Green Tips

Every day, we can help protect our environment at home and at work. These tips provide ways for you to prevent pollution and protect the environment.

Click on a category in the picture below for helpful tips.

Indoor Air QualityOfficeLiving & Family RoomBathroomKitchenBasement/LaundryLawn & GardenPrivate Sewage SystemsEnergy ConservationWater ConservationPrivate Wells

Home

Living Room/Family Room

  • Set your thermostat according to your use of the house. While you’re at work or when you go to sleep, set the temperature so that your heat and air isn’t used as much. Purchase a programmable thermostat.
  • Use natural cooling and heating, when possible. Open a window in the summer or put a sweater on in the winter instead of adjusting the thermostat.
  • Open curtains to allow solar heating and close for heat retention- reverse in hot weather
  • Use insulated curtains or window quilts
  • Don’t block vents or radiators with furniture.
  • Don’t leave your computer on when not in use. Even in “sleep” mode, your computer is wasting energy and costing you money.
  • Use rechargeable batteries whenever possible.
  • Share your magazines with a friend, community group or doctor's office before recycling them.
  • Reduce junk mail - To take your name off unwanted mailings, send a postcard or letter that includes your name, home address and signature to: Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 15012-0643.

Kitchen 

  • Don’t use the dishwasher’s drying setting; let dishes air dry instead. Open the door to dry the dishes more quickly.
  • Keep your refrigerator between 37 and 40 degrees and your freezer at 5 degrees. Check your refrigerator door seals: close the door on a piece of paper that is half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull the paper out easily, you may be leaking cold air and wasting electricity.
  • Move your refrigerator from the wall and vacuum its condenser coils each year. This will help the refrigerator run more efficiently.
  • Use cold water when only using small amounts of water. Even if the hot water never reaches the faucet, you are paying to heat it.
  • When using hot water, keep a bucket or other container handy to catch the cold water that comes out of the faucet.
  • Cover pots and kettles when boiling water. The water will heat up faster and use less energy.
  • If you use gas appliances, check that your flame is blue, not yellow. A yellow flame means the gas is burning less efficiently and may require adjustment.
  • If you use an electric stove, turn the burners off a couple of minutes before you are done cooking. The burner will remain hot long enough to finish cooking.
  • Set up a recycling center in your home.
  • Purchase non-toxic household cleaning products.
  • Buy products in reusable containers such as glass jars and sturdy plastic dairy tubs. Reuse these containers when buying bulk foods, for leftovers and mixing concentrated juice.
  • At the grocery store, purchase food and beverages that contain environmental symbols on the labels to assure that the packaging has been made from recycled materials.
  • Many families spend over $260 each year on paper towels and napkins. Switch to cloth napkins, sponges, and cloth towels or wipes.

Bathroom

  • Drop some food coloring into the reservoir tank of your toilet before you go to bed. Check the bowl in the morning; if the color is present, you may have a leak.
  • Put a full bottle of water in the toilet tank to reduce water consumption.
  • Take a shower instead of a bath. Showers use less water than baths.
  • When brushing your teeth or shaving, turn off the water.
  • Use biodegradable soaps and shampoos
  • Never use toxic chemical cleaners
  • Follow recommended uses and precautions on labels.
  • Buy products that are reusable, refillable, or concentrated to help reduce packaging.
  • Avoid single-use products such as disposable razors, diapers and lighters.
  • Bar soap generates less packaging waste and is less expensive than liquid soap in plastic bottles with pump dispensers.
  • Buy products with the least packaging to reduce the need to manufacture excessive packaging.
  • Purchase reusable items that can replace disposable goods.

Basement/ Laundry

  • If you have an older water heater, wrap it in insulation to conserve heat. Also wrap any exposed pipes in insulation.
  • Make sure the temperature of the water is no higher than 120 degrees. Check the directions of your dishwater to see if you need a higher temperature.
  • Avoid purchasing harsh cleaners and paints.
  • Get a radon test. Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that can enter your home through the foundation.
  • Use liquid laundry soap or phosphate-free powdered soap
  • Use warm or cold water instead of hot water to wash clothes
  • Hang clothes to dry
  • Use chlorine bleach sparingly
  • Purchase latex paint instead of oil-based paint whenever possible.
  • Buy paint in small quantities to ensure its full use.
  • Recycle your extra paint. Partners for Waste Paint Solution
  • Selecting and using multi-purpose cleaners can reduce the number of cleaners you use, reduce the number of hazardous products in your home and save you money, too! Read and follow label directions carefully.

Indoor Air Quality

  • Test your home for radon – it’s easy and inexpensive.
  • Install and use fans vented to outdoors in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Empty water trays in air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and refrigerators frequently.
  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.
  • Change filters on central heating and cooling systems and air cleaners according to manufacturer’s directions. Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central heating system (furnaces, flues, and chimneys) annually. Repair any leaks promptly.
  • Make sure you provide plenty of fresh air when using products such as paints, paint strippers, solvents, aerosol sprays, cleansers and disinfectants.
  • Never mix household care products unless directed on the label.
  • Use pesticides according to manufacturer’s directions and apply only in recommended quantities. Use non-chemical methods of pest control where possible. Keep indoor spaces clean, dry, and well ventilated to avoid pest and odor problems.
  • If your work or hobby involves lead, change clothes and use doormats before entering your home.
  • Do not sand or burn off paint that may contain lead.
  • Follow proper procedures in replaced woodstove door gaskets that may contain asbestos.
  • Learn more about indoor air pollution, including the steps to take to reduce the risk of existing pollution and to prevent new problems at U.S. EPA’s web page, Indoor Air Quality in Homes.

Office

  • Make double-sided copies
  • Use e-mail for memos, meeting notes, announcements, etc.
  • Reuse file folders, routing envelopes, and manila envelopes
  • Using a mug saves 500 disposable cups per person from being thrown away each year.
  • Turn off machines that aren’t in use
  • Get plants to absorb indoor air pollution; philodendrons, Boston ferns, and English ivy grow well with artificial light
  • Give “green” office gifts, such as mugs, plants and lunchboxes
  • Purchase copy paper with at least 30% recycled content, and 60% post-consumer content.
  • Buy processed chlorine-free, and lower basis-weight paper.
  • When purchasing office supplies, consider recycled content office products such as binders, folders, clipboards, presentation folders, desktop accessories etc.
  • Purchase remanufactured or recycled toner cartridges. Choose a vendor with a take-back program to recycle used cartridges.

Transportation

  • Keep your car tuned up and in good working condition.
  • Make sure your tires are inflated to the proper pressure. Under or over inflated tires can be dangerous and make your engine work harder.
  • Carpool, take the bus, ride your bike or walk whenever you can.
  • Purchase and use the most fuel-efficient vehicle that meets your needs.
  • Take your used motor oil to a service station that participates in a motor oil recycling program. Dumping or spilling used motor oil on the ground, down storm drains, or in the garbage contaminates ground or surface waters and soil.
  • Take used car batteries to a retailer for recycling.
  • Find out which service stations in your community accept used antifreeze. It can be recycled.

Lawn & Garden

  • Test your soil so you will know how much nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and lime your soil needs to grow a healthy lawn and garden. Depending on the condition of the soil, you may not even need to apply these nutrients. Contact your local Cooperative Extension Office or garden supply center for a soil test kit.
  • Choose “natural organic” or “slow-release” fertilizers to feed your lawn or plants slowly and evenly. This practice will reduce the potential for nutrient run-off.
  • Read and follow product labels carefully before using fertilizers and make sure you avoid application of these products to impervious surfaces. Keep fertilizers on the soil and out of the street.
  • Minimize the use of fertilizers by using plants native to your area. Native plants can provide a hardy, low maintenance landscape.
  • If a pest or weed problem develops, use an “integrated approach” to address the problem. Physical controls like traps, barriers, fabric row covers or plants that repel pests can work for some pests.
  • Use pesticides responsibly. Carefully read and follow product label instructions. Avoid overuse of pesticides. When you have a small problem area, treat just that area, not the entire yard.
  • If a plant has insect, pest or disease problems every year, consider replacing it with a more tolerant or resistant variety, or another type of plant that doesn't have these problems.
  • Cutting the lawn too short weakens the grass and allows weeds to grow faster.
  • Leave or plant a “buffer” of dense native vegetation along streams and lakes to filter and slow nutrient run-off.
  • Don’t over water your lawn or garden. Excessive watering can cause chemicals to leach into groundwater and make plants more prone to disease.
  • Let the soil dry between waterings to prevent lawn disease and save water. Lawns need about one inch of water a week in the summer, including rain, to stay green.
  • Water in the early morning. If you water at mid-day, much of the water just evaporates. Evening watering should be avoided because it can encourage the growth of mold or plant diseases.
  • Use mulch around your plants to reduce erosion and help rain soak in. Never exceed more than three inches of mulch in your landscaping beds, and keep mulch about an inch away from stems and tree trunks.
  • Direct downspouts out into lawns, rain gardens or “rain barrels” to help manage water efficiently.
  • Mow more frequently when grass is actively growing so that you are only cutting no more than one-third of the height of the grass. This practice minimizes the amount of grass clippings.
  • Leave grass clippings on your lawn (“grasscycle”) and mulch fall leaves. This eliminates waste and conserves soil nutrients.
  • Don't plant invasive species – check with your local Cooperative Extension Office for a list of invasive “noxious weeds.”
  • U.S. EPA’sLawn and Garden Care web page (http://www.epa.gov/epahome/home.htm) provides more tips to show you how to reduce the environmental impacts of caring for your lawn and plants.

Energy Conservation

  • Avoid leaving lights on in empty rooms.
  • Turn on your desktop lamp instead of higher-energy overhead lights when practicable.
  • Weatherstrip leaky doors and windows during winter months.
  • Set water heater between "low" & "medium" (110-120o F); each 10-degree reduction saves 35% on water heating bills.
  • Lower your thermostat: each degree lower reduces your furnace's energy consumption by 23%. Try 65-68o F when home during the day, then 55o F at night.
  • Turn off your home computer when it is not in use for long periods.
  • Purchase energy efficient appliances when old appliances need to be replaced.
  • Plan an energy efficiency strategy for your home. Order an energy audit from your local utility office. Conserve energy at home to reduce energy needs from power plants.
  • Switching to compact fluorescent lamps saves energy and reduces pollution.
  • U.S. EPA’s Energy Star program offers consumers and businesses energy-efficient solutions, making it easy to save money while protecting the environment for future generations.
  • Find out how much greenhouse gas emissions your household emits and ways you can reduce them.
  • Visit the Global Footprint Network.

Water Conservation

  • Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth, shave, lather your hair, and scrub the dishes.
  • Repair all leaks, which can save water and money.
  • Use machines efficiently. Wash only full loads in your washing machine and dishwasher, use the shortest was cycle your dishwasher allows, select the appropriate water level or load size on your washing machine.
  • Install a low-flow showerhead and save half the amount of water you use.
  • Keep drinking water in the refrigerator rather than running the tap for cold water.
  • Replace your toilet with a low-flow version or place plastic containers filled with water in your toilet tanks. (Keep the containers away from the flush mechanism.)
  • Water your grass – not your driveway, sidewalk or street
  • U.S. EPA’s water conservation web page offers more useful conservation tips for around the home.

Private Sewage Systems

  • Conserve water to avoid overloading the system. Give your system time to rest after heavy use. Use water-saving fixtures; repair leaky toilets and dripping faucets.
  • Discard grease in the garbage instead of the drain. Grease can clog the septic tank or the soils surrounding the absorption field. Also, use of liquid fabric softeners can contribute to excessive scum in the septic tank.
  • Keep water softener discharges out of your septic system. Sodium in water softener water reacts with soil and reduces the absorption field's efficiency.
  • Read product labels! Use low phosphorus detergents and cleaning products whenever possible. Phosphorus is the nutrient most likely to cause damage to a lake after leaving your septic system.
  • Avoid chemical additives. No additive can alleviate the need to regularly pump your septic tank; some may actually promote clogging of your absorption field or contaminate groundwater.
  • Do not inhale gas emitted from an open septic tank. Gas produced in your septic tank is toxic.
  • Keep roof drains, sump pump drains, and other rain or surface water drainage systems away from the absorption field.
  • Be alert. Unpleasant odors, soggy soil, liquid waste flow, or excessive grass growth over the soil absorption area can be signs that the system is in need of service.
  • U.S. EPA’s Homeowner’s Guide to Septic Systems is an adobe acrobat file that provides information about your septic system and how to maintain it.

Private Wells

  • Slope the area around the well to drain surface runoff away from the well.
  • Disinfect drinking water wells at least once per year with bleach or hypochlorite granules, according to the manufacturers directions.
  • Have the well tested once a year for coliform bacteria, nitrates, and other constituents of concern.
  • Avoid mixing or using pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, degreasers, fuels, paints, motor oil, and other pollutants near the well.
  • Don’t allow back-siphonage. When mixing pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals, don’t put the hose inside the tank or container.
  • Be aware of changes in your well, the area around your well or the water it provides.
  • Dispose of solvents properly. Waste solvents should be taken to a hazardous waste collection facility or event.
  • U.S. EPA’s web page, Private Drinking Water Wells, offers information on how to test and protect private wells, as well as guidance on what to do after a flood.
  • Illinois Department of Public Health provides a various factsheets about private water.