Go Green for Good Health (and Save Money)
It's the simple truth—protecting the environment helps protect your health. By going green with our 18 tips, you'll help reduce pollution, waste less, and preserve natural resources...and you'll exercise more, eat better, lower your stress, and protect your heart and lungs. Plus, you'll save green along the way!
Eating and Drinking
1. Eat local.
Food grown locally is sold soon after harvest, so it tastes better and contains more nutrients than food that takes longer to get to your plate. Local food also usually contains fewer preservatives and pesticides. Find fresh, locally grown food at Farm Fresh Rhode Island.
Buying local helps you eat native, seasonal foods, which are usually less expensive than exotic foods.
2. Eat less meat.
The saturated fat in meat can increase your risk for heart disease and diabetes. And according to the United Nations, the production of meat is responsible for almost a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Meat is often the priciest part of a meal. Lower the cost of dinners by focusing on beans, whole grains, and/or vegetables. Try these four dinners under $10.
3. Go organic when you can.
If organic foods were the same price as conventional foods, more people would buy organic. A good compromise is to find out which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticides and buy those organic. The Environmental Working Group ranks produce by the amount of pesticides typically found in them. Apples, peaches, and nectarines topped the 2016 list.
To find organic foods at lower costs, contact your city/town to see if there is an organic community garden or food co-op near you, or search Local Harvest.
4. Pack your lunch.
Oversized lunch portions can add extra calories and fat to your diet. Plus, all those disposable containers, utensils, and bags create a lot of waste. Try making extra for dinner, then bringing leftovers in a reusable lunch bag (with reusable containers, of course).
Lunch at a restaurant can cost upwards of $10 per day—that's $2,600 a year!
5. Make your own baby food.
Organic jarred baby food is one option for parents concerned about pesticides. But you can also make your own using organic ingredients and a food grinder. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers the Home-Prepared Baby Food Guide to help you get started. Talk to your child's doctor to ensure your baby is getting all the necessary nutrients.
Parents spend an average of $342 or more on baby food in the first year. Making your own baby food could be half or even a quarter of the cost.
6. Choose tap over bottled water.
The average American drank 34.2 gallons of bottled water last year—about 260 bottles of the individual 16.9 oz. size—and the majority of those bottles were not recycled. Bottled water isn't better for your health than tap water (often bottled water is filtered tap water), and bottled water is actually subject to fewer regulations than tap.
At an average cost of $1.22 per gallon, consumers are spending 300 times the cost of tap water to drink bottled water.
7. Wash your hands to reduce exposure to chemicals.
Try using regular soap and water rather than antibacterial soap. Antibacterials, such as those containing triclosan, aren't any more effective than regular soap. Researchers at the University of California, Davis found that long-term exposure to chemicals in these soaps has the potential to damage the liver and raise the risk of cancer.
Antibacterial soaps often cost slightly more than regular soaps.
8. Walk or bike instead of driving.
Half of all car trips are less than three miles, and cars produce 40 percent more emissions when first started. So try biking or walking to your destination, whether it's to the pharmacy or your job.
If your trip to work is 10 miles each way, you'll save a gallon of gas each day by biking. You'll also save on wear and tear on your car and parking costs. Get tips for biking safely to work in the Rhode Island Bicycle Commuter Guide, and learn more about Rhode Island’s impressive network of bike paths at RIDOT.
9. Be a responsible driver.
Taking care of your vehicle, driving slower, and not riding your brake protects you and others on the road while improving your fuel economy. And since a well-maintained car lasts longer, you avoid the need for a new car (and all the materials that requires) and new car payments.
According to fueleconomy.gov, each five miles per hour you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.14-$0.29 per gallon for gas. (And that's assuming a cost of only $2.07/gallon!)
10. Use public transit.
The EPA reports that motor vehicles cause more than half of toxic air pollutant emissions in the United States. You can cut down on air pollution, reduce your stress, and read a good book all on your way to work. Rhode Islanders can visit RIPTA for public transit information. If you live out of state, try the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
APTA reports that an average two-person household can save more than $10,174 a year by downsizing to one car.
11. Grow your own food.
Rising food prices are leading many to grow their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The easiest items to grow are beets, tomatoes, onions, spinach, snap peas, carrots, and squash. Visit the University of Rhode Island’s Master Gardeners Program for tips on organic gardening. To find a local community garden, visit Farm Fresh RI, Southside Community Land Trust, or the American Community Garden Association.
Grow plants from seed and use your own compost (see tip 12) to fertilize your garden.
12. Try composting.
You can reduce up to two-thirds of your household waste by composting. Use food scraps, yard trimmings, and organic waste to create a compost pile (it doesn't smell, really), which creates rich soil. To learn how to compost, please visit the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation.
Compost is a natural fertilizer, so you don't have to buy chemical or organic fertilizers for your lawn or garden.
13. Use natural pest repellants.
Pesticides are poison and can be harmful to children and adults. Avoid the use of pesticides completely by using non-toxic, natural deterrents. The EPA suggests using ladybugs to eat aphids, planting marigolds to ward off beetles, and looking for quick-sprouting plants to block weed growth. For information on non-chemical methods, please visit Capital Roots.
Many of the natural methods used to control pests don't cost anything or cost much less than pesticides.
14. Retire your gas mower.
Traditional gas-powered lawn mowers are responsible for 5 percent of the nation's air pollution. And you're inhaling that pollution as you mow. To protect your health and air quality, consider an electric mower or a reel push mower.
The average cost of a reel mower is $75-$200, much lower than $159-$300 for a gas mower. Plus, you don't have to pay for gas.
15. Go back to basics.
A recent study in the European Respiratory Journal found that women who use at least two types of cleaning spray on a weekly basis were 2.5 times more likely to have a high asthma symptom score. You can avoid chemicals altogether by using common household products to clean, such as baking soda and vinegar. Learn how to make quick and easy green cleaners with tips provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
A 32 oz. glass cleaner costs $3.12, the same as a gallon of distilled white vinegar. An eight-ounce box of baking soda costs $0.50.
16. Dry clean less.
Perchloroethylene (perc), the chemical used by most dry cleaners, causes air pollution and has been listed by the EPA as a probable cancer-causing agent. Many items listed as "dry-clean only" can be washed by hand or in the delicate cycle in cold water. For clothes that cannot be washed—such as wool, silk, and suits—find a dry cleaner who uses CO2 dry cleaning or professional wet cleaning.
You'll save $5-$15 per clothing item you wash at home instead of dry clean.
17. Recycle hazardous materials.
The air inside homes may be about two to five times more polluted than the air outside, according to the EPA. That pollution is partly due to household cleaners and pesticides. In addition to using non-toxic alternatives, you should also recycle any hazardous products in your home now, including pesticides, oil-based paints, and motor oil. To find local places to recycle different products, visit Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation.
If you must use hazardous products, use the smallest amount possible, or find out if someone else has an open container of what you need.
18. Use less electricity.
Generating electricity is one of the biggest sources of pollution in the United States, particularly the eastern United States, according to the American Lung Association (ALA). The ALA also reports that 42 percent of Americans live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution. So turn off the lights if you leave the room for even a minute.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs might cost more up front, but their long life will save money in the long run. Just be sure to recycle, as they contain small amounts of mercury. Newer LED light bulbs do not contain mercury. Read about lighting choices to save you money at the U.S. Department of Energy’s website.