A week or so ago, I was watching morning television and saw a story about a family who creates almost zero garbage. Let me tell you, I have a long way to go before I am as “green” as that family, but in recent years, I have made an effort to practice the three r’s of sustainable living—reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s easier than it seems. If we all conserve more and change a few habits, we can collectively make a big difference. And, while we are helping the earth, we can also save some money.
Here are some easy ways to go green:
– Buy and use a reusable travel mug at your favorite coffee place. Some coffee houses offer discounts to customers who forgo paper cups for reusable mugs.
– Purchase and use the reusable cloth grocery bags. Almost every grocery store sells resusable bags now, and some are even fashion statements.
– Make your own household cleaners. Websites like www.metro-region.org have recipes for make-at-home cleaners easily created from natural cleaning agents, such as vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda. Homemade cleaners are effective for most household cleaning, are chemical-free and drastically less expensive than store-bought products.
– Compost food scraps. While Oregonians are big recyclers, studies by Metro show that only about 30 percent of us compost. Yet, it is a great way to cut down on garbage, and soil created from composting can save you money at the garden store. Metro’s website (www.metro-region.org ) has tips for getting started in composting.
– Cut back on gift wrap. Give gifts in creative, reusable containers, such as baskets, decorative boxes, or cloth bags, which are available at craft stores.
– Give unwanted items to charity. The Salvation Army and many local thrift stores accept used clothing, household items, toys, furniture and much more.
– Buy local. Across the state, farmers’ markets are opening soon. Buying from local farmers and artisans not only cuts down on the fuel and transportation costs of getting items here, but helps the local economy as well. When visiting a farmers’ market, be sure to take a basket or your reusable bags with you to cut down on needless packaging.
– Recycle old electronics. DEQ and partnering agencies have opened E-Cycle collection sites at locations throughout the state. The sites (225 in all) provide free recycling of computers, monitors and TVs to anyone who brings in seven or fewer items. Some locations also take old printers. Visit www.deq.state.or.us  for more information.
– Get leaky faucets fixed. Constant drips are a waste of water and money.
– Go to paperless billing. Contact banks and services with which you have accounts and ask if they have a paperless option. Reduce junk mail by asking to be removed from mailing lists from organizations, products and services that don’t concern you.
Erika Weisensee is a writing mom and a native Oregonian.