cutting down virgin forests to make a single use product: soft tp. More info here: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/shelley-vinyard/issue-tissue-20
Kimberly
14 days ago
Reply to  Kj

Toilet paper also takes a RIDICULOUS amount of water to produce (I recently read 30 gallons per roll!). You can buy a quality bidet for under $50 and install it on your existing toilet to save the earth (and save your kids’ underwear from poop stains).

Erin
14 days ago

YESYESYES to all this! So many little things we can do daily that make a big difference. And that is just the happiest little laundry room ever!

14 days ago

I love all the ideas here! One word of caution about using coffee grounds as scrubs and other uses that eventually send those grounds down the drain. Those little particles can collect and contribute to a nasty clog. In general the fewer solids that go down the drain the better since they can all get stinky and clog-y and when they finally hit the water treatment facilities they require more energy and water to treat — better to scrape as much as we can into the… you guessed it, compost! Gotta figure out how to make composting work in dense, urban environments though…
Another “green tip” is to be very careful with your online purchases. I was surprised (but not really once I thought about it) to read about the percentage of perfectly good, and useful returned goods that wind up in landfills. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/marketplace-amazon-returns-1.5753714 Yikes!

Susan
14 days ago
Reply to  Ellen

I just dump my coffee grounds all around the yard in my garden beds during the growing season, and out on the compost pile in the winter. Worms love coffee grounds

Kc
14 days ago

Great post! I would add to join a CSA if there is one in your area. All the money goes to a local farm and there is little to no packaging involved. Consequently, we are eating a ton more veggies and composting more.

StephanieZ
14 days ago
Reply to  Kc

Yes! This right here. CSA’s or buy direct from your local farmers at your local farmers market. Food has traveled far less using far less energy plus those vegetables you buy have been picked in the last day or 2 leading to vegetables that will last in the fridge much longer. Learn to buy vegetables and fruits that are in season. Yes, kale and cabbage gets old after a winter of dark greens, but summer veggies show up and make it that much more exciton 🙂

Rusty
14 days ago
Reply to  StephanieZ

Yes. Eating things grown ,ocally, without food miles, and seasonal produce is the way to go. 🙂

Eliot
14 days ago
Reply to  Kc

Also, depending on where you live, your farmer’s market or CSA might take your scraps for composting. Composting is intimidating in a way (complicated, kind of gross, really challenging without outdoor space), but just saving your scraps in a sealed container and leaving them with an expert is pretty easy and it feels wonderful!

L
14 days ago

Love this post and all the tips. It’s so good to see the promotion of easy earth friendly lifestyle choices and some I didn’t know about. Reminds me why I love reading this blog. More of this content mixed in with all the good design stuff would be greatly appreciated.

Nina
14 days ago

My goal for these past few weeks is to become better at eating leftovers, using scraps, etc. etc. (can’t wait to try out the pickled broccoli stems!). Basically, use what I buy as much as possible! Some weeks I do a pretty good job, other weeks I have to clear the fridge from several mouldy leftovers (I know, it’s super gross, we’ve all been there right? right???). Buying a freezer would surely help with this goal :/

Emily
14 days ago
Reply to  Nina

I do use the freezer for some veggies – whenever I buy carrots and celery, I never need the whole bunch, so I chop them up and then freeze them for future recipes. Would love to start branching out more with that kind of prep now that I have a bigger freezer.

Julie
13 days ago
Reply to  Nina

You can make broccoli slaw with broccoli stems too. Very yummy, very easy.

Emily
14 days ago

You should probably clarify that you’re talking about best by dates when you say “These dates are just an estimate of peak quality, and they don’t indicate when a food will become unsafe.” If the stamp actually says expires, yeah, don’t eat it.

Also, I think a link got missed for upcycling candles. 🙂

Kj
13 days ago
Reply to  Emily

The USDA does not agree with this: see here https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/Is-food-safe-after-the-date-expires

more of these please. also, PLANT TREES! that’s the biggest thing we can do to cut carbon out of the air and slow climate change. anyone can do this. also, cut plastic use. barely any of it actually ends up getting recycled. recycling is promoted by the plastic industry because it gives them an out to keep producing plastic. for laundry detergent, they now make SHEETS of detergent. no more plastic container. just google laundry detergent sheets. you can now get dish soap in solid bars instead of buying them in plastic bottles. same with shampoo. same with conditioner. SAMER WITH REGULAR SOAP. remember bar soap? go back to that.
TREES + LESS PLASTIC.

Rusty
14 days ago

Lovely, I think we’re kindred spirits, girl!
Yes, the new bar soaps come in soap, shampoo, everything. Maybe Caitlin can do a review of some as the resident Bathing Queen??!??

Eliot
14 days ago
Reply to  Rusty

I would LOVE a review/roundup of bar shampoos, conditioners, lotions!

Reply to  Eliot

Eliot, I can vouch for the Kate McLeod lotion bar (I get the Mama bar which is fragrance-free). It is so convenient and works great.

Reply to  Rusty

Rusty, we TOTALLY are!

kk
14 days ago

OK how about not buying endless stuff at TARGET and big box stores and stop buying things for fun, as in Friday shopping roundups… You guys have a A LOT of sponsored posts to buy buy buy on this site. I know it is part of your biz model but it makes THIS content come across as disengenous. is there a way to serve sponsors while still promoting mindfulness and less waste?

NancyS
14 days ago

THANK YOU for the link to the trash bags, had the “other” type in my Amazon cart and just switched them out! I’ve always felt extremely guilty using plastic trash bags, this helps!

Rusty
14 days ago
Reply to  NancyS

I love that ypu switched them!
I wonder if a local small business sells them instead of supporting Amazon,that supports plastic trash products?
Possible?

Rusty
14 days ago

So glad for this post! Thank you! I really hope to see these kind of posts sprinkled throughout the months and year, moving forward to living and influencing more sustainable ways of living. Plaaaaaaastic is killing the Earth! 🌏 Single use plastic, like shopping bags, are against the law here. Straws will be soon, and balloons? Don’t even get me started! NO ONE “needs” ball9ons and they are a major problem for marine and bird life. Diapers each last @ 1,000 years!!! Think about that for a hot second. We can ALL reduce our plastic addiction. All. Of. Us. You know how Emily says she loves trees so much? Oooh, I’d love her to commit to planting trees via EHD as a business. Justina Blakeney of Jungalow has and they’re planting SO many trees! She is totally walking her talk. Buying furniture is a way we can choose better as design fans. What type of material is it made from? Where does the wood come from? Is it sustainable? Is it recycled or gently used? Is it new? Is it made of lucite? (A table recently rec’d here, gggrrr) There are better choices to be made simply by stopping and… Read more »

Eliot
14 days ago

Use cedar in your closet to repel moths as well!

Emily
13 days ago

If you want to help the earth, you have to stop encouraging people to buy more and more. Please!

Kathryn
13 days ago

I was expecting the usual tips! This was a nice surprise and it is nice to see people getting into sustainability 2.0. Way to go team for turning it up a notch! A note on muchling, which I just learned, is that it greatly increases the risk of your house burning down if you live in a fire prone area. There are some new and intersting books and resources about creating fire safe gardens out there!

Absolutely! REMEMBER TO RECYCLE. If you’re not already recycling your trash, now’s the time to start!

Emilie
10 days ago

The personal choices that really make a difference in your personal carbon footprint are reducing meat consumption and food waste; reducing transportation emissions (driving and flying) and making your home more energy-efficient (insolation! better heating/cooling!)

Lindsay
8 days ago

Great post! I do not want to drive anyone to buy something new and I love the lemon trick you shared. But if you don’t always have lemons around, I cannot recommend “stainless steel soap” enough. It is magic for getting food smells off your hands, and I guess it saves water from washing your hands 15 times trying to get rid of the garlic scent!

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