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The List: 8 Guilty Greens to Abolish in 40 Days

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Spend forty days eradicating guilty green habits from your life.


I don’t observe Lent, but I do love the idea of giving something up for forty days. I think it builds character and, if you’ve chosen to use the period of time to test the waters of giving something up for good, it can be a great start. Although the myth that it takes twenty-one days to build a habit has since been debunked, certainly forty days is a great start to make it second nature.

And if you’re willing to give up, say, chocolate, or your nightly glass of wine, why not instead do something good for the environment? My colleague at Recyclebank recently shared ten ideas of simple eco-friendly actions you could do for a forty-day stretch.

Now that Easter Day has passed, it’s a good time to take stock of how successful you were if you did indeed choose an environment-related action to observe throughout Lent. And if you didn’t, keep in mind that you don’t need to be religious to take part in this project! Any time is a good time to try to expunge some of the environmentally negative habits that you’re most embarrassed about, a concept that we at Recyclebank call guilty greens.

Do you have any secret guilty greens? Why not consider spending a forty-day stretch trying to change your ways? Here are a few things that many of us are guilty of.

  1. Throwing away recyclable food containers. Admit it — you’ve been cleaning out the fridge and been too grossed out to even open up some of those old containers, let alone carefully wash them so that they’re acceptable for recycling. An interesting Mother Jones piece has the lowdown on how clean your recyclables should be, and why. The bottom line: Taking a moment to rinse food residue away will make your recyclables easier to turn into new things.
  2. Driving to places that you could easily walk. I’ll be the first to admit it: I drive just about everywhere, even though plenty of the places I go to are in my neighborhood. From my daughters’ schools to restaurants to the parks where we swim and have baseball practice, it just seems like we are always running late and end up driving to save a few minutes. Leaving the car at home will be a guilty green I’m working on. The EPA says that vehicles contribute to half the nation’s air pollution, and cars also contribute to greenhouse gases and can leak toxic fluids. My plan: Allow more time to get where I’m going, put on my comfiest shoes, and enjoy the scenery as I stroll. For longer trips, I’ll get out my bike.
  3. Leaving electronics on needlessly. Turning off the lights when you leave the room is the obvious thing, but what about the many other electronics that could be unplugged or turned off when they’re not in use? I leave my electric toothbrush base unplugged until it signals that it needs a charge, and I do the same with phone, computer, and other chargers. Otherwise they’ll needlessly sap small amounts of energy known as vampire energy.
  4. Opting for toxic cleansers. You know that the mainstream cleanser brands that are filled with bleach and other chemicals will make your home sparkling clean. But at what cost? The chemicals in them can cause health problems in those exposed to them, can work their way into waterways, and the VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds — where that “clean” smell comes from) decrease air quality.
  5. Not recycling in less-obvious areas. It’s easy to remember to recycle in the kitchen, where your recycling bins are. But don’t forget recyclables in other parts of your life: the bathroom, your home office, your car. Pretty and sturdy RecyclerSacks can help remind you to recycle — keep one in the bathroom and in your car and empty or recycle the whole thing when it’s full.
  6. Cranking up the heat or air conditioning. If the temperature isn’t right, it’s tempting to just adjust the thermostat. But there are plenty of energy-efficient ways to stay warm or cool down. Keep your thermostat at a more moderate setting and get creative with how you stay comfortable.
  7. Taking long showers. Sure, it feels good to linger under the steamy flow of water. But a shower uses anywhere from two to five gallons per minute, depending on your showerhead. Try a “Navy-style shower” which can save a ton of water over time.
  8. Buying single-portion packages. Especially if you have children, those pre-portioned packages are a tidy, handy solution. But all that extra packaging wastes resources to produce, and much of it isn’t even recyclable. Instead, buy bulk sizes and invest in some reusable containers to create your own portions.

What’s your guilty green? Spill the beans in the comments below — your answers might show up in a future Recyclebank post!

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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.

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  • tommy b. 6 days ago
    Today
  • claudia G. 5 months ago
    like
  • June G. 9 months ago
    I have a shut off valve installed on my shower head. I take Navy showers, but shut off the water at the shower head instead of the faucet knobs. This saves the temperature setting!
  • Sue C. 9 months ago
    Jessica--I think if I go down your list of items here I'm doing pretty well. I wash the containers and have a separate dry area , don't take long showers, stopped using toxic cleaners a while back, and walk whenever I can just for exercise. I don't buy single portions since it isn't cost effective and I usually use whatever I purchase in more than one meal. However, my "guilty green" is paper towel. I need to cut down my usage of it for household chores.
  • KAREN P. 10 months ago
    Jessica Harlan, you are wonderful!! You have taught me more than I could ever tell you.
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