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Simple Steps for Going Green (Tips 1-24)

12/21/2022 12:16:21 PM

Dec21

Environmental Awareness & Action Conversation

Do you want to live a “greener” life, but don’t know where to start? Thank you to the members of the Shomrei Adamah: Environmental Awareness Committee for these tips on going green. If you would like to help this initiative please reach out to Rabbi Brad Levenberg for more information.

Don't forget to follow along with the 2024 Eco Challenge Here.

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 of 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 from 140 F to 120 F. That could mean savings of more than $400 a year.  

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!

TIP 17: Upgrade to a green computer. When you’re ready for a new computer, buy one with an Energy Star label, which could save 35% to 65% in energy use.

The Energy Star label signifies the product meets certain requirements established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

When you buy a green computer, you’re committing to the goals of green computing: to reduce the use of hazardous materials, maximize the product’s energy efficiency and recycle any defunct or outdated products.

The “green factor” of a computer depends on its power consumption, size and materials from which it was constructed. In general, a laptop will use much less energy than a desktop computer.

Donate your old computer rather than recycling it. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, reusing just one computer with a CRT monitor, as opposed to buying a new one, will keep 1,330 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

TIP 18: Give thanks – eat healthier. With Thanksgiving just ‘round the corner, try to approach the holiday with an environmentally-friendly goal: Take steps to reduce your carbon footprint by limiting your meat and dairy consumption. It’s not as hard as you think.

Try showcasing vegetable-based recipes at this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.  And good news: Turkey actually comes in at a close second behind chicken, in terms of sustainability. Beef and lamb are the worst.

Heading into the new year, commit to having just one vegetarian meal a week. You could save the greenhouse gas equivalent of driving 1,160 miles, according to the Center of Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan.

TIP 19: Little ways to save water. Using less water saves energy and infrastructure costs. It means less water is lost to contamination; most important, it helps assure an adequate supply of clean water for the future. Take these steps.

Habits are hard to change, but if you set a goal of reducing water usage in your home by following just a couple of these steps, it will help our water-dependent globe.

  • When you use a dishwasher, always make sure it’s fully loaded. Try to run it less frequently.
  • Scrape your plates instead of rinsing them, before loading into the dishwasher.
  • Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth or shaving. Tell the kids to turn it off, also.
  • Take showers (they use less water than baths). Make an effort to shorten your time in the shower.
  • In the shower, turn the water on to lather up, off while scrubbing up and on again to rinse off.

TIP 20: Learn how to drive efficiently. Becoming a “gentler” driver actually helps our planet! It’s all about the way your car uses fuel. 

Be sure to share this fact with your teenage drivers: Fast accelerations and high speeds use up fuel, and abrupt stops waste energy. By driving gently, you can lower your gas mileage by up to 33% on the highway and 5% in the city, according to the Department of Energy.

And driving fast wastes fuel. The optimal highway speed for gas mileage is 50 mph; after that, your miles per gallon drops quickly.

Stuck in a drive-through line? Don’t idle your car for long periods, especially while running the air conditioner. In the winter, give your car only 30 seconds to warm up; it will warm up quickly when you start driving.

TIP 21: Go green with your Chanukah gifts. Giving eco-friendly gifts will not only bring happiness to your family and friends, it’s also an important way to bring love and kindness to the environment.

What does "eco-friendly" mean? Words like "environmentally-friendly," "green" and "sustainable" refer to products that benefit the environment immediately and in the long run.

Here are a few eco-friendly gifts that have at least one sustainable attribute, including products that are reusable, sustainably sourced or made from recycled or repurposed materials. And the best part? They won't just be loved by your gift recipient — the planet will appreciate it, too.

  • Easy-to-use compost bin
  • Decorative reusable sandwich bags
  • Solar-powered phone charger
  • Socks that plant trees  (check out online seller Trees for the Future)
  • Sea glass jewelry (made from recycled glass)
  • Chic reusable grocery bags
  • Thermal travel mug
  • Carbon neutral skincare and home care products
  • BPA-free toys

TIP 22: Opt in for e-billing and pass on paper receipts. In the U.S., hard copy bills alone generate almost 2-million tons of CO2. Start the New Year by switching to paperless invoices and receipts. 

In the U.S., paper products make up the largest percentage of municipal solid waste. Think of the paper you waste, every time you get a bill in the mail or pick up a receipt at a cash register. More and more businesses – from gas stations to self-service check-outs – give you a “No receipt” option.

Switching to e-billing saves paper, uses less energy and requires less printing. In addition, reducing traditional mailed bills will help cut fossil fuel pollution.

Keep in mind, those hard copy invoices and receipts use a lot of ink. Most ink is toxic, so even when the paper is biodegradable, the ink is left behind and can be damaging to the environment.

TIP 23: The cold winter months are coming. Dial it down! Lower your thermostat by just two degrees and save over 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. 

According to the US Department of Energy, it's best to keep your thermostat at 68 F, while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends a winter daytime temperature of 70 F.

For maximum efficiency, you should also designate eight hours per day during which you turn the temperature down by between 7 and 10 degrees. The EPA recommends turning it down to 62 when you’re asleep or are at work. This will reduce your use of energy – thus helping the environment and lowering your bills! If daytime work hours make sense, then just crank up the thermostat as soon as you get home. This is the most efficient way to manage your heat during the winter months.

TIP 24: As you’re planning your holiday parties at home or work, check out the huge online array of eco-products. You’ll find examples of eco-design in all kinds of consumer goods.

Help the environment while you shop for items, such as biodegradable furniture, recycled tableware, edible coffee cups, as well as clothes and shoes made with plastic recovered from the ocean.

It all starts with buying from retailers that actually care about the environment. To determine if you’re looking at a company that walks the walk with its green efforts, you should check the company's website. Then go on to its list of products.

You’ll find a dizzying and dazzling array of eco-friendly products at www.ecoevolution.co. You gotta love a company with a tagline, “Protecting the plant with every purchase.”

Wed, April 24 2024 16 Nisan 5784