Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's Earth Day: Think Green Folks

If you know me well, you probably knew an earth-friendly post was in store when you clicked on my page due to today's celebration of Earth Day.

I just couldn't resist...after all, it's no lie that I spend nights awake, concerned my children aren't going to see the planet as I have been able to see it (nevermind all those global warming/end of the world shows I watch on Nat Geo and the History Channel before I fall asleep...).

Regardless of surprise, to honor the day and express my deep love for our earth, I've decided to make a list of some things I am going to try to make a habit of during the next year. Each Earth Day, I'll add on more things to the list and before I know it, I'll be as green as can be. Well, in theory at least.

My green inventory thus far...
Positive green points:
+ I use reusable shopping bags as much as possible
+ I use energy-efficient appliances (costly initially, but my bills are actually equal/less than they were living in a small apartment)
+ I recycle virtually everything at home at least (thank you, curbside!)

Negative green points:
- Gas emissions (a 40 mile+ commute, but I'm working on a carpool!)
- I'm a tree killer (there are hundreds of papers in my office)
- At home, I have a bad habit of leaving lights on when I leave rooms

With that guilt taking over, here's my list of 8 things I'm going to do to make my life greener this year (ideas compiled from various Internet sources):
  1. Buy larger items. Sounds counter-productive, but think about it: one big jar of salsa takes up a lot less packaging than several smaller jars.
  2. Unplug appliances when they're not in use. Does my phone charge magically while I am gone for the day? I thought not. Keeping the less-than-often used appliances unplugged when idle reduces your power usage significantly. Amen to lower bills, too!
  3. Use rechargable batteries for cameras, alarm clocks, etc. It's that simple... After all, household batteries present a major toxic disposal issue.
  4. Go double-sided. I've vowed to be more conscious that when I am done filling up that piece of paper with to do lists and life goals, I won’t throw it away immediately. Instead, I am going to try to flip it over and use the other side for more unproductive lists.
  5. Replace lights with compact fluorescent lightbulbs. CFLs cost three to five times as much as conventional incandescent bulbs yet use 75 percent less electricity and typically last 10 years longer. Just look for the Energy Star label.
  6. Hang clothes on a clothesline instead of using the dryer. According to a Time magazine article, a T-shirt can omit up to 9 lbs. of carbon dioxide into the air during its lifetime. Yikes! Although I am a sucker for soft, dryer-scented clothes, I am going to make a conscious effort to hang more and dry less this summer.
  7. Buy more at second-hand stores. Why? Buying a used shirt means you avoid consuming all the energy used in producing and shipping a new one and, therefore, the carbon emissions associated with it. Besides, vintage means uniqueness anyways, right? I think I'll just stick to getting cheap, kitschy tees at Plato's Closet.
  8. Pay bills online. Why? A.) It revives that feeling of excitement you got as a kid when you actually got something addressed to you in the mail. B.) It avoids wasting both paper and fuel for transporting your Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes entry form. It's a win-win for all.

Take my steps and apply them to your own life. Or not. The choice is yours. But look at how happy this penguin is below. You don't want to be the one responsible for melting his home away, now do you? Then make an effort toward slowing global warming and have a wonderful Earth Day!


Johnny 5 said...

As someone who sells light bulbs for a living, I am less enthusiastic than most about compact fluorescent bulbs. This is due to the fact that the ones currently available contain significant amounts of mercury. If one of these bulbs should break inside of a person’s home, it could cause a challenging disposal situation. It is my belief that the technology should progress to a point at which the mercury levels are low or nonexistent before people changeover their entire homes. Another consideration is that as these bulbs burn out, they will most likely be thrown away as though they are normal rubbish and landfills will have incredibly high levels of mercury in their soil as a result.

metrogal84 said...

Thanks, johnny5. I did a little research and found that you are correct...It seems that all bulbs have traces of mercury and therefore can be dangerous. The key in using CFL bulbs is that you need to recycle them after they are no longer of use. To play it safe, I'll take your advice and steer clear of changing every single bulb in my house over until they make the bulbs with lower mercury levels -- we definitely do not want that poisoning our earth's soil. I read a great article on this topic on NPR's Web site. Check it out here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7431198

A side note to this post: Kroger has joined the forces of recycling plastic bags in stores. I am thrilled about this because this is the grocery store I shop at the most. The earth love is catching on!

Krissy said...

Most CFLs today on the market contain less than 5mgs of mercury and there are CFL options out there that contain as little as 1.5mgs of mercury- which can hardly be called a “significant amounts of mercury” considering that many item in your home contain 100s of times more of mercury including your computer. Mercury levels in CFLs can never be “nonexistent” since mercury is a necessary component of a CFL and there is no other known element that is capable of replacing it. But CFLs actually prevent more mercury from entering the environment. According to the Union of Concerned Scientist, “a coal-fired power plant will emit about four times more mercury to keep an incandescent bulb glowing, compared with a CFL of the same light output”.