Did you know that today is Earth Day? I've been trying to make better, greener decisions in my every day life and I thought today was the perfect day to share.
Swap out your light bulbs. Why? Compact florescent light bulbs use less energy than regular old light bulbs to provide the same amount of light, and last up to ten times longer. They also save money in energy costs - more than $30 in the lifetime of one bulb.
Plant a tree or flowers. With Arbor Day (April 27th) just around the corner from Earth Day (today!), this is your chance to practice planting a fruit tree or any other kind of tree! Trees remove CO2 from the air and help fight global warming. They produce oxygen, give us shade in the summer, and provide a home for your neighborhood birds. Make it an annual family event and within a few years you may have enough shade to drastically reduce your home cooling costs and some tasty fruit to boot! You can also plant some flowers that are native to your area and plant them in your garden or on nature strips where plants are usually grown. Restoring the local plant life will help attract native bird life, pollinators and local mammals.
Curb your junk mail and go paperless with your bills. I have just made sure all of our bills are now online – we don’t get any paper bills anymore. As for junk mail, this is a slower process but you use the pre-paid stamped envelope in your junk mail, write "please remove" on the envelope and send it back to them - on their dime. In the long run it helps everyone -- they don't have to pay for future mailings and you are no longer buried in piles of junk mail.
Turn off lights and unplug cell phone chargers. This one couldn't be simpler. It’s normally the first thing on the list – but take a look around, do you do it? Whilst writing this post I can see one unnecessary light on (my fault) and two chargers plugged in that aren't being used. Chargers use electricity even when electronic devices are not connected to them.
Try doing "conscious" laundry. Instead of saving those piles of laundry for your Saturday or Sunday afternoon, do it at night when energy costs are lower. During the warmer weather, I do my laundry during the day, hang them on a clothes horse and stick them outside. Every house at home has a clothesline out the back (a veranda out the front, and an old rocking chair) and I understand why it's not common here with the whole seasons thing, KC thinks they look tacky but I don't care. One day I will have one.
Fix plumbing issues. A faucet leaking just one drop per second wastes over 1,300 gallons per year! A leak from a hot water source wastes both water and fossil fuel, creating more greenhouse gasses. Most repairs to plumbing fixtures pay for themselves within just a year. Fix it.
Think Green When You Clean - Cleaning products that contain chlorine or petroleum distillates expose your family to toxins and then end up in the ecosystem. Choose nontoxic, naturally derived cleaning products, which are proven effective but won’t cause long term damage to the Earth.
Make sure your car is in tip top shape. Americans waste over 700 million gallons of gasoline each year just because tyres aren’t properly inflated. Millions more are wasted because our vehicles aren’t properly tuned up. Get her checked!
Meatless for dinner. Once a week, plan a meat alternative for dinner. Enjoy pasta with a marinara or Alfredo sauce, meatless burritos, or even black bean burgers. The United Nations have concluded that meat production is responsible for around 18% of global CO2 emissions. A ridiculous amount of water is used to produce a single pound of beef, and the EPA estimates that more than 27,000 miles of US Rivers have been polluted by livestock waste. Go meatless once a week and help conserve water.
Use a refillable water bottle. In the US alone, 1.5 million barrels of oil are used every year to make disposable plastic bottles.
Use fewer napkins. Napkins contribute to the annual destruction of 34 million trees. Try only using one next time. I definitely need to be better about this, and I would love to not use paper towel at home.
Walk, Hike, Ride a Bike, Carpool. If people in the U.S. would occasionally ride a bike for a short errand instead of driving a car, over 70 million gallons of fuel could be saved each year. And there’s the added benefit of enjoying the fresh air and exercise. KC and I used to walk to the grocery when we lived closer. Another great thing would be to get rid of your car completely – but obviously might not be possible for everyone, it’s not possible for us right now. Public transport is nonexistent here, and if we were a one car family, we’d waste ridiculously more gas. Cars have a tremendous impact on the environment, not to mention your personal finances. Vehicles in the United States use more gasoline each year than our oil industry produces. I would love to be a one car family one day, we’ll see!
Get rid of weeds with your hands. Herbicides aren’t the only way to control weeds, and they’re certainly not the most environment-friendly way. Invest in a good pair of gloves and garden tools, and remove weeds by hand. Also, choose natural alternatives to pesticides for getting rid of pests.
Reduce, Reuse Recycle. It’s more than just a slogan. You can start making the world a ‘greener’ place today: return hangers to the cleaners, donate clothing and computers to charities, pack lunches in reusable containers instead of bags, there are hundreds of easy things to do and though we all know it – do we actually do it? My reusable bags sit in the car almost every time I go to the grocery. I’m going to make a conscious effort to use them from now on. Most people recycle at home, but there are a shocking number of offices and workplaces that don't recycle. Including my own. Paper, plastic bottles, soda cans. I am going to get a waste basket for recycling and if I have to take it home each day and put it in my own bin, I will.
Adjust your thermostat. Up in the summer, down in the winter. While you’re at it, try and help me convince KC to turn it up some more in the summer.
Wash your car using a bucket rather than the hose. You might think this is a bit ridiculous, but you use less water. When we had water restrictions at home, this is what we had to do. Drive the car onto grass for cleaning, so that the water you do use also waters the grass. Every little bit counts.
Take shorter showers. Again, when we had water restrictions, we were encouraged to take shorter showers and you can buy shower heads that save water. I’m a pretty quick shower taker, but I take way too many baths and I need to curb that before I use the whole Atlantic Ocean.
Buy Local. Food sold in American supermarkets has to travel an average of 1,500 miles to get from the farm to your plate. Buying locally not only supports your local economy, but cuts out the massive amounts of energy used to store and transport the products across the world. Food isn't the only way to shop local: visit neighborhood thrift stores to reduce the pollution caused by the production and transportation of new clothing and other items.
Stop Using Plastic. There is no doubt that plastics are bad. Americans dispose of 10.5 million tons of plastic garbage every year, and about 8% of the world's annual oil production is used toward the creation of plastic products. A single plastic bottle can spend anywhere from 100 to 1000 years in a landfill, and while recycling plastics helps save up to 60% of the energy used to make new products, they are often "downcycled" which doesn't curb the demand for more plastic to be produced, and it does little to prevent plastics leeching cancer-causing chemicals. Thanks to our wasteful habits, we've created huge islands of plastics in both the Pacific and Atlantic, and we not only kill up to a million sea creatures every year with plastic, but also ingest toxins that have made their way up the food chain from this waste.
Wow. If that doesn't make you stop using plastic....
Wow. If that doesn't make you stop using plastic....
Learn more about the environment. I think the most important thing we can all do is learn a little bit more about how we can help. Borrow some library books and read up on an issue such as pollution, endangered species, water shortages, recycling, and climate change. Think about the issues that concern you the most and if you haven't done so already, join a local group that undertakes activities to help protect the environment in your area.
For other great ideas to make your life a little more green read Kathy’s post and Steph’s post. I'm always looking for more though - what do you do to help the environment?
ps. 300th post - wtf.