Thursday, September 29, 2011

Go Green!

Whether you believe in global warming or not, we can all agree that we, as a country – as a planet – create too much waste.  There are a lot of ideas you can use to go greener.  You might already be doing some of them.  Some of you may even be doing more than what is listed here.

Here are some easy ways to go green:
  • Turn the lights off when you leave a room
  • Cloth diaper and use cloth baby wipes
  • breastfeed
  • recycle plastic bags at the grocery store
  • use your own cloth bags when shopping
  • Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer to save on heating and cooling costs.
  • Install compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) when your older incandescent bulbs burn out.
  • Unplug appliances when you're not using them.
  • Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. As much as 85 percent of the energy used to machine-wash clothes goes to heating the water.
  • Use a drying rack or clothesline to save the energy otherwise used during machine drying. If you must use a dryer, consider adding dryer balls to cut drying time.  And be sure to keep your lint trap clear of lint.
  • Take shorter showers to reduce water use. This will lower your water and heating bills too.
  • Install a low-flow showerhead. They don't cost much, and the water and energy savings can quickly pay back your investment.
  • Make sure you have a faucet aerator on each faucet. These inexpensive appliances conserve heat and water, while keeping water pressure high.
  • Plant drought-tolerant native plants in your garden. Many plants need minimal watering. Find out which occur naturally in your area.
  • Walk or bike to work. This saves on gas and parking costs while improving your cardiovascular health and reducing your risk of obesity.
  • Consider telecommuting if you live far from your work. Or move closer. Even if this means paying more rent, it could save you money in the long term.
  • We have great tasting water here in San Mateo, so skip the bottles.  Use a water filter to purify tap water if you’re afraid there might be impurities in the water.  Not only is bottled water expensive, but it generates large amounts of container waste.  Plus, bottled water is not regulated like tap water.  It is just as likely, or more likely, to have impurities in bottled water.
  • Bring a reusable aluminum water bottle (like Sigg or Kleen Kanteen) with you when traveling or at work.  
  • Go online to find new or gently used secondhand products. Whether you've just moved or are looking to redecorate, consider a service like Craigslist or Freecycle to track down furniture, appliances, and other items cheaply or for free.
  • Borrow from libraries instead of buying personal books and movies. This saves money, not to mention the ink and paper that goes into printing new books.
  • Share power tools and other appliances. Get to know your neighbors while cutting down on the number of things cluttering your closet or garage.
  • Buy in bulk. Purchasing food from bulk bins can save money and packaging.
  • Wear clothes that don't need to be dry-cleaned. This saves money and cuts down on toxic chemical use.
  • Invest in high-quality, long-lasting products. You might pay more now, but you'll be happy when you don't have to replace items as frequently (and this means less waste!). Keep your cell phones, computers, and other electronics as long as possible.
  • Donate or recycle your electronics responsibly when the time comes. E-waste contains mercury and other toxics and is a growing environmental problem.
  • Get your clothes clean without all of the pollution by switching to eco-friendlier cleaners.
  • Stop the junk mail.  Call the companies to have your name removed from their mailing list.
  • Run full dishwasher loads.
  • Don't bother preheating your oven if you are broiling, roasting or baking a dish that will cook for an hour or more.
  • Use the right-size pot on your burners. 
  • Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth. 
  • Pack a waste-free lunch.
  • Buy fresh instead of canned foods
  • Avoid polystyrene containers.
  • Get your bank statement electronically (and other statements)
  • Use commercial car washes.  Getting your car washed at a commercial car wash is better for the environment than doing it yourself. Commercial car washes not only use significantly less water per wash -- up to 100 gallons less -- but they often recycle and reuse the rinse water.
  • Check air conditioning filters monthly to either clean or replace them.
  • Use recycled paper.
  • Use refillable pens.
  • Use rechargeable batteries.
  • Use digital cameras.
  • Direct-deposit your pay.
  • Reuse hotel linens and towels.  You probably don't change your sheets and towels every day at home, so why do it while you're away?
  • Next time you replace your holiday lights, save both money and energy by choosing LED types.
  • Go for glass.  The energy required to produce a single 12-ounce aluminum can from virgin ore is enough to produce nearly two 12-ounce glass bottles.
  • Replace single-pane windows with double-pane ones to reduce heat loss in winter and heat gain in the summer.

Want to go greener?
  • If you eat meat, add one meatless meal a week. Meat costs a lot at the store-and it's even more expensive when you consider the related environmental and health costs.
  • Buy locally raised, humane, and organic meat, eggs, and dairy whenever you can. Purchasing from local farmers keeps money in the local economy.
  • grow your own veggies
  • Set up a compost bin.
  • Reuse your water.  Catch rain water to water your garden with later.  Put a bucket in your shower to catch water.  Use that water to flush your toilet.  If you pour water quickly into the basin the toilet automatically flushes.
  • Send e-cards
  • When you buy deodorant, try to avoid antiperspirants, which use aluminum salts to seal up your pores. In addition to being a potential health toxin, aluminum takes a tremendous amount of energy to mine. 
  • Donate your old vehicle to an environmental cause.
  • Plant trees.
  • Buy a hybrid vehicle.
  • Stop using chemicals on your lawn and in your garden.
  • Yuban coffee is Rainforest Alliance Certified (that means it's grown in a way that preserves the ecosystem). A Fair Trade Certified brand is Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.
  • Buy a laptop.  It uses considerably less power than a desktop computer.
  • Mow the lawn with a push mower instead of gas mower

Want to go greener still?

  • Use solar-powered chargers.  Energy stored from exposure to sunlight can recharge an average phone, MP3 player, digital camera or PDA once or twice.
  • put solar panels on your roof
  • Baking soda not only removes those strange smells coming from your fridge, it’s also a great odor-eliminator for your carpet. Just sprinkle on a little baking soda to soak up some of those odors and then vacuum it up.
  • Skip the store-bought air fresheners and instead try boiling cinnamon, cloves, or any other herbs you have a fondness for.
  • When replacing your cleaning products, don’t just throw the old ones in the trash. If they’re too toxic for your home, they won’t be good for the drain or the landfill either. Many communities hold toxics & electronics recycling days and will take all of these off your hands.  If you use a cleaning service go with a green cleaning service
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.  The antibacterial and antimicrobial ‘cleaners’ that many people think are necessary don’t clean hands better than soap and water, and also add to the risk of breeding “super germs,” bacteria that survive the chemical onslaught and have resistant offspring.
  • Create your own cleaning solutions made from products you have around the house.  Vinegar works well, as does baking soda.
  • Consider replacing your carpets with wood, linoleum or other non-carpet flooring. This will reduce the toxic cleaners needed for rugs as vinegar and water works great for cleaning non-carpet floors.
  • Paper towels and other disposable, single-use cleaning things can be replaced with reusable cloths and mircrofiber wipes. Clean them in the dishwasher or washing machine. Also, when it comes to buying sponges, natural ones are biodegradable and can break down or be composted when their useful life is through. But make certain that the natural sponges you buy come from a "sponge farm" and not from a natural ecosystem.

Are you brave enough to go even greener?

  • Buy reusable menstral products, like the Diva Cup and “mama” cloth. 
  • Use cloth toilet paper.
  • Use reusable gold or hemp coffee filters instead of paper filters or make filterless coffee with a french press.
  • Use car roof racks on an "as needed" basis. Their constant use increases wind resistance which increases fuel consumption. If you can transport items inside your vehicle, do that instead.
  • Donate empty egg cartons to a local egg producer. Sometimes you can make the donation through the store you bought the eggs from.
  • make your own yogurt
  • use an on-demand hot water heater
  • use vinegar on weeds instead of round-up

  • Here’s what I do
1.      cloth wet wipes – you know all those thin receiving blankets you have lying in a drawer somewhere getting no use?  Cut them up into squares and use them as toilet paper.  If you want them wet, mix up some liquid soap, scented oil and water and soak the wipes in that.  You can do the same thing for baby wipes.
2.      cloth diaper – I wash my own but you can use a service as well (Tinytots)
3.      recycle bags at the grocery store – All grocery stores have bins now for recycled bags.  Any plastic bag can go in there, not just grocery bags
4.      wash and reuse Ziplocs – they last several uses this way.  Eventually they will rip or get a hole, but you’ll get at least a couple uses out of an item made for one use.
5.      buy reusable snack and sandwich bags (like happy-sacks) – they come in cute prints and are machine washable
6.      Diva cup – this is not as scary as it sounds.  It’s a silicone cup that sits up in the vagina and catches everything during menstruation.  You only have to empty it twice a day.
7.      mama cloth – these are cloth menstrual pads.  Just wash them with your regular laundry
8.      compost – we got a composter from Nature Mills.  It’s electric and uses about the same amount of electricity as a night light does.  All our organic waste goes in there instead of garbage disposal or land fill.  And after a couple weeks we have soil for our plants.

Switching to a greener way of life can take time and won’t come super easy, especially with the kids.  For our kids under 2 years old, switching will be as easy for them.  They probably won’t notice know the difference.  But for the older kids it can take some time and some training. 

Let’s take cloth TP for example.  For a child who is in the middle of potty learning, switching to cloth TP will only result in your cloth TP getting accidentally flushed down the toilet.  Wait until they’re older, maybe 5, to teach them how to use the cloth TP and where to put it after they’ve used it.

For other things, start slowly.  Get used to one change at a time.  Lot’s of change can be overwhelming to anyone.

You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again.  We only have one planet.  Who knows, maybe someday we’ll be living on Mars, but for now, this is all we’ve got.  And on this one little planet, there is only so much oil, so many metals, so much… everything.  If we all do our part we’ll make our natural resources last longer for our children, our children’s children and hopefully many generations to come.

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