Here's your guide for making your household a few (or, if you're up to it, 50) steps closer to green.
"If you do just one thing, recycle," says Mindy Pennybacker, author of "Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices." "We each produce our own weight in garbage every month. But don't just think about your 'out' bin -- think recyclable and recycled when bringing items into your home, too."
Luckily, these products have never been easier to find -- or easier on the eyes. As it's time to replace and upgrade, here are some items to cycle in -- and some wasteful habits to cut out.
Some studies link the plasticizer to cancer and other health issues. Use cooking tools made from safe plastics -- usually labeled #2, #4, or #5. (Bonus if recycled!)
Preserve mixing bowls, $25 for 3; preserveproducts.com
The three-gallon Ovopur has a filter made of quartz, copper, activated carbon, and zinc that rids water of 99 percent of metals.
Aquaovo, $650; greendepot.com
Drink from Recycled Glass
It takes 50 percent less energy to produce than virgin glass. These tumblers are made from old wine-bottle bottoms.
The Green Glass Co., from $38 for 4; greenglass.com
Use Cloth Napkins
If everyone in the United States replaced just one package of paper napkins with cloth, we'd save one million trees.
Natsumi napkins, $30 for 2; natsumi.bigcartel.com
If you aren't composting food scraps, Kate Heyhoe, author of "Cooking Green," says it's better to throw them in the trash than to grind them in the disposal. Food sent down the drain often winds up in the landfill after the sewage treatment plant, so save the electricity -- and 2,000 gallons of water per year.
"Cover your hot-water heater with an inexpensive insulating blanket," suggests former Vice President Al Gore, whose latest book is "Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis." The blankets generally cost $10 to $20 at hardware stores (here's one example) and can reduce heat loss by up to 45 percent.
You probably already know you can save energy by plugging chargers and other "vampire" electronics into a power strip with an on/off switch. But how often do you remember to flip that switch? Mindy Pennybacker recommends buying a Smart Strip that turns itself off when it senses that appliances are idle.
About $30; amazon.com
Pottery Barn's new lightweight desk chair is both stunning and made of 100 percent recycled aluminum.
Use a Low-Impact Laptop
They burn less energy than desktops. The Energy Star-certified MacBook Air has less mercury, arsenic, and PVC than other laptops and comes in a recyclable casing.
Wiping your feet on a doormat before you step inside is good, but removing your sneakers altogether is even better. "So many studies show that we bring dangerous pesticides and chemicals into our homes on our feet," says Sarah Beatty, founder and president of the Green Depot. "Taking off your shoes is one of the simplest and most important things anyone can do."
This cedar composter beautifully handles kitchen and yard waste.
Valentina (shown painted), $300; priscillawoolworth.com
How to Use a Composter
1. Open the top lid, and completely cover the chicken-wire shelf inside with shredded newspaper.
2. Cover that newspaper layer with a layer of soil.
3. Add a layer of food scraps (things like produce, crushed egg shells, and coffee grounds). To avoid smells, also add some lawn clippings, leaves, or cardboard.
4. Turn with a hand rake once a week.
5. Over six to nine months, the items will rot and the compost will filter to the bottom. Lift the lower gate to retrieve.