- Politics and Social Issues
How YOU Can Help the Environment Part 1 - Everyday Activities
PART 1- Everyday Activities You Can Do to Help the Environment
For the first part of my series on what YOU can do to help the environment, I have decided to start with the simple activities that you can do around the house or the office that will truly make a difference. As I mentioned in my introductory Blog, I am an Environmental Studies major, and throughout my studies, a major misconception that appeared in the majority of the public opinion is that there is nothing YOU can do on your own to help change something as vast as the Earth's environmental problems. Along with that, the popular opinion is that your actions can't really be that devastating towards the environment, I mean you are only one person out of billions right?
Well that is how it starts, one person thinks their one piece of trash won't be that big of a problem until every other person walking down the street throws their one piece of trash on the ground as well. Trust me, your one action does contribute greatly to the bigger problem. So by at least following just a couple of the changes I will list below, the same pattern can take place but with a positive effect instead. For example, if one person changes just one of their light bulbs with a new Compact Fluorescent light bulb (CFL), they will save themselves around $30 during the life of the bulb. If the trend were to continue, and every family in the US changed JUST ONE light bulb in their house, it would eliminate 90 BILLION pounds of greenhouse gases - the same as taking 7.5 million cars off the road. How is that for making a change? And imagine further if you were to change all of your light bulbs...and this is just one of hundreds of examples that you can do starting today that is as easy as changing a light bulb. So on with the list, and again I would appreciate any comments and further suggestions or ideas so feel free to add on below:
1. You heard it before: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle - One of the easiest things you can do at home. Instead of throwing that coke can or beer bottle in the trash, make a new bin right next to it and throw them in there. Then just take those out to the curb on recycling day or take them to your local center. Also, paper and plastic bags that you get from the grocery store can easily be collected and returned to the store if they offer it, or they also make great trash can liners. Reduce your consumption as well. Don't use napkins or paper towels or paper plates as often....use a rag or dish towel, and regular plates. To put it into perspective: by recycling half of your household waste, you can eliminate the production of around 2,400 pounds of Carbon Dioxide annually.
2. Use less air and heat. By lowering the temperature in your house by just 2 degrees in the winter and raising it by 2 degrees in the summer, you can eliminate around 2,000 pounds of Carbon Dioxide a year.
3. Use less hot water. Set your water heater to 120-130 degrees to save energy. Install a low flow shower head, and take showers with your significant other if they'll let you instead of two separate showers. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth or shave. Use the cold water cycle on your washing machine (your clothes will be just as clean!)...and if you think about it, I sure you can come up with others. Some statistics here: if you install a low flow shower head, you can eliminate up to 350 pounds of Carbon Dioxide a year, and if you don't use the hot water cycle on your washing machine, you can eliminate over 500 pounds of Carbon Dioxide a year.
4. Do things the old fashioned way. Let your dishes and clothes air dry. Don't use that fancy automatic can opener...dig out the old handheld one.
5. Cook at home. If you do go out, don't use the fast food drive-thru. You would be surprised how much carbon you emit from sitting idle at the drive-thru. Not only that but it has been said that for the average 3-5 minute span of time you spend at a typical drive-thru (which we all know can take much longer) you also waste 18 cents of gas. And how often do you go to a fast food restaurant a year? The average consumer lets say on the low end visits a fast food restaurant 10 times a month. That's $1.80 worth of gas a month, and $21.60 a year. So park the car and walk inside, it really won't cost you much time and will save you money.
6. Turn everything off or unplug it when you are finished with it(within reason). When you leave the room, turn the lights, the TV, the radio, whatever it is that is on, off. I can't tell you how many people I know that leave their lights on 24/7, and it drives me nuts. The other items you may not be aware of are cell phone chargers and other electronic items you leave plugged in all day and night that are dramatically increasing your energy usage. Check out this statistic: 75% of all electricity used to power electronics is used by electronics that are shut off! With cell phone chargers, only 5% of the power drawn from them is used to charge your phone. The other 95% is wasted because it is still plugged in! By simply unplugging these devices when you are not using them, you can save over 1200 pounds of Carbon Dioxide.
7. Drink tap water instead of bottled water. Studies show now that most bottled water is essentially glorified tap water anyway. Invest in a filtration system, and save yourself lots of time and money by not buying all those bottles and then having to recycle them all.
8. Don't flush as much. Yeah not the most pleasant of ideas, but it does help to conserve a lot of water. And I am referring to going number one by the way. If instead of flushing after every pee, maybe flushing every other time, then you can help save a lot of water.
9. Pay bills online. Here is another easy and time-saving idea. By doing this, you not only save paper that the company would have sent you, but you are also saving checks, and money on stamps to mail the bills back. The only problem is that you have to come up with a better system to remind yourself to pay the bills. On the same line, if you are receiving a lot of junk mail, simply call the companies and request that they remove you from their mailing lists.
10. Invest in a bike. Granted this may or may not apply to you depending on where you live, but if you have amenities near you, hopping on the bike instead of taking a 5 minute drive will go a long way towards reducing greenhouse gases and making you healthier!
- For the sake of time and space, I will end the at home section here. There are many more ideas out there, so take this into consideration. If it uses energy or electricity, figure out a way to use the least amount you can. If you can reuse something do it. Essentially, just become in tune with your every day activities and take stock of the things you can do. Everything no matter how small, helps.
Ok lets move on to the office:
1. Bring a mug instead of using the styrofoam cups. And urge your co-workers to do the same. You can even pull some drastic measures like hiding those cups to get your point across...although be careful of those who haven't had their morning coffee yet.
2. Don't print if you don't need to. Look at what you are printing before you automatically hit the print button. Can you read it on your screen or do you really need a hard copy? Often we print things just to have it in front us, when we don't really need to. And if you do have pieces of paper that aren't official or for business, use both sides, and take notes on old paper.
3. Turn everything off at night. Again, I will go back to the cell phone charger, and at work the biggest problem is that everyone leaves their computers on, all day and night, even over the weekends. Shut them down!
4. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Yet another pet peeve of mine is seeing people in my office building taking the elevator to go up or down just ONE floor. Trust me, the stairs can be your friend. Not only will you be getting exercise, but you will save a lot of energy by not using the elevator.
5. Bring your lunch. I will draw your attention to the fast food reference above. If you do go out to eat, try walking. And if you do bring your lunch, use plastic containers not plastic wrap or foil, because then you can reuse it. Plus bringing your lunch is yet again healthier for you.
6. Carpool or use mass transit to get to work. Trust me with the price of gas as high as it is now, we will all be forced to do this anyway. Plus think of all the money you will save on not buying gas and on car repairs.
Again, just use common sense. If it doesn't need to be on, turn it off. If you can still write on it, do it. And don't be afraid to urge a co-worker to follow some of these rules as well. The worst I have gotten from my co-workers is being called a tree hugger. Oh well.
So I will leave it at this: YOU can make a difference. I promise you that. All you need to do is make a few lifestyle changes, and maybe invest in a sweater or two. I promise you will be alright. If you have made these changes already, good for you, and please help educate others about what they can do. If you have any questions especially about some of the more radical things you can do (green roof, etc) I would be more than willing to help with ideas. And please stay tuned for my next blog on how going green may actually help SAVE you money. I have already touched on this a little today, but there is much more to come. See you then!