Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Chicago

Simple Green Changes: Add Up to Increased Sustainability

Mar 26, 2013 09:26AM ● By Merleanne Rampale

With a new Earth Day celebration upon us, what better time to make a resolution and implement helpful changes at home? Here are just a few suggestions for simple green things we can do for ourselves, our families, our community and our planet.

Stop overall wasting

Recycle at home, work, school and play. Before you go to throw, think, “Recycle first, trash last.” The good news is that we’re able to recycle more items than ever, from every room in the house. Some of the items that are now recyclable may surprise you. Visit for a list of the new recycling guidelines (also in Spanish) for Lake County communities and keep them handy on the fridge.

Recycling is one of the best and easiest things we can do for the environment. Its impact reaches beyond just keeping items from landfills. Recycling paper can conserve forests and habitat that protects plant and wildlife species. Recycling a cell phone or other electronics at a Solid Waste Agency of Lake County (SWALCO) or other collection event can potentially prevent mining for metals in areas where endangered species like gorillas live.

Keep reusable bags handy for shopping

There are many sizes and designs available; most are fairly inexpensive or are often given away free at events and stores. Some collapse down to fit in a glove box, purse or pocket.

Clear out clutter and stop junk mail

Each year, about 19 billion catalogs are mailed to U.S. consumers, requiring more than 53 million trees and 53 billion gallons of water to produce. Visit to stop their Seventh Generation Paper Towelsdelivery. Contact bank and credit card companies to tell them not to use your name and address for any promotional or marketing lists. Don’t forget to recycle junk mail you do get. Virtually all the paper in our homes and workplaces is recyclable, including window envelopes, phonebooks, shiny-covered catalogs and more.

Use recycled-source paper products.

Buy bathroom tissue, paper towels, napkins and other products made from recycled materials.

Give up conventional paper towels

Purchase a pack of microfiber cleaning cloths. Assign one or two for the kitchen and one or two for the bathroom and other projects around the house.

Rain BarrelConserve water

Run the dishwasher only when fully loaded. Turn off the faucet when not actively using water (like when brushing teeth or rinsing dishes).

Use a rain barrel

Use captured rainwater for gardening, car washing and other household activities and chores. Pick one up when SWALCO, the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission and Lake County Forest Preserves sponsor a compost bin, rain barrel and native plant sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., May 11 (with additional plant sales May 12), at Independence Grove, in Libertyville.

Use a compost bin

Create wonderful mulch for the garden while keeping food waste that would normally end up in the landfill out of it. Composting and using captured rainwater provide numerous other benefits, as well.

Eat ocean-friendly and sustainable seafoodCompost Bin

Download a pocket guide or app from the Seafood Watch program on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website ( for a list to take to the grocery or when dining out.

Minimize chemical use in the home and on the lawn

Many natural and affordable cleaning products are available. Research and investigate online for easy organic lawn care, minimizing or eliminating the use of herbicides and pesticides. It’s good for people and for wildlife. Bring chemical items from home, including cleaning supplies, pesticides, old prescription medications (human or pet) and other household chemical waste products to one of SWALCO’s Household Chemical Waste (HCW) collections to be disposed of safely. Events are open to all Illinois residents.

For more information about recycling, sustainability and SWALCO events, call 847-336-9340 or visit Merleanne Rampale is the public information and education director of SWALCO.