Get greener for summer by trying as many of these 17 challenges as you can.

Warning: Acting on these tips may be incredibly fun and result in a cleaner conscience.

By now, even your grandma knows that solar panels can save you money and a bike ride to work is a greener option than a Hummer.

If you really want to help save the planet, then you’re probably hungry for new and creative tips you can actually do to make a real difference.

While many of us may not be ready to turn your home into a zero-waste household that only does laundry once a year, most of us are looking for some pretty awesome life-hacks to do good, all while reducing clutter, saving money, and pushing our families to get a bit more creative.


Sustainability feels more important now than it's ever been, so we're getting you these tips with no time to waste.

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We spoke with Jeff Becerra of Stop Waste, an Oakland-based public agency that makes sustainability easier for residents and businesses and came up with 17 ways you can totally nail going green:

The first five are food-based because that's one of the largest contributors to waste in the U.S. — over 60 million tons of produce per year — and the rest ... well, you’ll see.

1. Organize your refrigerator to ensure perishables get eaten first.

And feel free to use freeze-dried foods for trail snacks, flavor powders, and more. They have a longer shelf-life. If you’ve got the funds to drop a few thousand dollars on a freeze-dryer yourself, go nuts. In the meantime, this option is becoming mainstream enough to be able to pick up at your local grocery store.

2. Freeze overripe fruits and vegetables, leftover meats, and discarded bones for simple, tasty, and nutritious snacks and staples.

Think smoothies, bone and veggie stocks, and frozen veggies as healthy additions to hot meals.

3. Buy fresh ingredients in smaller quantities more often.

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This way, you waste less and enjoy fresher ingredients.

“A lot of people are shocked when they learn how much food ends up in landfills every year,” says Becerra. “It’s not just the landfills and how those can affect your soil and water. It’s also the methane that organic material releases into the air as it decomposes.”

4. Shop your fridge and cupboards first to avoid buying food you already have on hand.

Also, avoid marketing gimmicks that encourage you to buy more than you need. If you get 10 items for $10 and only eat five before they spoil, that’s $5 wasted.

Image via iStock.

5. Make A Smarter List

Plan ahead for meals, not just individual items you think you’ll need. For example, will you or your family members eat out this week? How many times? What do you need to make the remaining meals, and how much of it? Be realistic. If you’re up for taking the plunge, buy food package-free.

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6. Take a stand with your takeout.

Some online services like Grubhub, Seamless, or restaurant websites will give you the option to skip the plastic utensils and paper plates, or they leave room for comments or special notes where you can make that request. Also, take note of any eateries that use sustainable packaging.

Green Mountain Energy also offers unique tips on their blog that are pretty innovative.

7. Win with weatherization.

On average, homes that are 10 years or older will have duct leakage of 27% or more. That means you’re likely paying to cool your attic. Sealing your ducts and insulating your home can cut your energy bills by up to 35%.

8. Get your floors green.

We don't mean paint them (although, feel free, it's your domicile). Next time you’re considering getting new floors, look for products that use plant-based adhesives and are free of urea-formaldehyde (visible on the ingredient list, takes some practice to say). Sustainable options include cork, bamboo, engineered wood, or other natural materials.

9. Round up binders, scissors, highlighters, crayons and pencils that work, but aren’t needed anymore.

Then, check in with area schools to see if the supplies could be used in the classrooms.

10. Know that your old pen could become art.

The Pen Guy collects ball point pens, dry erase markers, felt tip pens, mechanical pencils and more. Then, the writing instruments are repurposed into recycled pen art.

11. Minimize idling.

It's equally important to stay green outside of the house, too: when parked, turn off your car if you will be waiting more than 10 seconds, so you aren’t wasting fuel.

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12. Drive nicely.

Aggressive driving, such as speeding up and braking sharply, can burn more gas.

13. Beautify your home with rare, one-of-a-kind, repurposed, and “upcycled” decor.

Keep yourself (or your kids) occupied, teach your students an array of subjects with hands-on activities, or make it a date night: use found, salvaged, and recyclable materials, make something new and beautiful. Creative reuse doesn’t just help the environment, it engages our minds and can even help us connect and collaborate with others.

14. Don’t ditch that dress: donate it.

If you ever wonder, “Who could possibly use this?” the answer is almost always someone. Your old stuff is more valuable than you think. Clothing donations create free or low-cost options for families in need. Even our most tattered belongings can enjoy the glory of a second life as building and manufacturing materials, and more.

15. Set goals and make stepping up your recycling and composting a game.

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Conscious Carnival has appeared throughout the United States at major music festivals and tours, universities and schools, local fairs and farmers markets, and professional sports events. Take a page out of Conscious Carnival’s book and turn sustainability into a challenge in your homes and workplaces. How quickly do you fill your trash can? Now consider some easy ways to fill it more slowly, and see immediate results.

16. Take a page from “Zero Waste Girl” Lauren Singer, who has filled a small cup with the amount of waste she produced in a year.

And it’s OK to just take one page. Instead of overhauling your entire life and spending it refilling mason jars and making your own soap, maybe start with her small hacks, like declining straws in your drinks and choosing email over paper receipts.

Image via iStock.

17. Track down your local drug-take-back program.  

From expired or irrelevant prescriptions to old bottles of the over-the-counter stuff, drugs in landfills can mean trouble for the environment. More cities and towns are instating this program at least once a year, so do some Googling!

Pretty painless, right? Taking on any of the above won’t just feel good, but may even be fun and keep your wallet fatter.

If you like a challenge, we dare you to check one of these items off the list for the next two weeks — but if you end up making one small lifestyle change or trying just one of these on for size this month, you’re still awesome in our eyes. Don’t forget to pass it on: After all, a digital footprint is carbon-free.

Green Mountain Energy is just one company that's been walking the eco-friendly walk for over 20 years...get familiar with them if you want to take a stroll down greener-living lane.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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