Friday, January 24, 2014

10 Ways to Live More Sustainably

1. Avoid disposables - This is a broad one, but it is one of the most important. Our society has gotten into such a bad habit of using disposable products - using something just one or two times and then throwing it away. This creates so much unnecessary waste when one could, instead, just invest in reusable items. Doing so will also save you money (imagine using a disposable coffee cup every day for a year; that's 365 cups you would have to pay for as opposed to a one time purchase of a reliable, travel coffee mug). Here are examples of ways to switch from disposable to reusable:
  • Use a glass or BPA free water bottle for water, and filter your own water.
  • Bring your own reusable utensils when eating out or taking your lunch on the go.
  • Use glass tupperware instead of disposable plastic tupperware and plastic bags. 
  • Use washable cloths and rags instead of paper towels (or if you use paper towels, compost them!)
  • Drink and bring your own water instead of buying bottled soft and sports drinks.
  • Take reusable bags to the grocery stores. 
  • Take your own coffee mug to coffee shops (I know some places, including Starbucks, will give you a discount when you do this).

2. Be conscious of your water usage - Be aware when you're using water, and try to use as little as needed.  Saving water will also save you money! Here are some examples of how to reduce water usage:
  • Don't leave the water running while brushing your teeth.
  • Use a water saving shower head. I use the evolve shower head. It stops the water flow after the water gets to a warm temperature (95ยบ fahrenheit), so the water won't keep running once it's warm. When you are ready to get in the shower, you just pull a cord and the warm water flow resumes. Unfortunately for me, my shower takes a couple minutes to warm up, so a feature like this really comes in handy. On top of that, it also saves water while the water is running, about 8 gallons for every 5 minute shower compared to standard shower heads.
3. Recycle! I have lived in a lot of apartments that didn't offer a recycling service, and there are ways to work around this so you can still recycle. Most cities have a drop off recycling center that you can find through your city government's website. If you can't find one, there are usually recycling programs through schools and other organizations that will take your recycling as well. You'll just have to search a little bit. These are also good alternatives if you don't want to pay for the recycling pick-up service. 

4. Compost - Disposing of food waste properly is important. Did you know that about 1/8 of solid waste is from food scraps? What most people don't realize is that it is harder than you would think for food to biodegrade once going to landfill. In order for biodegradable items to actually biodegrade, they need the right conditions - light, oxygen, and water. Because landfills are so tightly packed, even biodegradable items can stay preserved for many years. Many cities now have food waste roadside pick-up, and if you don't want to pay for that service, you can always just compost at home! Another great benefit of composting, aside from making good soil, is your trash can won't smell! 

5. Sort your trash - going along with recycling and composting, have specific divided areas for all of your waste. A good way to sort your trash is into these categories:
  • Recyclables
  • Compost 
  • Landfill
  • Hazardous Waste (batteries, lightbulbs, thermostats, electronics, etc.)
You can find places that will take your hazardous waste like Lowe's. Once you sort your waste, you will be surprised how little is actually going to landfill. Also, instead of putting unwanted items like old clothes, furniture, and other items in the trash to go to landfill, find ways to reuse them by taking them to thrift stores, donation centers, etc. 

6. Be conscious of your energy usage - Try to conserve energy. While not everyone has solar powered houses, there are still ways to cut back on energy spending. Get in the habit of being energy friendly; this will also save you money! Here are some tips on how to do this:
  • Turn off your lights when you're not using them.
  • Unplug appliances when you're not using them. 
  • Wash your clothes with cold water.
  • Line-dry your clothes.
  • Dress warmer and keep your thermostat colder in the winter. 
  • Keep your thermostat higher in the summer time. 
  • Make sure your house is well insulated. 
7. Bike, walk, and bus - try to use your car less by using public transportation or finding energy friendly ways of getting where you need to go. This should be no surprise, but this, too, will save you money!

8. Grow your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs - If you live in an apartment, you can still grow your own herbs and a couple other things in pots or you can upcycle milk and orange juice cartons into an herb container by cutting out one of the sides. 

9.  Eat a plant-based diet - Meat industries are a major source of emissions. 

10. Reduce paper usage - Here are some ways how:
  • Most companies now have an eco-friendly paperless option for bills, statements, etc. Use this!
  • Cancel your newspaper and read online. 
  • Switch to electronic methods for calendars, note taking, etc. 

If you have any ideas or other ways of living green, I would love to hear about them in the comments! Have a great weekend everyone! 

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