Being green is all about being responsible with your resources -- be they money, time, energy . . . or the environment. At Jackson State, we'd like to help you use all of your resources a little more wisely!
- Do laundry in cold water, and use less detergent than the manufacturers recommend. They're trying to get you to use it up to buy more, after all! Oh, and try to do full loads whenever possible!
- Catch the cold water you waste while waiting for the tap to run hot in a bowl. Use that to water plants, to give to the dog, or to make a cup of tea!
- Opt for paperless bills, credit card statements, and bank statements instead of having them mailed to you each month, and pay your bills online, usually for no charge at all. If you paid just 5 bills per month online, you could save more than $25 each year just on stamps!
- Buy all of your groceries for the week at once. Don't make unnecessary trips.
- Reuse foil and zip-top bags. Using a snack bag to hold carrot sticks or crackers just twice will cut your expenses for replacing them in half.
- Avoid using plastic wrap when aluminum foil (which is recyclable) will do just fine. Manufacturing plastic wrap requires the use of petroleum, which our gas tanks tell us could be put to better uses. Then, be sure to recycle that used foil!
- Avoid exfoliating cleansers that contain "microbeads," which are really tiny bits of plastic! They contaminate our rivers and oceans because water treatment facilities aren't equipped to extract them. Plenty of products use pumice, salt, or seeds to exfoliate. Try one of these, which are usually less expensive, instead.
- Run your dishwasher when it's full, not before.
- Turn your air conditioning up one or two degrees -- from 74° to 76° for example. In the winter, turn the heater down by the same amount, and be sure to turn it down significantly when you're not home and overnight. By shifting the temperature by 10° for eight hours a day, you'll save 10-15% on your energy bills. An inexpensive digital themostat will make remembering to turn the heat or a/c up and down a breeze!
- Think before you print! Do you really need a paper copy of that joke your aunt forwarded to your email? Print only what you need, and reuse scrap paper for non-essential printing or note-taking.
- Snuggle up! One reporter estimates that every body generates heat equivalent to a 175-watt heater. Throw a party in the winter and let the guests provide the heat, or snuggle up to your partner on a chilly night!
Now, here are a couple of tips that might take a little more effort:
- Buy canvas bags for groceries and take-out. Reuse your plastic grocery bags when you do get them from the store, usually for a small discount from your grocery bill.
- When a light bulb goes out, replace it with an energy-efficient compact florescent (CFL). CFLs use 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than traditional incandescents. That means that, on average, for every bulb you replace, you'll save $45 over the life of the bulb. If you had only 10 lights in your house, you'd save $450 in bulbs and electric costs. Remember, these CFLs work by using fewer watts more efficiently, so you can buy a 14-watt CFL to replace a 60-watt incandescent.
- Use a travel mug or thermos for your trips to the coffeeshop. After only 24 uses, a stainless steel mug is more environmentally friendly than those paper cups, and that coffee place from Seattle gives you 10¢ off for bringing your own. If you buy a cup of coffee every day but bring your own mug, you could save over $35 a year on that joe! (Besides, paper cups are horrible for the environment in the long term: We use over 16,000,000,000 paper cups a year, which create 252,000,000 pounds of garbage, require us to cut down 6,500,000 trees and use 4,000,000,000 gallons of water. And when paper cups decompose in landfills, they give off methane gas, which is 23 times worse for global warming than CO2.)
- Unplug electronics you're not using. If you have a TV in a spare bedroom, it's sucking electricity every day, all year, even if it's used only when Grandma comes to visit for Independence Day. In the average home, 75% of electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. If you see a glowing light from the power strip even when your equipment is turned off, you're using "phantom" power . . . and paying for it.
- Try skipping a shower once or twice a week. Chances are that you shower every day out of habit, not to wash away sweaty dirt. If you skipped one 15-minute shower a week, you'd save up to 3,900 gallons of water each year, and your skin, hair, and pocketbook will thank you.
- Get outside! You'll spend less on heating and cooling costs and on electricity ... and a pick-up game is cheaper than cable any day!
- Never buy bleached coffee filters. They're full of chemicals, and the same companies make unbleached filters at nearly the same price. Even better? Buy a reusable coffee filter!
Now that you've got those under your belt, give these tips a go (green!):
- Take yourself off junk mail lists. Easy-to-use websites make this simple and cheap: Try CatalogChoice, GreenDimes, or 41pounds.
- Recycle your used printer cartridges. Most manufacturers, like HP, allow you to ship empty cartridges back for free, or you can drop used cartridges off at retailers like Walgreens, Office Depot, or Best Buy for no charge.
- Stop buying bottled water! Buy a reusable bottle and refill it at the tap or water fountain. If you just have to have filtered water, buy a faucet filter. One faucet filter for under $10 will produce over 300 gallons of water, which would have cost as much as $375, had you bought it by the bottle at $1.25 a pop.
- Don't just throw away used batteries. We toss 360,000,000 pounds of batteries into landfills every year, where they leach toxic chemicals that sometimes cost billions to contain. The good, and cheap, news is that batteries can be recycled for free at stores like BatteriesPlus and home improvment retailers. Just drop them off at a nearby location -- and pick up rechargable batteries to replace your spent ones! They cost about the same as conventional batteries, but they last for years rather than months. RBRC's Call2Recycle program offers an up-to-date list of local places to recycle and buy your batteries.
- Once you've made the switch and those CFLs finally expire in a few years, be sure to recycle your used CFLs instead of tossing them into the trash since they contain trace amounts of mercury. Just take them to Home Depot or another home improvement store to drop off for free.
- Carpool to work, school, and social events. Car trips are more fun with company, and cutting gas costs in half helps more today than it used to.
- Try moving towards a "tree-free" house: Use cloth towels instead of paper towels, use handkerchiefs instead of napkins at the dinner table. These are easy to launder along with the rest of your towels without doing an extra load. Cut up old t-shirts for a steady supply of rags.
- Try using natural cleaning products. Your grandmother used vinegar, lemons, and baking soda. They still work today, they're cheap, and they make your place smell great.
- When you're looking for a new furry friend, adopt from a local animal shelter or humane society. When you do get a new pet, have him or her spayed or neutered. Your pet won't know the difference, but you'll have the peace of mind that you're not contributing to the animal overpopulation in our area!
- Consider looking to second-hand shops, garage sales, and auctions for "new to you" goods, and donate your gently-used furniture, appliances, and clothing to shelters, second-hand shops, and charities. This keeps them out of landfills, gives others the chance to buy good products at reduced prices, and might give you a tax deduction.
- Donate your old cell phones and computers to charities that refurbish them for use by people in need, like the Cristina Foundation, which helps students, people who are disabled, and people are economically disadvantaged, or the Wireless Foundation, which offers support for victims of domestic violence. If your equipment is beyond use, don't throw it to the curb - contact the manufacturer, like HP, Dell, or Apple, or a local home improvement warehouse for recycling options.
- Remember when peaches tasted, well, peachy? They still do at your local orchard. Visit a local farmer's market or a local farm to buy produce from the area. The food will be less expensive because the farmer isn't paying shipping costs from halfway around the world. Produce will be tastier and will last longer since it was harvested just before you arrived!
And now that you're really committed, try these ideas:
- Stop buying from vending machines! If you do buy a pre-packaged snack, be sure to toss the plastic and paper into a blue recycling bin instead of the trash.
- Eat at least one vegetarian (no meat or fish) meal per week. Grilled cheese with vegetable soup, pasta primavera, eggplant parmesan, omlettes, rice and beans, and cheese quesadillas make great meat-free options. Getting one pound of meat to your table produces the same amount of greenhouse gasses as driving a gas-guzzler for 46 miles. If we each gave up just one meal's worth of meat per week, we could reduce CO2 emissions as much as if we took half a million cars off the roads.
- Plant a tree! Plant a garden! Some dirt in a pot in a sunny space will give you room for an herb garden or tomato plant (without the salmonella scares!).
- Eat only sustainable fish. Today's commercial fishing practices, which allow restaurants to serve all-you-can-eat shrimp platters and cheap sea bass, use sea-bed trawlers that scrape the ocean floors to collect fish. The problem is that they disturb the sensitive ecosystem on the bottom of the sea, and they catch much more than they're looking for. On average, for every pound of shrimp caught, four pounds of sea life is dumped back into the ocean, dead. Scientists estimate that we have depleted as much as 90% of the ocean's stocks of large fish like tuna and cod, and that within 40 years, we will have severely overfished all stocks. That could lead not only serious environmental consequences but also to economic ones like those we've seen with the high price of gas now that oil is harder to come by.
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