Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day everyone! In honor of this special day I am posting my research article from last year's Earth Day because regardless of the time that passes we can still make a difference in reducing our footprint.
18 Ways To Live A Greener Life
by Shoshana Gosselin
I keep reading about our loss in natural resources, loss in energy savings, and amazingly high amount of pollutants. And we are the ones responsible for it every day. We are in serious trouble. Studies show that global warming is already occurring and that it is caused primarily by human activities. How soon and in what ways will it disrupt our existence? Our planet is choking from exhaust fumes and burning of fossil fuels and unregulated deforestation is stripping off layer of soil, increasing the incidence of floods. Americans use at least twice as much water and energy per person as anyone else in the world. This is a problem considering that by 2025 the world must increase its water supply by 22% in order to meet its needs. Meanwhile, 40% of the drinking water supplied to homes is flushed down the toilet. As far as energy goes, it’s used mostly for heating and cooling. We need to act now, so future generations will have a chance. We need to act now to make our lives better. There is a growing environmental movement out there, but it will take all of us to help reduce our ecological footprint, which measures humanity’s demands on nature. Here are some simple, inexpensive ways to go green:

1. Recycle, Recycle, But Beware. Perhaps the simplest act to save the environment. Simply dump your cans, bottles, cartons and wastepaper in recycling bins. Be aware, that most recycling centers will only accept plastics that have a certain number, located within a triangle of arrows on the bottom of the plastic (this designates what type of plastic it is). When you mix in unacceptable plastics, it contaminates the mix, turning an entire truck’s worth of plastics into instant landfill. Check with your local township to see what they accept, and what to do with what they don’t. Also, as you have noticed, many fast food restaurants do not have separate recycling trashes that you can use, so do your part in fast food recycling by throwing your trash in recyclable containers wherever available. Even alert the restaurants you like to go to about the possibilities.

2. Ditch the Styrofoam coffee cups. Next time you buy a coffee or latte, bring your own travel mug and ask them to use that instead. Or use one of their ceramic mugs. Your coffee will taste better, and you'll be saving the environment. Most coffee houses, including all Starbucks and Panera Bread, don’t have a proper place to recycle their cups. If you don’t recycle it yourself, where do the billions of cups go?

3. Stop Buying Bottled Water. Filter your tap water for drinking. Not only is bottled water expensive, but it produces large amounts of container waste. A study in 2004 found that bottled water is rising 12% every year, supported by annual spending of about $35 billion. Many Americans who drink bottled water believe that it is safer than tap water, although a study of a thousand bottles sold in U.S. stores revealed known and/or possible carcinogens in a fifth of them. The plastic bottles are made from polyethylene, which although is recyclable, too many end up in the trash.

Check out this study to get a new perspective on the water bottle and its future by going to
http://www.worldwatch.org/brain/media/pdf/pubs/mag/EP172C.pdf.

4. Turn the heating down by one or two degrees and install energy saving devices. Save money and save the environment. Turning your thermostat down by a few degrees in the winter and easing up on the air conditioning in the summer won't make much difference to the temperature, but it'll cut your heating bill. Remember to clean or replace conditioner filters. Choose energy efficient appliances, including low-flow toilets, faucets and showerheads. If you use the dryer, do two loads in a row to make the most of the heat already in the dryer.

5. Adopt Water Saving Habits. Turn the tap off when you brush your teeth. Leaving the tap running while you're brushing your teeth, can add up to quite a bit of wasted water a day. Families in some developing countries struggle to survive on just that small amount each day. Only run the dishwasher and laundry machine when full. Take shorter showers to save water the energy to heat it. Wash clothes in cold water when possible and use a drying rack or clothesline. Take your car to a carwash rather than washing it yourself. Commercial carwashes use less water. Avoid power washing.

6. Buy the Right Light Bulbs. As each light bulb burns out, switch to energy-saving CFL bulbs. Compact fluorescent bulbs cost a bit more than regular bulbs but they use about 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times as long. These days, almost every store carries CFL bulbs. I bought a few at Wal-mart the other day (Keep in mind that CFLs contain mercury, so look for low-mercury models and dispose of them safely).

7. Turn It Off and Unplug it. Did you know that even when turned off, items like your TV, computer, and cell phone charger still sip power? Unplug your electronics when not in use. Turn off lights when they’re not in use. Another big item to turn off is the engine in your car. Idling 10 minutes less per day can keep 550 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air every year.

8. Office Talk. Consider a laptop the next time you upgrade your computer, as laptops require 50 percent less electricity than desktop computers. Use both sides of paper when printing, and to save even more trees pay bills on-line.

9. Disposing of Electronics. E-waste from discarded cell phones and computers is a growing environmental problem. Dispose of them responsibly. Recycle your cell phone and rechargeable batteries. Local stores like Wal-mart have recycle bins. Check them out on-line to see how it works.

10. Buy Used. If you are planning to redecorate, consider using an on-line service like Craigslist to locate furniture, appliances, and other items, rather than buying them new. I have found that there is a great deal of good, barely if not ever used items for sale. It will save you money also. Garage sales are another great place to find unique things that have a story to tell.

11. Precycle. Choose products that create less waste from the start. Buy grocery items in bulk and opt for items with less packaging, such as a two-liter bottle of soda versus a dozen single-serve cans in a box. Buy a large container of yogurt rather than individual small plastic containers. Reduce unwanted catalogs and unsolicited mail at catalogchoice.org and dmachoice.org (a $1 fee applies), respectively. At fast food restaurants use refillable condiment dispensers instead of individual packaged ones to reduce fast food waste.

12. Gift Giving. Rather than buying birthday, thank you and holiday cards, make them. Try a homemade gift instead of purchasing one. Re-gifting is a word that most people cringe at, but if I tell you it is a very ‘Green’ thing to do, does that make it all right? Then go for it because it is. Another very creative gift for friends of all ages is to give a tree. Every tree you plant will provide oxygen for two people for the rest of their lives. What a great way to say you care about that special someone.

13. Buy Local. Shop at your local farmers’ market. Sometimes it can be more expensive BUT you can generally count on a higher quality product-and the purchase goes directly to the farmer. Buying goods produced locally saves energy by reducing the fossil fuels needed to transport food and other items across the country and around the globe.

14. Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies. Simple ingredients like baking soda, soap, and vinegar, can make cheap, easy, and non-toxic cleaning products that work.

15. Decorating Your Home. If you are looking to paint the interior of your home, look for paint products that are labeled “low VOC” (volatile organic compounds)-VOCs can be harmful to the environment. You can find eco-friendly paints at Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, and even Home Depot. And it has become easier to find sustainable furnishings for your home. You have more choices of attractive, eco-friendly wares now from large companies like JCPenney, Macy’s, and Pottery Barn, who are launching organic lines, and smaller green enterprises popping up every where. You can ask for cabinets made from reclaimed, renewable, or recycled materials; Get recycled glass and tile; purchase earth-friendly upholstery made of organic cotton fabrics; even get insulation made of 100 percent recyclable natural denim and cotton fibers (Bonded Logic carries it).

16. Compost Your Food Scraps. Composting (getting rid of your leftover vegetables, fruit peelings, tea bags, coffee grinds, and much more) helps reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill, which can save you money if you live in a municipality with a “pay as you throw” system. In the process, you create free, healthy fertilizer for your garden (or your neighbor’s). If you don’t have a yard or space for a compost pile, try indoor ‘vermiculture,’ or worm composting. Sounds strange but I think it is a wonderful project to do on your own or with your kids. Here is a very good link to tell you all about it http://earth911.org/blog/2007/04/02/composting-with-worms/.

17. Decline Plastic Bags Whenever Possible. I read that one plastic bag can take up to 500 years to decay. Use a canvas shopping bag instead (I bought a bunch for 99 cents at my local grocery store). Keep them in your trunk so they are handy. Wow, can they hold a lot. For those in the Lehigh Valley, I was in Kings grocery store and was given paper bags with handles to hold my groceries. If you bring the bags back and re-use them you can save money.

18. Teach Your Kids. They are the future so we need to instill in them the importance of respecting our planet. Do it in a fun way. I was impressed with an article I found at
www.gimundo.com called Five Ways to Help Your Kids Go Green. To check it out, go to the website and click the ‘Green’ link. I found Gimundo while doing research on how to help the environment. This site is chock full of positive changes, not only news stories on people trying to help the planet, but positive stories in general. Their tag line is ‘Good News. Served Daily’.


I hope you find this useful. Researching this was a real eye opener. There are many good websites out there that talk about ‘going green’.
Www.treehugger.com and www.thegreenguide.com are two of them. Start small, or take these ideas further. Be able to feel good when you celebrate Earth Day next year.


My Resources:
www.worldwatch.org; www.gimundo.com; www.ourcanberra.com; www.helium.com; www.myfootprint.org April 20, 2008
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