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Going green: Ten things you can do today to help save the environment
More and more people are finally getting wise to the importance of trying to protect the environment. While some poiticians are still trying to deny that climate change exists, scientists, and the rest of the educated population, are in little doubt. But just like the politicians, many of us don't want too much disruption to our daily lives or to our finances. Many of us are still struggling to find really simple strategies for "going green" that fit into our lifestyles and don't cost us any extra money.Here are ten easy ways to live a greener life, and some of them will even save you money.
BUY recycled goods.
More and more people are recycling but the demand for recycled goods is often low or non-existent. I live in an area which apparently has one of the most advanced recycling systems in the world. We recycle almost everything, but our recycling plant sometimes has difficulty selling recycled materials on to companies, even though the same companies may be cutting down trees and manufacturing new plastics to make their products. Whenever you have a purchase to make, check if the product is made from recycled materials. Make a point of buying recycled when it’s available and asking stores and companies for recycled goods if they don’t seem to be stocking or producing them. If enough of us do this we will slowly 'close the gap' between supply and demand.
E-bay and other auction sites are a great way to be green and save money. The same goes for flea markets, yard sales, charity shops, vintage/second-hand clothes shops and second-hand book stores. Every time you buy a used product you save the energy that would have been used in producing a new one. If you're new to buying second hand or think it's a bit 'icky' force yourself to give it a try. Once you find you can find perfectly functional stuff for a fraction of the price, you may just become an ebay addict. If you find a good support group for this particular addiction, I could use their number!
Invest in a re-usable shopping bag.
So simple, but it’s amazing how many people are still using plastic bags, or maybe asking for paper in the mistaken belief that that is the ‘greenest’ option. The best option is to buy a re-usable bag. They’re available in most stores for a dollar or less, or you can buy a string bag which has the added advantage that it will fold down small enough to fit in a purse or even a large pocket. If you need an extra incentive many stores are starting to charge for plastic bags. It may only be about 5 cents a bag but take a quick look at wherever you store your used bags and see how many there are. Can you imagine how much that's going to cost you over a year or so?
It’s a world-wide organisation allowing members to offer, and obtain, all kinds of items that would otherwise be thrown away. Log on to the website to find your local branch. You can give, and get, everything from used furniture to old building materials. A true testament to the fact that one man's junk really is someone else's treasure.
Walk, don’t drive.
OK, so we all need our cars (or do we - that's a whole article in itself) but it’s shocking how many car journeys cover a distance of a mile or even less. Distances that would amount to a pleasant 10-15 minute walk. It’s not unusual to see people driving from store entrance to store entrance on the same street, or even across a parking lot! People drive their kids to friends’ houses two blocks away or down the street to the school bus stop. Get into the habit of always thinking ‘could I walk it?’ before opening the car door. If you must drive, car pool when possible, slow down (a real simple way to save fuel) and don’t drive with accessories you don’t need - a roof rack, for example, can increase fuel consumption by up to 30 per cent.
Re-use, don’t recycle.
Recycling is great but it still uses up a lot of energy. If you can re-use things instead of recycling, that’s even better. Re-use gift wrap on another gift. Re-use junk mail and other printed paper as drawing paper or craft materials for kids. Re-use plastic food containers and glass jars for storage. Ask local schools and community groups if they can re-use containers for craft projects or storage.
Shower, don’t bath.Wish I could take my own advice on this one. I love a hot bath. It's an important part of my stress management system. But I know I should be showering instead. It uses up to 80 per cent less water and probably gets you cleaner!
Turn the thermostat down in winter, and up in summer.
It’s such a simple step, and that one or two degrees of difference really won't have a huge affect on your comfort level – you’ll just save energy. Set the heat lower at night or when no-one is home, and remember to turn it down ahead of bed-time or the time when the house will be empty. It takes at least an hour for your home to cool down.
Cut out drafts.
No matter how well insulated your home is there will be cold spots. Check for them at the beginning of winter and eliminate them with extra insulation or simple draft excluders. Draw drapes at dusk every night. Even double glazed windows can be an energy leak.
Use simple strategies to save energy when cooking.
Only boil the amount of water required, whether in a kettle or pot. Put lids on your pots whilst cooking to conserve energy. Use cloths not paper towels, and always allow food to cool thoroughly before putting it in a fridge or freezer.
If anybody has any real simple, no-brainer, "I could do that today with very little effort" tips on being green, please share in the comments.