Going Green: No Longer a Fad
Is 'going green' a fad? I certainly hope not, for the sake of my future, and the futures of my children, my grandchildren, the remainder of the human race, and in fact the entire planet. For there are certainly clear and compelling indications that, so far at least, the human race has been despoiling our Earthly home, squandering its resources and altering its climatological processes. (And, with the dismal trend lines we humans have set in motion, making any significant course correction towards betterment of our planet will likely take decades and longer.)
But that is not to say we cannot do anything constructive or beneficial. Each of us, in our own little ways and in our own day-to-day choices, can be doing something to help save our Earth. We must all turn 'green' from fad to fashion, and from fashion to routine.
So, what can we, the many, the varied, the diverse citizens of this globe, individually and collectively, do? Plenty! Following is just a sampling of the things I have done over the last few weeks to help in my own way to save our planet, while also helping myself. Join me, by trying one or two or perhaps a few on your own:
1. Save heated water • I showered rather than bathed, quickly, and under a modest, just-hot-enough stream. The greatest amount of heat any of us wastes is in the heated water we send down the drains of our tubs, showers, sinks, dish washers and clothes washers. Cut back just slightly on the amount of water — especially heated water — that you use, and you’ll be not only conserving fresh water, but also reducing your fuel use and saving on your utility bills.
2. Reduce energy consumption • I replaced the burned-out incandescent bathroom light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb, which will reduce energy use over the long term, saving me money in the process.
3. Recycle • I recycled just about everything I touched this morning: milk carton, juice bottle, napkins, newspaper, pastry sack, egg carton, (even the toilet paper roll tube). It's not difficult, nor time-consuming, to recycle just about anything and everything you use.
4. Sort • I sorted all my recyclables into separate clear trash bags for local pick-up: metals, glass, and plastics. Papers, paperboard, and cardboard all went into paper grocery sacks, along with broken-down cardboard boxes.
5. Make use of daylight • As the morning was bright enough, I resisted turning on the kitchen lights. Over time, I’ve become more diligent about turning off unnecessary lights, especially as I wander from room to room. Dimmers and motion-detector switches can help even further. (Unplugging such continuous energy siphons as phone chargers, cable boxes, heated scent dispensers, nightlights and the like can also ease utility bills.)
6. Avoid bottled water • Rather than take a bottle of water along with me, I filled a reusable and recyclable metal water bottle with filtered water and ice from the refrigerator. I see no reason to support the production of endless plastic water bottles, which are becoming one of the greatest waste and recycling burdens across the country.
7. Temper the environment • Before leaving the house, I knocked the thermostat down by a few degrees. I wouldn’t be home until late, and the cats would certainly find their fleece-lined baskets easily enough.
8. Use the right vehicle • I got into the same type of fuel-efficient high-mileage vehicle I've been driving for more than 20 years. Upgrade your vehicle to one that's easier on the environment (and costs less to run over the long term).
9. Run lean, clean and green • When I refueled, I checked and adjusted the air pressure in my vehicles tires. Insuring the correct pressure will give me maximum gas mileage, conserving fuel and helping me save at the pump.
10. Be smart • I consolidated the various errands I had to run before work — gas station, coffee shop, post office, bank, grocery store, bookstore, office supply store, home improvement store, etc. — into one continuous and looping efficient trip, saving on overall gas consumption and vehicle wear-and-tear, not to mention my own time, energy and stress level. Minimize the number and maximize the efficiency of your motorized excursions, and you will save on time, fuel and expense.
11. Repurpose, reuse • I dropped off a number of old books, CDs and video games at a second-hand discount-priced bookstore, making them available in turn to others at lower cost, while slightly dampening the demand for the resource and energy consumption of greater production, printing, packaging, shipping, etc. (Try shopping the second-hands; you find all kinds of cool surprises.)
12. Buy local • I shopped for groceries at a locally owned and operated store, rather than provide further support to a multi-national conglomerate that tends to regularly procure and ship goods to and from the distant reaches of the planet. Keeping my money local when I can contributes to the sustainability of my local economy, jobs and community.
13. Minimize packaging • When shopping, I purchased as much as possible sans packaging, such as loose fruit and vegetables and flowers, and carried it all away, not in paper or plastic, but in recyclable and recycled–content woven fabric bags. While some states and cities are already mandating the elimination of (or mandatory deposit for) all plastic shopping bags, it’s a trend we can all get behind.
14. Seal your home • I stopped to pick up some caulk and weatherstripping. This weekend I’ll be checking gaps around exterior windows and replacing weatherstripping torn away from an entrance door. Finding and eliminating even small areas of heat leakage can go a long way towards reducing fuel use and energy bills.
15. Replace filters • At the same stop, I also got some new furnace air filters to insure that our heating and air conditioning systems are operating at peak efficiency.
16. Buy fresh • At lunch, I passed by a number of fast food franchises of national chains. You know the ones: their foods have been produced from feed lots and other industrial-scale farms — using pesticides and antibiotics and growth hormones under inhumane conditions, then frozen, fueled and shipped across the continent, to be reheated or otherwise ‘quick-prepped’, and swaddled in excess packaging, loaded with poor to terrible nutrition. I instead patronized a local fresh-made sandwich shop.
17. Maintain • I have to remember to check the laundry dryer vent and exhaust duct, to insure that they are clear of any clogs or lint build-up, as these can make the dryer work longer and harder, decreasing the dryer life and running up additional energy use and utility expense.
18. Insulate • I also made a note to myself to purchase some additional insulation batting over the weekend. I will be increasing the insulation depth throughout the attic to further reduce our home’s heat loss and heat gain.
19. Insulate more • I should also price storm windows. Luckily most of our house already has energy-efficient multiple-pane thermal windows, but there’s a single garage window that is still an older single-pane window. Adding an exterior storm window, properly sealed, will further cut our energy use.
20. Insulate even more • At the same time, I should consider purchasing an inexpensive carpet for the basement’s concrete slab-on-grade floor. That would reduce heat loss through the slab, making the basement more comfortable, with less energy use.
21. Save paper, trees • I discontinued a magazine subscription and its home delivery, in favor of getting it from my local library or reading it there, saving perhaps a tree or two, as well as all the energy embodied in inks, printing and delivering the magazine issues, then recycling the eventual waste.
22. Donate, repurpose • I set aside a few polo shirts and chinos into which I can no longer fit, for pick-up by a local charity. Most of what we Americans dispose still has useful life, and charities, thrift stores and consignment shops abound. And, quite unfortunately, so too do the poor, the homeless and the needy.
23. Employ sun-shading • Arriving back at the office, I made sure to adjust the window shades to deal with the late afternoon sun. Solar shading can go a long way toward aiding indoor comfort while reducing air conditioning demand.
24. Reduce energy expenditures on your behalf • Going online, I diligently unsubscribed from every email spammer and marketer I could. No sense having them continuously gobbling energy to fill my email inbox with solicitations I’d immediately trash anyway.
25. Assist others, get involved • I then got back to work, continuing the design of a mixed-use redevelopment project in a distressed region of the city. The project is an infill development that will make use of some renovated existing structures along a transit line. We hope to incorporate a wide range of green design features: reduced parking, pedestrian and bicycling amenities, rain gardens, green roofs, permeable pavements, rain water capture, wind power, gray water reuse, reflective pavements, sun shades, xeriscaping, self-cleaning concrete, recycled building products, reclaimed waste, high insulation levels, and a tight thermal envelope for all structures.
26. Save water, all down the line • Later in the day, I washed my car by hand, using buckets and sponge, and just an occasional rinse by hose. I was thus able to keep my water consumption to a minimum. And I parked my car such that the drainage from the wash ran across my adjacent lawn to percolate into the soil. That kept all the soap and washed grime from my city’s sewer system, giving them that much less to filter and cleanse back out of the local potable water supply. (For the same reason, one should never dispose of oil, kerosene, gasoline, cleansers, paints, etc. down any sanitary or storm sewers. Always seek out the proper local disposal sites and methods.)
27. Make use of rainwater • I used some of the rainwater collected in large cisterns at the base of my downspouts to water the flowers and shrubs about the yard.
28. Reduce energy use • Dinner was prepared mostly using the microwave oven, which is generally a more fuel-efficient cooking method than conventional oven or range cooking.
29. Compost • By early evening my wife had already carted to our compost heap the various food scraps of the day. I added to that some of the leaves, twigs, branches and lawn cuttings that I cleared from the lawn.
30. Limit water heating • We tossed a load of laundry into the washer, using cold water wash and rinse, and cold water detergent, further limiting the amount of heated water we’d end up sending out into the local sewer system.
31. Help the biome • I remembered to toss around some bread crusts for the backyard songbirds, and to refill the nectar in the hummingbird feeders. Along with the butterflies, bees, hawks, squirrels, groundhogs, raccoons, cats, dogs, deer and occasional foxes that frequent our neighborhood, they add to our overall local biodiversity, nurturing the sustainability of the long term environment.
32. Control your lawn • When we designed and built our home, we restricted our lawn to the minimum we thought we’d need for use, appearance and entertainment, thereby reducing the footprint that we’d have to fertilize, mow and water over the long term. We kept much of the yard in its originally topography and undergrowth, leaving us less to maintain, but also preserving as much original habitat and natural drainage and percolation area as we could.
33. Still more to be done • Reminders for the coming weeks: a) look into purchasing some renewable energy credits to support our shift away from coal and oil dependency, b) consider donating to an environmental group involved in water conservation, habitat preservation, wildlife conservation or energy research, c) vote to support environmental legislation and local green initiatives, and d) pass this article along to all my friends and relatives.
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