We live in a world where disposable culture is now the norm, but that doesn't mean YOU have to be an advocate of all things disposable. Making your stuff last longer is a great way to ensure that less trash ends up in the landfill, plus you'll save time and money by not having to dash out to replace goods as often. Keep reading to learn how to prolong the life of 6 items you probably own right now.
Dirt rarely shows its face on denim until it’s really dirty, so unless you’re wearing jeans to trek through mud or you always go commando, don’t wash them after every wear. When you do wash them, experts at Levi say to turn jeans inside out before tossing them into the washing machine. The reason? Dye that leaches out of the legs while washing will stay put in the leg area and be reabsorbed during the washing process. Wash in cold water and use eco-friendly laundry detergents, plus avoid bleach. In most cases, you should run full loads of laundry to cut back on energy and water waste, but some denim experts note that you should wash jeans in smaller loads, but still with a washer full of water to avoid abrasion with other items. Hang dry most of your clothing to make it last, including jeans, but if you do machine dry, use low (or no) heat. Remember that denim can fade quickly when exposed to UV rays, so it’s best to hang dry jeans inside or in the shade. See a few more tips below:
- For very dark denim, preserve the color longer by hand-washing them inside-out in a tubful of cool water. Soak with a mild eco-detergent, then line dry.
- Once your jeans appear to be developing possible rip points, apply iron-on patches inside the stress points.
- Levi notes that you shouldn’t have specialty denim professionally dry-cleaned, as it can damage fragile details like embroidery, and wear away waxy finishes.
- Wear your jeans to death, but instead of tossing them out, re-purpose them into something new and awesome.
When it comes to cars, one of the best ways to go green is to buy an eco-friendly vehicle. Expanding the life expectancy of your car so it lasts as long as it should, however, is also an eco-friendly move. Not a mechanic? Not even a car person? No worries—you can prolong the life of your car with some simple habits that require very little technical know-how.
Be responsible: Don’t text and drive. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t speed. Distractions, alcohol, and speeding are the most common causes of accidents. Only your behavior, rather than preventative care, will prolong your car’s life (and maybe yours) in cases like these.
Be chill: If your driving style is crazed, your car pays the price. Accelerating quickly, fast shifting, breaking abruptly, making aggressive turns, driving fast over speed bumps and potholes, and other like-minded driving habits cause much more damage over time than easy-going driving habits.
Read your owners manual: Car manuals aren’t fun to read, but they do let you know when basic maintenance is required. Regular oil changes, tire rotations, and other basic maintenance tasks not only extend the life of your car but help spot small problems before they become huge issues that may damage your car for good. On that note, don’t ignore warning lights either—they’re there for a reason.
Avoid cold starts: When an engine sits for more than five hours, especially in cold weather, there’s going to be little or no oil left on the moving parts. Give your car at least 30 seconds before you drive off and if you haven’t driven in a while (more than 24 hours), allow your engine to run a bit longer.
Turn the music off: If you’re a regular human (or me) you drive with music on 24/7 and keep it fairly loud. Experts recommend turning your music off every once in a while, simply so you can hear any strange noises your car may be making. Apparently, big problems often start off as odd little noises, but you won’t hear them if you never listen.
Check tire pressure regularly: Inaccurate tire pressure may cause uneven tire wear or a tire blow-out, and wastes more gas to boot. Purchase a simple tire air pressure gauge at an auto parts store and check your tire pressure weekly, as recommended by DMV.org. If that schedule is too stringent, at least check tire pressure monthly.
Protect aesthetics: Parking in the garage or shade helps protect your car’s paint job, as does regular exterior washing. Waxing, vacuuming and other car cleaning care, plus removing small dents, also helps your car look its best, which may seem like a small thing until you consider potential resale value. The more appealing your car is, the more likely it is that someone else may want to buy it when you’re done with it, thus keeping it in commission and out of the landfill longer.
Recycle: According to Car Donation Wizard, up to 75% of a car’s content can be recycled, which means less waste in the landfills. If your car is truly dead, don’t dump it but find a responsible recycling company that will turn materials from your car into new items, such as new cars, car parts, canned goods, structural beams, furnaces, bridges, and more.
- Keep all cosmetics out of areas filled with sunlight, moisture and heat.
- Before you toss broken cosmetics, try to fix them. For example, broken eye shadow can be fixed with a few drops of rubbing alcohol.
- Pick products that naturally last longer, such as powders over creams, solid liners over liquid, and water-based over oil-based.
- You can buy a special lip gloss scoop and applicator that will pick up every drop of lip gloss or lipstick from your almost empty tube.
- Don’t expose mascara to too much air, such as when you overly pump the wand in and out of the tube.
- Reconstitute dried out nail polish with nail polish thinner—NOT nail polish remover.
You may think that organic produce and other food waste poses no problem to our landfill problems, but it does. Food seems fairly biodegradable, but even the Biodegradable Products Institute notes that NOTHING biodegrades properly in a landfill, including food. Landfills act like a trash tomb, so even paper and food scraps are more likely to mummify than decompose, notes Slate. In fact, during one 2001 study from the University of Arizona, researchers excavated 21 landfills across North America and found hundreds of non-decomposed hot dogs, corn starch products, and lettuce dating back to the 1960s. Beyond trash problems, you also get a bigger dose of pesticides with conventional produce, and while it’s worth it to pay more for certified organic produce, it usually costs more, so you’ll want to make it last.
- Buy the freshest organic produce you can, avoiding bruised or damaged items. Try to buy only what you need for a week.
- Segregate ethylene gas-producing produce items from produce that’s susceptible to damage via that gas. For example, apples, bananas, blueberries, melons, apricots, pineapple, tomatoes, and watermelon generate ethylene gas as they ripen, which can spoil produce items such as asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens, potatoes, eggplant and more.
- Be especially careful with summer squash, including zucchini. If you crush, scrape, or scrub off their little hairs it can cause bruises that turn into rotten spots.
- Cut the bands off produce before you store it.
- To make carrots last a long time, cut all their top greens off and place them in a closed container with plenty of moisture. You can wrap them with a damp towel, dunk them in water every few days, or even submerge them in water while they’re in the fridge.
- Early washing can ruin many produce items. Cherries, leafy greens, mushrooms, and grapes, for example, should be kept in the fridge unwashed until you’re ready to munch on them. If you must wash leafy greens early, use a salad spinner to get rid of excess water, then store the leaves in the fridge, wrapped loosely in a dishtowel.
- If you shell beans, eat them right away or freeze them.
- Tomatoes should never be refrigerated, but kept in a bowl on the counter away from heat sources.
- Never wash delicate organic fruit such as berries until you’re ready to eat them because moisture can cause bruises and spoiling.
- Refrigerate any produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled.
For many more proper organic produce storage tips that will keep your produce fresh longer, check out The Berkeley Farmers Market guide to storing produce without plastic. Also check out this awesome guide: Fastest to Slowest Spoilers: What to Eat First.
Organic cotton and hemp fabric and textiles: Everyday clothing and items such as tee-shirts, pants, basic dresses or skirts, underclothing, cloth napkins, towels, smaller blankets and so on can be safely machine-washed on cold, with eco-friendly detergent. If you own clothing made of organic cotton blends with wool, higher-end items like blazers and special occasion dresses, or bedding, curtains or tablecloths, consider having them dry cleaned by a green dry cleaner.
Organic wool: Most organic wool items should be dry cleaned by a professional green cleaner. If you have organic wool items labeled as “machine washable” go ahead and carefully wash on delicate but always hang dry. If you have a favorite woollen item that’s labeled machine washable, you may want to simply soak wash it in the sink to avoid damage that may occur with agitation in the washing machine.
Bamboo: Preshrunk bamboo and organic/bamboo cotton blend items such as casual shirts, socks, and other low-maintenance items can be safely machine-washed on cold with eco-friendly detergent. Hang dry to keep items lasting as long as possible, though. Bamboo bedding and other home textiles stay nice longer if you get them professionally cleaned. Any 100% bamboo item should be soak washed in a sink or dry cleaned because fully bamboo material items shrink easily.
Soy: Soy is more delicate than viscose from bamboo or organic cotton. Always wash soy fabrics in cold water and hang to dry.
Recycled materials: Recycled polyester and reuse materials, such as fabrics made of plastic bottles, are becoming more popular and are fairly hardy. Most items can be machine washed. If you own a recycled material item that’s extra fancy, such as a suit or an item that is filled with down such as a winter coat or sleeping bag—these should be dry cleaned.
Ironing: Clothing made from viscose from bamboo, organic cotton, and soy can be ironed freely on a low setting.
Spot treating: Always use an eco-friendly spot-treatment but do a test run first to make sure it won’t ruin the material.
Smartphones are supposed to last at least two years on average, and sometimes longer, but many people upgrade annually, which wastes money and creates a gigantic E-waste problem. Overall, tell yourself that you don’t need the latest and greatest phone. If your phone works, keep on using it. If it breaks, try to repair, not replace it; and when you’re really done with your phone, trade it in, donate it or recycle it properly. You can make your smartphone last longer with the tips below.
- Keep your phone in a case so accidental breaks are less likely to happen.
- Don’t use your phone every second of every day. Interact with other humans! The more you use it, the shorter its lifespan.
- If you’re such an addict that you need to have to phone in the bathroom, garage or kitchen with you, there’s a good chance your phone will be exposed to water, tools, or something else it shouldn’t be. In fact, did you know that 41 percent of women who ruin their smartphones do so in the bathroom, and 59 percent of men who damage their phones do so in the garage? Learn more about common smartphone damage.
- To preserve your phone’s battery, turn off any features you’re not using; uninstall unnecessary apps; turn down your screen brightness; and top off your battery once it hits 50 percent. See more ways to expand the life of your smartphone battery.
- Have your smartphone repaired professionally. It may seem tempting to watch a YouTube video about how to fix such and such on your phone, but don’t go there. Unless it’s a crazy easy fix, it’s worth the money to have a pro fix your phone so you don’t damage it further.
- Keep your phone away from the kids. Not only is excessive screen time bad for kids, but they’re not all that savvy when it comes to keeping stuff in good condition. Kids drop phones, press buttons they shouldn’t, and are constantly sticky. Get your kid some screen-free entertainment instead of handing over your phone.