7 Small but Mighty Ways We Try to Live a Little Greener Every Day in the Lehigh Valley

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BY NINA ELIAS

You’ve read so many of these stories before, and they all go something like this: Compost! Use less water! Never use a plastic bag again! And while that’s some seriously good advice (see: the collection of cloth grocery bags filling up my trunk), it can be kind of overwhelming to, you know, incorporate a complicated, sweeping suggestion like composting into your life immediately.

I’m here to tell you that all three of us are committed to living a little greener whenever we can, but we are very much human beings with bustling lives and creative careers that make living simply in the Lehigh Valley challenging. Can you relate? I sure hope so.

Here are some small, unintimidating, totally doable ideas you can incorporate into however you Live Well in the Lehigh Valley. Even better—share how YOU live a little greener in the comments. We’ll include them in a future story!

PAPER PRODUCTS

I have a lot of guilt about paper products. Those “All my trash from last year fits in this pill bottle” videos on social media haunt me every time I take the tag off of a new sweater and don’t know what to do with it. One way I’m combatting my neurosis: tube-free toilet paper. I know what you’re going to say—Nina, you can recycle those tubes! How many of you have recycling bins in your bathroom? That’s what I thought. In a moment of I-need-more-toilet-tissue panic, we are all guilty of chucking that little tube into the bathroom trash. And with the average family using about 119 rolls each year, that’s a lot of trashed tubage. Tube-free toilet paper is a nearly-mindless way to reduce your waste and keep cardboard out of landfills. I find mine at a myriad of local grocery stores and on Amazon. —Nina

Did you know paper towels are compostable? I didn’t, until recently. I’m not THAT good at composting yet, and my paper towel usage is out of control when I’m cleaning. One way I’m working to remedy that: turning my fiancé’s t-shirt addiction into cleaning rags. That way, he’s not really getting rid of them, and I’m not throwing away a mound of paper every time I clean. —Nina

HOME FRAGRANCE

I love to keep my house smelling fresh (despite not being able to open the windows as much in fall and winter) by making a simple deodorizing room spray. Just combine equal parts water and witch hazel (a natural deodorizer) and 20+ drops of your favorite essential oil, or a blend. Clove and cinnamon make a cozy combo for fall, lavender and peppermint will make your home feel like a spa, and lemon and sweet orange will deliver a dose of motivation and energy when you're feeling sluggish. —Steph

LAUNDRY

Living in Allentown, we depend so much on oil for our heat and we only recently installed a water heater in our house. For years we toiled with how best to conserve energy and use less oil, so I made the decision a while ago to start exclusively washing clothing in cold water. So many high-efficiency washers and cleaners (that can still be eco-friendly!) do such a wonderful job washing clothes that the warm water felt sort of like a waste. Of course, we don't have kids or super dirty clothing (we both work desk jobs) and I still wash my towels/sheets in a warmer wash to avoid germs, but I am glad to see how much less energy we are using with such a small change.

Everyone also pays attention not to dry their wool and delicates in the dryer, but you'd be amazed at how beneficial air-drying can be for all of your clothing as long as you have the time and space for it. My basement looks like a dry-cleaning nightmare but the fabric on my clothing lasts SO much longer and feels just as luxe as when I pull it out of the dryer (perhaps even more so). You can also buy at-home dry cleaning kits to avoid having to make a trip to the chemical-laden dry cleaning shop down the street just to freshen up your cashmere and wool. We all have laundry, so why not take some simple steps to keep our environment fresh as well as our linens? —Siobhan

Another small way to reduce waste: trade your dryer sheets for dryer balls. They combat static cling and aid in drying like dryer sheets, but there’s nothing to throw away at the end of every cycle and you get to keep a few more added fragrance chemicals away from your body. Win-win. —Nina

FOOD & BEVERAGE

Patterned paper straws add a bit of whimsy to my daily kombucha, but they also add a little bit of heft to my global footprint. I found stainless steel drinking straws at one of my recent Target runs, and it’s one less thing for the garbage each day. —Nina

On the horizon: we're really curious about reusable food storage paper (think wax paper that sticks to itself). Have you used it? Let us know!