Low-Hanging Fruit

Here is a challenge! These activities are what I’d consider “low-hanging fruit” – relatively easy changes that each of us can make in our daily lives to lighten our load on the environment. Your challenge? Try to choose one of these activities each week and make it a habit. If you’ve already adopted some of the habits, move on to the next one. If the habit is not a “low hanging fruit” in your life, move on to the next one. Try it; you might like it!
  • Put some reuseable grocery bags in your car. Use them when you go to the grocery store, or anywhere else that they give out disposal bags (I’ve used them at drug stores, department stores, sport stores, etc)
  • Try wrapping gifts in reuseable bags, newspaper comics, or recycled wrapping paper.  Check out Earth911 for more info on the resources that could be saved using eco-friendly wrapping.
  • Try the meat-free Friday recipes and work them into your weekly menu
  • Try buying vegetables and fruits in season this week. It’s a tougher job in the winter for most of us, but try to avoid the raspberries and blueberries in January for just one week. Can’t give up ALL the out of season veggies and fruits? Then allow yourself one or two (my weak spots are bananas and orange juice), and try to stick with in-season for everything else.
  • Don’t fertilize your lawn just before a rainstorm. Too much water just washes the fertilizer into our waterways.
  • Dig up your lawn! Try to reduce the amount of lawn at your house. Lawn is simply a monoculture that doesn’t provide any type of environmental benefit (except maybe reducing soil runoff). Dig up a small section of lawn and replace it with a perennial garden – much less work, much better for the environment, and much prettier!
  • As your plastic food containers wear out, switch to glass, such as pyrex.  A recent study in Environmental Health Perspectives found that even BPA free containers leached an estrogen-like chemical (see NPR article).  And even if you're not concerned about leaching, production of plastic containers is quite resource intensive:  it takes over 3 liters of water to make a 1 liter container of bottled water.  And remember the energy that goes into making disposable plastic containers and the CO2 output from this production.
  • Turn up your air conditioning temperature. From the California Energy Commission: “Set your thermostat to 78 degrees when you are home and 85 degrees or off when you are away. Using ceiling or room fans allows you to set the thermostat higher because the air movement will cool the room. Always take into account health considerations and be sure to drink plenty of fluids in warm weather. (Save: 1 - 3 percent per degree, for each degree the thermostat is set above 72 degrees)”
  • Use your microwave. According to the California Energy Commission, it uses 2/3 less energy than a conventional oven.
  • Install a low-flow shower head, or try taking quicker showers.  According to the Lower Colorado River Authority, a low flow shower head can save approximately 2 gallons of water per minute!
  • Don't rinse dishes before loading your dishwasher.  If you're a little lazy, like I can be, this sounds like a great idea!  The Lower Colorado River Authority reminds us that you could save 20 gallons of water per load by trying this low-hanging fruit.
  • Try to eliminate one waste product from school lunch boxes.  Have the kids use regular spoons (instead of disposables) for their applesauce -- tell them to be sure to bring them back home!  Wash out plastic bags that were used for non-protein foods, such as cookies.  Plastic baggie drying racks can be found on www.amazon.com, www.gaiam.com, and www.reuseit.com.  Buy one or two new reuseable containers every week or two until you no longer need disposables.  Instead of buying pretzels in individual serving bags, buy one big bag and use baggies that you can wash at home.  Too much work?  Try using only one or two disposable items per lunch.
  • While you’re at the grocery store and deciding between say, two brands of frozen pizza, choose the one with less packaging. If one pizza sits on cardboard, is wrapped in plastic, and then is 
  • Pick up that dog poop! Believe it or not, pet waste can pollute our rivers and streams. Dog poop and other pet waste can be a source of nitrogen, phosphorous, E.coli, and other fecal coliform in our waterways.
  • Switch to one eco-friendly cleaning product -- they're healthier for the environment and, often, healthier for you!  Some of my favorite brands are the Whole Foods 365 store brand, Seventh Generation brand, and Method brand.  I also really like Bon Ami for a good scrub of the bathroom sinks and tubs.
  • Wash only full loads in your clothes washer or dishwasher.  For those of us with a family full of kids constantly creating grass stains, this is a piece of cake!
  • Try air drying some clothes, rather than using your dryer.  But remember, if you have seasonal allergies, drying your sheets outside in the spring might not be a "low-hanging fruit" for you!
  • Is it less than 1/2 mile away?  Try walking -- it's good for you and the environment.
  • Reuse paper.  Do you have waste paper that's only been printed on one side?  Let the kids color on the other side.  Write your shopping list on the empty side.  Turn it over and run it through your printer again.
  • Get rid of unwanted junk mail.  Sign up with www.catalogchoice.org to eliminate unwanted catalogs from your mailbox.
  • Buy washcloths and use them as napkins, instead of disposable napkins.  You can pick a washcloth color that matches your dining room or kitchen.  The washcloths can be washed with your regular laundry, don't require ironing, and will not wear out quickly.
  • Read one environmental news article once per week in a paper such as the Washington Post or New York Times (or the big papers near you).  Get informed about local and global environmental news.  Learn about the climate conference in South Africa, issues in your local watershed, the Keystone Pipeline, gas efficiency proposals for U.S. automobiles, local park happenings.  Get educated, form an opinion, and get involved!


  1. This is so great, Desiree! So neat to see all the wonderful things you have done and are doing. Keep it up! You inspire me :-)

  2. Hi Meg! Thanks for the kind words, but you know the real me from NC -- not necessarily inspirational, just striving! The blog's been lots of fun -- having a place to put the random thoughts that pop into my mind.

  3. Desiree, great reminders for all the things we can do on a daily basis to be environmentally conscientious. Thanks! My daughter (age 21) also has us composting. It reduces the amount of garbage each week, and in the spring we have fertilizer for the garden.

  4. So many great ideas thanks for sharing. I do keep my reusable bags in the car. But it's usually when I'm halfway done with my shopping I realize those great bags are still in the car. A habit I am trying to break. I do however reuse the plastic bags.

    1. I know the feeling! Many times I've made it halfway across the parking lot and then remember to go back for the bags, particularly at stores that aren't grocery stores. Well, as long as we're trying I figure that's progress!

  5. Marna, I'm glad you liked the list! We compost too -- only problem we had was when we tried indoor composting -- not ideal :)