Project Category: Daily Choices

Meatless Mondays

Go vegetarian once a week for a big impact!

What we eat can have a huge impact on the environment. The meat industry can have all kinds of bad impacts on the environment, from deforestation, to air and water pollution, to greenhouse gas emissions. So what’s the solution? Meatless Monday! Every Monday, opt for a vegetarian option over the normal chicken or beef. There are endless possibilities, and it’s an easy—and delicious—step to reduce your carbon footprint. Meatless Monday is also a great opportunity to educate yourself a little more about your food, how it’s processed, and the impacts it has on the environment around it. If you’re already doing Meatless Monday, or want to go one step further, there are plenty of ways to keep up the good work! Try expanding from one day a week to two or three. See if you can go vegetarian for a whole week! You can also try out a Meatless and Milkless Monday, eating totally vegan for the whole day. And don’t forget that the more the merrier—get friends, family, and coworkers involved in the fun!  

Veggie Burger by Copa41, flickr


Use Water Filters & Reusable Bottles

Use Water Filters & Reusable Bottles

A 2012 study found that on average bottled water costs about $1.22/gallon nationwide and 300x the cost of a gallon of tap water.

Plus: between 2005 and 2009, bottlers increased bottling of tap water more than six times as much as spring water. Tap water — not filtered, not from some magical source. So what are you paying for? Marketing and the illusion that bottled water is safer than tap water. The truth is that municipal tap water is regulated by the EPA which has strict authority for oversight and requirements of testing by certified labs. Water bottlers are regulated by the FDA which provides no greater water safety than tap water (U.S. Government Accountability Office 2009). It’s easy and cheap to take great-tasting water with you wherever you go. Just choose reusable bottles and filter your own water at home, either with a filter pitcher or filter on your faucet.  
Filling up a glass of water from the tap. Image by Balazs Justin via Shutterstock

Image credit: Balazs Justin/Shutterstock


Install a Programmable Thermostat

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Set it, forget it, and save every day.

Heating or cooling a house when no one’s home is like burning money. And since heating and cooling account for 48% of household energy use, you’re talking real money. A programmable thermostat can put that money back in your pocket, while adding convenience and comfort to your day. It can adjust the temperature so that it uses less energy when you leave in the morning and ramps back up to a comfortable level before you get home later. It’s a true no-brainer, because once you set it, it does all the remembering for you. And your utility has programs so you can get one at not cost or at a deep discount.  
Hand turning down temperature on programmable thermostat

Image credit: Steve Cukrov/Shutterstock


Stop the Junk Mail and Use Paperless Billing

Stop the Junk Mail and Use Paperless Billing

Lighten the load in your mailbox and recycling bin.

How much of the mail in your mailbox do you really want to look at, and how much goes straight to the recycling bin? The average American receives 41 pounds of junk mail every year. But you don’t have to take it anymore! See the Resources tab for links that let you stop the junk mail. The other things likely filling up your mailbox are bills. Most companies you regularly do business with — utilities, credit cards, your bank, phone company, etc. — offer a paperless billing option. Get your bill online and pay it online if you like. You can always print any records you want, including old bills, from the company’s website.  
mailbox stuffed with junk mail

Image credit: Flash-ka/Shutterstock


BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag

BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag

Paper? Plastic? How about “none of the above”?

We all know it’s better to use reusable bags than to waste hundreds of plastic or paper bags every year. But when you’re in the checkout line and realize your reusable bags are out in the trunk, what are you going to do? It happens to all of us. You’ll have to go get your bags or carry your items yourself. If you do get disposable bags (and pay the $.05), make sure to recycle them.  Many stores offer recycling. Then next time, put “reusable bags” at the top of your store list to remind you.  
Reusable grocery bags on a kitchen counter

Image credit: Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock

Recycle Everything! (Well almost)

Don’t trash what can be reused or recycled.

When you’re about to throw something in the trash can, tell yourself “stop!” and make sure the item is not recyclable. A tremendous amount of the packaging, paper products, containers and plastics we discard every day are recyclable. Recycling keeps waste out of our landfills, helping to preserve open spaces; reduces use of natural resources; and creates new materials like polyester, polar fleece, carpeting, park benches, playground equipment, decking materials and more. Most Montgomery County residents have curbside recycling pickup. Those that don’t can hire a private hauler or drop off for free at Montgomery County Transfer Stations. For things that can still be reused, consider donating or freecycling; see the Resources tab.  

Shop a Farmers Market, Join a CSA

Shop a Farmers Market, Join a CSA

Support your local farmer!

Farm-fresh food, smiling faces, a sunny sky (hopefully!) — what better way to stock up for your week’s meals? The produce, cheeses, breads, eggs, flowers and even meats that you find at Montgomery County’s farmers markets are fresher and travel less distance than similar grocery store products. Often, they’re also produced with fewer chemical inputs and some are fully organic, an extra benefit for you and the environment. Another option is to join a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, which is like a co-op. For a set seasonal fee, you get a “share” in each week’s harvest; you pick up your bags at a set time and place every week. It’s always fresh, and there’s always something surprising. Either way, you’re supporting local growers, getting healthier, super-fresh food, and reducing the impact from food that often travels more than a thousand miles to reach your table.  
An image of a paper shopping bag surrounded by local vegetables

Image credit: Arina P Habich/Shutterstock


Choose Green Cleaning Products

Go green when you clean!

These days, cleaning house can be a dangerous job. Harsh cleaning ingredients like bleach can cause lung, skin and eye irritation. You have the added hazard of storing the products.  Plus the chemicals can be hazardous outside of the house as well as in.  Phosphates, for example, spur algal blooms that rob aquatic animals of oxygen. Green cleaning products, on the other hand, often use less toxic, biodegradable, plant-based solutions. Many also come in concentrated formulas, which reduces packaging and waste. Protect your health and your family — go green when you clean! Check the ingredients list for these items to make sure you’re using a greener cleaner:
  • No ozone-depleting substances
  • Reduced bioconcentration, or chemical buildup when consumed by animals
  • Reduced flammability
  • No or reduced added dyes, except when added for safety purposes
  • No or reduced added fragrances
  • No or reduced skin irritants, like parabens, bleach, phosphoric acid and others
  • No or reduced volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Reduced packaging
  • Recyclable packaging
  • Recycled content in packaging
  Be wary of vague packaging of “green”, “environmentally friendly” or “eco-safe”.  Do your research, read the packaging and get informed.  
Green cleaning products, including lemon and baking soda

Image credit: Geo-grafika/Shutterstock


Take a Stay-cation

There’s a world of vacation fun right here!

When that hard-earned, long-awaited vacation arrives, it’s understandable to want to pack up and get away as far and fast as you can. But whether you’re driving or flying, long-distance trips take a hard toll on the planet. Fortunately, you live in one of the most historically, culturally and scenically rich areas in the nation. Why not plan to spend a vacation right here to explore our national treasures, take in a show, hike a beautiful trail, dine in a world-class restaurant? Just switch off the smartphone, lock the home office, and let the unwinding begin!

Walk, Ride a Bike, Go Mass Transit

Take a break from traffic and parking hassles.

How many times a week do you hop in the car to go someplace that’s a walkable or bike-able distance away? Or fight traffic to go someplace that’s right on the Metro or bus route? Those trips add up — in emissions, gas, and wear and tear on the car. Even if you do it just once or twice a week, make a choice to walk, ride your bike, or take the Metro or bus. You’ll reduce your stress level and your impact on the planet. And if you take public transportation, you could catch up on your reading, play apps on your phone, or even make a new friend.  

Watch The Story of Stuff

You, the Consumer: the Behind-the-Scenes Story

You’re surrounded by stuff — in your home, your car, your office, everywhere — but do you understand where it comes from and where it goes?  You’ll be shocked, entertained and inspired by  The Story of Stuff and other short films that give the unvarnished story of what our consumption means to ourselves and our planet.  Sit down with some popcorn — in a reusable bowl — and be amazed at what you see.  You’ll never look at your stuff the same way again.  

Compost Kitchen Waste + Yard Trim

Compost is the foundation of a healthy, sustainable lawn and garden.

There’s gold in your garbage! Black gold, that is. All of your non-meat food waste — from coffee grounds and eggshells to vegetable scraps, pasta and bread — and much of your lawn waste, can be turned into rich compost for your lawn and garden. It’s easy to do and saves money on fertilizers and other amendments. Much of the 1,606 pounds of garbage each person creates every year (2013 EPA estimate) is organic and can be composted, saving space in landfills and keeping our waste water cleaner and easier to purify. All you need is a small, 3’x3’ corner of your yard.