On Earth Day  I thought about the ways that I have tried to "leave a lighter footprint" during the past year. Here are four things I changed.


Chemical-free drain cleaner: I quit pouring chemicals down the drain and starting using Bio-Clean. It's a powder made of millions of gunk-eating bacteria that safely eat away at the slime that coats pipes and makes drains run slowly. I've been using it for almost a year and can report smooth sailing with no backups. I have only used this product as a preventative, not as a clog remover.  For best results, read the instructions. For example, if you have a multi-level home, start on the lowest level drains and work up. For more tips, check the comments from users on Amazon.  It is sold locally at plumbing shops but not in retail stores. The lowest prices (about $49 for a 2-lb. jar) are on Amazon and the Bio-Clean site (link above). Cheaper alternative: A plumber once told me the best way to keep drains running freely is to pour a bag of ice over the drain, let it melt and then do a chaser of one to two gallons of boiling water. It worked for me but I found it a hassle.


Eating less red meat: Livestock production is a major contributor to greenhouse gases, said Juliet Schor, chairwoman of the board at the Center for a New American Dream. I haven't given  up meat all together, but I try to have one meatless meal per day and use chicken rather than beef or pork.

Moved closer to work: I now walk or ride a bike to work. But giving up a car isn't on the radar yet.

Toilet paper made from recycled materials: Soft TP is rough on forests, Ninety-eight percent of all toilet rolls in the U.S come from virgin forests, according to a 2009 article in the New York Times. I agree with Consumer Reports that the best overall brand of recycled TP is Seventh Generation. If you're not brand picky, look for unbleached, processed chlorine-free or totally chlorine free products.

So there are four steps forward, but it's a work in progress. What ways have you consciously tried to lighten your environmental load?