Twenty Surprising Ways To Live a Greener Life Today

We started UMG Cleaning in 2007 because we were concerned with the long-term health and environmental effects of traditional cleaning products. We wanted to offer the best and most thorough, nontoxic, green cleaning services that would not add to our or your carbon footprint! Since then, we have been committed to our environmental stewardship and have been recognized by New York Magazine and Time Out Magazine for our successes. We also strive to continue our eco-friendly efforts outside of our cleaning services, and we hope others do the same! This is why we have come up with a list of small and extremely simple steps you can take, daily, to go just a little more green!

1. Vinyl shower curtains contain more than 110 different types of chemicals that are emitted into the air. By swapping out your vinyl curtain, you will avoid that irritating “plastic smell” in the bathroom as well as protect the environment from those nasty chemicals seeping from the vinyl. Instead choose a curtain that is made of cloth, bamboo, or PVC-free plastic.

2. While an ultra-full freezer may be overwhelming and feel a tad cluttered, packing your freezer to the brim is the best and most eco-friendly use of space. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, it takes much more energy to cool an empty freezer. So head to the store, stock up on your frozen favorites, and stuff that freezer full!

3. Nonstick pans are so easy to care for and post-meal cleanup in a cinch. Did you know, though, that the surface on nonstick cookware contains chemicals that are characterized by high resistance to solvents, acids, and bases—great for creating a slick surface on pans, but not great for the environment? When these chemicals break down, they turn into compounds, some of which are carcinogens that can get into your food. Swap out your nonstick pans for cast iron skillets. Not only do cast irons have nonstick surfaces, but they also add amazing, unique flavors to your food and require very little maintenance—simply wipe them out with a wet paper towel and rub on a little unsaturated cooking fat, like vegetable oil, if the skillet seems to be “dry.”

  • 4. Dirty dishes—they’re the pits, and very few people enjoy washing them by hand. If you own a dishwasher, washing all of your dirty kitchenware in that dishwasher is the more eco-friendly choice, compared to hand washing the dishes. Why? A dishwasher uses one-sixth of the water and less soap than the manual alternative. Run your dishwasher when it’s full and you will save more than 100 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.

  • 5. If you have a beautiful garden or a yard full of green grass, make sure you are watering your plants in the early morning or the evening. Cooler weather during these two times of day means you will lose less water to evaporation, which occurs when the hot sun is out in the middle of the day. Water in the morning or evening to conserve water.

  • 6. Each month, consumers throw away more than 20 pounds of food. To prevent so much waste, strategically plan out your meals and avoid impulse buys. Most impulse purchases are the result of a sudden craving, meaning that 12-packs of pastries could easily get pushed to the back of the cupboard after only a few bites. Weeks later you’ll find the pastries and have to toss them on account of dusty mold. Pro tip: always go to the grocery store on a full stomach—you’ll experience fewer cravings.

  • 7. Taking a trip that is less than five miles away? Ride your bike! If more people chose to bike instead of driving distances that are between one and three miles long, almost 23 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the fuel would be eliminated, each year. Carbon dioxide depletes the ozone layer, causing rising sea levels, increased global temperatures, expansion of deserts, and many other harmful effects.

  • 8. “Paper or plastic?” It’s a question we’ve all heard at the grocery store, but recently, another option has been added to the queue—reusable, cloth bags. Stash your reusable bags in the trunk of your car, so you are prepared next time you head to the store. Plastic bags contain petroleum and many times are not recycled. These bags eventually end up polluting waterways and other public areas.

  • 9. Shopping locally is not only a great way to support your community, but it is also an excellent way to buy food that is nutrient-rich and unprocessed. When you buy food locally, you are reducing pollution and eliminating the energy used from refrigerating, storing, and transporting bulk products.

  • 10. Think about how much trash we produce during the holidays. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, we turn out 25 percent more trash than we do in any other two-month period throughout the year. This year, consider wrapping presents in a newspaper or leftover fabric. Make a conscious effort to turn off holiday lights during the day. And send e-cards instead of paper cards. These are just a few eco-friendly choices you can make this holiday season.

  • 11. With colder weather right around the corner, now’s a good time to make sure that your home is well-insulated. By ensuring walls, floors, ceilings, and doors are sealed tightly and properly insulated, you can save more than 20 percent on heating and cooling costs, every year.

  • 12. Composting at home, just like strategically putting together your shopping list, will help reduce food waste. Compost is an awesome natural fertilizer, and if you do not have a use for the fertilizer, package it up and give it to a green-thumbed friend. Check out this helpful resource to learn how to build a compost pile.

  • 13. When it comes to your refrigerator, make sure you are keeping the coils clean and positioning the fridge at least one foot away from the wall. If your fridge is pushed up directly against the wall, circulation is limited and your unit is going to have to work that much harder, severely boosting the amount of energy used.

  • 14. When it’s cold out, few things are better than a nice toasty living room. By slipping into a sweater and bumping the thermostat down a mere two degrees, you will prevent 500 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere over a year. Remember that most of your body heat is released through your head and feet, so if you find yourself affected by the two-degree drop, toss on a pair of fuzzy socks or a warm beanie.

  • 15. When you commute to work each day, after an entire year, your vehicle has emitted almost four tons of carbon dioxide. Of course, this number varies depending on your vehicle and the distance of your commute, but carpooling with a coworker is an amazingly simple way to cut that number in half. Two tons of carbon dioxide may not sound much better, but hey, it’s a start!

  • 16. Instead of using a Styrofoam or paper cup for your morning coffee, sip your tasty beverage out of a mug. If you typically buy your coffee from a local shop, ask them to fill your traveling coffee mug instead of using one of their single-use cups. Because few recycling companies accept Styrofoam, your disposable coffee cup will likely end up in a landfill and stay there forever.

  • 17. Have you ever looked at the list of ingredients on a bottle of air freshener? We already know the answer is “no” because commercial room deodorizers don’t list the ingredients used to create the freshener. In 2010, the International Fragrance Association published a list that included more than 3,000 chemicals used by manufacturers to create air fresheners. Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens and by using these deodorizers, you are exposing both yourself and the environment to unknown, toxic substances. To control nasty odors, open windows, set out a bowl of white vinegar, or clean the source of the unpleasant smell.

  • 18. How much of the “snail mail” that you receive daily is mail that you open and read? Our mailboxes are constantly littered with junk mail and unsolicited catalogs, which almost all end up directly in the trash. There are many resources online that can remove your name/address from lists of unwanted mail.

    1. 19. After a shower, air drying your hair is an excellent way to improve your hair’s health as well as cut down on carbon dioxide emissions. Exposing your hair to high heat damages the cells in the hair cuticle, resulting in brittle, dry hair with less shine and volume. If tossing your blow dryer isn’t an option, aim to decrease your drying time by five minutes each day to diminish the amount of carbon dioxide you emit.

    2. 20. Almost everything we buy comes in some sort of packaging. Whether it’s a paper box or plastic bag, all of those materials are going to end up in the trash. Recently, more and more people are making a conscious effort to reduce their monthly waste. Simple changes like relying on reusable containers and avoiding plastic water bottles will help reduce the amount of trash you produce. According to The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook, if one million people tossed out 10 percent less trash each year, 600,000 tons of greenhouse gases would be kept from entering the atmosphere.

    There are infinitely more strides you can take to live a greener life, and hopefully, these 20 tips have provided you with a helpful starting point. One eco-friendly choice you can make today is to partner with UMG Cleaning for all of your environmentally-sound commercial cleaning needs. We offer our green clean solutions across the nation! Whether you need help tidying up around the business, office, school campus, or construction site, there is no job too big or too small for our team! To learn more about our services, please get in touch with us today.