Step1 Conserve water: In your landscaping, select perennial native plants or plants that tolerate your type of environment well. Stores like Lowe's have plants labeled with this information (i.e. tolerant of dry conditions, full sun, shade). Local garden centers often have free workshops to educate interested parties on these subjects. See my other ehow article on this subject.
Step2 Conserve time/fuel and cut pollution: Instead of grass that needs mowing and chemicals, plant ground covers (i.e. vinca, pachysandra). Lawn mowers give off A LOT of pollution. Wouldn't you rather only mow 1/2 your yard anyway? Maybe if you only had half as much to mow, you also wouldn't need a lawn service to come do the job. If your lot is fairly level, maybe you could even use a push power like the one pictured here.
Step3 Cut back on waste and save money: Limit the convenience foods you consume to eliminate your share of plastic straws, utensils and styrofoam containers. Most of these foods purchased this way aren't healthy for you anyway (for instance, "Lunchables"). Instead, pack your own lunches in re-usable containers. Its better for the environment, better for your body, and better for your wallet... everyone wins. It doesn't take long to put some yogurt in a small container vs. putting one of those 8 oz cups in your lunch bag.
Purchase energy saving appliances and light bulbs.
Step4 Cut back on waste that ends up in landfills: Compost vegetable wastes. It's so easy! Even if you have a very small yard, you only need an area the size of a trash can to compost vegetable scraps and yard waste. Your compost bin can be easily made out of nearly anything: for example, chicken wire, old wooden pallets, cinder blocks,or an old trash can with the bottom cut out. Some very handsome containers can also be purchased for this purpose. Plus you'll get some very rich soil to add to your planter boxes or garden beds after a period of time. All you need to do is keep a container by your sink in which to place the vegetable scraps. When its full, have one of the kids dump it in the compost pile. That's it! Make sure no meat or grease get in with your compost!
Step5 Reuse and recycle what you can: Be educated about what can be recycled and what cannot. Sort your recyclables properly. Every little bit helps! Reuse containers a couple of times if possible, then recycle them. Try to purchase more items made from recycled materials.
Step6 Reduce: Think about how much you buy. Do you really need that item? Maybe you could get something similar at a yard sale or thrift shop that would do the job for 1/3 of the price and without all the harmful packaging. Maybe that book you wanted to read or that movie you want to see is something you could get from your local library.
Step7 Conserve Electricity: Don't use your clothes dryer. Hang your laundry instead. Even very busy people can hang their laundry on the weekends, at least. Have you ever watched how fast your electric meter spins when you are using your dryer? Take a look and it will make you think twice about using the dryer every time you do laundry. Drying racks can be purchased fairly cheaply, or you can use clothes hangers or drape them over something indoors or out. Only run your dishwasher if it is full. If you only have a couple of dishes to wash, wash them by hand.
Step8 Do you have a outdoor hot tub? Do you keep it heated in the winter? This is a real energy drain. A hot tub came with our house when we moved in... we enjoyed it for a while, but found it wasn't worth the upkeep and it really made the electric meter spin. I don't miss it at all! Now we have a new section of patio with a nice planter instead.
Step9 Plant a vegetable garden. Zucchini and yellow crookneck squash are pretty much fool proof and are very prolific. If that goes well, give peppers, pumpkins, basil and tomatoes a try the following season. I have never had to use pesticides of any kind on these plants. You can even grow many of these things in planters if you don't have a yard. Try planting some herbs. Many are very attractive as well as edible. Rosemary, for instance is a very hardy perennial. Planted next to some parsley, basil and thyme, you'll have a very attractive miniature herb garden that you can really use! Gardening is good for your body and soul, too! See your hard work pay off and get some fresh air and be green at the same time!
Step10 Have an energy audit done on your home. This is a real eye-opener to a lot of people who go through the process.
Step11 Eat out less, especially at fast food joints. Take out items packaged in styrofoam, plastic and paper containers are horrible for the environment. The contents of these containers are also terrible for your waistline, your heart and your wallet. Make eating out a "special" occasion by doing it less often.