Lazy green New Year's resolution
December 30, 2011 6:41 AM   Subscribe

I usually use the New Year for a small environmental resolution. Can you help me find a good one for this year?

In the past I've bought a Britta filter for my kitchen tap and eliminated bottled water, bought a set of reusable bags and drastically decreased my use of plastic bags, bought a few powerstrips that let you turn off individual sockets and decreased electrical vampiring, decreased the meat content of my diet, line dry the laundry, that sort of stuff.

I try to choose stuff that is low effort/actual cost on my part for a fairly high return. I'm lazy, I admit it, but it means that I do end up keeping my resolution.

Relevant data:
I live in an apartment building in an urban environment, so putting in a thermostat or gardening can't happen. Ditto replacing appliances.
I do not own a car and use public transit for most of my transportation (living in NYC makes that easy).
The city requires recycling already.
I'm a new cat owner so if there are pet-related things, like cat litter, that would be excellent. (I can't change her food due to allergies).
I've researched solar chargers and I would love to use them when they become better than they are now. They're not very good now.

Remember: I'm lazy, so the easier it is to implement, the more likely I am to actually do it.
posted by sciencegeek to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Can turn down the heat? I grew up in NYC and there was a valve on the radiators to turn down/off the heat--even though there was, obviously, no thermostat (as you note in your question).

For most of my childhood, I just turned off the heat in my room altogether. I could see my breath in the morning! It was very brisk.

Also, on appliances, one thing you can do is pull the fridge out from the wall about and vacuum off any dust on the condenser coils.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:47 AM on December 30, 2011

Best answer: Do you use a reusable mesh coffee filter, or paper cones? That's a really easy one to fix.
posted by Think_Long at 6:49 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I like to let Adria Vasil do my heavy lifting for me. Her Ecoholic columns are not just well-researched, but are enjoyable reads, and, and while you're probably already pretty careful about what you buy, this (US edition) book covers green vs. greenwashed products. You could make your difference this year just by changing a few of your consumer choices. The Canadian version was one of my favourite Christmas gifts when it came out, and I still use it.
posted by peagood at 6:58 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you use currently use tampons and pads, you can reduce waste by getting a Keeper or Diva Cup.
posted by messica at 6:59 AM on December 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Ideas:
  1. Wax paper sandwich bags. Cheap and handy.
  2. Cloth handkerchief instead of Kleenex. Buy a few (they're cheap), keep one in your pocket at all times, wash regularly.
  3. Cloth napkins at home. No more paper or paper towels.
  4. Environmentally friendly cleaning products. You have to clean, but you don't have to use nasty chemicals to do it.
  5. Buy a nice thick down comforter (with duvet cover to keep it in good shape) and turn down the heat at night. Bonus: Kitty will accept this gracious invitation to turn your bed into a nest, thus providing you with cat-warmed feet.

posted by caution live frogs at 7:10 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I assume you've already switched to energy-saving bulbs? I love those things because they save time and effort, the money they save is just icing on the cake (With incandescents, I used to have to buy new bulbs all the time)

Start keeping closed empty boxes in your fridge and freezer to take up unused space? (When you open the door, a smaller volume of cooled air falls out, thus less cooling is required once you close the door). I expect this also reduces ice build-up in the freezer.

I've researched solar chargers and I would love to use them when they become better than they are now. They're not very good now.

Forget about these if environment is your concern. Solar is extremely clean under the appropriate circumstances, but a solar charger is not those circumstances, no matter how dirty your grid power is. The purpose of solar chargers is to give you an option for when the grid is not available, not to give you an option for reducing environmental impact, regardless of what sales blurb might say. Sometimes solar is green and convenient, sometimes solar is green but not convenient, sometimes solar is convenient but not green.

posted by -harlequin- at 7:11 AM on December 30, 2011

Best answer: Instead of wax paper sandwich bags (which I tried for a while, until my husband complained that his peanut butter and jelly was oozing out of the bag and he wanted the zip-locks back), you can get a sandwich holder or two.
posted by booknerd at 7:27 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Make every drop of water count.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:33 AM on December 30, 2011

Sandwich holder or one of those cloth sandwich bags, definitely! I used to feel so guilty throwing out those barely used plastic sandwich bags every day. Now I just use my cloth sandwich bag and feel much better about my lunch!
posted by silverstatue at 7:48 AM on December 30, 2011

Best answer: Stop buying paper towels. Use tea towels and sponges instead.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:50 AM on December 30, 2011

Best answer: I'm a green resolutioner too! One of the ones I'm most proud of is eliminating the use of disposable coffee cups from my daily life; I either carry a mug with me or I don't get to have coffee (even when travelling); the trick is to get one that is easy to clean and stash, if you don't already do it.

If you work in an office, another option would be to get yourself a reusable container for your lunches and use that instead of take-out containers (see Take Out Without for tips. Don't forget your utensils and napkin!

Another resolution that you could do that would require little work is to switch from a bank to a credit union. This is actual Adria Vasil's idea, from Ecoholic as mentioned by peagood, above, but her basic premise is that many banks invest their (that is, YOUR) money in dirty projects, such as mines in developing nations, and that credit unions do more good for the local and global environment by promoting green projects. The US version of the book will probably give good ideas of which credit unions you can go with, if you don't already bank with one. Ecoholic is a really awesome book.
posted by urbanlenny at 8:09 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could start buying primarily locally-grown food. I'm assuming that there are farmer's markets somewhere in NYC... you could research that and then use that as your main location for grocery shopping.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:15 AM on December 30, 2011

Response by poster: Additional data:
  • one of the radiators is already off, duvet and kitty warming systems are in place.
  • not a coffee drinker, but my boyfriend drinks coffee from the bodega so perhaps he could switch to bringing his own container for that.
  • during the summer we are CSA members (more for the tastiness and support of organic farming than for the locavore argument)
  • we're down to the last incandescent bulb (which will be replaced by a compact fluorescent when it goes, or maybe LED)
  • We have a lovely set of glass tupperware-like things that we use for lunches and general food storage.
  • I keep a few paper towels around but mainly use cloth/sponges.
  • The manufacture of solar panels is kind of ungood in addition to the other criticisms mentioned.
Note: NYC has a fairly large network of greenmarkets.

Ideas here that I really like for me (I'll go through and best answer a bunch of stuff because it is awesome, but these are the ones that I'll most likely do this year)
switching from tampons to a cup
vacuuming the back of the fridge - although I'm terrified to look behind it and come to think of it, I don't think I have a functioning vacuum.

Thank you and happy 2012.
posted by sciencegeek at 8:34 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There are great big bags of recycled paper-based cat litter that we buy for the cats (as opposed to the wood- or Fuller's Earth-based varieties - something like this (although I assume you can also get it in normal pet supplies shops).
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 9:05 AM on December 30, 2011

Sounds like you already have your lunch covered, but in case anyone else is browsing this, another sandwich wrapping option is this gorgeous little gingham wrap. I want one myself, but don't eat enough sandwiches to make it worthwhile!
posted by penguin pie at 10:13 AM on December 30, 2011

One other idea I had is cat litter itself. My mom uses Swheat Scoop. It's flushable so you're saving on plastic bags to put it in the trash with and not adding the litter to landfills.
posted by DoubleLune at 11:37 AM on December 30, 2011

I just learned how bad cat feces are for the oceans and ocean life, so please don't flush cat litter.
posted by Duffington at 11:45 AM on December 30, 2011

Response by poster: Cat litter has been replaced; we're trying the newspaper-based one first and seeing how it goes.
I own a Diva Cup and am using up the remaining tampons before trying it out.

(presently there is no heat in my building, so I guess you could say that I turned the heat down; you could also say that I dislike my landlord with a certain intensity.)
posted by sciencegeek at 6:23 PM on January 29, 2012

Maybe you've used them up already, but don't necessarily use up your tampons before you use the Diva Cup - keep some at work, if you can, just in case you get caught without your cup one day. I have a stash that I never use in my work cupboard, just in case, so that I don't have to buy another box if my period shows up unexpectedly.
posted by urbanlenny at 1:30 PM on February 9, 2012

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