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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.

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Green Mountain Energy

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.

Image via iStock.

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.

Image via iStock.

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.

Image via iStock.

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.

Image via iStock

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.

Image via iStock.

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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