Monday, April 21, 2008

Shouldn't Everyday Be Earth Day?

Tomorrow is Earth Day. Last month I participated in Earth Hour. But all this Earth Hour and Earth Day stuff (not to mention the economy) has gotten me thinking over the last few months about my own impact on the environment and how what I do (or don't do) will have ramifications for generations to come.

Over the last couple of years, I've made recycling part of my everyday existence. We have garbage pick-up twice a week with separate recycling pick-up on the second day. Without failure, I take out recycling each week, but I find myself having less and less garbage to put at the curb. I put out a bag this morning that I actually felt guilty about. It wasn't as full as it could have been, but it had some spoiled food (that I forgot was in the frig) and cat litter in it. Trust me, it was a public service to anyone who visits my house to have that bag out of here. I almost never put garbage out twice a week and it's more often once every third garbage pick-up.

What else do I do around my house?

1. I shovel my snow rather than using a snow blower. Of course, I don't have a snow blower, but I don't want one. Shoveling is good exercise and has zero impact on the environment.

2. I've used recyclable bags at the grocery store for ages. I have a few canvas bags that I'm not even sure where I picked up, but I didn't pay for any of them. Once in awhile I need a bag or two from the store, but one or two once a month is a lot better than a bunch every week.

3. If I do have to get bags at the store, I prefer paper to plastic because I can use the paper bags with my recycling.

4. I reuse plastic bags for cat litter disposal.

5. Because I carry a large purse, I usually refuse to have items I purchase at other stores placed in bags. I just toss them into my purse instead.

6. I drive a 13-year-old 1995 Honda Civic because it gets 30 miles per gallon even just running around town. Sure, it's not so pretty on the outside, but it's been paid off for years and runs great.

7. At home, I've replaced the most used light bulbs with CFL bulbs.

8. In order to keep my Nicor gas bill lower than the GNP of a large third-world country this past winter, I used double-insulated my windows using that shrink-wrap-like plastic on the biggest windows in my home. I also kept my heat at about 63 at night and about 67 during the day, unless I had clients at the house. Dave also put extra insulation in my attic.

9. Last summer I grew tomatoes that saved me money on groceries. This summer, I'm going to grow other veggies too. I love doing this because I know exactly what is used on my plants (nothing) and they are 100 times fresher than the food I can buy at any grocery store.

10. In the summer, I keep blinds closed strategically in my home to avoid the direct sunlight heating up my house. I also use ceiling fans to keep air circulating and avoid the AC.

11. I air dry much of my laundry rather than running my dryer. Usually this means that for every 3 loads I wash, I only dry 1 load.

12. I keep my phantom load to a minimum. I've unplugged lights, clocks, and other electronics that aren't used regularly. I keep my PC, monitor, and printer turned off unless I am using them.

13. I buy in bulk and look for the least amount of packaging whenever possible. Rather than buying a smaller box of laundry detergent that I'll go through in a few months, I've got a huge box of detergent that I've had for 7 months and am not even 1/3 through! That's much less waste into the environment.

14. I have an iPass. Despite my belief that people should be rewarded more for taking public transportation, rather than driving solo, having an iPass gets me off the roads faster (when I'm forced to drive) because I'm not sitting idle in traffic waiting for the manual toll lanes.

15. I'm slowly replacing all of my traditional cleaning supplies with earth-friendly cleaners. Because I hate to waste things, this process is taking a little while.

16. I'm a Freecycler. The Arlington Heights group is quite active and I encourage you to get involved. It's free. What's not to love. I've gotten rid of some awesome crap on Freecycle! You know what they say, "one person's junk is another person's treasure." Never has that statement been more accurate. I've also gotten some cool stuff too - excellent furniture for Dave, my irises, and a cutting board, for example.

17. I give gently used clothes to charity and have been known to have a garage sale.

18. I don't subscribe to magazines or newspapers, except one weekly local paper. Everything else I read online.

19. Of course, I turn off the water when I'm brushing my teeth. And I only run the dishwasher when it's completely full. My washing machine has settings for small, medium, full and super size loads, so I can customize it depending on my needs and don't waste water, but more often than not I only use it when it's completely full.

20. I don't use paper plates, paper napkins, and very few paper towels. I prefer real plates and cloth napkins. Plus, it just feels more dignified to eat with them, especially when dining alone.

21. This summer, I'm having a Solar Attic Fan installed by Dave's new company, Crystal Solarlighting Solutions!

22. I run my appliances (dishwasher, washing machine, dryer) at night to avoid heating up my house during the day and also because electricity is cheaper.

23. I purchase recycled toner cartridges for my laserjet printer from UHS Technologies in McHenry and they deliver! If you want information about them, email me.

24. I recycle old cell phones and color inkjet cartridges by mailing them to an organization that benefits the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation.

25. I cook in bulk. Last night, for example, I made tarragon chicken, but rather than making enough for last night, I made enough for the week. It's delicious cold, but even if I want to reheat it, that takes less energy (and time!) than it takes to cook a meal from scratch. I do this when I grill, make stew, pasta, everything. Sure, my weekly menu is a bit boring (I'll eat something for lunch and dinner until it's gone), but it cuts down on my food preparation time and it uses less electricity or gas.

26. This summer, I will be cutting my grass half as often because the gas for my mower is expensive and puts icky stuff into the environment.

There are probably other things that I can't think of right now.

Every small step makes a difference. What do you do to help the environment?

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