Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day: Ways to make your daily life more green

Blog Action Day is an event of sorts, where a particular topic is chosen and bloggers are asked to participate by writing about it on one particular day. Today is the environment.

There's lots that could be said, I suppose, about the environment, but since I'm no expert on the subject I thought I could participate by talking about some of the ways I've incorporated green living into my daily life. And I stress simple because I am, by nature, lazy, and I have a suspicion that I'm not the only one. However, I've noticed that in the last few years I've become more aware of the waste I produce. Maybe it's that after a few years of living on your own and not having someone else take care of household needs, you get to see first-hand just how much goes into maintaining a household. By becoming more attuned to that, it's also made me more aware of other things I do in my daily life that are not household related that also generate waste. As I started to list them, it got to be a bit embarassing to see how disposable my life has become.

So below are some things I've started to do that are simple, but have generated noticeably less waste. Whereas I was throwing out garbage daily or every other day, I'm only filling my garbage can about twice a week.

Recycling, and not just cans: I have curbside recycling, which I know is a lot easier than having to do it in places (like, PR, I believe), where there is no such service and you have to take recycling out to designated spots yourself. Aside from cans, I recycle things like bottles and all other glass containers, plastic, egg cartons, cardboard boxes, cardboard packaging, the cardboard rolls that come with toilet paper and paper towels, magazines, and non-confidential mail. I separate them as I toss them, and once a week I set it all out on the curb. That alone is what's helped me dramatically reduce how much I send to the landfill as garbage.

Cut out bottled water as much as possible: I'll admit, I developed a bottled water habit. Even at home, even though our tap water tastes perfectly fine. I was buying bottled water for home consumption, and even though I recycled all the bottles, it still struck me just how many bottles I was using (not to mention spending money on something I can easily get for free.) I started drinking tap water at home, and I bought a water bottle to fill up for when I go out for a walk, or for use during car trips, that I fill at home before leaving. Sure, there are times when I just don't have the bottle with me and I'm in a situation where bottled water is my only option, and that's fine. I try to save the bottle and make sure it gets recycled. But I feel better knowing that a) I'm responsible for a little less disposability in this world, because I'm not supporting an industry that supplies us with so much pastic because of the high demand for it, and 2) I'm being more concientious, moneywise.

Buy less pre-packaged meals: As a natural follow-up to cutting out the bottled water habit, I've also been buying less and less pre-packaged foods at the supermarket. I stopped buying a lot of them some time ago, more for health and quality reasons than environmental concerns, especially now that I've actually learned how to cook, but I've found it can extend to things such as popcorn. I always just bought the microwaveable kind, but it's just as easy to make your own out of the kernels that are sold alone for stovetop or machine use. And if laziness is as much a part of your life as it is mine, here's a way to make popcorn kernels in the microwave. (Note: it calls for you to staple the bag, which I have been told is safe, but you can just as easily fold over the bag twice and it will keep the bag sealed too). Yes, yes, there is also waste involved in this microwave method, but it is less than the cardboard box and individual plastic wrapping that surrounds each bag. And less waste is not the only reason to do this - there are concerns that chemicals added to microwaveable popcorn (PFOA's, which are there for non-stick purposes) can be harmul to your health. Also, fresh just tastes better, and it's cheaper.

Bring my own utensils and plates to work: In an effort to save money, I try to bring my own breakfast and lunch to work. At my desk I keep a plate, a plastic cup, and my own silverware. By not using disposable utensils, I save myself the hassle of having to buy more and, of course, create less waste.

Bring your own mug when you get coffee: When I don't bring my own mug of coffee to work, I still bring the empty mug with me to the coffee shop. They deduct a whole 5 cents from the price, and I don't have to throw away cups that can't at least be recycled.

Wear a sweater: This obviously shouldn't apply to people in PR (and if it does, they're total masochists), but now with colder weather upon us I try to not jack of the thermostat. Rather, I keep it kind of low, and make sure to wear swaters and warmer clothes when I'm at home. As much as a nice warm PR day might seem appealing when outside it's cold and gray, I really don't need to be trying to recreate that temperature indoors.

Reuse as much as possible: In my opinion, ziploc bags are a fantastic invention that also doubles as environmentally evil. You use one bag and then toss it. Multiply that by a gazillion times over your lifetime, and that's a lot of non-biodegradeable plastic you're tossing. When I use them for storing foods that don't leave a mess, I save them to use again later. Plastic supermarket bags can be reused as garbage bags, which lessens the amount of garbage bags you have to buy.

Bring your own mags to the supermarket: Plastic shopping bags can come in handy sometimes, but they're an environmental blight. They don't biodegrade, so that bag you were just given in order to place your solitary tube of toothpaste in is going to be around forever. Really. I bought a few canvas bags and I take those with me to the store. Anyone who has tried to find a place to keep the countless plastic bags they try to save at home knows that they multiply like breeding rabbits. I have noticed a marked decrease in how many plastic bags I have to stuff aside somewhere. And not only is it kinder to the environment to use my own bags, but it's remarkably easier to carry bigger purchases -- you don't have thin plastic handles cutting into your hand, and since you can fit more items in one canvas bags, you're not juggling around a bunch of smaller ones that can sometimes break. And for you penny-pinchers, most supermarkets will give you a 3 cent credit per each bag you bring.

I mentioned using paper towels earlier, and I know that it's, like, Green Living 101 to cut those out. I have to admit that I like them much better than using rags, but my next step is to reduce my paper towel usage or eliminate it entirely.

There are more ideas here. Any more suggestions?

1 comment:

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