If you drive, do not let your car idle today

Idling cars produce the same exhaust that driving cars do. If you’re stopped for more than 10 seconds (other than at a stop light or bumper-to-bumper traffic), turn off the engine. That’s right, crank that key to the left or push the button and let your motor rest. The Environmental Defense Fund says that for every 10 minutes your car is off, you prevent one pound of carbon dioxide from being released into the air.

Here’s more from EDF about idling and why it’s no good.

So, at least for today, don’t let your engine run unless absolutely necessary.

Mend something instead of tossing it

Your challenge for today is to mend an article of clothing you would have otherwise thrown out. Here’s a video tutorial that shows two different ways to mend a small t-shirt tear. This technique can be applied to similar cotton or cotton blend fabrics as well. (Be careful using a hot iron on fabrics made mostly of synthetics.)

Also, here’s a post with several tutorials for different types of stitches.

If you don’t own the supplies to mend, use this opportunity to gather them. It doesn’t cost a lot to assemble a basic sewing kit. (Add various small spools of different colors of thread to this). And then you will have it for the next time something inevitably, but not irreparably, rips.

Check into composting

Photo: Nic McPhee

If you live in a rural area, you’re already composting, yes? You have a pile out back of food scraps breaking down into black gold that you spread over your garden or give away to someone else. If not, please start this.

Grist.org says that food scraps and trimmings make up 26% of U.S. waste. When breaking down slowly due to lack of air, such as in a landfill, compostables also produce methane.

If you live in an urban area, composting is a bit more tricky. Happily, many cities and even a few smaller towns offer curbside compost pick up. If your municipality participates, you probably already know about it. If not, it’s worth a call to solid waste management to urge them to partake in composting.

In the mean time, you need a countertop bin –

Here’s a crock option

This one, even though it’s plastic, is the best we’ve tried, and we’ve tried a lot

You can also go with stainless

Or bamboo

A simple bowl can work fine, too.

And you need a pile in your backyard or a container in which to compost. Here’s a great tutorial on composting in an apartment or other small space.

If you’re going to make your compost outside, you can find some elaborate ideas for building compost bins out of pallets.

There are also all kinds of composters available for purchase. The only drawback to these, besides the cost, is that you’re buying something made of metal and/or plastic that will eventually end up in a landfill.

Here’s are some great tips on composting.

This might be a daunting project for some of you. So even if you can’t commit to composting right now, take a little time today to think about it. Maybe at some point you’ll have the bandwidth to make composting a reality.

Choose stainless steel drinking straws

This seems like a small thing, but if you are a straw-user, consider investing in stainless steel straws. They last for years, are easy to clean (especially if you also purchase a small straw brush), and have no effect on the taste of your beverage. If you really want to get serious, you can take your straw with you to coffee shops or juice bars instead of using one of the provided plastic and paper covered straws. We own the Endurance stainless straws and highly recommend them.

If you’re an Amazon shopper, go through Amazon Smile to direct your funds to an environmental organization


Shopping through Amazon Smile is a painless way to donate to your favorite environmental charity (with no cost to you). A half of a percent of your purchase will go directly to your chosen eligible 501(c)(3) organization.

First go to the secure Amazon Smile page (this is different than the regular Amazon front page). From there you can choose your charity. We donate to NRDC and The Nature Conservancy, but Sierra Club, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and many, many others are available.

To make sure all of your Amazon purchases generate income for your charity of choice, you need to bookmark the Amazon Smile page and go through that every time you shop. Don’t do what we did and order something expensive only to realize later that you could have also given a generous sum to an organization in need.

Sign NRDC’s petition to your senators asking them to carefully vet Scott Pruitt

President-elect Donald Trump has decided on Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a climate-change denier, to head the EPA.

The National Resource Defense Council is a respected organization rated four-stars (out of four) by Charity Navigator. Please sign this petition, which will also enlist you on NRDC’s action network. You can unsubscribe from this list, but, given NRDC’s reputation for amazing environmental work, we recommend you stay on the list, read, and sign the action items they send your way.

Choose a sustainable lip balm

There are so many lip balm choices out there now, deciding which one to buy can be little more than a pick based on eye-catching packaging and impulse. Eos lip balms, for example look like colorful easter eggs that beg to be thrown into a shopping basket. Eos touts that its lip balms are “paraben and petrolatum free”, and they do have an organic line, but their containers are not easily recyclable. (Unless you have a lot of time on your hands and want to try making the containers into travel pods.)

A more eco-friendly choice is Burt’s Bees, a company that puts a lot of thought and effort into conscientious packaging.

Another impressive lip balm is Dr. Bronner’s, which emphasizes fair trade and non-GMO ingredients, though we couldn’t find information on their packaging practices.

You might want to check into etsy shops that produce lip balms and package them in biodegradable cardboard tubes, but do ask questions about the purity of the manufacturing facility and any certifications (state inspections and third party lab testing) the seller may or may not have.

Your challenge for today is to vow to be mindful when choosing that next, seemingly innocuous, plastic tube (or egg) of lip balm. Imagine heaps of them in landfills, lying there for thousands of years, and see if it changes your lip product buying behavior.