and Kristin Hugo/Special Contributor
The U.S. is the number-one trash-producing country in the world, at 1,643 pounds per person per year. In 2008, only a third was recycled, reports the Environmental Protection Agency. With this year celebrating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, there is no better time to do some good for the earth. To help in celebrate this event, here are some of the many ways in which you can ‘go green.’
Wash clothes in cold water; most loads don’t need hot water, and 90% of the energy used by washing machines goes into heating. The higher the water temperature, the higher the cost to you and the planet.
Recycle, of course
Recycle paper with staples, clips, or spirals intact — the metal will be filtered out by machines later. Don’t include any paper with food stains (i.e. pizza boxes), as they can contaminate a load. Buy a separate bin to place your recycling in so that you remember to do so.
Or try one of the new ways to cycle through old goods:
That’s right, there is a movement for getting free clothes, books, music, technology, and whatever someone else doesn’t want any more. You can use freecycle.org, the “free” section on craigslist, or just check your parent’s closet for some vintage chic.
If you don’t like something you have, you can freecycle it or upcycle it. Upcycling is the process of making something you don’t like into something you do. For example, I discovered community.livejournal.com/T_shirt_surgery, which includes instructions on how to convert your frumpy tees into cute, customized style. Instructables.com also has lots of ideas for upcycling, including the instructions to make a juice carton into a wallet, a comfy chair out of paracords, jewelry out of Monopoly pieces, or a rubik’s cube from an old keyboard.
Use the air
Turn off the dishwasher to air-dry dishes (stop on the final cycle) and fill dishwasher to capacity. If you do this, it will use half or less of the water and energy of washing the same dishes by hand. And don’t waste water by rinsing before loading (today’s machines are designed to power off the mess). Also, don’t use a ton of soap. A teaspoonful should be enough.
Walk it off
Walk or take public transportation. A bus ride costs $1.25 each way, which is nothing if you are simply going to the mall or the movie theatre that is a few blocks away. You can walk to the store or your favorite coffee shop/yogurt place that are only minutes away. This will cut down on both the gas mileage on your car and the fuel polluting the air.
Switch it off
Turn off electronics when not in use. Plug devices — TV, DVD player, computer, printer, cell phone charger, ipod charger — into a power strip. Switch the whole thing off when you go to sleep in order to save power and energy.
Turn off your computer to save energy and avoid wear and tear on your hardware by shutting down your computer at night when you aren’t using it. You’ll save an average of $90 of electricity a year. The Department of Energy recommends shutting off your monitor if you aren’t going to use it for more than 20 minutes, and the whole system if you’re not going to use it for more than two hours.
Think paper less
This will not only help in saving paper but if you don’t need a bill sent every month, then this is an easy solution. You can also set up automatic check paying from your bank account. No envelopes, no postage — and no late fees, if you’re on an automatic plan. Paperless billing not only saves trees, it also eliminates the fossil fuel needed to get all those billing envelopes from them to you and back again.
Get your books at the library. That’s why it’s there.
Use your cell phone as a notepad since most cell phones have a “notes” or “notepad” feature that will allow you to type in to-do lists which can also be used to write other notes. This will cut down on your use of paper, and help you keep all of your lists in one place.
Food retains cold better than air does, so a full fridge works less to keep it cool than does one that is practically empty. You will also save money by eating in more.
Bring a re-usable water-bottle. Try getting water from your sink or a water-fountain.
Pick your own fruit and vegetables. Yes, you can pick the oranges at the orange grove on campus. Yes, you can, and you should. You can also use neighborhoodfruit.com to find public trees, and post your own trees
Think outside the box, or jump in
Dumpster diving may seem extreme to many people, but it’s a load of fun to do in a group. The idea is to scavenge through dumpsters to find food, clothing, and technology. Satisfy your inner anarchist and reject capitalism, man. Check out freegan.org.uk for safety, legal, and ethical tips before diving.
Getting it second hand is usually cheaper and always better for the environment to get things second-hand, and save it from a landfill. That includes going to garage sales, thrift stores, estate sales, craigslist, and flea-market
There are several ways to live a sustainable life, the key thing to remember is that we don’t need to buy new things all the time. Be innovative and creative, and you’ll save money, help the planet, and have fun doing it.