9 Tips for Greening Your Winter

The shift from outdoor activities to indoor ones can reduce our awareness of the impact we have on the environment around us. Out of sight, out of mind, so to speak. The fact is that many of our actions during the winter months can contribute to climate issues, whether large or small scale. 

Here are some ways you can rethink your winters, to lessen your footprint on the ecosystem in which you live.

Staying Warm:
  1. Instead of bumping up the heat, try adding layers of clothing. Adding a comfy knit hat, cozy scarf, or warm slippers can work wonders to take away the chill. Add a cup of warm tea, cider, or cocoa to warm yourself from the inside. You can also leave your oven door open after baking – don’t waste that heat—and reverse your ceiling fans to help circulate the warmth produced by your furnace.
  2. Seal or caulk leaks around your windows and put weather-stripping on your doors. This increases the efficiency of your home’s heating system function, thus keeping your home cozy. It also decreases your carbon footprint and saves you money in the process.
  3. Need a winter coat? Try buying second-hand at a local thrift store, where you can often find great wool pea coats to keep you toasty all through the winter months. I’ve bought two great black wool pea coats, one short, the other thigh-length, both for under $35. The same goes for sweaters, flannel shirts, or other winter wear. Just because it’s at the thrift or second-hand store doesn’t mean it’s unworthy! Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself. Go to the thrifts nearest you and browse the racks. You’re likely to leave with at least one or two “new” items. If you must buy new, make sure to check your source to see that it was produced in an ethical way with traceable and responsible methods. Encourage environmental responsibility among vendors by only buying from companies with high ethical and environmental standards.

In and around your home:
  1. Reuse old paper to wrap gifts. Save paper like newsprint, giftwrapping, gift bags, anything that might serve, along with pieces of twine, jute, ribbon, bows, etc. All of these can be easily reused. Not only is it good for the environment, but it will save you a little money as well! 
  2. Remove snow from your driveways and sidewalks before it turns to ice; consider doing so yourself with a shovel or battery-powered removal device rather[DD1]  than a gas-powered blower. If you can, use sand or sawdust to provide traction, rather than chemicals to completely remove the ice. Snow and ice eventually melts and flows into our waterways, carrying pollutants from chemicals with it. Rock salt, the most common[DD2]  deicing material used, contains cyanide and can[DD3]  be harmful to many plants and freshwater ecosystems/animals, so think about how much deicer is being used throughout your area, and do the math before you use it. But even the less toxic options (calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, and calcium magnesium acetate) are not exactly friendly to the environment.  If you must deice, do your research on what is currently considered “best,” and use environmentally friendly practices.
  3. Don’t let your car run longer than a minute to “warm up.” Modern car technology has improved to the point that the engine is usually ready to go within 20-30 seconds after you start it. Running it any longer wastes gas and increases emissions. The car’s passenger compartment may not be warm by the time you take off, but the best way to change that is to drive the car. Wear a hat, gloves, and a scarf to stay warm when you drive, and pull them off as needed. 
  4. Leave the leaves. In most cases, your lawn won’t be smothered by them. In fact, it may be enriched by leaving leaves where they lie. Leaf litter serves as habitat for small creatures like butterflies and moths, mantids, lizards, spiders, birds, and more. Mulching with a mower can kill the insects residing beneath, while raking them serves to remove that ground cover on which they depend. If you must remove them for whatever reason, consider raking and using as garden bed cover or compost layer, rather than bagging in plastic and sending them to the dump. Also, leave those “dead” stems from your summer plants and flowers. Many insects may use those as overwintering homes.

Personal and Family Tips:
  1.  Eat seasonal, local, organic foods. Visit farm markets, or purchase from the “locally grown” table in your grocery store. Why? Consider that fruits and vegetables which are out of season in your area must be harvested early, then chilled to prevent spoilage. Some, when reaching their destination, will require heating to artificially ripen before they can sell it. The transportation, often across long distances, adds its own environmental problems. And all these factors add to the price of the produce. Buying seasonal fruits and vegetables available in your area (within 100 miles) is better for the environment, as well as for you since it adds diversity to your diet. Also? It helps support your local farmers, all of whom are essential links in the production chain. Find a seasonal foods guide/database for the U.S. here (https://www.seasonalfoodguide.org), for Western/Northern Europe here: http://na-nu.com/terfloth.org/Kitchen/Season_Cal.pdf, in Europe here: (https://www.eufic.org/en/explore-seasonal-fruit-and-vegetables-in-europe), in India here: (https://mishry.com/seasonal-fruits-in-india). Don’t see your area on these sites? Google “seasonal foods guide 2022” and add your region. 
  2. Many coffee shops offer incentives to bring your own reusable mug with you for a refill. Check with your local barista to see if they participate. (This is a year-round sustainability tip.)

Do you have your own winter sustainability tips you’d like to share? Add them here in a comment!

❄︎ ❄︎ ❄︎

Links for more info:

Just Energy – Ready, Set, Winter!

UW Madison Office of Sustainability – 5 Ways to Have a Greener Winter

NEEF – How to Protect the Environment During the Winter Months

University of Michigan – 10 Tips for Sustainable Living During the Winter

AMLI Residential – 7 Green Living Tips for Winter That Won’t Compromise Your Comfort

Hey Social Good – 16 Sustainable and Ethical Winter Season Tips

PennState Extension – Watershed-friendly Deicing

Consumer Reports – Should You Warm Up Your Car Before Driving?

Chesapeake Bay Foundation – Raking Leaves? Drop the Rake and Stop What You’re Doing

Chasing Bugs – Leave the Leaves

❄︎ ❄︎ ❄︎

Photo Credits:

Toasty Warmth Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels

Winter Leeks Image by CongerDesign

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *