I consider myself an ardent environmentalist (I ought to be, right?) Even though I recycle and reuse almost everything and have been known to take things out of the trash that my husband threw away to recycle them; even though I always turn off lights when I leave the room and never leave the water running when I brush my teeth;
English: Compact fluorescent light bulb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Even though I have replaced all my light bulbs with energy-efficient CFLs; even though I unplug small appliances when I’m away and use an energy-saving power strip that has made turning the television on even more complicated; even though I rarely eat meat and buy organic and local produce (just to name a few of my eco-habits), I was shocked when I recently took the Ecological Footprint Quiz and found out that I need 3.5 planets to sustain my current rate of energy consumption! The quiz, sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Economy, asks 27 questions about your lifestyle and the answers determine how much “nature” your lifestyle requires. It estimates “the amount of land and ocean area required to sustain your consumption patterns and absorb your wastes on an annual basis” and allows you to compare your ecological footprint to others’. My footprint was lower than “others”, but 3.5 planets is horrifying! Naturally, the quiz is not totally customized to your lifestyle. For instance, there was no place to put that I drive an electric car or that my husband drives a biodiesel one, nor that we have planted over 2000 trees on our farm where we are developing a life off the grid. Surely, this would have at least knocked one planet off my consumption level. Nevertheless, it was eye-opening and scary to say the least to see how much energy I actually consume and need in my daily life.
Go to myfootprint.org to take the quiz yourself. Sometimes a dose of reality is exactly what one needs to make positive changes in life. The quiz offers lots of energy-saving tips. Let me know what changes you plan to make!
Ecological Footprint Quiz Results (Photo credit: acordova)
I’ve just discovered the greatest “green” product that I am eager to share with you! It’s one of those obvious “why didn’t I think of that” products!
I practice eco-conscious dry cleaning. I go to an environmentally friendly dry cleaner, one that uses a safer alternative to perchloroethylene or perc. (Eighty-five percent of dry cleaners use the solvent perc classified by the EPA as a toxic air contaminant and possible to probable human carcinogen.) I reuse some of the bags when I travel and wrap nice pants or a dress in them. Or I return the bags to my cleaners for recycling. But there are so many! I’ve always wondered about a better alternative to all that plastic! Well here it is…
Many dry cleaners place cleaned clothes inside thin clear plastic garment bags. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It’s called the Green Garmento, an eco-friendly, recyclable, breathable laundry bag that can be a hamper, duffel to carry your clothes to the cleaner and a garment bag in which your dry cleaner can return your clothes instead of plastic! It holds 10 – 14 garments with a full-length side zipper for easy access. It is machine washable and has a clear window for an ID or a dry cleaning ticket. What’s more, it’s only $17 for two (or $9.99 for one) so that you can rotate them between home and the dry cleaner. You can order it online at thegreengarmento.com.
There are an estimated 300 million pounds of single-use dry cleaning bags that unless recycled end up in landfills, leaching chemicals and threatening marine and wildlife, every year.
It’s time to make a change to safer and more eco-friendly dry cleaning , don’t you think?
Reduce, reuse, recycle…. It’s encouraging to see recycling becoming routine. Many people have recycling bins in their homes; recycling containers are in downtowns and parks, airports and shopping malls. (Shockingly though, there are many areas of the country that do not recycle.) But – we also need to reuse and reduce the amount of plastic we use. Below are some ideas on how:
- Plastic Water Bottles – Only 1 in 5 water bottles are recycled. They are not biodegradable and end up as litter or in the landfill leaching chemicals, especially if the plastic is cracked or damaged. 40% of bottled water is tap water and 22% of tested bottled water contained chemical contaminants. There are times when it’s convenient to carry a plastic water bottle, but most of the time it’s just as easy to use a reusable one or drink from a glass. Install a water filter or buy a Brita water filter pitcher for delicious water if you are concerned about tap water, though we have some of the safest water in the world.
- Plastic refrigerator containers – It’s good to reuse a sturdy plastic ice cream or take out container (never microwave in them however), but when you buy refrigerator containers, go with glass. Pyrex and other brands make heavy, tempered glass containers that are stackable, freezable, microwaveable and dishwasher safe. And they won’t leach toxic chemicals into your food! The Container Store carries vintage glass refrigerator dishes and I found the real, colored Pyrex containers from the 1950’s at a flea market. Fun! My rule of thumb: food and plastic don’t go together.
- Liquid soap dispensers – Liquid soap dispensers seem to have replaced bar soap. There are many different brands, scents and lovely plastic bottles. Sometimes they are convenient, but really, what is wrong with a bar of soap placed in a soap container by your sink? A liquid soap dispenser at the kitchen sink and in each bathroom, replaced every few months, adds up to a lot of unnecessary plastic! If you must use them, please refill the same containers with liquid soap from a larger container.
- Reusable shopping bags have really count on and are definitely helping to reduce the millions of plastic bags we acquire! If you haven’t got on board yet, now is the time!
With a little awareness, you can cut back on your plastic usage. Email me your ideas!
Some Information compiled from www.onlineeducation.net/bottled_water
My last child is about to start her senior year in college. Over the years I have noticed colleges getting greener and instigating some innovative practices to help the environment, but there are lots of things students can do individually to reduce carbon emissions and lead a greener lifestyle.
Image by jeremy.wilburn Flickr.com
Moving in and out of dorms creates a lot of waste. The amount of cardboard and plastic packaging for the new bedding, bath and personal care products, school supplies, etc. is overwhelming and recycling bins are not always available. Instead of always buying new, reuse some things from home and try not to bring so much stuff. Dorm rooms are small and you can get away with less. When you do buy new things, buy them locally at school and avoid shipping. Target stores are everywhere and even sell organic towels and sheets! For futons and other furniture, graduating students often donate their old furniture or look on line at craigslist.com or freecycle.com.
Use low energy certified microfridges, computers and tv’s. Share appliances with friends – not everyone needs every appliance. Use power strips instead of extension cords to save energy and keep air conditioning to a minimum. Install CFL light bulbs and turn off the lights when you leave the room. Make sure to unplug your phone charger when not in use to eliminate vampire energy.
Instead of stocking up on water bottles, use a BPA free water bottle instead. For the late night munchies, eat organic fruits and snacks and compost the waste.
Choose green cleaning supplies like Seventh Generation for washing your dishes (forget disposable ones) or cleaning your dorm room. Houseplants make great air filters and improve air quality.
Get involved with on campus environmental groups, or start your own. Several colleges now have local raised bed gardens – volunteer to work in them. Working with the soil is a great stress reducer and you’ll learn a lot.
Of course, print on recycled paper and recycle used paper, bottles and those ubiquitous beer cans!
Some information compiled from Treehugger.com and Gouchercollege.edu.
For years I wanted a blender that you simply turn on and off, like the kind I remembered having as a child. I was tired of the plastic, LED readout variety with so many different blending options. All those options seemed unnecessary, and the blenders broke often. I finally found a good, solid old-fashioned Waring Blender. I work my blender hard with chock-filled smoothies every morning, homemade soups and other liquefied food items, and even my Waring blender had a part wear out. I didn’t want to buy a new one because basically it still worked. I wanted to replace the part that broke.
Image by bcmom Flickr.com
When I was growing up, small appliance repair shops were common. Since then- in this era of planned obsolescence with cheap, made in China everything – appliance repair shops and handymen have all but disappeared. One of the best things about the internet however, is that you can find replacement parts on line. And that’s what I did. I searched Waring blenders, found my replacement part and ordered it. My blender works as good as new, and I saved an almost perfectly good appliance from the landfill. I saved some money too.
In this throw away era of ours, we must think about reusing, repurposing and fixing what we already have instead of always buying new and recycling the old. Of course some things have to be thrown out and it’s important to recycle them, but before you do, think first. Can I fix this? Can I use it for something else? Who knows – maybe we’ll bring back the fix-it shops of long ago with a 21st century approach and create some new jobs.