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Simple Steps for Going Green

07/25/2022 09:54:48 AM


Environmental Awareness & Action Conversation Committee

Do you want to live a “greener” life, but don’t know where to start? Check this spot every week for a new “green tip.”

TIP 1: Adjust your thermostat to fight climate change. Reducing your energy usage will help combat global warming.

Unfortunately, power sources such as coal and natural gas, which produce your electricity, emit large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That means every time you use electricity to heat or cool your house, you're indirectly causing greenhouse gases to enter the atmosphere, trapping heat and causing the air and seas to get warmer.

Try living with your AC at 76 degrees, and be sure to push it higher when you’re out of town. Your planet will thank you!

Bonus: You’ll save up to 3% on your utility bill for every degree you raise the temperature above 72 degrees.

TIP 2: Buy products with less packaging.  Containers and packaging make up nearly 30% of municipal waste – 78-million tons. 

Our nation’s waste landfills are bulked up with consumer product packaging. Unnecessary packaging adds significantly to the cost and carbon footprint of the products you buy.

What to do? Shop at bulk stores or farmer’s markets. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables that’s sold loose, with no packaging. Look for products, from food to clothing to office supplies, that are sold with little or no packaging. Use your own bags and containers, if possible. Become aware of unnecessary packaging and make your choices accordingly.

When it’s not possible to avoid packaging, reuse as much as possible – containers, Styrofoam, plastic bags and bubble wrap.

Buying online? Bundle your purchases. Load up your cart and arrange for deliveries no more than once a week.

TIP 3: Kick the bottled water habit. Plastic bottles can take 450 years or more to decompose.

In 2020, 15 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the United States. It's estimated that around 80% of the plastic water bottles purchased by Americans end up in landfills. That's about 60 million bottles that are tossed out every day!

Bottled water production also takes a toll on the world's oil supply, with one study estimating that it takes as much as 50 million barrels of oil to produce plastic water bottles globally each year.

If you're a diehard water-drinker, stop buying bottles. Then invest in a quality filtration system and a couple nice reusable bottles.

TIP 4: Use rechargeable batteries wisely. Yes, they cost much more than single-use batteries, but you can recharge them hundreds of times.

Use the rechargeable batteries in devices that require frequent battery changes, such as your computer mouse and remote controls for toys. Single-use batteries are better for products with a low-energy pull, such as smoke detectors, clocks and your TV’s remote control.

Try to recycle your used batteries. Why? Most batteries contain toxic chemicals. If your old batteries end up in a landfill, pollutants can leak out and contaminate the groundwater.

TIP 5: Reduce food waste. The average U.S. household throws out about a third of the food it acquires, to the tune of nearly $1,900 per year.

Practice the FIFO rule with your family. That means: First in; First out. Whether in your refrigerator or your pantry, label food with the dates purchased. Keep oldest food to the front and use first. That way, there’s a better chance you’ll use old or forgotten items before they expire or go bad.

Don’t misinterpret expiration labels on food that’s perfectly fine to eat.

  • BEST IF USED BY describes quality “where the product may not taste or perform as expected but is safe to consume.”
  • USE BY applies to “the few products that are highly perishable and/or have food safety concern over time.

TIP 6: Make your own sparkling water. DIY carbonation can save money, trim your carbon footprint and reduce the number of plastic bottles you regularly purchase.

If you love sparkling water, seltzer and carbonated drinks, a soda maker is a worthwhile purchase. A family that drinks five liters of carbonated beverages per week could save nearly $100 a year – and spare over 250 single-use plastic bottles. You’ll also be eliminating the need for commercial packaging and for shipping all those bottles. (Think of the fuel not used.)

Fun bonus: You get to control the level of “fizz” in your drinks!

TIP 7: Buy used furniture and appliances. Giving a household item a second life cuts its carbon footprint in half.

We know it. We Americans are huge consumers of everything from cars to electronics. Our excessive consumption means higher direct and indirect costs to the environment, including the energy used and pollution emitted in the extraction of natural resources, and in manufacturing, transportation and disposal of goods.

Make a pledge: Curtail your consumption of brand-new goods and watch the ripple effect of benefits!  Second-hand appliances and furniture can be purchased at a fraction the cost of buying new. Pick just one appliance or piece of furniture and go exploring at online marketplaces, used appliance or furniture stores or repair shops.

TIP 8: Turn down your water heater. Dialing down your water heater from 140° F to 120° F will reduce your carbon footprint as well as your energy bill.

Water heaters of all types account for almost 20% of U.S. households’ energy consumption – more than cooking and refrigeration. Sure, we all like a hot shower. But reducing your water temperature by 20 degrees – from 140° F to 120° F – will cut the appliance’s energy consumption by as much as 10%. Check with the manufacturer or talk to your plumber for more information about proper settings.

Another benefit: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that you could shave between 4 and 22 percent off your annual energy bill by lowering your water heater. That could mean savings of more than $400 a year.  

TIP 9: Packing school lunches? Say good-bye to plastic baggies. Investing in silicone food storage bags is more eco-friendly (and wallet-friendly)!

Silicone bags are easy to clean and durable, meaning you can store all kinds of food over and over again. Cloth bags or beeswax bags can also help reduce waste, when used for packing or storing sandwiches, chips and snacks.

To determine the best reusable bags for your needs, use this checklist:

  • Are they leak-resistant?
  • Are they dishwasher safe or do they require hand-washing?
  • Can they go in the freezer?
  • Can they be used to reheat leftovers?

TIP 10: Switch out your light bulbs. LED lights use 75% less energy to deliver the same amount of light as incandescent bulbs.

According to the U. S. Dept. of Energy, by 2027, the widespread use of LED lighting could save $30-billion annually in energy costs. Equally important, greenhouse gas emissions associated with LED lights are far less than those for conventional lighting.

Hate to climb a ladder to change your burned-out bulbs? Good news: LED bulbs last 25 times longer than your old-style bulbs. They also emit less heat – and are therefore safer.

TIP 11: Choose farm-to-table restaurants when eating out. Picking a restaurant that promotes locally-sourced ingredients means you’re reducing the carbon footprint of your meal.

Think about it: Rather than shipping in exotic or out-of-season ingredients from across the country and around the world, your meal will require much less fuel and waste to get from the local farm to the plate in front of you. Less fuel means less greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, small local farms are more likely to practice sustainable agriculture, using fewer pesticides than large industrial farms. 

TIP 12: Buy a cleaner car. It will reduce your carbon footprint, cut air pollution and save you money.

Vehicles produce about one-third of all U.S. air pollution, and the contaminants emitted are more of a health threat than those from smoke stacks, because they are at ground level where we live, work and play.

Cars and trucks also account for 23% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

The difference between a car that gets 20 miles per gallon (mpg) and one that gets 30 mpg amounts to nearly $4,000 over five years. The U.S. Dept. of Energy has an online calculator that allows you to assess the efficiency of your car and compare it to others.

TIP 13: Treat your turf – go natural. To cut down on energy costs associated with ammonia production, give your grass a Fall feast of natural fertilizer.

Store-bought fertilizers can green up your grass in a hurry, but they also have a harmful impact on the environment. Look online for homemade lawn fertilizer recipes that contain safe and familiar ingredients, such as dish soap, Epsom salt and household ammonia. Other options include compost tea and coffee grounds. Your lawn will love you!

TIP 14: How to “green” your cup of java. Pods are booming. Recent data show they accounted for 34% of all coffee sales – a massive growth of 133% since 2000. Here’s what that means to the environment.

Single-use coffee pods are not eco-friendly. Depending on the pod, some components might be recyclable or compostable, but they have to be taken apart. Most pods head straight to the trash, ending up in landfills. If you use single-use coffee pods, try trading those for a K-Cup filter. Keurig makes its own, but there are many other brands on the shelf. Sticking to single-use? Then read the fine print to identify the best recyclable or compostable pods.

TIP 15: Unplug your electronics when they’re not being used. Think they’re really turned off? Think again. “Phantom electricity” is the culprit. 

Even when not in use, many electronic devices. Including televisions, computers, scanners and printers, use standby power to save warm-up time. In the United States, the total electricity consumed by idle electronics – often referred to as vampire or phantom electricity – equals the annual output of 12 power plants, according to the office of Sustainability at Harvard University. Use power strips for as many devices as possible; it simplifies plugging and unplugging. 

TIP 16: Take the big step – learn to compost. It’s confusing; it’s yucky; it’s too much work. Get past all the excuses, get out of your comfort zone and read how to do it.

Nearly 39% of the waste stream consists of food and yard waste, according to the EPA. Over 50-million tons go to landfill or incinerators. Composting not only saves costs – and reduces the methane emitted from landfills – but it also creates a valuable soil amendment, reducing the need for manufactured fertilizer.

Start small; find a simple formula and post it for your family to follow.  Agree on the food scraps. Start with fruits and veggies – the skin of a sweet potato, the tops of your strawberries. Also tea bags, coffee grounds, eggshells and old flowers.

Get used to a routine with these limited foods. Then go online for advice on what to add. Do it gradually, and you’re sure to succeed!

Sat, December 10 2022 16 Kislev 5783