In celebration of Earth Day, I’ve decided to write about going green. Now, some people might take that phrase and have a mild freak out. Don’t do that! It’s okay, we’re going to take this slow. People have gotten so used to seeing “Go Green” and assuming it means you have to radically change the way you live. And that simply isn’t true. Granted, you could have a radical change if that was what you wanted. But it’s not a requirement by any means.
I recently attended a Mother Earth News Fair and the most surprising thing to me was the attendance! There were hundreds (maybe thousands) of people there! And there was a lot of diversity in the people. It wasn’t just a bunch of farmers or hippies into sustainable living. It was people just like you and me. People trying to take better care of this planet we call home, as well as the bodies we inhabit.
And by reading this post, you’re already starting to do that! When I say educate yourself, again, I don’t mean find every single dull and boring textbook that you can and start reading. I mean find something interesting and start there. Maybe natural cosmetics is your thing, maybe you want to start eating vegetarian/vegan, maybe you want to look into creating a recycling system for your family. No matter where you start, the best thing to do is educate yourself. Watch videos, read books, read magazine articles, go to a class, etc. Whatever form of education keeps you interested in the right one. Just make sure that it’s coming from a legitimate source. Once you find something that really peaks your interest you will find it a lot easier to commit to it long term.
2 – Go Vegetarian/Vegan – Even If It’s Just Once A Week!
(For the sake of staying on topic I’m not going to get into the horrors of mass meat production factories here. If you want to know more about what it is you’re eating, I recommend researching it yourself. Forks Over Knives would be a good place to start. Right now, this is about environmental effects.)
A lot of people don’t realize the effect raising animals for mass slaughter has on the environment. Millions of trees have been cut down to provide room for grazing or farm factory sheds, and that’s just the beginning. There’s a reason that meat eating has been listed as the second biggest environmental hazard on Earth by the Union of Concerned Scientists. It’s a big deal. There are more than 17 billion livestock animals in the world and that’s about triple the number of people.
Providing care for these animals (even terrible care) takes a huge toll on the environment. Producing just one hamburger uses enough fossil fuel to drive a small car 20 miles. According to the Water Education Foundation, it takes 2,464 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef in California. So even choosing to make “Meatless Monday” part of your routine can have huge impacts. There are many veggie recipe sites that make this easy. I would also recommend Pinterest!
3 – Cut Back On Water Usage
This can also be done in small ways. Many people use more water than they even realize. Did you know that using the dishwasher properly will save more water than washing by hand? And by properly, I mean filling it up all the way before using. Also, skip the rinse. It’s been proven that rinsing your dishes before loading the washer doesn’t do anything to help clean them. And by not doing it you can save up to 20 gallons of water each load. Another surprising one: Take thyself to a car wash. Yep, that’s right! Car washes actually save more water than you washing that car yourself. If everyone in the U.S. who hand washes their car would take it to the car wash instead we could save nearly 8.7 billion gallons of water each trip! And of course, there’s the usual turn off the water while brushing and take quick showers instead of baths. These also contribute more than you think. Just remember, no matter how small – it all adds up in the end.
4 – Save That Energy!
There are so many ways to save energy and these changes also have big impacts. If every household in the U.S. changed one regular light bulb to the energy efficient ones we could reduce pollution so much that the equivalent would be removing one million cars from the road. All from one light bulb change. Another thing you could do is invest in a clothes line or clothing rack. We use tons of energy by running our dryers, especially when it’s a large item like a blanket or sheet. It’s also important to think about energy when using your thermostat. I personally have been bad with this one: Don’t set your thermostat higher than you actually want it. It will not get warmer faster. *Head smack* Also for thermostats: Don’t forget to leave them at a reasonable temp while on vacation or away from home. Not too hot or too cold, just keep it at a Goldilocks temp.
The last one for energy, but possibly the easiest yet most impactful: Unplug your unused electronics. This may seem like no big deal but it really is. There’s this thing called “phantom loads” and it’s where energy is being loaded into an unused device. Basically, your plugged up fully charged phone will keep “charging” AKA using energy as long as it’s plugged up. The U.S. Department of Energy believes that “75% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off.” That’s a lot of electricity for a powered off TV guys. One way to make unplugging easier would be to use a power switch that can be turned off. This will allow you to “unplug” all electronics at once, which can come in handy for the TV, DVD, XBOX, and Wii cords all tangled together behind the TV.
5 – It’s The 21st Century – Quit With The Dang Paper!
Just kidding! I don’t expect everything to be paper free, and believe me, I’d miss my books far too much! But there are a lot of unnecessary papers, plastics, and pieces of cardboard falling into our hands and then straight to the trash. Here are some ways you can fight this: Recycle your newspapers and magazines. Seriously, there are 63 million newspapers printed each day in the U.S. alone. About 69% of these will find their way to a landfill.
Another unnecessary paper product: Phone books. Do you really use them? If so, skip ahead. But if you’re like almost everyone else you aren’t looking up numbers in a book anymore. If that is the case, try calling and canceling your phone book delivery. This is another one of those things that add up, a lot of people think that phone books alone account for 10% of the waste at dump sites and that’s a lot! If you already have an unused stack of phone books, at least recycle them instead of throwing away.
Another thing that counts for a lot of waste in landfills, as well as everywhere else they seem to fly off too, is plastic bags. Think about it: how many have you seen hanging from trees or other places they don’t belong? These bags are a big problem with an easy solution: Buy your own reusable bags. There are many, many, many options for this, and most reusable bags cost less than a dollar each. The key is to remember to use them, which can be done more easily if you purchase bags with designs you love. And don’t forget to think about saving money. A lot of places offer a discount or money back for each disposable bag you don’t use, so that can add up pretty quickly with weekly shopping trips.
6 – No More Bottled Water!
You’re probably thinking “Okay, but why is this a category by itself? Shouldn’t it be under the recycling one?” Nope! Because there’s something that most people don’t know about bottled water. It’s a lot more than just empty plastic bottles floating in the sea. (Which really should be enough to concern us all on its own.)
Let me break it down for you:
- Bottles used to package water take over 1,000 years to bio-degrade. This means that landfills are overflowing with over 2 million tons of water bottle waste alone. What isn’t in the landfills is spreading elsewhere around our planet, especially in our oceans.
- The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes. And there are 17 million barrels of oil used in the production of bottled water. That’s enough to fuel one million cars for an entire year!
- And, the weirdest one to think about: It actually takes 3 liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water (through the process of making the bottle and packaging).