It's Spring! 10 Simple Tips to Go Green

It's springtime in the Northern Hemisphere and time for my annual plug for the planet. With all of the snow melted and the flowers starting to appear, what better time is there to focus on nature?

If you stop and think about how much waste we all create on a daily basis, you will notice how fast it adds up: More garbage + more pollution = higher expenses and more abuse to the earth. Like a car rolling downhill, poor habits are more difficult to stop once they gain momentum.

Being thoughtful and deliberate about how our actions affect our ecosystem requires us to stop and become aware of our behaviors. Being more earth-friendly or "green" is actually quite easy. Most American cities and towns have recycling programs to facilitate reducing waste. That, along with some simple changes in our present patterns, can add up to some big differences in our future.

These 10 simple tips will allow you to respect our planet and balance your own health (and budget!) in the process:

1) Pay attention to what you use, keep, and throw away. Remember the 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Everything you discard has one of two fates: the garbage can or the recycle bin. Choose wisely.

2) Buy "select-a-size" paper towels. You will already be using half the amount of a regular towel each time you tear one off. PS: They also make great napkins.

3) Reuse those gently used paper towels or napkins as handy wipes for removing food from dirty dishes or greasy pans or for quick clean ups. This is the only time that double dipping is encouraged.

4) Use the backs of previously printed papers as draft copies in your home printer. Mom was right! Most of what we print at home isn't that important, so save the new paper only for special things.

5) Reuse dry Ziploc® bags. Unless you're filling them with pudding, peanut butter, or wet fruits, they can usually be rinsed and reused at least once or twice.

6) Ask for a ceramic mug instead of a paper cup at your local coffee shop. Then take a moment to stop, relax, and enjoy your java or tea--knowing that you just helped to save paper by drinking from that reusable mug. Way to go!

7) Look for electronics with rechargeable or solar-powered batteries. And if you use disposable batteries, dispose of them properly in a battery recycling bin, not in the garbage.

8) Reuse hotel sheets and towels. Do you change your sheets and towels every day at home? Then why do it on the road? Most hotels now have special signs to notify housekeeping to leave your sheets on your bed. Hang up your towels to indicate that you will use them again. You could also ask not to have housekeeping come in at all during your stay.

9) Use reusable shopping bags. Most stores offer them for a very low price (or free). Besides, some cities and states are already beginning to ban large plastic shopping bags or charge for them. Why not get a head start?

10) Reconsider bottled water. Consider purchasing reusable aluminum bottles or filtration systems, or going back to the tap. Seriously--the bottled water craze is more hype than hip.

For additional tips about simplifying your life, pick up a copy of 21 Days to Better Balance or one of Michael's other books at michaelsunnarborg.com/books.