Tips for Adopting Green Organizing and Celebrating Earth Day

by Environmentally Conscious Organizers Collaborative

Earth Day has been celebrated since the 1970s as an environment based awareness-building movement. The Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1995) — the highest honor given to civilians in the United States — for his role as Earth Day founder. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

Organizing has a very natural connection to an ethic of conscious consuming. Some organizers believe that it is our responsibility to help our clients live more environmentally conscious lives.

One natural result of getting organized is the need to consume less because we know where to find those items already in our space. Thus, we can break the chain of purchasing more of what we already have. This is the very beginning of making conscious consuming choices in our lives.

Organizing is an exercise of reduction; increased efficiency and having the “right” things in your life to support you where you want to go. Below are a number of organizing “tiplets” anyone can implement that when combined with other people’s efforts can positively impact our world and our environment.

Reduce – Reuse – Recycle: Aim to reduce first, reuse second, and recycle third. Too often, people think recycling is the first step. Whenever you are “consuming” consider what you can limit; what you can reuse instead of purchasing and if you do consume, consider the last step of a product’s life in how it will be recycled. ALWAYS review “use” in the order of REDUCING first then Reuse and the Recycle. The more that can be accomplished in the reduce phase, the less there is to deal with in the other phases.

Create a landing pad in the house: By placing items where you won’t forget them, you have the opportunity to use your transportation more effectively – you won’t be doing multiple trips out because you forgot the donations or items that needed to be returned.  Also, it will be easier to combine your errands.

Some possible landing pad collection bins and supplies to facilitate recycling and donation could include:

  • Donation
  • Freecycle – items posted to give away for good use by someone else
  • Paper, Glass, Metal, Styrofoam Recycling
  • Hazardous Waste – needs to be handled and disposed of correctly
  • Unused Medication–
  • Reusable Bags

Conserve Energy: This is as simple as making sure heat registers are not blocked and doors are able to be closed. This is only possible if there is not extraneous stuff in the way. Other simple steps can include:

  • Wear heavier clothing in the winter instead of bumping up the thermostat
  • Use window inserts/draperies/blinds to reduce energy loss through windows (honeycomb shades, etc.)
  • Use a programmable thermostat and keeping the thermostat temperature set low
  • Use a small space heater in the room that you are working in (office for example) when no one else is home
  • Set your water heater at 120 F and wrap your water heater and hot water pipes with insulation (especially those in the basement)
  • Schedule an energy audit through your local energy provider to determine how to reduce energy use.
  • Plug electronic equipment into surge protectors so they can all be completely shut off at the end of the day – computers use energy even when they are powered off
  • Turn off lights that are not being used – put lights on motion sensors that will shut off when no one triggers them

Reduce Paper Usage: Think digital not physical/paper as much as possible. Do you really need to print that email out? Can you deal with that bill electronically?

Reduce Paper coming into the house:

  • One great resource to help in the reduction of paper coming into the house is Catalog Choice. For free you can enter your preferences in online. For a nominal fee you can order mailers to send them the catalog jackets that you would like to be removed from and they will log that information for you – it could not be easier.
  • When you make a purchase online or over the phone, be sure to opt out of getting on the catalog mailing list AND be sure to request “no printed catalog” in shipment

Reuse Paper: If you have paper that you have only used one side – consider using a binder clip…. To make a pad of scrap paper.

Recycle Paper: Recycle all paper, even shredded paper. Instead of putting the shredded paper in a plastic bag and throwing it in the trash, use a brown paper lawn and garden bag to gather the material. This way you don’t have to switch containers and the paper bits don’t blow all over the neighborhood when you put it out for recycling.

Travel: When booking for business travel, use the Green Hotel Initiative’s Best Practices Survey to determine which hotels to use and aim to use the best form of transportation.

Health & Wellness for family, kids and pets: Some of the best cleaning materials are the most basic, least expensive, least toxic and have been around FOREVER. Google baking soda, Vinegar, Salt and prepare to be amazed at the possible uses of these simple cleaning ingredients. If you prefer to purchase your cleaning materials ready-made there are many green cleaners available commercially – Mrs. Meyers, Ecover, Seventh Generation, Bio Kleen are just a few to consider.
The Environmentally Conscious Organizers Collaborative has more info, tips, and resources available at their website:

Michele Matties CPO®
No Worries® Organizing Services
Lynne Johnson CPO-CD®
Lynne Johnson, Organizer
Sandy Rhee
Organization Guru
Jodie Siegel
Clear Your Space
Elesheva Soloff
Soloff Space Solutions
Doris Hasbun
Doris Hasbun, Organizer
Maureen Nuccitelli
Harmonious Life Designs
Lauren Zalkind
Lauren Zalkind, Organizer

More Tips from NAPO New England Organizers

“Reuse” is my favorite component of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle trilogy because new uses for old things are always cropping up!  Here’s my latest:  When play-doh is dried out and done, the empty containers are perfect for storing small amounts of paint so it is easily accessible for touch-ups. The lids fit tightly, and the small size makes it more realistic to keep the paint near where it might be used…unlike that bulky paint can that you probably aren’t interested in storing in your kitchen cabinets.

Leslie Huikko – Nicely Done Organizing

Save the environment by shopping for all your errands (not just groceries) with sturdy reusable bags made out of natural fibers or 100% recyclable material, available in many shapes, sizes and features (e.g., insulated). When you shop with your own bags, many stores give you cash back. The following 4 steps help you get started:

  1. Create a set of at least 5 bags and bundle them together. See example at
  2. Consider owning 2 sets of bags so you can rotate them between your car and your mudroom as you use them.
  3. Designate a specific, visible place to store each set inside your car and in your mudroom, so they are always available when you need to run an errand.
  4. Keep a collapsible bag in your handbag and/or briefcase, so that it is available and handy when you decide to make an impulse purchase on the go.

Doris Hasbun, Professional Organizer

Want to go more green but aren’t sure how to go about it? This website,, is your guide to green living. It has five main categories: Home, Office, Body, Lifestyle, and Transportation for you to choose from and then under each of these categories, it is broken down into specifics. It is a great website to help you decide how you can alter various areas in your life to go green.

Dawn Link, CPO® – Resolutions

The basic principle of green living, “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” is again the golden foundation for green organizing. Let’s look at them one by one:
  • Reduce: This is about letting go of items that you do not use or love. In addition, it includes thinking twice when you are considering letting an item into your home or office. Reducing our belongings only to what we utilize in our daily lives not only creates space for the things that we really do use and love, but also gives us the gift of time and peace of mind.
    • Consider this statistic, which is also known as Pareto Principle, as you reduce: We use 20% of our belongings 80% of the time (in other words 80% of our belongings are only used 20% of the time). That gives a different perspective when making decisions as to what to keep and what to let go, doesn’t it?
  • Reuse: I love this one as it talks to our creative side. In my personal life as well as when I organize with my clients, I make sure to have a game of this principle as we search for a reusable item for a specific purpose. Often times, surprising finds surface. A couple of examples from my own home are: Using plastic salad containers for my daughter’s crayons and lego pieces and reusing an old console table as an activity table in the playroom.
  • Recycle: When we reduce what comes into our homes or offices and reuse what we already have, the amount we recycle decreases dramatically, which is a wonderful gift to give Mother Earth. For the rest of the recyclable items, putting a system in place based on your town’s unique rules makes recycling an easy task.
My final tip is to make Green Organizing a part of your family living. This not only teaches our kids to grow into responsible, appreciative adults, but also gives families precious time to enjoy each other. Furthermore, green organizing is one of the best things you can do for your family budget. Especially with reducing what comes into your life and reusing what you already have (and eliminating a new purchase), you will be surprised to see how much positive impact you will have on your finances.
Sibel Babacan, Ph.D., CPCC, Dr.Bee Organizing Solutions