Many of us go through a lot of paper and ink each year using a home or office printer.  But we can pretty dramatically cut reduce the amount we use – and buy – with a few easy changes.

Of course, it’s worth it to consider whether you really have to print something before you do.  Cloud computing and mobile devices make it less necessary all the time.  But if you do need to print, here are some ways to make it greener and cheaper.

Re-use paper printed on one side, and print double-sided.  If one side of a piece of paper is blank, consider it reusable.  Save mail, school notices, or take home outdated flyers or stationery from work, and use it in your printer.  Printing double-sided will save paper and money, too.

Buy recycled paper and toner cartridges, and add ink.  If you need to use new paper, buy chlorine-free paper with a higher percentage of post-consumer recycled content.  Donate your used toner cartridges, and buy re-manufactured ones. 

Download Eco-Font.  Want to cut down on ink consumption and keep ink cartridges out of the landfill?   A Dutch company called Eco-Font has created a font that looks just like any other font to the naked eye, but is actually composed of tiny inkless circles.  It reduces ink use by 20%, and it’s downloadable for free.

Print in “draft” or “economode.”  Unless your document needs to look perfect, printing in a slightly lower resolution will work just fine, and will keep toner cartridges out of the landfill.  Here’s how to set Word to print in draft, and how to set HP printers to print in Economode.  

Change your margins.  By shrinking the margins around the text you’re printing to .75″, you can save almost 5% in paper usage.  If the entire U.S. were to adopt these slightly smaller margins, the Change The Margins campaign estimates a savings of over 6 million trees annually.  Here’s how to change your margins on a PC or a Mac.

 

Mark your calendar and start digging through your boxes:  October 8th is National Costume Swap Day!

An effort to green our Halloween celebrations by reusing costumes, these swap events allow you to donate your used costumes and walk away with a new-to-you costumes for your kids or yourself.  The event is sponsored by Green Halloween, Kiwi Magazine, and Swap.com.

Green Halloween says that reusing half of all kids’ Halloween costumes would reduce annual landfill waste by 6,250 tons, equal to the weight of 2500 midsize cars.

And of course swapping costumes can save you money.  The National Retail Federation estimated that Halloween costumes, decorations, and candy would cost the average U.S. family over $66 in 2010.

Costume swaps are occurring all over the country this year, and you can find one by searching the list here.  No swap planned in your area?  Consider organizing one yourself!

Want more ideas for ways to green your Halloween?  Check out Green Halloween for a wealth of tips and projects.  Green Halloween’s founder, Corey Colwell-Lipson, joined us for a podcast interview with her mother Lynn Colwell on how to throw an eco-friendly baby shower.

Commercial baby wipes.  Expensive but indispensable, right?

Well, maybe not.  If you don’t want to shell out money on wipes, worry that the ingredients might not be great for your baby’s sensitive skin, and if you don’t want your used wipes to sit in a landfill for generations to come, consider some alternatives:

  • If you use cloth diapers, just use small cloth diapers (the newborn size works well) and a container of water.  Keep the water in a container – a plastic shoe box, small kitty litter box, or Pyrex pan would would work – on your diaper changing table.  Then just dip the diapers in water, clean your baby, and throw them into the diaper pail.
  • If you don’t use cloth, get some old, softer material – old t-shirts, towels, sheets are all fine – and use pinking shears (zig zag scissors)  to cut out small squares.  Or, sew the edges using a zig zag stitch.  If the fabric isn’t thick enough, sew several layers together.  Use as described above.  Store used wipes in a small diaper pail by the changing station until laundry time.
  • If you use cloth wipes at home but want pre-moistened wipes when you’re out of the house, consider making your own wipes from paper towels, here are some instructions.   Carry in a wipes container or wet bag.
  • If you want to add a wipe solution (which isn’t necessary in most cases), here are some recipes.  If you use a baby shampoo in the solution, be sure it’s free of harmful chemicals.

If this sounds daunting, there are brands of wipes which are “greener” than most.  Check out Safe Mama’s list of wipes with the least harmful ingredients.

 

Halloween can be a fun and exciting, especially for families with young children.  With candy and costumes tempting young ones at every turn, it can also be frustrating for parents.  One way to avoid those wasteful and potentially harmful costume purchases is by getting children excited and invested in creating their own costume with everyday items found in the home. Not only is this better for the environment (and our pocket book!) but it provides an opportunity for creativity and problem solving as well.

Have your child(ren) brainstorm ideas – what do they want to dress up as for Halloween?  Once they have decided on a few options, work together to determine if there are items you already have that could be used to create a costume.  Here are a few of our favorite materials to use for dress up, and some costumes you can create with them:

Materials

Socks: These can be used to create antennae, ears, tails, tentacles and more!

Toilet paper cores: periscopes, binoculars, super hero cuffs, and telescopes to name a few…

Paper Bags: Great for creating costumes such as the tiger pictured above, a robot, crayon box, or any primarily rectangular shape – for older children the bag works best as a mask, for younger children the bags can be cut out on the sides to accommodate arms.

Sheets: in addition to the traditional ghost costume, use sheets to create dresses, togas, bat wings, mummy wraps, and bandages.

Mom or Dad’s t-shirts: create super hero capes, art smocks, and lab coats, or stuff to create a big belly or a funny shape.

 

Costume Ideas

Octopus: attach 6 stuffed tube socks to a sweatshirt of the same color. A matching hat will help tie the look together.  Now you have 8 arms instead of 2!

Penguin: cut out a white piece of paper in an oval shape and cut off ends for a flat top and bottom.  Attach to a black sweatshirt, and place a yellow“beak” at the top of your child’s forehead.

Super Hero: Make a cape and mask from an old t-shirt, create cuffs from toilet paper cores (add a slit down the length to attach) and create a belt from any remaining t shirt material and some colored paper.

Robot: Cut out a paper bag to resemble either the body or the head of your robot, depending on the size of the child.  Create the remainder of the robot by attaching colored paper controls.

Have you created your own Halloween costumes?  We’d love to hear your ideas, and how the costumes turned out!