It's Earth Day again. I've been taking stock this morning of my personal habits, and I've practically abandoned many of my green living habits over the last two years. Organic foods? Often, but not really committed anymore. Bottled water? I drank it all the time when I was in massage school. Tasted like crap, but I was expending so much energy... And my car? I cringe. That Buick guzzles gas like, well, like a Buick. When I make my very own car purchase next year, mileage is going to be a major priority!
And, speaking of cars, if (like me) you can't afford a Prius (or can't afford to wait for one), don't feel too bad. Here is a an NPR discussion about how hybrids don't make nearly as much difference as we'd hoped they would. It takes a few years on the road for us to learn these things. I applaud the hybrid owners out there, as this technology needs to be supported, but for right now, we may be better off with fuel efficient small cars.
Areas I do well in: Recycling! My apartment building makes that very easy with a vast assortment of bins parked right next to the dumpster. It's like a refuse party out there. Paper, plastic, glass, metal, all different types. Nothing goes in that big dumspter but.. well, organic material. I just barely crack the lid, toss my garbage in, and exit quickly. I wonder if we don't have a compost pile going in that giant metal box.
Here is a fabulous list of ten things you can do to help the Earth, particularly in regards to saving energy. Maybe there's several you're already doing! Maybe there a tip or two you can apply from now on.
After all... for the time being, this is the only planet we've got.
Top Ten Earth Day Tips
by P.W. McRandle, taken from National Geographic's "The Green Guide."
Eat Right and Shop Well
1) Buy locally and organically grown produce: Otherwise, it can take about a gallon of gas for 30 pounds of food shipped cross-country to reach your shopping cart. Shopping locally saves gas and keeps the air cleaner (for options, see "Oceans").
2) Buy shade-grown coffee and chocolate: Give economic incentives to preserve rain-forest canopies. Try shady chocolate bars (G and I always have a few of these in the house!) ($3.69, www.greenandblacks.com); or coffee ($11/12 oz., www.cafecanopy.com; $7.50/12 oz., www.cafemam.com). For more, see "Rain Forests" and product reports at www.thegreenguide.com.
3) Bring your own bag: Help stem the flood of 100 billion plastic shopping bags Americans toss out every year. (You'll also get a 5 cent discount at Whole Foods stores.) Seabirds and turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and eat them, so recycle at Wal-Mart or check www.earth911.org for a place near you. For organic cotton string shopping bags ($5.49), see www.reusablebags.com. Also see "Sea Bags" (www.thegreenguide.com).
4) This is my favorite one: Don't buy bottled water, which depletes watersheds and streams. Instead, filter tap water and carry in a reusable container. Choose recyclable, easily cleanable options like Nalgene's wide-mouth HDPE bottles ($4.20, www.nalgene-outdoor.com) and www.terraflo.com's water filters ($79.95).
(Rants about the corporatization of free natural resources may be read elsewhere on mzouiser.com)
5) Save water: Install aerating showerheads such as 2.5-gallon-per-minute models available at Care2.com and NiagaraConservation.com. (For water-saving toilets, dish and clothes washers by Asko, LG Electronics, Kohler and others, see the Water Saving Appliances Product Report.)
6) Freshen Surfaces Safely: Choose no-VOC products like Air-Care Coronado ($20/gal., www.coranadopaint.com) and Tried & True Original Wood Finish ($13.95/pint,).
7) Keep mercury out of our air, water and seafood: Reduce mercury from coal-fired power plants by choosing a green power utility (www.eere.energy.gov).
In areas without this option, reduce pollution by consuming less energy:
•Wash clothes in cold water, which can lower power-plant carbon dioxide output by up to 280 pounds annually.
•Let your hair air-dry. A 1,875-watt hair dryer costs roughly $15 a year to run. (I do this!)
•Set a timer for the shower lovers in your life, and cut hot, lengthy showers down to five or 10 minutes. You'll save water and energy. (Would I make it to work sooner? Hmmm...)
8) Green Your Spring Cleaning: Keep chlorine bleach out of the environment and your lungs by using plant-based all-purpose cleaners such as Seventh Generation's All-Purpose Free & Clear cleaner ($5.49/32 oz.) or Ecover's Natural Citrus Cleaner and Degreaser ($8.54/16 fl. oz., www.ecover.com).
Lawn & Garden
9) Use a reel mower: Mowing for an hour with an old gasoline-powered lawn mower can produce as much air pollution as a 350-mile drive in a car, but a lightweight reel mower only emits clippings ($114.95, www.planetnatural.com).
10) Plant a garden with heirloom seeds: Increase biodiversity (and attract butterflies) in your own backyard or window ledge. From www.seedsofchange. com, www.seedsavers.org and www.nativeseeds.org.