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Living Simply

Calculate your Ecological Footprint to see how many planets it takes to support your current lifestyle... then read on to find ways to shrink down to the one planet we have!

There are many simple ways to reduce the footprint you leave on the planet. Learn how to reduce your footprint in each consumption category-carbon, food, housing, and goods and services-but don't stop there. Amplify your impact by encouraging others to follow your lead. Engage your friends and community with local and global movements for social change, or start your own movement!

Use cleaner transport

  • Walk, bike, or take public transit whenever possible.
  • Avoid allowing your car to idle. If you'll be waiting for more than 30 seconds, turn off the engine (except in traffic). And don't take the drive-through-park the car and walk inside instead.
  • Have your vehicle serviced regularly to keep the emission control systems operating at peak efficiency. Check your car's air filter monthly, and keep the tires adequately inflated to maximize gas mileage.
  • Avoid short airplane trips-take a bus or train instead.

Add energy-saving features to your home

  • Install compact fluorescent bulbs in all your home light fixtures-but remember, compact fluorescents contain mercury, so look for low-mercury models and be sure to dispose of old bulbs safely through your local hazardous waste program.
  • Weatherproof your home. Make sure your walls and ceilings are insulated, and consider double-pane windows. Eliminate drafts with caulking, weather strips, and storm windows and doors.
  • Insulate your water heater. Even better, switch to a tankless water heater, so your water will be heated only as you use it.
  • Choose energy efficient appliances.

Adopt energy-saving habits

  • Keep thermostat relatively low in winter and ease up on the air conditioning in summer. Clean or replace dirty air conditioner filters as recommended to keep the A/C operating at peak efficiency.
  • Unplug your electronics when not in use. To make it easier, use a power strip. Even when turned off, items like your television, computer, and cellphone charger still sip power.
  • Dry your clothes outside whenever possible.
  • Make minimal use of power equipment when landscaping.
  • Defrost your refrigerator and freezer regularly.
  • Choose green electricity. Many utilities give you the option to purchase electricity generated by wind and solar power for a small rate surcharge.
  • Purchase carbon offsets to make up for the energy use you can't eliminate.

Reduce your Food Footprint

  • Eat more local, organic, in-season foods.
  • Plant a garden-it doesn't get more local than that.
  • Shop at your local farmer's market or natural foods store. Look for local, in-season foods that haven't traveled long distances to reach you.
  • Choose foods with less packaging to reduce waste.
  • Eat lower on the food chain-going meatless for just one meal a week can make a difference. Globally, it has been estimated that 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions are associated with meat consumption.

Reduce your Housing Footprint

Choose sustainable building materials, furnishings, and cleaning products.

  • Explore green design features for your building, like passive solar heating, a rainwater catchment or grey water recycling system, and recycled materials.
  • Choose efficient appliances, including low flow shower heads, faucets, and toilets.
  • Choose furnishings that are second-hand, recycled, or sustainably produced.
  • Plant drought tolerant plants in your garden and yard.
  • Use biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning products.

Adopt water-saving habits

  • Take shorter, less frequent showers-this not only saves water, but the energy necessary to heat it.
  • Don't use the garbage disposal. Compost instead.
  • Run the dishwasher and the laundry machine only when full.
  • Wash cars rarely, or better yet, take them to a carwash. Commercial carwashes use less water per wash than home washers, and they are also required to drain used water into the sewage system, rather than storm drains, which protects aquatic life.
  • Avoid hosing down or power-washing your deck, walkways, or driveway.
  • Regularly look for and fix leaks.

Reduce your Goods and Services Footprint

  • Buy less! Replace items only when you really need to.
  • Recycle all your paper, glass, aluminum, and plastic. Don't forget electronics!
  • Compost food waste for the garden. Garbage that is not contaminated with degradable (biological) waste can be more easily recycled and sorted, and doesn't produce methane gases (a significant greenhouse gas contributor) when stored in a landfill.
  • Buy recycled products, particularly those labeled "post-consumer waste."


Re-Use and Recycling tips

Ideas for recycling paper:

  • After children's drawings and paintings have been displayed for a while they can be used to wrap presents - this also makes the present special.
  • Discarded 8.5x11” paper can be cut and stapled together to make notepads. Alternatively, if you save five reams, it will cost you about $5 to get a print company to convert this paper into 'proper' notepads.
  • Use the envelopes, especially the large ones, you receive in the mail a second time by placing a new address label over the last address and another over the stamp/cancelled corner.
  • Old calendars, colorful pictures, etc. can be used to make your own envelopes. You can unstick a used envelope and use it as a template for making envelopes.  How fun to receive!!
  • Scarves and nice napkins make great dual purpose wrapping paper.
  • SPCA and pet shops appreciate old newspapers.
  • To fill in a rainy day, get a paper making kit and get the kids to rip up old used paper to make homemade paper. Then you’ll all have a new appreciation for the paper we use so lightly every day.

Ideas for recycling household waste in the garden:

  • Aluminum trays from pies and cakes make ideal 'drip saucers' to put under potted plants.
  • Lawn clippings can be used to cover weeds and keep from growing in the garden through winter.
  • Broken crockery can be used as drainage at the bottom of pot plants.
  • Tin cans can be used as:
  • Water reservoirs for new plants and trees. Tape a piece of hose pipe in a can and fill the can with scoria or pumice. Then, when you plant a new tree or plant, bury the can below the root level and leave enough hose poking out of the ground. You can water the plant in summer by pouring the water into hose pipe. If the hose is short enough it can be mowed over on a lawn and does not look obtrusive.
  • Plant holders. Decorate the outside of the can to your liking, put some soil in it and plant away. (Make sure you put some drainage holes in the bottom of the tin before you start potting the plants.)
  • Old newspapers can be used to mulch and do weed control in the garden. Wet newspaper and place thickly on the garden. Cover with bark or stones.
  • Several layers of cardboard do great for knocking down weeds and grass; put rice hay over it soil on top, plant away.
  • Don’t use poison in your soil or around pets and other vital life. Place pennies around plants to keep slugs away, or wrap copper wire at the base of a nail.
  • Old nylons can be used to tie up plants in the garden.
  • Stiff plastic containers can be cut into strips for seed labels.
  • Avoid using a waste disposal for food scraps – it puts too much unnecessary organic matter into the treatment system. Compost food scraps instead in your backyard or find out what is permitted in your green yard waste can.
  • Re-visioning – I made my old ski boots into planters; keeps them in service, the ivy’s growing down over the boots and it’s… novel.
  • Use an old ironing board with a narrow piece of wood over it for a planting table. It’s just the right height. (We’ve ironed longer than we’ve had “planting tables!”)
  • The following waste items can be modified and used for planting seedlings:
  • Egg cartons
  • Tetra-pak cartons
  • Plastic bottles
  • Plastic containers for cherry tomatoes
  • Old boots and shoes

Making use of your mountain of plastic bags:

Er – stop using them, but for those leftover ones, here’s some uses:

  • Place them in the bottom of plant pots and hanging baskets - they act as great drainage systems.
  • Scrunch them up to surround items when you're packaging as an alternative to bubble wrap.
  • Use them in the garden to hold your grass cuttings and hedge trimmings before transfer to a compost bin.
  • Use them when packing for a vacation or ski trip to keep dirty/wet clothes and shoes away from dry clothing.
  • Re-use washed zip lock bags for sandwiches and snacks rather than using plastic wrap.

General tips for avoiding making garbage:

  • Visit the Berkeley Ecology Center’s site Plastics Task Force for details on plastics and health, what plastics are made of, recycling news and more.
  • Buy a smaller trash container for the kitchen. This helps to reduce and recycle. Don’t have one in every room, then you think about not making garbage when you have to walk to get rid of it.
  • Reorganize the kitchen so it has an efficient recycling area with good sized bins to help with sorting and holding. This will encourage other members of the household to contribute and help share the work instead of the system relying on one person.
  • Always try to reuse your plastic grocery bags, recycle them when there’s no other use for them and reuse your bulk bags.
  • Always try to do no harm - be sure to snip plastic soda six pack holders – birds and other sea life really do get tangled up in them and die due to them. Even if you’re sure that yours is going to be buried ad infinitum in a landfill, you can model the behavior and ponder the reasons behind the action as you tear up a six-pack can carrier.

Today’s action - Set aside an afternoon this week to save time, energy and resources.  This month, I made curtains with a girlfriend instead of buying them, thick to keep the windows covered in the colder winter months, super-personalized.  Set some fun goals, be rewarded when garbage or household supply bills go down, save some money while re-gifting gifts in homemade wrapping paper. The planet with a ribbon around it is our collective reward.




CRAGs – a growing network of carbon conscious citizens. We believe that the impacts of climate change demand a serious programme of greenhouse gas emissions reduction, and we urge governments to adopt a universal and equitable framework to achieve this.

  • The EPA has concluded that all landfills will eventually leak into the environment.
  • Our food travels hundreds of miles TO our plate and then our garbage travels miles and miles FROM our house - how to get it and keep it all closer to home?
  • When we leave home, we make on average five times as much trash as if we stay in. Until everyone brings their own wares, event greening is vital to divert organic waste from the landfill and keep resources flowing.
  • Americans waste or cause to be wasted nearly 1 million pounds of materials per person per year.