Spring is nearly upon us! Earth Day just a month away, but even more exciting is PBI’s Environmental Law Forum happening next week (don’t forget to register because you won’t want to miss it!). As the trees and grass return to their brilliant green hue, and as close-to-home disasters wreak havoc on our air and water, talks of protecting our environment are more important than ever.
It’s easy to feel powerless when looking at the big picture, but you can still make a difference on your own carbon footprint. You’ve heard of the classic “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” but let’s delve into the specific ways you can do just that. Here are some simple ways to go green.
To begin, there are many actions you can take to cut down or eliminate some forms of waste completely. Here are a few accessible options to help you turn over a new (green) leaf.
Go paperless. We live in an increasingly virtual world. A lot of our communication is now taking place online through e-mails and texts. This has cut down on the need for paper products. But if you absolutely have to boot up the printer, cut the amount of paper in half by printing double-sided.
Cut down on gas emissions. Carpool, take public transportation, or ride a bike to work. Maybe you’re already spending your days working from home and saving on gas. If so, great! However, if you’re a commuter, carpooling to work or taking public transportation is a great way to cut down on traffic in your community while reducing gas emissions. If the option is open to you, biking would also be an amazing, eco-friendly option that doubles as a wonderful way to exercise.
Save on electricity. Open blinds and curtains to let in natural light when the sun is out. Turn off lights and fans of rooms you’re not in. Switch to LED lights, which are said to consume less energy and add the least amount of carbon dioxide to the air. Don’t leave chargers plugged into the wall because, believe it or not, they sap electricity even when nothing is plugged into them. Your electricity bill will thank you.
Conserve water. Life-saving water has become sparse in certain regions of our country. Do not leave the water running while brushing your teeth. Opt for shorter showers. Run your dishwasher or washing machine only when you have a full load of dirty dishes or laundry ready to go. For more ideas on how to conserve water, check out these tips from Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
If you’re in a routine, you may not even realize how much waste you’re creating. There’s a long list of disposable items in your daily life that could easily be replaced with their reusable counterparts. For example…
Reusable bags. This is a big one. A single trip to the grocery store could leave you with a mess of plastic bags. Plastic is a scourge on our planet, taking hundreds of years to decompose into toxic, miniscule particles. Plastic bags are especially tough to recycle. If you want to do your part in eliminating plastic waste, consider investing in reusable bags that can be used over and over again. Some grocery stories have already stepped up to the plate and no longer offer single-use plastic bags.
Water bottles. Plastic water bottles sit in landfills or wash into our ocean to become a threat to marine life. Replacing the plastic bottle with a reusable canteen is easy and inexpensive—which begs the question, why aren’t more of us doing it?
The list goes on. Disposable food storage containers. Feminine hygiene products. Diapers. Paper towels. Paper plates or plastic utensils. All of these can be replaced with reusable alternatives.
One of the most well-known ways of going green is recycling. Cardboard, plastic, paper, glass, aluminum, and metal can all (potentially) be recycled. Look for the recycle symbol before making the decision. If you’re still not sure what gets recycled and what gets thrown away, Republic Services has created a handy recycling guide to help you out.
Compost. As you can see from the guide, food waste cannot be recycled—or can it? Some food and yard waste can be put into a compost bin to create delicious, nutrient-filled plant food for your soil. Keep in mind that only certain organic materials can be used for compost. This includes coffee grounds, eggshells, fruit/vegetable scraps, yard clippings, and leaves. Check out this article from Better Homes & Gardens on how to create your own compost bin.
Collect rainwater. On top of composting, you can use rain barrels to collect water for your garden or lawn. These barrels are placed at rainspouts to catch rainwater and reduce runoff pollution. Recycle the water into other uses while simultaneously helping out the environment.
Garden. Speaking of gardening—if you have the means, you should absolutely consider growing your own food! There are numerous benefits. It’s good for the earth, since plants are known to produce oxygen and clean the air. Seeds are cheap and will save you money on shopping. Finally, it’s a rewarding experience that has a positive effect on your mental health. Win, win, win.
Just like we only get one life, we only get one Earth. We’ve got to play our part when it comes to helping the environment. We may not be able to control the actions of others, but we can still make a difference in our own lives.