If you’re a retiree, you’ve likely spent your whole life “going green”—in your day, there were no disposable diapers, televisions in every room, or plastic soda bottles! But these days, it takes more thought to reduce your waste.
Let’s look at some ways to reduce waste in your everyday life.
1. Clean with natural substances. You like to keep your house clean, but you hate those commercial cleaners with their noxious fumes and toxic chemicals. Luckily, there are all-natural alternatives.
- Vinegar is a great all-purpose cleaner. It’s great at cleaning laundry, washing windows, and removing stains from carpets. It eliminates odors, and you can infuse it with lemon or orange peels for a few days for some extra oomph. The magic property is its acidity. Be aware this does mean you should refrain from using it on granite or marble countertops.
- Baking soda is second only to vinegar in its cleaning properties. You can use it all over your house as a natural deodorizer. Sprinkle it on the bottom of your garbage cans, keep an open container in your fridge, and use it to soak containers that have stale smells. To remove smells from your carpets, sprinkle some on, let it stand for at least 15 minutes, and then vacuum up both it and the smells.Other uses for baking soda include cleaning sliver, removing burnt-on food from pots, cleaning stubborn stains, removing scuff marks, soaking up grease spills, and removing mildew. It can even prevent your drains from clogging—just power ¼ cup baking soda down the drain every week.
- Lemon juice is low in pH and has antibacterial properties. It isn’t likely to damage most materials. You can use lemon juice as a substitute for bleach when doing laundry or cleaning your bathroom. It will make your chrome faucets, brass items, and copper pots shine like new.
- Old T-shirts or rags that can be reused are better than paper towels or disposable wipes. Look for Huck Towels or microfiber cloths, which can be even more absorbent than paper towels.
2. Go paperless. When you get paper mail, it is most likely either bills or junk. And that junk mail adds up—5.6 million tons of unwanted mail advertisements end up in U.S. landfills annually. Luckily, there are ways to get some of that unwanted paper out of your life.
- Switch to electronic billing and banking.
- Remove yourself from marketing lists. The Direct Marketing Association maintains a national “Do Not Mail” list, while Catalog Choice will contact mail companies for you and tell them you wish to opt out.
- Avoid magazine subscriptions. Not only will you get the magazine, but a bunch of other things too because they sell your information. When you can, choose the electronic version of magazines.
3. Save water. Water is a precious resource, even if you aren’t living in drought-stricken California. Look for these common ways that we waste water and how you can prevent them.
- Toilets are estimated to make up more than 30 percent of household water use. The U.S. EPA estimates that replacing a single older toilet with a low-flow toilet can save the average family 18,000 gallons of water. Low-flow toilets use only 1.6 gallons of water or less per flush instead of the 3.5 gallons in older toilets. If you aren’t ready to replace your toilets just yet, you can reduce the water in your existing toilets by adding a brick or large rock to the water tank.
- Leaky faucets waste an incredible amount of water. At one drip per second, you lose 3,000 gallons per year—that’s enough water to take more than 180 showers. Make sure to turn off faucets all the way when you are not using them, and get the leaky ones fixed right away. If you need to replace your faucets, look for low-flow models.
- Brushing your teeth with the water running. You aren’t making any use of that running water while your toothbrush is in your mouth. Turn the faucet to “off” until you need it.
- Waiting for the shower get warm is just water slipping down the drain. If you need to run the water to make it warm, place a bucket under the tap to save it. This gently used water, called “greywater,” can be used for watering your plants.
4. Be conscious. The key to sustainable living is being conscious. These are some easy changes that will really add up to reducing the amount of waste you create.
Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania with offices nationwide. A Certified Aging in Place Specialist, Shayne has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard College and a master’s in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home.
Photo credit: Shutterstock