Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lovin' Mother Earth

icebergs breaking off of the melting glaciers in Iceland

Happy Belated Earth Day! I started this post yesterday in between catching snippets of great tips and advice from fellow bloggers on what they are doing to be better eco-friendly citizens. I'm impressed with the changes and sacrifices (large and small) that so many people have been making. I realize there is a lot of debate out there in the world over global warming - is it happening, is it not happening; are we part of the cause or is it a result of the Earth's natural cycles. I won't comment on what I think about this because ultimately I don't think it matters. Conservationism is a good idea. We are the sole stewards over this earth and we have a responsibility to take care of it in a mindful way. We should avoid wasting our resources and make efforts to preserve what we can and continue to explore alternative fuels and energy sources. I probably don't have anything new to say on the subject of what each of us can do on an individual basis but since this is something I believe in, I wanted to add my two bits, late as it is.

  • Reusable Shopping Bags

  • I have several sturdy canvas bags I've accummulated but my favorite are the floral nylon shoppers I featured in my 500 post giveaway celebration (shown below). You can buy them online here. The nylon makes them easy to rinse off if anything spills in them and they fold into a zippered pouch which makes it easy for me to always carry one with me in my purse which is handy for unscheduled stops at the grocery store, pharmacy or any other shopping. While Whole Foods is used to this, the checkers at Duane Reade have not quite caught on and I usually have to tell them multiple times that I do not need a bag as I try and swipe my purchases off the counter before they put them in a plastic bag. I know people generally discuss using them strictly in the grocery store context but have you thought about using them for all your shopping needs? They work just as well for carrying items other purchases such as shoes, clothes, beauty products and pharmacy odds and ends as they do for groceries. Plus, in NYC I find it so much easier to carry my nylon tote bags over my shoulder than the bulky shopping bags from department stores or the plastic bags from grocers and pharamacies, especially when I am making multiple stops in one trip.

  • Turn Out the Lights

  • I'm surprised at how many people don't turn out lights when they leave a room. Growing up with cost-conscious parents, turning off lights and conserving energy is something that was instilled in me from the time I was young. The funky light bulbs use less energy but limiting use is even better.

  • Chargers

  • Did you know that cell phone chargers and similar battery chargers continue to suck electricity the entire time they are plugged in, not just when connected to a phone or whatever? Unplug those things when not in use.

  • Heat and A/C

  • I live in a green building which is great for helping with energy efficiency. My apartment has this really nifty switch at the front door that turns off all the lights and the top plug in every outlet, the switch also drops the A/C or Heat down a few notches if they are left running when I walk out the door. But seriously, why pay for heat or cold air when I'm not home? Turn those things off or just manually adjust them to a lower (or higher as the case may be) temperature while you are away. Speaking of, in the winter my dad is a pro at keeping the heating bill down. At night, no heat. Just use extra blankets. You will appreciate this on your monthly bill.

  • Bottled Water

  • Steer clear - huge impact is made from the manufacture and transport and all those bottles carelessly tossed. When and if you use them, recycle the bottles when you are through. I keep a nalgene bottle at work, I guess it isn't as cool as the trendy swiss bottles cropping up everywhere but I like it. I use a cup at home and another Nalgene sports bottle for the gym.

  • Napkins

  • I used to grab a wad, just in case I spilled. Now, I try to only use one per meal. I read a shocking statistic about how much this saves in the long run but I don't know it now, sorry. Just be mindful and reduce your consumption. I've been thinking about converting to cloth napkins at home but I haven't made that jump yet.

  • Recycled Materials

  • When making purchases look for items made from recycled materials. There are more and more on the market these days as people get creative in reusing all this stuff we are sorting out of our garbage. Last summer I bought flip flops (which I'm wearing right now) made completely from recyclable materials and I love them! I'm hoping to find them again this season before my current pair wears out.

  • Cleaning Products

  • I love Mrs Myers which are "earth friendly and cruelty free" and smell amazing! Seventh Generation products are also good. Plus good old fashioned baking soda is fab, or so I hear.

  • Beauty Products

  • Have you tried Burt's Bees? You should. They have great lip balm, lotions, shampoos, etc. all made from natural products, not tested on animals and their packaging is generally in the 50% post-industrial recycled plastic range. Plus, their stuff is great. I have recently started using their shampoo and conditioner and they smell amazing!

  • Water Conservation

  • I grew up in a desert that was more often stricken by drought than not. Ultra green lawns in Utah during high drought times always made me angry. Seriously. Look into xeriscaping and water your lawn during off peak water usage hours. Same with your dishwasher. Mine has a timer which makes it easy to set it to run in the middle of the night. Don't take overly long showers - I know, sometimes nothing feels better than a hot shower but be practical about it. Turn off the water while you are brushing your teeth. I still remember learning this trick in elementary school and it stuck from then! Avoid leaving the water running for no reason and fix leaking faucets too.

  • Home Renovations

  • I'm in the early planning process for making renovations to my house in St. George. I'm really hoping to incorporate sustainable materials such as bamboo flooring into the plan as well as solar panels which should work amazingly well under the desert sun. I am also seeing commercials for "green" paints. I don't know anything about these but that is definitely something I will investigate. I'm also thinking about installing a fountain as part of a xeriscape backyard plan using water from my irrigation well which will help keep the backyard cooler. But these are very early, conceptual ideas.

  • Electronics

  • I just upgraded my tv and bought a new computer so I shouldn't preach on this one. But seriously, use it until it breaks and then recycle the old. Yesterday I was afraid my cell phone needed to be replaced. My first thought - I don't have time to go through the half-day effort it seems to take to buy a new phone. My second thought - what fun new phone should I get? My final thought - hopefully the problem is just my charger. Luckily, it was just the charger. The sales guy tried to get me to upgrade my phone instead of buying a new charger but I have happily decided to stick it out with an outdated phone circa 2006.

  • Plants

  • I love plants. My sister recently told me my plants are my cats. She is probably right. I have been meaning to do a post featuring my houseplants for quite some time. They are not only great decoration, they clean your air which is a great side benefit in a dirty urban environment.

  • Farmer's Market

  • Find one in your area and patronize it. I love the small one up the street from my apartment. The produce is fresher and generally cheaper than in the store (but I live in Manhattan so that might not work everywhere). Plus, I find it fun to pick up a random vegetable that is in season and create a meal around it. It has been fun learning how to cook with various squashes and eggplant.

  • Give a Hoot - Don't Pollute

  • This should go without saying but if that were true then I wouldn't see so much litter. Pick up after yourselves. And volunteer to pick up trash somewhere. In college I was very involved with my school's rock climbing and enviornmental clubs. A couple of times a year we had clean-ups where we cleaned various trails in the mountains nearby. Local parks host these programs as well. Last year I stumbled onto a local spring park cleanup and was able to pick up some trash and help with some planting. It was fun and made me feel part of my community.

  • Public Transport/Walk

  • I'm lucky to live in a city where I can walk or take public transportation basically anywhere I need to go. This was definitely harder to keep up living in Salt Lake but try consolidating errands into single car trips, car pooling or walking when you can.

I don't think I'm saying anything new here but I wanted to throw out some ideas just in case I am doing something you haven't thought of before. I'm sure you are doing something I haven't thought about either so feel free to share your ideas, I'm open to more suggestions.


Thad said...

Turn off the heat at night? What about broken water pipes? I think that the wasted water from frozen and broken water pipes would ruin the savings of turning the heat off. I can agree with turning the heat down at night, but, definitely not off.

Your post also made me wonder about another thing. It sounded to me like you were doing great things to help the planet until you mentioned a house in St. George. You mean your primary residence is in New York and yet you own a home in St. George? I wondered how much impact to the environment a second house causes, especially one that is un-occupied most of the time.

Soul-Fusion said...

Actually Thad, it depends on the temperatures outside as to whether you turn the heat off or down at night. If turning the heat off entirely will result in your water pipes breaking then don't turn them off. But your house doesn't have to be kept at 70 or even 65 to prevent pipes from bursting. And since I live in a high rise apartment building I am not necessarily tuned in to that specific issue since my risk is much, much lower.
And as for my house in St. George, it is not unoccupied. My grandparents live there year round. The house was built in the 1940s by my great grandparents. I don't understand your implication of a negative environemntal impact that may result from me owning it versus somenoe else (ie, my grandparents who were the prior owners) owning it other than me flying to stay there a couple of times a year which, granted, flying cross country isn't exactly the greenest way to travel, but that would likely happen whether I owned the house or not since I enjoy spending time there with my grandparents.

autumn said...

Great tips. I am loving my nylon bag to carry my purchases. I am not totally in the habit of using it yet, but I am getting better.

Kami said...

Gooo Green! Thanks for spreading the word too! Lots of great ideas!!

Tiffany said...

You have always been a great example of green-thinking, even before it was all the rage! I think of you every time I use my adorable shopping bag.

katie said...

I don't buy bottled water anymore. I think that's good. And I really need one of those ultra cute and trendy bags.

Jazzy said...

Hey Alyssa!

Sorry for the belated thank you, but I have to tell you I loved, LOVED my "Spring" CD you sent. I've been listening to it non-stop and think you have great taste in music. Thanks again!

Oh and thanks for the tips. This is something I need to really work on so these types of ideas make being earth friendly a lot more do-able.

erin said...

Give a Hoot -- SMOKERS!! Nothing against people who smoke, but for the love of all things beautiful, please stop throwing cigarette butts out your car window! Who else has had a burning cigarette ember hit their windshield in the dark? All cars come equipped with ashtrays, please use them.

Beck said...

My package got here and it was AWESOME! Thanks so much! I loved ALL of it - you make the best mixed CDs!

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