Guest post by Brad Long
Three years ago, Americans tossed out 250 million tons of trash. One third of it was composted and recycled and the rest was left to rot in landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Drastic changes need to be made and habits need to be broken for this problem to be solved, but as one person you can only do so much. Part of living a sustainable and green lifestyle is knowing what you can do and doing it. Here are five ways to incorporate planet-saving activities into your life:
Growing a garden keeps you from having to pay extra for organic products at the grocery store. Plus, it’s fun. Avoid using chemicals and rely on Mother Nature to do the job. Create a healthy environment for useful insects to migrate to. According to Treehugger.com, gardens with 10 or more attractive plants such as wild lilac and goldenrod are most likely to entice bees.
Great for watering lawns, yards and gardens, a rain barrel is an inexpensive and effortless way to capture chlorine-free rainwater. Keep a screen on top to keep out insects and dust, and use it often to keep the water aerated and fresh.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The most effective way to conserve natural resources isn’t to recycle or reuse but reduce. While using gray water to wash your car or water the planets is a great way to reuse dirty water, creating less of it is even better. According to the EPA, the average American uses about 9,000 gallons of water a year to flush 230 gallons of waste down the toilet. By installing a low-flush toilet, you can reduce that number.
Conventional toilets use three to five gallons per flush while low-flush options use only 1.6 or less. The same savings can be applied all throughout your house, including in your kitchen (faucet aerators) and in the shower (low-flow shower heads).
With hybrid, electric and plug-in technology improving exponentially, green and clean driving is no longer just an idea of the future. But before jumping on the hybrid or all-electric bandwagon, consider which technology is actually more climate-friendly for the area you live in. For example, in Texas the Toyota Prius (the hybrid) releases fewer emissions than the Nissan Leaf (all-electric) because of how electricity is generated in the state, according to Climatecentral.org. But in the state of Washington, the Leaf beats out the Prius by several lbs/mile emissions because the state mainly relies on receiving power from hydropower and renewables. So before visiting Toyota of Dallas, Washington Chevy, or whatever dealer is in your area, do your energy research you may be surprised what you find.
Food scraps and yard waste which add up to be about 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away can be easily composted at home, according to the EPA. You’ll need a shovel, water hose and green and brown organic matter. Greens include grass clippings, vegetable and fruit waste and coffee grounds, while browns contain dead leaves, branches and twigs. Composting speeds up the natural process of decomposition, which will help you create nutrient-rich soil for your green garden. For a complete DIY checklist, visit Epa.gov or Greenliving.NationalGeographic.com.
Equipping your home with ENERGY STAR products may not be the most efficient way to conserve energy in your home. Here’s why: If you’re powering your home and air is escaping through unsealed windows or cracks in insulation, it doesn’t matter whether you’re using green products or not. First, seal your home and cover any hidden gaps that could be causing air to escape or leak into your home. Then focus on energy-efficient products and habits.
A good practice to start with: unplugging appliances, even when they’re switched off. According to ConsumerEnergyCenter.org, electronic devices and appliances often called ‘energy vampires’ can still use power when they are off. For example, a compact system can use a maximum of 28.6 watts and a DVD player can use 12 watts.
Brad has a knack for writing and gardening. So far he’s managed to find a way to feed himself by being good at both of these activities and that’s good enough for him.