November 20, 2008

Everyday Ways To Help the Environment

another green bag
Creative Commons License photo credit: thingermejig

When we read the doom and gloom in the media about the environment, we often feel overwhelmed and confused. Don’t let that make you so depressed that you don’t take action. There are things you can do each and every day to lesson your impact on the environment, starting right now.

Here is a list of things you can start with that won’t break a sweat:

[ad#ad-2] Bring Your Own Bag
How often does a typical family shop each month? If you kept reusable bags in your car for those grocery store and other stops, you would make a huge difference in the number of plastic bags that end up in landfills, all of which will still be around when your great-grandchildren are alive. If you look around your home, you may have several cloth bags already that would be suitable. Trader Joe’s also sells an attractive reusable grocery bag for .99.

Save Water
Take shorter showers. If you took a 5 minute shower every morning instead of a 15 minute one, this would save tons of water in a year as well as save you money on your water bill. Turning off the water while you soap your body and lather the shampoo in your hair as well as shave (called a “boat shower”) will help you save lots more. To make this easier, turn on your knobs to where you like them for the perfect shower temperature, and mark the faucets with red fingernail polish so you know exactly where to turn them. Teach your kids to turn the water off when they brush their teeth too. Flush solid waste only. As the saying goes, “if it’s yellow let it mellow”!

Go Digital
Could you read an ebook instead of a paper version? Do online banking instead of getting a statement in the mail? Pay bills online instead of using an envelope?

Cloth Not Paper
It’s been said that using cloth diapers is the single most important way a parent can help the environment. I don’t know if it’s true, but it does keep around 2 TONS of plastic out of the landfills. If you don’t have the heart to do cloth diapers, then at least choose biodegradable diapers like gDiapers. By the same token, microfiber cloths for cleaning save money and are more effective than paper towels for household cleaning.

Drive Green
While it may not be in your best interest to buy a hybrid right now (some experts say there is less impact on the environment if you drive your current car until it cannot be repaired than trading it in for a hybrid), you can certainly get rid of that lead foot. Not only will you be less stressed and not have to sweat it when a police car pulls behind you, but you’ll use far less gas if you accelerate slowly. Keeping your car in good repair can also help. And obviously, combining errands as much as possible and not leaving your car to idle are also good ideas.

Bring Back Frugal
I say let’s make frugal cool again! At one time in this country, people prided themselves on “do without, use it up, wear it out”. They tried to stretch things as far as they would go, repair them when they broke, minimize what they purchased in the first place, and in general have a frugal outlook. Not only will your pocketbook thank you, but you’ll keep a lot of stuff out of the landfills. When you are done with something, Freecyle it ( or give it to charity instead of just tossing it.

Remember, set goals for yourself and your family and commit to making changes slowly. This way, good habits of stewardship of our planet are more likely to stick and become permanent lifestyle choices.

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Alexis Rodrigo

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