Earth Day helps us remember the precious planet we live on, but we can do something every day to protect our beautiful Earth. To me Earth Day is when I take stock of how I am doing in terms of being eco-friendly.
We can begin by saving energy just by tweaking a few things in our home.
Seal air leaks around your windows, doors, fixtures,switches and electrical outlets.
Use a ceiling fan to circulate the cool air in the summer and the warm air in the winter. We don’t have these but we are considering getting one for the bedroom.
Unplug cell phone and computer chargers when not in use (and don’t forget to keep your cell phone away from your bedside for personal safety).
Look for the ENERGY STAR label when purchasing new appliances.
Close curtains during the summer months to block out the sun’s heat – don’t do this if you are then going to need to shine every light you own in order to see….that defeats the object of the exercise!
Be sure your dishwasher is fully loaded before running it. Try to use it later in the evening when there is less power usage in general. We load up and do all the dishes as we head to bed.
Set your refrigerator to 40°F and freezer to 5°F.
Set your thermostat to 78°F in the simmer and 62°F in the winter. I find the winter to be a lot harder to follow as I hate being cold. It is better to keep the heat at a steady level, however, so if you need some more warmth, keep a constant 67°F rather than bumping up the heat really high to defrost your fingers and toes.
Plug appliances into power strips that can be turned off when not in use. This does still generate a small but unplugging one strip is easier than a whole set of plugs.
Use the cold water setting when washing clothes. I still use the hot setting for bedding but even heavily soiled items come clean with cold water.
Switch regular lightbulbs to CFL’s (compact fluorescent lightbulbs). They use about 75% less energy than a traditional bulb and lasts at least 6 times longer. They do not generate as much heat also, keeping cooling costs down in the summer. Just be careful to dispose of them correctly. Disposal of CFL’s is important as they contain very small amounts of mercury. They should be recycled not thrown into landfill. I was very skeptical of using these bulbs at first but discovered that they actually contain much less mercury than is made when burning coal to light a regular lightbulb. So they are still better for the environment.
Another way to help the planet is to recycle. In 2010, according to my son’s Scholastic News magazine, about one third of all trash in the US was recycled. The most recycled item was auto batteries! About 90% of auto batteries were recycled. Newspapers were next at about 70%. Less than 30% of plastic bottles and jars were recycles.
That makes me so sad.
Think about all that plastic sitting in landfills taking thousands of years to disintegrate. If we are recycling so much more than ever, why are we still tossing these plastics in the trash? Why are we using them in the first place actually? There are many other options available these days.
The average American family throws out an average of 1,617 pounds of garbage each year!
Following the Four R’s is a great way to help limit the amount of trash a family ‘gifts’ to the planet.
Limiting or eliminating the types of products that create non-recyclable waste is a great start. If you reduce the amount of plastics you use, you reduce the amount of waste you produce.
I generally use cotton shopping bags for my weekly shops but on occasion I forget them and have to go with plastic. You have no idea how much this grieves me! I do limit the damage I am doing however. I reuse the bags! Storing them in a jar in my kitchen, these bags become garbage pail liners, doggie pooper-scoopers, and even string (just cut down and twist to create a strong plastic rope).
Obviously we do have to get rid of waste eventually. Recycling is the best way to do this as it means the item is going to be broken down and reused in some way, limiting production waste on new products while it’s at it. We are very lucky to live in an area that collects almost all recyclable materials. We have one large green bin outside, right next to the regular garbage bin, and everything goes in. I adopt the same principle inside my house also. So we don’t get lazy, I have two garbage cans in the kitchen. One is for non-recylables and the other is for recycling. I hope to begin composting this summer which will eliminate even more waste.
The last R is not generally known. There is a family in California, however, that actually put their year’s worth f trash in on place….a kitchen jar! Yes, you read that correctly. This family has taken reducing waste to the extreme and I don’t even want to try to compete, as desperate as I am to be green.
The family refuses to use plastic bags, just like me, but they also refuse to buy any goods that come in plastic wrappers. They make their own cereal, cookies and even toothpaste to save on wrapping waste. They even have kids that never eat from vending machines to avoid wrappers that are waste. Okay, I love the conviction, but my kids do get the odd ‘treat’ of junky food occasionally, and even organic foods come in wrapping that makes me cringe a little at times.
So where do we go from here? Our planet is the only one we have. It is beautiful and sustains life in a delicate way. We know whole ecosystems have been wiped out, never to return, due to our careless use of the resources we have. Finding the balance isn’t easy. We have busy lives and demanding jobs and the ever-growing sea of electronics to make our lives easier (or so they say).
What do you think we should do? How can we be more mindful of the earth and protect our environment? Please let me know what you think…you may give others great ideas!
Check out Mama to 4 Blessing who has great green-saving tips http://mamato3blessings.blogspot.com/2012/04/thrifty-green-saving-tips-off-your.html