Do Just One THING (or 15!)

Over the past several years, I’ve accumulated thousands of tips that not only help people to live a little bit greener each day, but are also smart ways to cut waste and save money. I’ll round up my all-time favorite tips. They’re clever, fun, and simple enough that I think you’ll Naturally love to try them. –Danny Seo


It’s a staggering statistic—nearly half of the food grown or produced in the world is wasted. Often, it’s from food that expires and is no longer safe for consumption. But some food in your own kitchen actually never expires. Honey, for example, never spoils. The bees use a natural chemistry to turn nectar into one of the most perfect foods. Condiments like salt, soy sauce, and real maple syrup can be added to the list of forever foods. Maple syrup is naturally anti-microbial; it will stay sweet for as long as you have it on your shelf.



Got a dried-out marker that just won’t work when you try to bring ink to paper? Don’t toss it in the trash. Whatever the reason is for the dry tip (maybe you left the cap off overnight?), it often can be resuscitated. All you have to do is place the tip of the marker in a small amount of rubbing alcohol and let it soak for 15 minutes. The rubbing alcohol will lubricate the inside of the marker and help unblock any dried out areas. Give it a try on a piece of scrap paper. Odds are, your marker will be as good as new.



Do you have reusable bag overload? Perhaps you have bags you’ve received for free at the store, purchased too many (because you left them at home…again) or were gifted a few. The great thing about reusable bags is that they cut down on waste and can be used over and over again. So try this with your extra bags: Fill them with goods that your local food bank or shelter needs. Then they can reuse those bags and let patrons use them to fill up food. You can also donate extra reusable bags to soup kitchens, shelters, and charities that need to carry and transport goods.



In 2011, the National Science Foundation (NSF)—a public health and safety organization—found that 50 percent of traditional coffee makers had yeast and mold growing inside. Worse, 10 percent had harmful coliform bacteria (yep, that’s the fecal kind). In fact, the report stated that: “Coffee reservoirs had higher germ counts than both bathroom door handles and toilet seats.” To prevent this, carafes should be cleaned with hot, soapy water every time you use them. Also, a simple combination of equal parts white vinegar and water brewed through a coffee maker regularly should disinfect all the internal components of germs and bacteria. 



It can be really frustrating when an appliance like a refrigerator, washing machine, or stove suddenly goes kaput. Before you chuck it and buy a new one or hire a repairman, look for some simple solutions. Over time, an appliance can slowly shift and move, eventually unplugging itself. Circuit breakers can also be tripped, so check to make sure you don’t need to reset yours. And, if your flooring has warped or moved, some appliances will automatically turn themselves off as a safety precaution when they aren’t on the level.



Almost all retail gift cards are made from plastic or PVC. Though PVC—or polyvinyl chloride—is recyclable, almost no curbside recycling programs take them. The good news? Retail stores such as Best Buy have free recycling bins that will take them back. In fact, the cards don’t have to be specific to the store. You can save and toss used up gift cards from any store into the bins.



Your smartphone usually only needs about 30 minutes of charging time. But if you plug in your phone before you go to sleep at night, it means you are not only wasting energy charging a fully powered up phone, you’re also causing strain on the battery as well. Look for electric outlet adapters that have a built-in timer. These timers can be set for 30 minutes or up to 6 hours, then will automatically cut off the power source. This let’s you sleep, save energy and protect your pricey smartphone.



If you keep an aquarium at home with live fish, you know it’s important to change the water regularly. But all that waste water from an aquarium should never be tossed down the drain. Like nutrient-dense compost, waste water from fish is rich in nutrients, good bacteria, and other beneficial ingredients plants love. Even the decaying fish food that wasn’t ingested is good for plants! Save the water and use it to give garden plants and houseplants a nutritious boost. 



If you’re making yourself a sandwich today, consider choosing whole-grain breads over white bread for your BLT. To turn flour into “white” flour for bread, it goes through a whole series of refining processes that use a significant amount of energy. By choosing a whole-grain or wheat bread, you’ve opted for a more pure ingredient; it’s less altered and much more sustainable (and in this columnist’s humble opinion, better tasting).



Want to save money on all natural and organic brands you buy at the supermarket? Download the free Checkout 51 app on your smartphone. Every Thursday they post deals on a wide variety of food, beauty and other products you typically find at your local supermarket. Choose the deals you like then upload your receipt through the app on your phone. When you reach $20 in savings, Checkout 51 sends you a check. Even items like fruit, vegetables, and organic milk are part of their money-saving, cash-back program.



It’s inevitable—and often a real mystery—that you lose a sock. So what do you do with the stray single sock? Don’t toss it when you can reuse it around the house. One simple solution is to fill a sock with cedar shavings and tie a knot at the end to prevent them from spilling out. Since socks are porous, the cedar scent will permeate the air inside a closet and keep moths at bay. Or, to keep your car windows from fogging up, fill a sock with kitty litter and tie a knot at the end. Place it by the window where it’ll absorb excess moisture, keeping your car windshield crystal clear. 



Tea lovers know that tea leaves are so absorbent that you should never store them in the spice cabinet. The reason? Strong spices like cinnamon can actually be absorbed into tea leaves, which can change their flavor profile. But since tea leaves are absorbent, they can also be used to deodorize around the house. Sprinkle dry tea leaves all over a rug or carpet and press them into the carpet. Let them sit for as long as possible (at least 15 minutes) and vacuum them up. The leaves will absorb odors and leave your carpet smelling like absolutely nothing at all. 



The strong artificial fragrances used on dryer sheets may not be a healthy choice to use in your laundry, but a few sheets can actually deter mice from entering your home. By simply laying a few sheets around areas where you’ve seen a mouse, the strong scent will turn them off—and turn them around. You can also use them to plug up cracks where mice might squeeze in; they block the cracks and the strong scent keeps mice far, far away. 



When storing leftovers in the refrigerator, it’s imperative to cover the food to keep it fresh. But did you know covering your food also helps you save energy? A refrigerator has something called a compressor, and its job is to keep the air inside the fridge cool. Moist air in the refrigerator is harder to keep cool, so the compressor has to work harder. Uncovered food emits moisture and, over time, it uses more energy. Investing in reusable silicone covers or foil to cover food is a simple and easy way to improve its efficiency.



The refrigerator is one of the biggest energy hogs in the house, so make sure it runs efficiently and you’ll save electricity and money. If you don’t use your automatic icemaker often, consider turning it off. A study by Time magazine found that the average icemaker increases energy usage by 12 to 20 percent. By simply turning it off, you’ll significantly improve efficiency. Want ice? Consider filling silicone ice cube trays with water and using them instead of an automatic icemaker.