by Jacqui Donnelly.
If you’ve been thinking about going green but aren’t sure where to start, then you are definitely not alone. Most people have some kind of compassion for the earth, whether it’s focused on stopping global warming, reversing water pollution or even as simple as cleaning up a local park or roadway. While these are noble aspirations, the age-old question comes into play: Where should I begin?
Nowadays, the average person has a full schedule and very little time for anything else. Without proper planning, jumping into a green routine headfirst can become overwhelming and hard to upkeep. That is why we’re bringing you seven easy, completely do-able steps to help you get started. Before long, you will be living a clean, green lifestyle.
Invest in Power Strip
Have you ever heard of conserving energy? Not only will utilizing power strips help reduce your carbon footprint, but as an added bonus it will also help lower your monthly energy bill. This may be most helpful for entertainment systems, battery chargers or any kind of appliances you leave plugged into the wall. Be sure to hit the power switch on the strip when you’re leaving the house (or if you’re just done using the electronics) to prevent pulling in power you’re just not using. Many electronics, especially laptops and cell phone chargers, can continue to draw power even if the phone or computer is not attached. Cutting the power completely by using a power strip can lower its usage significantly.
Reusable Water Bottles
While a refreshing bottle of water may sound like a good idea, bottled water is considerably detrimental to the environment. More than 90 percent of water bottles are not recycled; ending up in landfills for the thousands of years it takes them to decompose. On top of that, the water and oil used to manufacture these bottles is more than the water actually produced. So, what can you do to help the environment? Try switching to a reusable water bottle that is BPA free. Fill the bottle from the tap and use it over and over again. If you’re afraid of contaminants, invest in an attachable water-filtration system to either your faucet or water bottle, available at many grocery stores.
Go Digital and Use Less Paper
Most people have heard of saving trees and using less paper to help the earth, but how many people are actually living by this principle? Many schools and big businesses are now taking strides to use less paper, such as the class syllabus and assignment software used by New Jersey’s Montclair State University, or the paperless statements used by financial institutions Bank of America and Sallie Mae, to name a few. Some stores are even printing on both sides of the receipt now. When it’s possible, choose methods that will use less paper in the long run by seeing if your company or service providers offer paperless options.
This should be obvious, but far too many people don’t use the recycling bin. One of the easier ways to go green is to simply make sure you recycle objects such as glass or plastic bottles, aluminum cans and newspapers. Feeling really motivated? Try properly recycling used batteries, plastic grocery bags and even old electronics. Check out plasticbagrecycling.org and mygreenelectronics.org to learn how.
Choose Your Vegetables Responsibly
While supermarkets are convenient, many of them choose to import fruits and vegetables from farms around the globe. While the food may look fresher during off-seasons, these methods have left you with less control than ever when it comes to what ends up on your table. Are the farmers responsible, or do they only care about cost-effectiveness? When chemicals such as pesticides are used on farms, it often ends up in the groundwater, polluting the earth. Next, think of the millions of pounds of produce that are shipped around the world and how much fuel it takes to fly or drive them to their destinations. Most produce travels around 1,500 miles during one shipment, adding up to significant carbon emissions. By simply choosing local, organically grown produce, you can be one more person against waste and toxic resources. Farmers markets are one way to find greener options, or even starting your own backyard garden. Many supermarkets are now offering organic produce sections.
Change Your Light Bulbs
Sometimes, going green can be as easy as changing a light bulb. In this case, switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) can save the resources used to produce energy while saving you some money at the same time. These bulbs use more power for light, while older models convert part to light and part to heat, cutting energy usage by around 75 percent. As an added bonus, these bulbs also last much longer and require less watts for the same amount of light.
CFLs are agued to contain mercury, a dangerous element that is also considered a pollutant to the environment. While this is true, they actually emit less mercury into the environment than the traditional light bulb. This is due to the amount of fossil fuel used to produce the energy needed by a traditional light bulb, making significantly more pollution than the CFL. Because of the mercury, the CFL must be recycled properly. Check out earth911.org to find a retailer that accepts used bulbs. There are also guidelines for cleaning up a broken bulb, which is not likely to harm you through mercury contamination.
No More Styrofoam
Many companies will not accept Styrofoam as a recyclable material, which is an expensive and environmentally damaging process. Not only does this product sit in a landfill for years, it’s also a safety hazard for many wild animals and emits toxic chemicals into the environment, and into your food. This happens when the product is heated or cooled to extreme temperatures, with studies showing the passage of styrene (into your food) to be as much as .025 percent. So, next time you microwave that Styrofoam coffee cup think again about using an alternative material such as paper, BPA-free plastic or glass.
Jacqui Donnelly is a professional freelance writer and food scientist. Her work as appeared in multiple on and off-line publications, and can be found at JacquiDonnelly.com.