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Earth Day Environmental Ideas & Tips For Greener Living

Earth Day is Friday April 22, 2011 and I thought it would be appropriate to make some suggestions for things we can all do to be a little kinder to Mother Earth. Since I have an environmental background (my college degree is environmental science) and I have tried many of the things that I am suggesting, perhaps I can do my part to help the environment through education, instead of just action.

Some of my suggestions will be a little bit routine or may be things that you do already. But never underestimate the power of simplicity and habit. Good habits (which may be simple habits) make all the difference in the world and add up to something significant over time. Just imagine if you recycled all of the aluminum cans or plastic bottles you used in the past 10 years. And it starts with one can or bottle at a time!

Living Green in Austin

Green Tomato plant in our backyard

1. Recycle. Start a small recycling program at your home or office. Being environmentally conscious is contagious and begins when one person sets the standard by creating an environmental example for others to follow. Take the initiative to make it easier for those around you to recycle by creating bins for recycling. If your company or companions at home don’t have a program, do the leg work yourself by emptying the recycling bins each week at the local recycling center.

2. Compost. Did you know that every year we throw away tons of organic waste (imagine things like yard clippings, food, etc.) without a second thought? This waste is then placed in landfills where space is limited; yet, when placed in a natural compost pile and allowed to naturally decompose, it becomes rich fertilizer/fill material in a short period of time. Build your own compost pile with these instructions.

3. Conserve Energy. There are endless things you can do in your home to conserve energy. Adjust your home thermostat to a few degrees warmer in the summer and a few degrees cooler in the winter. In the summer utilize your ceiling fan to mix air and make it feel cooler in your home. Turn off lights and replace old bulbs with energy efficient light bulbs. Get rid of old “energy hogs” (appliances that use lots of energy, especially refrigerators and HVAC units).  Upon last check, the City of Austin was purchasing old refrigerators for $50, including pickup!

4. Conserve Water. One alternative that is growing in popularity for saving water is to install an aerator on sinks and faucets. Another option is installing a low-flow toilet in your home. Be smart about how you use water: water your lawn/garden less and when you do, water in the morning or evening so that less water evaporates and more is absorbed into soil. Like long showers? They are really an unnecessary luxury – start reducing the time that you take showers.

5. “Green” Cleaners. There are lots of options here and these days you can find an organic replacement for most of the cleaners under your kitchen sink. Sometimes it just takes a little more work and effort, but it will be worth it. Why put the lives of your friends and family at stake when there are so many organic alternatives?!

6. Avoid Plastics. Say “No” to plastic bags. Re-use the plastic bags you have. Use re-usable (cloth?) bags when you carry groceries from the grocery store.

7. Save Paper. Choose the option to not have paper copies of bills and magazines delivered to your home, as well as junk mail. Think before you print: Ask yourself, “Do I really need to print this?” When you need to purchase paper, think about buying recycled paper.

8. Carpool/Bus. Pretty self-explanatory; If you drive alone, check with friends or on bulletin boards at work to find others who might share a ride with you to work. Public transportation is another alternative to driving alone. You will likely save money and the environment!

9. Car Maintenance. If you drive a car (like many Texans do) then it’s environmentally responsible to maintain your car so that it reaches its maximum efficiency for fuel consumption and the minimum amount of pollution is created coming from the tailpipe.

10. Big Purchase Environmental Options. If you have considerably more money to spend and you’re looking to do the “green” thing and help the environment, consider one of the following:

-         Install a solar water/pool heater;

-         Purchase a hybrid/electric car;

-         Install photovoltaic cells (“solar panels”) to power your home;

-         Install geothermal heating/cooling unit at your home;

-         Build a custom enviro-friendly home using precise environmental guidelines for your area (such as north-south orientation, roof overhangs, natural/recycled building materials, etc.)

-         Build water recycling/capture system to conserve water.


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