Earth Day 2010 is upon us. This leads me to think about the things that I already do, and the things I could be doing, to be “green” or to lessen my impact on the planet and our resources.
It’s important to know that I’m just a regular person with a regular kind of life. I’m not perfect and not everything in my life is “green”. I drive an old Suburban with 200k miles on it! That is not very green. However, for many years I have done things that help *me* feel better about my impact on the environment, and I consciously try to find more things that are easy to do to continue that process.
I was chatting with some of my best girlfriends a couple of weeks ago. I love them dearly, but was shocked at their attitude toward household recycling! I am pretty militant about recycling household products, I will admit. But with curb-side, co-mingled recycling now readily available, the only reason to not recycle is laziness! Stuff I recycle at home includes the basics, like soda cans, beer and wine bottles, tin/aluminum cans, cardboard packaging, and similar, easy, everyday items. But other things also include plastic bottles (without the lids kids!) the toilet paper cardboard, the paper towel cardboard, the cardboard boxes my soap comes in, junk mail, newspapers, pickle jars, and anything else I can think of that is eligible for my community curb side recycling program.
Yes, recycling stuff means you have to rinse the jars, bottles and cans, and yes you have to throw away the little plastic lids and yes it means you have to pay attention, but is it really that difficult? I don’t think so. It takes me very little time to do, and on Sunday afternoons (garbage day is Monday) I spend a little time taking out all the garbage and recycling and I feel very liberated! I love getting rid of stuff!
Of course, you must remember if you are recycling your junk mail or other papers with important information on them, shred them! Identity theft is no joke!
Other recycling that happens at my house: yard debris! We are lucky to have curbside yard debris removal. Things like lawn clippings, hedge trimmings, etc all get loaded into the curbside yard bin for haul away. We also recycle used motor oil. Once a month the recycling truck will pick up used motor oil and all of our glass recycles (see beer and wine bottles-although with Chris making mead now he is saving the beer bottles-more recycling!). We also recycle metal. Now, a lot of people might not have metal in their lives, but for those of you that know my darling hubby, you know that we have metal in our lives. Scrap metal can often be recycled curbside, or check out craigslist! Scrap metal recyclers will come and pick up your scrap and haul it away for you! We just recycled a bunch of metal engine parts, some other tubing or something (I have no idea-by “we” I meant Chris) and we just realized that our gas barbeque, which has finally given up the ghost, is a metal recycling candidate as well. (Another example: instead of buying a new gas bbq we are using our old charcoal bbq!)
Other things that I do that make me feel good about my environmental impact include very simple things. These things are very easy, but our current society has a very wasteful mindset. These things just take a little change in the mindset is all; a paradigm shift, if you will.
I only run the dishwasher when it’s full, and I only run it on a “light” or “normal” cycle. Same goes for the laundry. I run large loads and use mostly cold water cycles. I have enough clothes and dishes that I do not need to run the laundry with only two items. This is a huge waste of both water and electricity! Cold water, full loads, smallest wash and dry times, they all make a difference.
I turn off the lights. Seriously, this is so simple, but people don’t think about it. If I am not in a room, then the light doesn’t need to be on. It’s that simple. Turn off the lights. If you need some light for safety, get an LED nightlight. They are quite bright, very low energy use and they last forever.
Program your household heat and cooling, and while you’re at it turn it down or up a few degrees. In the winter time 68 degrees is plenty to heat the house. If you are still cold, get a blanket and a sweater and some fuzzy slippers! Trust me, I am freezing cold in the winter time, but we keep our house at 68 degrees. Program the thermostat to only come on during times you will actually be home! There is no need to heat your house to 68 degrees while you are at work in the cozy 74 degrees. During the summer time set the Air Conditioning to come on at 74 or 76 degrees. I know it’s warmer than you are used to, but it’s 85 outside, so 10 degrees cooler should feel very nice. Again, don’t spend money and energy cooling the house all day if you are not going to be home!
Other simple things: turn off the water when you brush your teeth. Yup..simple. We’ve all heard the other stuff like installing low flow shower heads, low volume toilets, etc. I found a low flow shower head I really like. I got it at Target. It’s called a water-pik and you would never know it’s low flow.
Another way of recycling is to come up with new uses for old things. Do you really need to go and purchase something “new” with all the associated packaging, fossil fuel expenditure, cash outlay and so on, if you have something already that will work? A good example of this for me recently was an old garbage can. It used to be my kitchen garbage can. It is pretty tall and so no longer fit in my new house. I was going to sell it in my garage sale (it’s a perfectly nice garbage can) but realized that I can use it to capture rain water for my garden! I was thinking of purchasing a new big container, but am happy to use something I already had.
Another recent example: I wanted a little round outdoor table for my patio furniture set. I had one, but it was green and it was at the storage unit and I wanted one that would match my current outdoor furniture. Chris and I were at the storage unit the other day and I asked him if he thought the little round table was paintable. It is! So now, instead of buying a brand new table that would cost a hundred bucks and that is brown (so it matches) I can repaint my existing table and save myself the money AND reuse something I already own. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I never said I was perfect. I like new stuff and material things just as much as the next gal, but I’m trying to change my view of things.
These are all things that I personally do. I’m not asking you to do anything that I’m not willing to do. In fact there are several things I don’t do, that I am working on incorporating, or thinking about if I can make them happen.
Re-useable grocery bags. I haven’t done this yet. I should. I frequently say “I don’t need a bag” when out shopping and just getting something small I can carry, so that helps, but re-useable bags should be easy to do, too.
Composting. Hmmm, this is more complicated and technical, but I am leaning more and more toward trying this. I have a garden now (another great Earth Day thing!) and could use my grass clippings, food waste and other items for compost. I’m still pondering this one.
Rain water. What? Yes, here in Oregon where we get soo much lovely liquid sunshine, rain water recycling is very doable. According to Washington State University, http://clark.wsu.edu/horticulture/smallAcreageProgram/roof-runoff.pdf, a 900 square foot roof will accumulate 558 gallons of runoff water per one inch of rainfall. That is a lot of water my friends! One inch of rain off of my roof would equal more than 700 gallons of water. I could use that water to water my lawn, plants and garden. Of course, it’s unrealistic for me to capture all of the thousands of gallons we would get per year, but one 55 gallon drum would last a long time. This would save me money and energy, and use a valuable resource that otherwise would go to waste.
Walking/Cycling instead of vehicle trips. Yikes! This is a change for me for sure. One I think I can do, but will take some thought and planning.
You see, there are tons of things we can each do, every day, that range from very simple (turn off the lights) to much more complicated (composting) that will help us lessen our impact on mother earth.
This week, April 19-23, 2010 is Earth Week. What things can you start to implement this week in order to preserve resources? I look forward to your feedback and ideas.