multi-hyphenated-me

the hyphens that define my life

Reduce Your Environmental Impact August 19, 2013

In 2012, my collegiate daughter enrolled in an English class that required her to read No Impact Man by Colin Beavan.  I found the book at the library and read it before handing it over to the actual student.  No Impact Man is chronicles the year-long experiment by Beavan and his family to have zero impact on the planet while living in Manhattan, NY.  This isn’t a story about a homesteader with a bunch of acreage in the middle of nowhere self-sustaining.  The author and his family give up things we take for granted, electricity and travel and only consuming food within a 250 mile radius of your home while living in the largest city in the world.

As a voracious reader, I loved the story for the impact it had on me.  This book made me think about how I can reduce my impact, my carbon footprint on the planet.   Your carbon footprint is the amount of gas emissions created by you and your family through the course of  life.  Of the 100 ways to reduce your carbon footprint on Green Wiki, I’m happy to report we are responsibly taking 50 measures to reduce our carbon footprint.  (This list was obtained from http://green.wikia.com/wiki/How_to_reduce_your_carbon_footprint  check it out)

  1. Buy locally produced goods and services.
  2. Reduce consumption. Reuse items when you can. Recycle your waste.
  3. Make compost.
  4. Use reusable bags for grocery shopping.
  5. Clean the lint filter in your dryer. This will reduce energy consumption as well as electrical and environmental costs.
  6. Rake leaves and shovel snow manually instead of using a leafblower or snowblower.
  7. Only use your dryer, dishwasher and washing machine when you have a full load; don’t do half loads. This reduces the number of loads and energy consumption.
  8. Use a dishwasher rather than washing by hand as the efficient ones use less water.
  9. Whenever possible, hang laundry outside to dry on a clothes line rather than throwing laundry into a dryer.
  10. When you remodel or paint a room, buy the right amount of paint. This reduces chemicals entering the atmosphere from paint production, energy to make the paint, and saves you money.
  11. Eat one less serving of meat a week. Use a cheese-free alternative each week. Cheese is an animal product and has the same carbon cost as meat. Cattle release a great deal of methane into the atmosphere. Consider unendangered fish, beans, and soy as replacements for beef, dairy, and fowl protein.
  12. Plant an organic garden and grow your own vegetables even if it’s just a small patch or a windowsill planter.
  13. Create a wormery. This uses worms in a sealed, hygienic, and non-smelling unit to compost your waste, which can then be used to fertilize your garden.
  14. Fit your garden hose with a trigger sprayer, this will reduce your water consumption.
  15. Stop watering your lawn. Grow a garden instead. Lawns require lawnmowers, which require fuel. Gardens allow you to grow veggies which require less trips to the produce section.
  16. Water your garden in the evening as this will save water.
  17. Use cotton towels and fabric napkins rather than paper ones.
  18. When cooking, don’t overfill saucepans and pots.
  19. Use the top shelf (the hottest shelf) of the oven so food cooks quicker and less energy is consumed.
  20. Use a toaster to toast bread instead of toasting bread under the grill.
  21. When cooking put the lids on your pots and pans to reduce heat loss.
  22. Don’t put hot or warm foods and drinks into your refrigerator.
  23. Use a laptop as opposed to a desktop, as laptops use up to 80% less energy.
  24. Unplug your phone charger when not in use.
  25. Buy secondhand household items and save the C cost of the production of new goods.
  26. Adjust your central heating thermostat down by 1°C (2°F) in winter and up in summer.
  27. Use passive solar heating to capture heat in your home by opening the curtains during the day and closing them at dusk. In summer, close your curtains during the heat of the day. You’ll save 25-75% on your heating and gas bill.
  28. Run ceiling fans instead of using air conditioning. Avoid using air conditioning in your home and car whenever possible. If you live in a hot climate, doing this could save more than one ton of CO2.
  29. Get your boiler serviced regularly to ensure it is working properly and not wasting your money.
  30. Switch off lights in rooms at home when leaving the room.
  31. Use “task” lighting rather than whole room lighting when a small amount of light is required.
  32. Take advantage of natural daylight as much as possible.
  33. Install insulated blinds on windows to crease energy escape.
  34. Only heat rooms in your house that are in use.
  35. Donate or recycle your old clothing to a thrift shop rather than throwing them away.
  36. Defrost your refrigerator; this will ensure that it runs efficiently.
  37. Buy uncertified wood to ensure sustainable forest management.
  38. Take a shower instead of a bath; a shower uses approximately one twentieth of the energy that a bath does.
  39. Filter your own water, rather than buying bottled water. Most tap water is safe to drink, and some bottled waters are flown in from the far corners of the earth and the production process of the bottles adds to greenhouse gas release. Additionally, many find that tap water tastes about the same as bottled water because bottled water is derived from tapwater to begin with.
  40. Adjust your water heater temperature downwards.
  41. Insulate your water heater or water tank with an insulation blanket to save on heat loss.
  42. Use cold water to wash and rinse clothes.
  43. Fix dripping faucets.
  44. Insulate your water pipes.
  45. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth.
  46. Space and water heating account for over 70% of energy used in the home, so switching to clean, renewable energy (e.g. wood fuel, solar energy or heat pump systems) makes a big reduction in the environmental impact of your home.
  47. Reduce excess baggage and pack lighter when travelling. Planes flying with extra baggage use more fuel.
  48. Telecommute or arrange with your employer to work one day a week from home.
  49. Drive at or below the speed limit as this reduces your vehicles emissions.
  50. Whenever possible only drive during non peak hours.

 This spring, I am ripping up my front lawn and installing our raised bed vegetable garden complete with a worm composting system. Plans are in process and I can hardly wait. Prior to our move (which definitely added to our footprint), I saw a project in Whole Living magazine that creatively used old cotton, collared shirts to make simple fringe-edged napkins. This project gave me the idea to use excess fabric yardage I had stored (every person that sews has a fabric horde somewhere) to make 17″ napkins instead of using paper napkins.  We now have very colorful meals using these napkins. I haven’t bought paper napkins since moving in June.

Being a total paper towel abuser, I decided to take this project a step further and stop buying paper towels.  I went to Ikea and purchased 70 white cotton kitchen towels with red stripe. Seventy is too many I now realize, forty is really the number I use on a weekly rotation.  I have a drawer in my kitchen filled with these towels and use them in place of paper towels.   The excess towels that I purchased are used for cleaning.  I wrote “cleaning” across the bottom of each with a fabric marker. Old habits die-hard, I am still buying paper towels but instead of purchasing the Costco super pack regularly, one roll is lasting weeks. According to the National Resource Defense Council, if every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber paper towels (70 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 544,000 trees.  The NRDC also states that if every household in the United States replaced just one package of virgin fiber napkins (250 count) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 1 million trees. Though my cloth napkin and towel project has increased my laundry, my paper goods costs have dropped dramatically and trees are saved in the process.  That’s good, I like trees.

Use less, use better, use smarter is really the message. Kermit the Frog said, “It ain’t easy being green.”  Actually, Kermie, it is easy to be green, just try.  Take a look at the list and see what you currently do and what you could do better. 

 
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