This story is part of Earth911’s “Green Eight” series, where we showcase eight ways to green your life in various areas.
We’ve all been there. A co-worker or family member throws that plastic bottle in the trash. Your response: “Hey, that’s recyclable!” In return, you get a blank stare followed by “So…Why does it matter?” While thousands of reasons flood your brain, how do you translate those into a simple, easy statement that sums it all up?
Don’t worry. We are here to sort through all the mumbo-jumbo with some stock replies that lay out easy answers to that complex question. From reduce to reuse, with a little recycle mixed in, our eight green activities are easy to translate to even the toughest of crowds.
1. Take It Outside
Why Apply: In general, outdoor activities use less energy while offering a more natural experience, and often times, cleaner air. For all our outdoor worries, we spend up to 90 percent of our lives indoors, where pollution levels are often higher than they are outdoors, based on volatile organic compounds released by paint and cleaning supplies.
How to Do It: Take a hike! We’re not trying to throw you out but, Gorptravel.com is a great place to find info on national parks, hiking trails and forests.
2. Power from the People
Why Apply: Energy use is a huge deal, but why? All energy sources, including fossil fuels, coal and natural gas, give us the ability to run our cars and power our homes. However, energy use is not without its consequences. The harvesting, production and use of these energy sources leads to byproducts and in some cases, greenhouse gases. It’s easy to know what your impact is and more important, how to effect it. There are carbon calculators, energy audits and even programs that weigh your recycling.
How to Do It: Monitor energy usage on your utility bill and set a target for the following month. You can find high energy-draining devices using a Kill-a-Watt and save heating/cooling energy with a programmable thermostat. Check your next bill for a progress update and keep reducing until you hit the target.
3. Upgrade Your Plastic Recycling
Why Apply: You may already recycle plastic bottles in your curbside program and bags at your grocery store, and this represents a good majority of the plastic we use. But as a whole, we recycle less than 7 percent of plastic, and often times this plastic is landfilled because we don’t know where else to take it.
How to Do It:
- Take bottle caps to your local Aveda store
- Mail used gift cards, hotel key cards and other plastic cards to Earthworks
- Ask your local shipping store if it reuses packing peanuts and Styrofoam blocks
- Your local Whole Foods may accept Brita filters for recycling
- If you have biodegradable plastic, it can be commercially composted
4. Let Organics Nourish Your Yard
Why Apply: A healthy garden is beneficial to the environment. But part of every garden is yard waste, such as leaves, weeds and tree trimmings. This organic material can be combined with food waste in a composting bin, which converts it into nutrient-rich fertilizer to use in the garden. In laymen terms, your garbage from yesterday could be your free soil of tomorrow.
How to Do It: Start a compost pile. If that step is down the line a little, you can do other things today to help get you in the swing of things. The next time you mow the lawn, let grass clippings decompose instead of collecting them. This is known as grasscycling and provides nutrients to the remaining grass while reducing the water requirements for your lawn.
5. Give Your Car Some DIY Love
Why Apply: Many times we associate gas mileage with how eco-friendly our car is, and that’s understandable. But just because a car is capable of 30 mpg doesn’t mean you’ll automatically achieve it. In addition to smart driving, there are several do-it-yourself jobs that can improve your car’s performance and save you money. For example, under-inflated tires can significantly reduce your gas mileage and reduce the life of your tires.
How to Do It: DIY activities for your car maintenance range from monitoring/re-filling your car fluids to testing your air conditioning system. If you’re not much of a car person, make sure you stay on track for schedule maintenance with your dealership or mechanic.
6. Make Your Paperless Documents Shine
Why Apply: The idea of going paperless makes sense, especially since it accounts for about a third of our total waste. Beyond the waste factor, non-printed items can easily be jazzed up to make a better impact on the viewer. Save trees and get creative, it’s a win-win.
How to Do It: Take advantage of features offered in email programs and word processing documents. You can often import templates and choose non-traditional fonts that will stand out on a computer screen. Play with color and photos and let your imagination be your guide.
7. Speak Up
Why Apply: How many times have you heard one person can’t make a difference? Regardless of how you feel about the statement, one person is not what it use to be. With the Internet, most people have a much larger reach then they did 10 years ago.
No matter how you decide to be green, you have an opportunity to educate others in the process. In today’s age of blog posts, Facebook updates and hourly Tweets, there are plenty of outlets to green by example.
How to Do It: After you’ve finished making your own household cleaners, tell others your secret recipe and steps to avoid. You can even brew extra and offer it to friends to get them started.
8. Small Things Add Up
Why to Apply: Think those things you do every day are not making a big difference? Believe it or not, you can always make your green activities even greener. Carpooling takes one car off the road, but a pair of carpoolers taking public transportation once a week takes two cars off the road. It really starts to add up.
How to Do It: Let’s take a step further. You’ve already cut your shower time to reduce water use. Now, put a bucket underneath the faucet to capture water before you’ve reached the desired temperature. You can use this clean water for plants, washing your car or even flushing the toilet while using less water. It’s tweeking your everyday effort to make it even bigger.