5 Eco-Friendly Ideas + Activities that are Fun + Free

October 02, 2018

5 Eco-Friendly Ideas + Activities that are Fun + Free

For some, the term "sustainable living" may immediately connote expensive, organic groceries or the hassle of deciphering recycling logos. But the truth is, going green doesn't have to be expensive or a headache. Simple acts can go a long way towards reducing waste and your eco-footprint; each step, no matter how small, contributes to making the planet happier and healthier.

In that vein, these five ideas take a fun approach to sustainability. Each of these activities is free, family-friendly, and designed to support the environment:

1. Host a book exchange with friends

Recently finished reading a book that was so good, you just have to share it with someone? Why not do so while also getting a reciprocal, life-changing read at the same time?

Invite friends, acquaintances, and fellow bookworms for a "book swap." Ask attendees to bring a few picks they want to give away—whether it's a three-novel set that's gathering dust on their shelf, or a stack of New Yorkers they've already rifled through. This concept works great for kids, too; ask your children to select and share a few books they once enjoyed, but have since outgrown.

Put out some snacks, turn on some music, and relish a casual Sunday afternoon get-together of recycled reading.

2. Give new life to old mason jars

You know all those glass jars—from salsa, nut butters, and sauerkraut—you've been setting aside for a purported future use? Now's your chance to give them new life. Start by removing the labels: Apartment Therapy suggests placing the jars in a large pot filled with water, squeezing in some dish soap, and then "cooking" them on high until the labels float off on their own.

Then, you can use the jars to whip up homemade goods, like pickles or your own sauerkraut. Or convert them into drinking glasses for picnics and other casual events. If the jar is big enough, keep it on standby as a backup vase for extra flowers. You're cutting down on consumption and saving money.

3. Challenge your co-workers to commuting via bike one day a week

If you drive to work, biking instead will significantly cut down your carbon emissions. Plus, it's like a gym on wheels: Commuters who start cycling lose an average of 13 pounds in their first year.

If the thought of biking to work seems daunting, consider enlisting a colleague to join you. Start with manageable goals—challenge your coworker to one day a week, and then see how you both fare.

Some tips for riding your bike to work: Leave a change of clothes at the office the day before your commute, so you don't have to worry about carrying an extra bag (or sweating in your riding clothes). Do a test run over the weekend and time your riding at a leisurely pace. This will give you a generous idea of how long the commute will take.

4. Plan a special meal—using ingredients you already have

It's reported that as a whole, Americans throw away up to 40% of all food purchased. To reduce food waste of your own, here's another challenge: Plan a potluck or family dinner using only ingredients that you already have in your kitchen. Raid the freezer for that salmon you've been meaning to thaw, or look to the pantry for some grain inspiration.

Whether you use the remnants of a milk carton to whip up a frittata, or arrange a ratatouille using veggies from your weekly produce run, this is a great opportunity to taste the virtues of "waste not, want not."

5. Volunteer at your local community garden

If you have a green thumb—or desire to develop one—you can make a difference in how your community eats by joining a local garden. Not only will it provide you and your family with a chance to meet others in the neighborhood, but certain community gardens also share their harvest with local organizations that feed the hungry in your city.

Plus, you'll be eating like a "locavore":  A diet limited to foods grown within 100 miles of purchase. This lifestyle has been on the rise lately as a green alternative to conventional, globally-sourced food, where products typically tally up "food miles." (While over 80% of overall emissions of CO2 happen during food production phases, certain foods—especially those flown in, rather than shipped via cargo—accumulate a large carbon footprint during transportation.)

Eco-friendly looks different for everyone. Some people collect their food scraps to compost at the farmers' market; others cut down greenhouse gas emissions by committing to Meatless Monday. For us at Puracy, sustainability means using packaging that's easy to recycle, creating refill pouches that reduce the need for plastic & energy, developing products that are sourced from the purest natural ingredients, and making sure our ingredients are fully biodegradable.

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