What is “living green”? Well, to me, it’s trying to live in a way that minimizes our impact on the planet. Easier said then done, I know. But there are small things we can all do which add up to big differences. In the United States alone, there are around 300 million people (more or less), so if we all did one thing (or one less thing), that would end up being 300 million things (or less things)!
Small Steps to Living Green
Recycling seems like a no brainer, but a lot of people don’t do it. I feel fortunate that the city I live in has a recycling program so I can just toss recycleables in a barrel and they pick it up once a week. If your city or town has a similar program, its pretty easy to start separating trash into whats recyclable and whats not. Don’t know if your area has a recycling program? Check out EPA’s website.
Use Less Electricity
Some easy things to do include:
-Setting the thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and hotter in the summer. My boyfriend and I have been doing this to save money and it’s pretty amazing how quickly you can get used to cooler/warmer temperatures!
-Wash clothes in cold water. This is something I have started to do by accident. I moved into a house where the hot water isn’t set up to the washer, so I’ve been having to wash things in cold. While there are times I wish I had hot water, I’m surprised that what I used to wash in warm or hot is getting just as clean in cold! Even when the hot water gets hooked up, I will continue to wash more in cold. I suggest trying a few loads in cold and seeing if you notice a difference – you probably won’t! I didn’t.
-Installing fluorescent light bulbs (CFL). I know, I know, they just don’t look as good! This is something I struggle with too, but I hear more and more CFLs are coming out that mirror the warm glow incandescent light bulbs provide.
Use Less Gasoline
Depending on where you live, this may be easy or may be impossible. I live in the Phoenix metropolitan area where I think the term “urban sprawl” was defined. Things are pretty far away and our transportation system isn’t the greatest. To do my part, I bought a Prius (which I love, go Prius!) but I realize this isn’t practical for everyone. So if walking or biking to nearby locations isn’t feasible, it could be as easy to planning all errand trips at once and near each other to save gas to and from your house. Or perhaps you could see if your job offers telecommute options. Whatever it may be, trying to use less gas not only saves your wallet, it helps our air.
Skip Bottled Water
The bottled water craze sparked an interest in “clean” water but it also produces a LOT of waste. There are many companies that provide alternatives to throw-away water bottles. I have a stainless steel one I really like, and there are BPA-free sturdy plastic ones too. Check out your local store to see if there is one you like. If you don’t care for your local tap water (I sure don’t), you can look into a Brita or Pur. I have a Pur and I really like it. We keep it in the fridge and then fill up our water containers if we need to take water on the go.
What is freecycle? It’s giving an item to someone else rather then throwing it away. This helps reduce waste and helps someone else! I donate my unwanted stuff to Goodwill, but you could do any local charity of your choosing or check out freecycle.org. It’s a nice way to help someone and help our planet.
Use “Clean” Cleaning Products
“Clean” cleaning products? Is there such a thing? Sure. Turns out the chemicals you use to clean and sanitze your house may not be so great for the planet. Phosphates have historically been used in every day cleaning products. If you have ever had to manage an acquarium, you know that phosphates are your enemy. Too much phosphates results in algae overgrowth. Well, that same principle happens in oceans and lakes. Phosphate run-off causes algae overgrowth, resulting in low oxygen and the death of acquatic life. Because of this, more and more companies are removing phosphates from their cleaning products. Unfortunately, phosphates are really good at cleaning, so some people are noticing a difference in the effectiveness of cleaning products that are phosphate-free. I have found a few good companies though (Biokleen, Method and 7th Generation to name a few) that have great cleaning products without phosphates.
Couldn’t talk about living green without mentioning pesticides. Pesticides are not only bad for our bodies but they can be bad for the planet. Pesticides and herbicides are meant to kill things. End of story. So anything thats meant to kill things inherently is toxic. Pesticides can cause crop loss, bird loss, pesticide resistance and groundwater contamination. The EPA has specifically said that children and infants are especially sensitive to pesticides and can harm their development. Other health effects from pesticides includes affecting the nervous system, irritation to skin/eyes, and some are carcinogenic. How can you avoid pesticides? Buy organic.
Want to learn more about living green? The EPA always has great information.