12 Green Habits for the New Year

Kirkland is a pretty eco-conscious city, and we’re proud of all the work our community does to keep the planet healthy. But even the greenest of us might have little environmental blind spots — ingrained habits that we don’t think twice about because that’s the way it’s done.

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We’ve identified 12 easy everyday habits you can adopt to make next year your most eco-friendly year ever. You may already have some of these covered – if so, great, keep it up! The best way to form new habits is one at a time, so we’ve picked a habit for you to add each month:

January: Focus on the recycling basics.
February: Bring your own coffee mug.
March: Use a reusable water bottle.
April: Remove produce stickers from compost.
May: Mow high & often, leave the clippings.
June: Quit pesticides.
July: Wash your car at the carwash.
August: Use reusable totes.
September: Carry leftovers home in tupperware.
October: Scoop Fido’s poop.
November: Scrape food scraps into the compost.
December: Carry your own utensils.

Read on for the whys and wherefores to adopt these 12 new green habits.

1. Focus on the Recycling Basics

recycling-basics-twitterDon’t let yourself get stressed out by recycling. We know it gets complicated and confusing, so just focus on the recycling basics:

  1. Recycle all of your paper, glass and cans.
  2. Keep your recyclables clean and dry.
  3. Don’t put plastic bags in your curbside recycling. (You can find drop-off points to recycle them here, otherwise throw them away.)

2. Bring Your Own Mug

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Bring your own mug to the coffee shop! You’ll be able to skip the paper cup, plastic lid, and cardboard sleeve. (If you do get the paper cup, recycle it when it’s empty – no liquids in the recycling!)

3. Stop Buying Bottled Water

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Switch from bottled water to a reusable water bottle. Bottled water isn’t any cleaner than tap water, and produces tons of single-use plastic. Yes, some bottles get recycled, but not all – and lots wind up in our waterways.

4. Keep Plastic Out of the Compost

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Peel stickers off of produce you compost. Plastic – even as little as a sticker – doesn’t belong in the compost. Cedar Grove has to run their compost through multiple screens to get rid of these little buggers. Much easier to keep it out in the first place!

Drop by City Hall and pick up a gamepiece you can trade for a free bag of compost…once you’ve filled the grid with produce stickers ;)

5. Practice Natural Lawn Care

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Grasscycle your lawn. What does that mean? It’s easy:

  1. mow often,
  2. trim only a little grass at a time,
  3. leave the grass clippings on the lawn.

If you’re a real stickler for instructions, here are more detailed grasscycling instructions (PDF).

Why grasscycle? The short grass clippings fertilize your lawn (if the clippings are too long they take too long to decompose). That means you don’t need to add as much (or any!) commercial fertilizer to keep it lush and green. Here’s the whole skinny on natural lawn care.

6. Say No to Spraying

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Replace pesticides with natural yard care that’s gentler on the planet. Here’s what to do instead.

Why not spray? Kids playing in the yard can get the toxic chemicals on their hands, and dogs can track them inside. Pesticides wash into our streams and Lake Washington. Some harm native birds, bees and other helpful insects.

7. Wash Your Car at the Carwash, Not at Home

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Don’t wash your car in the driveway, do it at the commercial carwash.

Yeah, yeah, you have to pay at the carwash – but when you wash the car at home you’re sending suds and chemicals straight to our streams! Storm drains flow into our waterways without treatment. Keep Kirkland’s streams and Lake Washington clean and healthy – and that means no suds.

(If you must wash at home, you can mitigate pollution by using appropriate soaps and washing on grass or gravel, not in your driveway or on the street.)

8. Trade Plastic Bags for Reusable Bags

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Quit plastic bags. Get a couple reusable tote bags and stash them in your car so they’ll be handy when you swing into the grocery store. Plastic bags are easily blown into the ocean, where they can harm animals.

9. Doggie Bag It without Styrofoam

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Keep reusable containers in your bag or car for restaurant leftovers! Say no to the styrofoam – a single-use container that goes straight in the trash when you’re done.

10. Clean Up Dog Waste

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We have sad news for you…the Poop Fairy isn’t real. No one’s going to pick up after Buster unless you do.

Clean up after your dog and throw bagged waste in the trash (definitely NOT the compost!!!).

Why do we care? Aside from the obvious…pet waste washes into our streams, polluting them and Lake Washington. Salmon, frogs and birds rely on clean water…as do all the people who boat, swim, kayak, and paddleboard on the lake. Kirkland’s a dog-lovin’ town, but all those dogs translate into a lot of poop. Help keep our waterways healthy and scoop that poop!

This habit’s a gimme, right?

Notice a lot of pet waste in your neighborhood? You can sponsor a neighborhood bag station.

11. Compost Food Scraps, Skip the Garbage Disposal

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compost pail, biobags and brochureScrape your plate into the compost pail instead of the garbage disposal. Your food scraps will get turned into compost, in turn used to grow your food – instead of filling our sewer system with food particles and fats, oils and greases that clog pipes. A win-win, we say!

(What, you’re not composting at home yet?! Come get a free starter kit with pail and composting guide at City Hall Public Works counter.)

12. Bring Your Own Fork

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Reject plastic cutlery – it can barely stand up to a meal anyway! Wrap a set of utensils in a cloth napkin and tuck it into your bag. (Pick up cheap metal utensils at the thrift shop.) If you eat out for lunch often, think how much plastic you’ll prevent from going into the landfill!

Your Green Habit Shopping List

Here are reusable supplies to keep on hand to make your new green habits easy. Remember to shop your house first!

  • Reusable tote bags
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Reusable mug with lid
  • Reusable fork, knife and spoon and cloth napkin
  • Reusable containers for leftovers
  • Compost pail (get a free one at City Hall)

Let us know how you do with your new green habits!