Design Resolutions: Go Green (Easy Ways to Get Eco-Friendly Without Exerting Much Effort)

If you want to go green and you have the cash (and patience) for a life-altering renovation, here’s what you do: start from the bare studs and use eco-friendly low-VOC paints. Then do the floors with bamboo or repurposed barn wood, and for the upholstery and carpets, opt for natural fibers such as wool, cotton, rattan and jute. But if you have no such major plans, you needn’t give up on the green quest entirely. There are little things you can do to make your home (and your daily routine at home) more planet-friendly, without exerting much effort. You can even make it a New Year’s resolution… it won’t be hard to keep, we promise. Here are 5 thought-starters:

Recycle weird plastics. You may get a warm glow when you throw every food container in the recycling bin, but most municipal curbside recyclers don’t want your polypropylene plastics (look for the #5) — and, yes, that includes your hallowed yogurt and hummus containers. Also… love your new single-cup coffeemaker? Well, those little cups are probably #5, and with the gallons of coffee you guzzle, you could pile up some serious green guilt. To find drop-off locations for #5 plastics, check out the Preserve Gimme 5 Program. You can also mail containers, and, via a partnership with Recyclebank, you’ll get discounts and deals from local and national businesses in return (and your old fake butter tub morphs into a toothbrush or razor).

Turn off your tech. Chargers that are plugged in are using power even if your device isn’t plugged in. And does the cable box need to be blinking the time while everyone in the house is asleep? The solution is to get more unplugged. Plug chargers and entertainment electronics into power strips that can be easily clicked off with one switch. Remove chargers from plugs when not in use. There’s even an app for this — Off Remote (free, or $2.99 for ad-free version) — which turns off your computer devices from your iPhone or iPad.

Grow a green thumb. Houseplants are pretty, yes, but they also help you breathe easier. Environmental ozone, a main component of air pollution, can make its way into your home. Look for snake plant, spider plant, and golden pothos — researchers found they all helped reduce ozone in the air, and they’re renowned for their easy care, low cost and lush foliage.

Get a new wardrobe. Throw a swap party with your friends. Everyone brings clean clothes in good condition that they’re ready to part with. Group all the sweaters together, all the shoes, the denim, and so on. Don’t forget to serve wine. Got any clothes left over? Donate them to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. Remember, re-using is, in many ways, as good as recycling… and your strangely pristine John Fleuvog clogs from ’97 just may fill the fashion void some downtrodden soul may be experiencing.

Rethink everything you invite into your home. There’s no need to throw out your less-than-eco-friendly furnishings, accents, and products, but when you do replace them, do a little research. From reclaimed wood to biodegradable hand soap, virtually every subcategory in the home-design genre has a spectrum of green choices. Not sure where to start? Check out our sale “Design Resolutions: Go Green,” starting Sunday, Jan. 12 at 9pm. 

– Maria Ricapito

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