Live Green and Earn Points


4 Ways to Form Green Habits

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These 4 reminders will make it easier to get into green habits, from actually remembering your reusable shopping bags to using travel mugs, and more.

Although I have probably about a dozen reusable shopping bags, I recently got lax about bringing them to stores — and then paper and plastic shopping bags started piling up in their home under my sink, threatening to spill out any time I opened the cabinet door. Even though I do re-use those plastic bags for cleaning the littler box, collecting trash in my car, and other uses, they were accumulating faster than I could use them.

I realized that no matter how good my intentions are, sometimes it’s hard to remember to get into eco-friendly habits. Do you have the same problem? Here are some ways that you can give yourself a gentle reminder until certain sustainable actions become habit.

1. The Habit: Using reusable bags while shopping.

The Reason: According to, a plastic bag can take over 1,000 years to decompose, and the average family accumulates about 60 plastic bags in just 4 trips to the grocery store if they don’t bring their own1.

The Reminder: Stock up on a bunch of lightweight-but-sturdy bags that can roll up into a tiny size (my favorite are Envirosax), and keep a few in your car and right in your purse. When you unpack the bags in your kitchen, immediately put them back in your purse, or hang them on the doorknob so that you’ll remember to take them out to your car next time you’re headed out.

2. The Habit: Take a shorter shower.

The Reason: Shaving a few minutes off your shower can save thousands of gallons of water a year2, preserving this precious resource. What’s more, it can also help save on the fuel and energy needed to heat the water.

The Reminder: It’s important to be able to know how much time is passing by as you’re sudsing up and rinsing off. Try setting a timer on your phone so that you’ll be forced to get out and shut it off. Or invest in a waterproof shower radio and step out after two songs have played (about 6 minutes).

3. The Habit: Use a travel mug or water bottle.

The Reason: Production of bottled water generates pollution and uses resources3, while the empty bottles creates waste; Styrofoam or paper cups and plastic lids from to-go cups of coffee and soda also add to our waste-stream.

The Reminder: As with reusable shopping bags, if you keep your containers where you’re most likely to use them, the habit will be easy to enforce. Keep a water bottle in the fridge so it’s ready to go when you need it, and invest in two travel mugs in case you forget one at work. Keep it in your car or in your handbag, and be sure to wash it and replace it right after you use it.

4. The Habit: Compost.

The Reason: Composting food scraps and other organic materials helps divert these items from the landfills, while creating a nutrient-rich substance that can increase the health of the soil in your garden4.

The Reminder: Make the process as easy and neat as you can by getting a kitchen composter, which you can fill with food scraps and then transfer to your composter or compost pile outside as it starts getting full. There’s a wide variety of composters available, but make sure to look for one that has a tight seal and some sort of odor-controlling device, like charcoal filters. Buy one that’s attractive enough to keep right on your counters and you’ll get into the habit of scraping food scraps right into it.

How do you remind yourself to live green? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!
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Jessica Harlan

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Every Monday, I'll be here to share one, two, three… sometimes even ten! eco-friendly ideas at a time, so we can all do a little bit to save the Earth.

When I'm not making lists, I'm taking care of my two daughters, volunteering in my community, and writing articles about food and cooking — I'm the author of three cookbooks: Ramen to the Rescue, Tortillas to the Rescue, and Quinoa Cuisine (co-written with Kelley Sparwasser), and my fourth, Homemade Condiments, will be available in Fall 2013.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

  • tommy b. 3 years ago
  • Chris F. 3 years ago
  • Bonnie K. 3 years ago
    after I bring in my things from stores in reusable bags I carry them back out to the car or I forget. If I happen to forget our local large grocery retailer has a large drum to return old plastic bags to recycle.We have composted for years ..theres nothing like good clean dirt you made yourself!
  • Tamara C. 3 years ago
    I have successfully developed the habit of remembering to use my reusable shopping bags nearly all of the time! I find them to be very useful and very handy! Re-purpose tip: When your reusable grocery shopping bag is a bit too worn for shopping, use it to as an appliance dust cover! It works great and saves $!
  • Ruth G. 4 years ago
    When I forget my bags or don't have enough, I go to Plan B. I collect boxes as I go around the store or from where the store leaves boxes for that reason. By doing this at our local discount grocery store, I have my groceries bagged (boxed) by the time I get to the cashier. All they have to do is check the prices. They love it as much as I do. I can always reuse the boxes.
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