Many of us seek ways to “go greener,” but we tend to think these measures have to be major, like adding solar panels or replacing appliances. And while those are substantial energy savers, there are simple changes that we can all take to make a difference in reducing pollution and saving energy.

A recent story about a woman in Brooklyn who has not sent any trash to the landfill since 2012 served as an inspiration to me. Lauren Singer was an environmental studies major at New York University when she decided to keep all the trash she produced (not compostable or recyclable) in a 16-ounce Mason jar. She continues to do this and gives advice in her blog, Trash is for Tossers.

Even if most of us are unable to go “zero waste,” there are plenty of smaller steps we can take to go in that direction. Here are some thoughts gleaned from reading that blog and talking to local “greenies.”

Shop at second-hand and consignment shops. In Falmouth we have BuyWay Boutique, with designer clothes at a fraction of the original cost, and Trendy Tots for children, clothes all in good shape and reusable, along with several thrift shops that sell everything from clothes and small appliances to furniture.

For an added measure of feel good, most of these shops benefit area nonprofit agencies such as Habitat for Humanity and the Falmouth Service Center. And when it is time to give up your old jeans, there is a program online called Blue Jeans Go Green, where discarded jeans become denim insulation.

Buy food in bulk if you can, which reduces packaging waste. Avoid the plastic bags that grocery stores still provide for produce. You can do better by using mesh bags that can be washed and reused. And of course, bring your own reusable bags for check-out.

When you buy snacks, check how they are packaged. My favorite organic granola bar is, unfortunately, packed in a wrapper that looks like foil but is plastic. And when you consider getting a meal to go, think about the container—does the restaurant use Styrofoam or recyclable cardboard?

Put your food scraps (not meat) in a composter. Even if you don’t use your compost, you are keeping food waste out of the trash. Or sign up with Compost With Me, a local West Falmouth business, to pick up your food waste and bring it back as rich compost for your garden.

I confess that paper towels are a weakness of mine, especially for cleaning up after my cats or for other messy projects. Then I remembered the “rag bag” that hung near the basement stairs in my childhood home, pre-paper towel era. We all have “rags”—all those T-shirts we don’t wear anymore—that can serve as rags, get washed and used again for cleaning. As for napkins, my grandmothers always used cloth napkins that seemed so elegant. Why not use them again?

Buy a bamboo toothbrush that can be recycled, refill soap and hair products when available, or switch to shampoo bars to reduce plastic packaging and waste. You can buy a reusable cup for the coffee shop, and keep one with you for water. Falmouth even has refillable water stations downtown now. 

A pretty easy environmental (and economical) fix for your house is to use LEDs (light-emitting diodes). We replaced our two outside incandescent floodlights (150 watts each) with halogen (90 watts each) then LEDs (10 watts each), going from a total of 300 watts to 20 watts.

Ceiling fans are useful to save on air conditioning. During the summer heat waves, fans allow you to turn up the temperature setting on the AC about four degrees. Remember to have the fan running counter-clockwise in summer; in winter, reset the fan to clockwise to draw warm air down from the ceiling.

Put up a clothesline! There are so many reasons to hang your clothes outside. Energy savings top that list but there are many other benefits of line drying, from removing odors and bleaching out stains to saving your clothes from any damage that a dryer’s high temperatures may cause, to the peace and quiet of spending 10 minutes outdoors hanging and gathering laundry, even in the winter!

Some other commonsense, green tips from Lucy Helfrich of Falmouth, who works for The 300 Committee Land Trust, are to save water by only running your dishwasher and washing machine with full loads; when showering/washing dishes, turn off the water except for wetting and rinsing. If you must water your garden, do it early or late; set sprinklers for just before dawn or just after dusk. 

And the reminder that we all need: turn off lights when not in use.

Feeling inspired but a bit challenged about going greener? As the Trash is for Tossers blog states, it’s a “process,” but it is worth it.