9 Green Tips for Running Errands

keys[sniplet tweetleft]Life is hectic, especially in the beginning of the fall. Things become busier, and that lazy summer attitude seems to have disappeared. It’s time to pick up the pace a bit, which, for me, means a lot of errands. To the bank, market, post office, card shop, wherever.

When I’m out of the house, I find that my eco-habits tend to drop a bit. It’s hard to find recycling bins, and it’s easy to forget to bring bags to the grocery store. To combat this, I’ve started some new habits that make life easier.

#1 Keep extra reusable bags in the car

I’m sure you’ve heard this tip before, but take the time now and grab a reusable bag or two to put in the car. It’s easy to forget to grab them before leaving the house, especially if you’re trying to remember all of the other things you need (keys, cellphone, wallet – that’s the jingle I say before leaving the door). Take some pressure off and keep a couple in the car. Then as soon as you’re finished unloading your goods, fold them back up and put them back in the car for next time.

#2 Keep extra plastic bags in the car

Take those plastic bags that you needed to use when you forgot to bring your reusable bags, and keep a couple in the car for trash and recycling. Designate one for recycling, and you’ll find yourself using your on-the-go recycling bag instead of trashing them while you’re out. Better yet, ask your local area to start a recycling campaign and start placing recycling bins next to the trash cans. Our town has just started doing that in a few well-placed locations and it makes recycling so much easier.

#3 Pack some snacks

My sister taught me this — she’s a great snacker. Grab some non-perishable snacks and keep them in the car, preferably ones that have less of an environmental impact (see this post). Either way, having some snacks on hand will keep you from grabbing fast food or convenience store snacks, which are more expensive, more unhealthy, and have more of an environmentally negative impact.

#4 Use an electronic to-do list

If you have a smartphone (iPhone, Windows Mobile, Android, Blackberry), chances are there’s a great to do list application that will enable you to keep your to do list electronically. Remember the Milk is a popular to do list app that offers some features that paper just can’t compete with.

#5 Plan out your trip

Yes, this one might take you 5 extra minutes, but it will also save a lot of frustration. Plan your trip out ahead of time, making sure you’re not zig-zagging across town to reach all of your points. Some to do list applications will even let you geo-locate your errands on a map (see Remember the Milk). Best of all, planning your trips will save frustration, time, and money.

#6 Grab your thermos/mug

Chances are you’ll want to stop for coffee when you’re trying to get everything done. Grab a thermos and keep it with the reusable bags, plastic bags, and snacks. This way you’ll never have to waste paper or styrofoam for your much-needed coffee break.

#7 Park and walk

If you’ve got some errands close to each other, park the car and get some fresh air. You’ll be saving gas by not running the engine so long, and you’ll get some exercise in there too. Plus, I always find that a nice walk helps relieve the stress of daily life, and you might just find something fun or interesting along the way.

#8 Think eco-sensibly

When you’re making your purchases, think about your options. How far has this product traveled to get to you, how much packaging does it use, will it be in the trash in a week, are there more environmentally-friendly products out there? By thinking about the purchases we make and choosing products that are more environmentally friendly, we’re telling the market that being environmentally friendly matters. If we continue to purchase stuff that pollutes and produces waste, then it will continue to be made.

#9 Visit the cute stores

Stop into your local small stores and support them, especially if they’re supplying locally-made items. I’ve always found that smaller stores sell more unique and interesting items. Especially when I’m looking for a gift for that someone who has everything, local shops are always the ones I visit to find a great gift. Plus, the produce at local shops is usually so much more fresh, less processed, and local than my nearby supermarket.

What do you do on your errands?

Are there any habits you’ve made that are eco-friendly, or ones that aren’t eco-friendly that you wish you could change?

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