Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My top 10 common sense "green living" tips

I love the beautiful area where we live in western North Carolina.

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While I am definitely the antithesis of a "tree hugger," for a lot of reasons, I love God's creation and am passionate about doing my part to take care of it.

I have learned so much more from my parents and grandparents about reusing, recycling, reclaiming, etc., than from any self-professed expert and have found the more I learn from them, the more I feel we should look backwards for the answers to problems we now face. Common sense seems to run through everything they do, and sometimes I think that is seriously missing in the modern environmental movement.

I thought I would share some of my favorite common sense tips for "earth-friendly" living.

1. Eat local

Grow as much of your own food as you can. 
Shop local farmer's markets or buy directly from farmers and stores that sell local food. 
Preserve food through canning, freezing and drying. 
Research your local grocery stores. For example, we buy Laura Lynn milk from our locally owned Ingles stores because they use local farms and do not use antibiotics, etc., in their feed.

2. Say 'no' to plastic shopping bags

I keep cloth shopping bags in my car and have gotten into the habit of taking them every time I go into a store. As soon as I empty them, I hang them on the back door so I won't forget to put them back in the car. If I do get plastic, I always return them for recycling. 

3. Use cloth napkins

We use cloth napkins all the time. I never buy paper, ever. I have a large stack of cloth that we use for everyday and they go into the wash every week. Not only does it save money, it saves paper.

4. Hang clothes to dry on a clothesline

I love to hang my clothes outside. I can't do it all the time, and find it's a lot more work, but love the result. I feel like every time I can avoid the dryer and chemical-filled dryer sheets, it makes a difference. 

A product I love is Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day "Lemon Verbena" laundry detergent. 

Lemon Verbena 68 Load Laundry Detergent

It's expensive, though, so I can't afford to use it all the time, but use it when I'm drying on the line. 
Also when drying on the line, I use a cup of vinegar for softening and a few drops of lemon oil for  a fresh scent. Vinegar will soften the clothes, but it won't take out static if you are using the clothes dryer.

5. Limit trips/Conserve gas

We are about eight miles from the nearest grocery store, so I try to make sure we get everything done in as few trips as possible. If we run out of milk, we don't go to town to get it. We work grocery runs around work at our church, and picking up the 14 year old from softball. As much as I hate it, my kids have to ride the bus to school and get on at 6:40 every morning and home around 4. We are about 10 miles from their school, which is the opposite direction from where we work at church, so we save a lot of gas by limiting and combining trips as much as possible.

6. Set your thermostat lower/higher

My family members might hate me, but I set the thermostat for our heat pump on 67 in the winter for heat and on 75 in the summer for air conditioning. 

7. Avoid Made in China

My personal opinion is that one of the biggest threats to the environment is the migration of factories from here in the U.S., to China. Instead of making things locally and buying them here, we are forced to buy most everyday items from factories in China, which have to be shipped here. That makes no sense to me. Pollution is at an unbelievable level in China, and we will all pay for it in the not so distant future. Buy American when possible. Unfortunately, sometimes, it's not an option. I hope and pray that changes. Read labels so you know where things come from. 

8. Reuse, recycle, reclaim, buy vintage

Y'all know there is nothing I love more than reviving something vintage, retro, old and worn. We made our countertops from reclaimed wormy chestnut, which we pulled off the little house here and have been using as much of the trim, windows, etc., as we can in our house. And that's just the beginning. We have made it our mission to use and reclaim as much "old" as possible. I won't lie...it's a LOT of work, but it's worth it in the end. 
Buy vintage or antique. Be sure to look at the label, if there is one, to ensure you are not buying something marked vintage that is actually made in China. I have found a lot of "fake" vintage in antique shops, thrift shops, and even online in places like etsy.

9. Use natural cleaners

I LOVE J. R. Watkins products. They are all natural and made in the USA. I have always hated bathroom cleaners, especially, because I could not deal with the fumes. I fell in love immediately with Watkins Tub and Tile cleaner and love the soft scent it leaves behind. I love all Watkins products and highly recommend them.

I also love our locally made natural soaps from Hazelwood Soap company. You can also order from the website.

For personal skin and hair care, I love Sasco products. This is a small company that has been around since 1978. My mother has been a rep for their natural aloe-based products since the 1980s and they are absolutely amazing. 

10. Use common sense

I think anything when taken to an extreme, can ultimately cause more damage than good. I try to use common sense and do things within reason. We have energy-efficient windows and doors, we turn off lights when we leave a room, we recycle everything from glass and cardboard to plastics and metals, and we do many other small things that all add up in the long run. If we all did a little, we could make a big difference.

These are just a few of the things that we try to do in our home to take care of God's creation. Do you have some tips to share?

I'll be joining:


  1. Loved every one of these tips, and I can see that we are so much alike. I'm the very antithesis of a tree hugger too, but just like you I am a steward of God's creation. In my view, the difference is no small one.

    I'm interested in several products you shared.
    The only thing I don't do is recycle the plastic bags I might get at the store. (I like to use my market basket for small trips, which at my stage in life are the more common trips around here. When I go for the large load, I get plastic) In those times, I save them to use as trash can liners in my (four) bathrooms.

    Just like you, I'm all about my cloth napkins, too.

    1. You sound just like me Debbie! I also save and reuse those plastic bags for different things too.

      I feel like *they* (environmentalists) cut *our noses off to spite our faces...as my grandparents would say. They (and unions IMO) are ultimately to blame for so many factories closing down and moving to China, which exacerbates the problem exponentially in the long run. It drives me crazy and makes me mad.

  2. Yeah - I know people who use cloth shopping bags, and buy tons of plastic ones for trash. I reuse my plastic ones for so many things; and we have to put our recycled paper in paper bags - again, I ask for them at the store rather than buying them! And, I compost my leaves instead of putting them in (purchased) paper and setting them out on the curb as do my neighbors.

    I do have two tips. First, I save all my coffee grounds and use them as mulch. My hydrangeas, lilacs and other acid-lovers grow so large and the flowers are so abundant! No fertilizer needed!

    Also, when I go somewhere where plastic utensils are used, I wrap them in my napkin and put them in my purse (ever walk through Costco on a Saturday? You could come out with 3 - 4 spoons!) I take them home and wash them. That way I have plenty for outdoor use, occasions, for lunch boxes, for girl scouts who forget their mess kits, etc, I reuse them until they break. Came home from an event with 13 forks one day!

    1. No kidding...I do the same with the plastic shopping bags I keep.

      We rake our leaves in the beds, then put mulch on top in the spring. I am one of those people who would ask someone for their bags of leaves, lol.

      Great tip about the coffee grounds too... are great for azaleasI have heard also. That reminds me about coffee filters. We have a re-useable one instead of the paper ones.

      We must think alike...I too reuse plastic utensils that are extras!! Great tips!! :-)

  3. Thanks for the great green living tips. There are a few on the list that I will have to give a try :)