Before you toss the empty food cans from dinner, consider this fun DIY planter project! Ordinary tin cans, like those used for soup, take decades to decompose naturally in a landfill. If it is aluminum, it can take even longer—more than 200 years to decompose!
Yes, you can recycle your cans (and that’s a great thing to do), but even that requires energy and emits some greenhouse gasses into the environment.
What’s an even greener solution than recycling? Upcycling! Instead of spending your hard-earned money at the home supply store on new planters for the plants in your home, turn your empty food cans into a unique planter you can be proud of.
Keep your cans.
Save empty food cans like coffee canisters and soup cans.
Gather your materials.
Take a look through your drawers, and you’ll find that you likely already have the materials you can use for this project on hand. Grab any paint, stencils, glitter, scrapbook paper, brushes, and papier-mache.
Moss: You can buy moss sheets at most craft stores to cover your planter. You can also glue on seashells or dried flowers.
Painted: Paint will rejuvenate any can. Why not take it a step further and use glue to draw a design. Then paint over it, giving it texture.
Paper: Take old scrap paper lying around the house or buy paper in fun patterns. Cut the paper and attach to the can with glue.
Rocks: You can go outside and find interesting rocks, or buy some at a craft store. Then glue them to the outside with hot glue or super glue (depending on the weight of the rock). This particular planter will blend in especially well outside.
Twine: Wrap the whole can with twine, ribbon or yarn, securing it with glue.
Prep the cans.
Once you’re finished decorating, carefully poke a few holes in the bottom of the can using a hammer and a nail, and place a handful of pebbles or glass stones in the bottom of the can to help with drainage.
Whether you’re cleaning out the garage or are tidying up after dinner, some common household items have very specific disposal requirements that you may not be aware of. In fact, the improper disposal of some of these items can release toxic materials into the environment, which are harmful for people, wildlife, and the planet.
Before you take the trash to the curb, brush up on this list of common household items and how to safely dispose of them.
Oil should never go down the drain because it can clog plumbing. Rather, wait for the cooking oil to cool slightly and then pour it into a sealable container. You can reuse the oil or simply throw the container in the trash. You can also check if your town has a local hazardous waste collection site that accepts cooking oil.
Refrigerated household appliances
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, refrigerated household appliances like refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners contain refrigerants that are greenhouse gases. If released, these gases can contribute to global climate change. Check with your electricity provider, local retailers, and your municipality for environmentally responsible disposal options for these items.
Compact fluorescent lightbulbs
CFLs may be energy efficient, but they also contain toxic mercury. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, to recycle them properly you can contact your local waste collection agency, ask local retailers (like hardware stores) if they have a recycling program, or inquire about mail-back services through the light bulb manufacturer.
Expired cosmetics should be removed from their containers and placed in sealed containers for disposal. To recycle the packaging, contact your local recycling center, ask makeup retailers if they have a recycling program, or inquire about mail-back services through the cosmetic company.
Over-the-counter and prescription medications can be recycled at pharmaceutical take-back programs offered at locations such as hospitals, pharmacies, and law enforcement agencies. For more information on how to find a take-back program in your area, visit takebackday.dea.gov.
Plastic is everywhere. In fact, most people would agree plastic has become an almost unavoidable part of modern life. But, with all the plastic around us, how can we tell what is a “good” plastic—and, more importantly, what harmful plastics can leach chemicals into our food, drinks, and the environment?
The answer is simple. Take a look on the bottom of your plastic container, find the symbol, and keep reading below to decode the meaning. You may be surprised to learn some types of plastic are safer for you and your family than others!
PET/PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
PET/PETE is currently the most common type of plastic used. This type of plastic is safe for one-time use only. Usually found in water or soft drink bottles and condiment containers, experts recommend limiting shelf time, as well as exposure to sunlight and high temperatures to help reduce the risk of leaching of toxins. Polyethylene Terephthalate is also one of the most widely accepted plastics for recycling.
HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)
This type of plastic is generally considered to be a low-toxin plastic—but it can still release limited estrogenic chemicals. It is most often found in milk and juice containers, personal care item bottles (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc), and grocery bags.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
Two words of advice? Stay away. Polyvinyl Chloride contains a number of toxic chemicals and is one of the worst health and environmental offenders. This type of plastic is found in deli and meat wrappers, mattress covers, and plastic “shrink” wrap. Consider purchasing packaged goods that use other types of plastic or even glass.
LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene)
Similar to HDPE, this type of plastic is generally considered to be one of the safer types around, although it, too, can release limited estrogenic chemicals. This type of plastic is most often found in beverage cups, bread bags, and grocery or garbage bags.
This type of plastic is considered to be a low-toxin plastic, and is one of the safest plastics used today. Polypropylene is a hard, but flexible, plastic that tolerates heat well, which helps lend to its safety. PP is most often found in medicine bottles, straws, yogurt containers, and diapers.
Polystyrene (PS) is one of the most dangerous types of plastics and should be avoided, if at all possible. When PS is heated, it can release styrene, which is a suspected nerve toxin and carcinogen. Most often, PS is found in styrofoam cups, egg cartons, and packing materials. If you must use a container made of PS, avoid heating or filling with hot liquids, such as coffee.
Not surprisingly, “other” is somewhat of a catch-all designation, which includes both green or bio-based plastics, as well as other, more harmful, polycarbonate plastics. In order to avoid the potential dangers of harmful plastics, consider using glass containers, or only purchasing products made with plastics considered safer.
Be plastic smart Even though some of these plastics are considered safer than other types, it is important to remember that any—and all—plastics pose a risk to the environment, if not discarded properly.
Going green—or living an environmentally friendly lifestyle—can be easier than you think. There are a number of easy ways you can make changes in your everyday life! With small adjustments, you’d be surprised the difference you can make in saving energy at home.
Try making the switch to these eco-friendly habits. You’ll know you’re doing your part to make a difference, and you might just inspire your friends and family to do the same.
Try this bright idea
This is an easy one. Replace your traditional light bulbs with energy-efficient fluorescent or LED light bulbs. Not only are they more efficient by using only a fraction of the energy of traditional bulbs, they last up to ten times longer!
Did you know we go through thirty billion bottles of water every year? An easy solution is to switch to filtered water. Filters can attach directly to your kitchen faucet, or stand-alone containers with filters can be stored in the refrigerator. Both of these filter out sediments and contaminants, making the water from your tap just as filtered as bottled water.
Cool it with the laundry
Switch the settings on your washer from hot to cold. This simple change will reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1,500 pounds each year. And, with advances in washing machines and laundry detergents, your clothes will still get just as clean.
Declutter your mailbox
Paper is another big drain on the environment. Did you know paper manufacturing is the third largest user of our fossil fuel supply? An easy way to cut down on the paper coming into your mailbox is to pay your bills and communicate electronically. Also, consider removing yourself from any unnecessary mailing lists.
Dispense with paper towels
Paper towels are made directly from trees, leading to depletion of our forests. Rather than reaching for paper towels, use dishcloths or linen napkins. Your dining room table (and the environment) will thank you.
Many of the containers in your kitchen can easily serve multiple purposes. For example, you can reuse glass jars as containers for leftovers, drinking glasses, and more. For some great DIY upcycling ideas, check out these posts on upcycled planters and food box organizers.
Swap household cleaners
Switch from traditional cleaners to green cleaners, which will immediately cut down on allergens and toxins both inside your home and out. Bonus: the cleaners are easier on the environment to produce, as well. Look for plant-based cleaners that offer a complete list of their ingredients or make your own environmentally-friendly cleaners.
Give meatless Mondays a try
You may not think about this one often, but believe it or not, incorporating one meat-free meal for your family each week has the same impact on the environment as driving a hybrid car. Livestock emits a tremendous amount of greenhouse gases that are harmful for the environment, so making the switch one night each week can make a big difference.
Sure, you’ve heard about the effects some of our everyday habits have on the environment, whether it is driving our cars around town or heating every square inch of our homes. But did you know these “big” things make up only a relatively small piece of the overall carbon footprint impact?
Approximately forty-two percent of our society’s carbon emissions come from the products we use, and the raising or making, transporting, and disposing of the food we eat. Surprising, huh?
Fortunately, there are simple things we can easily do to help lessen our carbon footprint and, by extension, the effect on the environment. Give these easy eco-friendly ideas a try to not only live greener but to save money, too!
Paper or plastic? Neither
Rather, take reusable shopping bags with you when you head to the store. This will decrease energy use and also harmful emissions produced by manufacturing single-use shopping bags (paper or plastic).
You may not think about it as you’re spending $1 for that bottle of water, but buying three bottles of water per day adds up to about $1,100 per year. Compare that with the roughly 50 cents it costs for the same amount of tap water, and it’s a no-brainer. But there’s more than a cost savings involved here: tap water uses one-thousandth of the energy needed to make the bottled variety.
Manufacturing, shipping, and disposal of new goods contributes to environmental pollution. Rather than only buying new things, rely on thrift stores, yard sales, and hand-me-downs. Not only is this better for the environment, but the thrill of the hunt is pretty fun, too!
Say goodbye to single-serve
Instead of purchasing chips or snacks in smaller, single-serve bags, purchase snacks in bulk and then divide them up in reusable containers to pack for lunches.
Look for plant-based green cleaners
Traditional cleaning products are not only harmful to the environment, they can add dangerous toxins to the air you breathe inside your home, as well. Look for eco-friendly, plant-based cleaners with a list of ingredients. Or, better yet, make your own green cleaners!
Consider shopping for produce at your local farmer’s market rather than the supermarket. Fruits and veggies sourced locally require less fuel for transportation, support nearby farmers, and are fresher, thanks to less travel time.
Cut back on meat
Raising livestock is resource-intensive and accounts for double the greenhouse gas emissions compared to animal-free meals. Did you know incorporating one meat-free meal into your diet each week has the same environmental impact as driving a hybrid car?
Start a compost pile
Composting helps cut energy use and carbon emissions from processing waste. And, as a bonus, it creates dense, nutrient rich-soil perfect for feeding your garden. To help control the smell, consider collecting your compost in a closed container. Be sure to check your local regulations on compost guidelines.
Go Green at Home
Fluorescent light bulbs or LEDs create more light while also using less power. Replace old incandescent bulbs with newer, energy efficient bulbs to reduce your carbon footprint—and enjoy the savings.
Use ENERGY STAR® appliances
Energy Star is the EPA’s program that helps Americans save money and use less energy. Always look for appliances that bear the Energy Star seal, to lessen the negative effects on the environment. For instance, switching to an Energy Star-certified TV reduces carbon dioxide emissions by forty-six pounds over the lifetime of the product!
Insulate and seal your home
This will not only cut carbon emissions from the energy demand, but it will also help maintain comfortable temperatures in your home throughout the year—and helps lower your energy bill!
Rethink Your Commute
Take the bus
Public transit is more fuel-efficient than cars and is estimated to reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by thirty-seven million metric tons. Bonus: taking the bus also frees up your commute time to let you do something you enjoy, such as reading or catching up with your friends and family.
Walk or bike
Not only is this option eco-friendly, but it is better for your health, too! This green option burns 250 to 550 calories per hour and keeps exhaust-producing cars off the road. The Earth—and your waistline—will thank you.
Rethink air travel
Conduct business via phone or video conference. If long-distance travel is a must, consider going old school by taking the train to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.
Explore the option of flex time
Check with your employer to see if you have the option of utilizing flex time. Some companies will let you work from home, either part-time or full-time, if they can see a benefit for the company, as well. By working from home, you will eliminate your commute altogether, leading to a positive impact on the environment.
If flex time is not an option for you and you must go into the office, consider carpooling with coworkers who live nearby. This reduces the number of cars on the road, which will reduce the pollutants and emissions released into
If you take a minute to look around, it is easy to see plastic has become a huge part of our everyday lives. From drinking bottled water at the gym to grabbing a bite to eat for lunch, it is almost impossible to avoid plastics entirely.
Plastic is one of the worst materials for the environment. In fact, plastics often take hundreds of years to break down own their own, if not recycled properly.
Concerned? Here are some easy steps to help you cut back on your everyday use of plastic.
Ditch the straw
Believe it or not, plastic drinking straws are one of the most commonly found trash items on our beaches. Bring your own reusable glass or metal straw, or skip the restaurant straw entirely!
Bring a bag
A single plastic bag can sit in a landfill for twenty-plus years before breaking down naturally. Keep several reusable bags in the trunk of your car or hanging by the front door so you don’t forget them.
Carry your water
Carrying a canteen or reusable bottle of water will not only reduce your plastic usage, but it will also prevent the toxic chemicals commonly found in plastic bottles from leaching into your drinking water. Bonus: a reusable bottle will quickly pay for itself and can save you hundreds of dollars!
Be caffeine conscious
Many people don’t realize this, but disposable coffee cups are usually lined with a type of plastic resin called polyethylene, which has proven to be harmful. Keep your own travel mug in your car or bag, so you have it on hand when you order. In addition to being better for your health, many coffee shops will give you a discount when you bring your own mug.
Taking lunch to the office or packing lunch for your kids? Use reusable containers rather than plastic sandwich bags, which are rarely recycled in offices or schools. Buy your snacks in bulk rather than in single-serve containers, and transfer them to smaller, reusable containers that easily fit into a lunch box.
Switch from disposable diapers to cloth
Although disposable diapers have been the norm for the past few decades, these everyday items have an astonishing effect on the environment. Disposable diapers are full of plastic and regularly take up far too much space in our already crowded landfills. Consider switching to cloth diapers, instead. Bonus: over the course of the diaper-wearing years, cloth diapers prove to be much more economical, too!
Try an eco-friendly toothbrush
Similar to the straw alternatives, you can get a toothbrush made of bamboo. These have about the same life span as any toothbrush, but the difference is it will safely decompose back into the earth quickly, whereas your plastic ones will sit on the earth for years to come if not recycled properly.
Say no to plastic hangers
This one is often over looked: think about the hangers you have at home, or the ones you return home from the store with and don’t use. These are so easy to substitute or simply say no to. Wire hangers are available as an alternative option to plastic, and if you go to the store and notice a cashier placing the plastic hanger in your bag, all you have to do is say no thank you!
Keep the plastic off your face
Much of the plastic currently polluting our waterways is microplastics, tiny particles of plastic nearly impossible to filter out through current practices. These microbeads can be found in many common personal care items, from scrubbing face washes to toothpaste.
Start reducing plastic usage today
These tips are easy to incorporate into your everyday life, and will immediately cut down on the amount of your plastic waste. And don’t be surprised when these tips lead to you looking for other ways to ditch the plastic, as well!
Halloween is one of the most festive holidays of the year, but there are plenty of reasons to rethink traditional decorations. Making your own decorations cuts back on plastic and other materials that can harm the earth. Get your home Halloween ready with these eco-friendly crafts and accents!
A few tips on sourcing your supplies
Forgo expensive Halloween pop-ups this season and shop local. Farmers markets usually sell gourds, mums, and pumpkins for cheap. Thrifting is a fun way to find unique accents and fabrics. Antique shops are another resource for old picture frames, bottles, candle holders, and lamps to recycle into eerie Halloween decor.
3. Evoke the chilling atmosphere of haunted hayrides by decorating stacked hay bales with gourds, mini-pumpkins, and corn stalks. Cut up old autumn-colored flannels and drape them over single hay bales. After the season ends, you can recycle your hay into compost.
4. Bright orange, green, and purple might not mesh with your home. Hang up a black twig wreath to keep it chic and make it spooky. Collect branches in your neighborhood to make this no-fuss craft, or buy this beautiful hand wrapped wreath by GNVDesigns.
5. Save your old sweaters from the donation pile – cable knit pumpkins are chic, eco-friendly accents for the patio and the dining room.
6. Transform old tin cans into spooky luminaries by following this easy DIY tutorial. This craft is a great alternative to paper bag luminaries, which are more likely to fly away and turn into litter.
8. Ring in the season of the witch by hanging witch hat luminaries around the front door. The tutorial recommends buying cheap hats, but making your own out of cardboard is even more Earth conscious.
9. Set out soybean skull candles by StoryofTheScent to create a chilling atmosphere. Halloween stores sell candles made from paraffin wax, which emit chemicals that pollute the air. (If you don’t like skulls, decorate your end tables with sweet pumpkin head candles by Hickoryhillcandle.)
10. Mason jars are so multifunctional — you can even use them to make a ghoulish apothecary in your kitchen. Simply fill your mason jars with a combination of moss, glycerin or vinegar mixed with food coloring, and throw in creepy items like doll parts and old toys. To go the extra mile, decorate your mason jars with authentic looking labels.