April 22nd 2012 will be the 42nd anniversary of Earth day and hype has people thinking of ways they can protect our environment. ‘Green’ practices should become part of an everyday lifestyle and not just considered on one day out of an entire year. Earth Day refers to consideration of employing practices that are not damaging to or that replenish our natural resources. There are plenty of steps we can all take to make our lifestyle greener reducing any negative impact on the environment.
Spoiled by modern conveniences few of us think of how simple changes in our daily chores can go towards conserving energy. Did you know that at least 85% of the energy a washing machine uses actually goes to heating the water? Washing clothes in cold water can curb a sufficient amount of energy. At the same time save dryer energy by drying clothes on a line or drying rack. Nothing like a breath of fresh air brought to line dried clothes!
Consumers can save money and conserve energy by adjusting their thermostats during hours away from home. Programmable thermostats are a valuable consideration. Set these to turn heat and air conditioners to higher or lower temps during your non-use or don’t need hours. For example, lower heat at night and use an extra blanket. When plugged in but turned off some home appliances still draw energy. A computer for example uses about 20 watts even though it is not being used, an entertainment center 17 watts and a DVD boom player about 9 watts. Know which appliances draw energy when not in use and unplug them until needed.
When leaving a room or leaving home for an extended time turn off your lights. Turn lights off during the day and open curtains or shades to make use of the sunlight. Avoid using incandescent light bulbs as they emit tons of greenhouse gases. Change to Compact Fluorescent Lamps-CFLs-which use only 20-30 percent of the energy required by an incandescent bulb to create the same amount of light. Light Emitting Diodes or LEDs are the way to go as they use only 10% of the amount of energy an incandescent bulb uses. These choices not only reduce carbon emissions, but they also reduce your electric bill!
Use Less Gas
Carpooling, using public transportation, biking or walking to work not only saves on your gas bill but also cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions. Carpooling programs have become increasingly more popular especially with the current price of gasoline. Many corporations have organized routes and provide energy-efficient vehicles for employee carpool groups. Join a car-share or carpool program and use less gas. When possible walk or use your bike to run short errands or commute to work. Bike lanes are making it easier and safer to use a bike for transportation and recreation. And think of the positive effect it has on your health improving your cardiovascular and reducing you weight. Consider reducing the traffic on the road and not using gas by telecommuting to work!
Recycling is required by most all towns across the US. Up to date recycling centers are making this process easier for consumers by having smart machines that can separate out each type of recyclable item. Materials from recycle programs are used in the creation of new of the same or even totally different products. Examples of this are plastic bags collected and reused to make new plastic bags or recycled glass used for creating new tableware, glassware and jewelry. You can do your part by putting a separate recycle container next to your trash to make it easier for you to divide recyclables such as bottles, cans and newspaper from other home trash.
Electronics such as cell phones and computers should be used as long as possible or donated for reuse. Electronic waste contains toxins that are a growing environmental problem. When necessary to do away with an electronic item ask your local government agency for the time of their hazardous waste collection.
Consider finding gently used secondhand products or new products made from recycled materials. There are plenty of consignment shops, garage sales and online resources that advertise resale products like furniture, appliances and clothing. If new is your thing find niche markets that sell furniture, clothing and home decor items that are made from organic, sustainable or recycled materials from vendors that employ green practices.
Borrowing and sharing items with neighbors cuts down on the waste and clutter in your home. Borrowing books from the library or starting a book swap group for example saves on the use of ink and paper thereby reducing the environmental impact of new production.
A great way to avoid the cost and environmental damages of synthetic fertilizers in your garden is to compost your own organic waste. Check out the US Composting Council for easy steps in reusing your organic waste.
Lean Toward Organic Eating Habits
Almost a fifth of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and about a quarter of all global water used in agriculture goes to the production of livestock. Cutting down on the amount of meat you consume actually reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Buy from local farmers for organic meat, eggs, dairy and produce. Food from these sources is usually fresher, more flavorful and safer on the environment as they do not use chemicals or synthetic fertilizers to grow. Besides, your money will be going directly to these food producers. Reduce food waste by encouraging your local restaurants and grocery stores to partner with local food pantries or rescue organizations. Donate to your local food pantry any nonperishable canned and dried foods that you won’t be using.
Tap Water Says Eco-friendly Like No Other
The bottled water industry makes billions of dollars in profits as well as creating millions of pounds of plastic bottle waste. Not biodegradable, plastic bottles end up as a huge environmental mess littering parks, road sides and waterways and filling up landfills. Rather than the expense and environmental concern of bottled water use tap water in a reusable water bottle. To conserve water take short showers using a low flow shower head. Use of a faucet aerator on each faucet conserves water while keeping the water pressure up. Make sure your washer and dishwasher are full loads and do not run either washer for just a few articles. Studies have actually shown that a fully loaded dishwasher uses less water than hand washing dishes.
Current awareness of reducing our carbon footprint finds the increased availability of organic products ranging anywhere from clothing to furniture. Products certified as organic use no chemicals, synthetic fertilizers or dyes in their production. Manufacturers producing organic products adhere to green practices eliminating toxins from being introduced into the environment improving air quality and not contaminating soil or ground waters with post production runoff. Look for products made of organic cotton, organic wool or sustainable materials like hemp and bamboo. Especially in clothing these types of materials do not need to be dry-cleaned cutting down on toxic chemical use and saving you money. Make your own non-toxic cleaning supplies. With a few ingredients like lemon, vinegar, baking soda you can make very effective non-toxic cleaning products. This is easy on the pocket book and on the environment as there is no packaging and ingredients are natural. Think of the toxic fumes your indoor air will be saved from!
Make Green Lifestyle Choices
Every day of the year, not just on Earth Day, make green lifestyle choices. Think of reducing your carbon footprint and with each action you take weigh the environmental impact it will have. Protect our natural resources and be kind to Mother Earth.
Current awareness of the importance of reducing our carbon footprint finds more designers and manufacturers producing ‘Green’ products. Today’s advertisements are laden with terms such as Organic, Natural and Sustainable. So what is the difference between each of these?
Organic pertains to something that is derived from living organisms. Organic Cotton then refers to cotton produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Production may include the use of fertilizers or pesticides that are plant or animal in origin. Organic Wool, as another example, must follow federal standards for Organic livestock production. These standards include use of certified organic feeds, use of good management practices to maintain livestock health and adherence to the natural carrying capacity of grazing lands. Synthetic hormones, genetic engineering, synthetic pesticides, whether internal, external or on pastures, is prohibited.
Natural, as the opposite of artificial, means existing in or formed by nature. As an example lanolin, a greasy yellow substance, is a Natural product found on wool. Natural lanolin serves as a base for cosmetic products such as ointments and hand creams. Another example is Natural Dyes. The majority of Natural Dyes are vegetable in nature made from plant sources such as roots, berries, bark, leaves and wood but can also be derived from clays and minerals.
Sustainable refers to something that can maintain its own viability in a short amount of time allowing for its continual use. Hemp is a quick growing robust plant that grows in diverse soil conditions. As one of the fastest growing plants in the world Hemp also has a high yield ratio- about ten tons a year per acre-and it requires no herbicides or pesticides to grow. Hemp Clothing has become very popular especially with recent eco-friendly processes that soften the fibers. Another popular Sustainable material is Bamboo. Bamboo is a highly renewable grass used for anything from Clothing to Furniture to Kitchenware.
Do your part to reduce our carbon footprint by finding Clothing made from Organic Cotton or Organic Wool, Personal Care products comprised of Natural ingredients like Essential Oils, Aloe Vera or Chamomile and Furniture made from Sustainable materials such as Bamboo.