Monday, September 15, 2008

10 Easy Ways to Go Green

I'm in the process of trying to get our school to allow the City of Raleigh to put recycling "bins" next to the dumpsters in all of the apartment complexes. I wouldn't call myself "granola" or anything, but I do care about our environment and think that as Christians we should do our best to take good care of it. I believe the same about taking care of our bodies, just in case you're wondering. Anyways, I think that Shannon and I do a lot of small things that are good for the environment that many people overlook. This may be somewhat from living overseas, or it may be because I was an Environmental Science major in college for awhile, or it may be because my youngest brother calls me a hippie for wearing Birkenstocks. I'm not exactly sure where this passion came from, but I wanted to give all of my readers a few easy ways to "go green." They're small steps, and I have taken all of them and can testify that they're not that difficult to do, but if we all did them they would make a huge impact on the earth.

1. Recycle! If there are recycling facilities within say, five miles of your house, or if the garbage man picks up a bin along with your trash, there is really no excuse for you not to recycle. Sorry if I offend you, but if you refuse to recycle when facilities are easily accessible, you are basically saying, "I'm too lazy to take care of the world God put me in." Ouch. Plastic NEVER decomposes. Neither do glass or styrofoam. Did you know that your shampoo bottles, milk cartons, cereal boxes, glass pickle jars, tin cans, aluminum cans, shaving cream containers, laundry soap bottles, newspapers, magazines, and old books are all recyclable? Simply rinse out your shampoo bottles in your dishwater or bathwater after you're finished. Take the plastic film out of pasta boxes. There is no reason to put these things in a landfill when they can be used to make something!

2. Switch to cloth bags. When you go to the grocery store, bring your own bags. Leave them in your car and when you get home and unload your groceries, put them by the front/garage door so that you'll remember to take them back to the car on your way out. Not only do cloth bags save you from having a million plastic bags at your house, but they're also stronger and you won't have to worry about the bags breaking. If you do end up with plastic bags at your house (which we all do), use them or recycle them! Use them for trash bags in the bathroom or office, or take them back to Walmart and let them be recycled!

3. Get a water-saver kit. You can go to Home Depot and for $10 buy a kit that includes a new shower head and three sink aerators. These are simple to install and reduce the water outflow from your faucets and shower head by at least 50%. And they still give good water pressure.

4. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. But make sure to take them to a proper disposal facility, as they should not be put in the trash with the rest of your garbage. If every American switched just one of their light bulbs to a compact fluorescent bulb, we would save enough energy to light three million homes for an entire year. HOLY COW! Compact fluorescent bulbs save energy, last longer (up to ten times longer), and don't cost that much more. Yes, they are more expensive, but not by much. Buy one pack the next time you need light bulbs and replace the bulbs in the room where you turn the light on the most. Then the next time you need to buy bulbs, buy another package. Buying them in small increments will not break the bank!

5. Reuse plastic baggies. Even if you only use each baggie one extra time, you will cut the number of baggies you throw away in HALF. If you use them for something like chips, there's no need to wash the bag after every use. If you use it for a sandwich, wash it and turn it inside-out to dry. Not only will you save the environment, you'll save money.

6. Walk when you can. Say you're at a shopping center and you're going to pick up your drycleaning and go to the store. Park at the store and walk down to the drycleaners. Walk back to your car, hang up your clothes, grab your cloth shopping bags, and go to the store. You'll get some exercise, not emit as many fumes into the air, and save money on gas. Amazing!

7. Save water. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth or shave. There's no reason to let good water run down the drain while you're brushing your teeth. Turn it on to rinse out your toothbrush. You can also collect water from the sink in a gallon-jug while you're letting it warm up to do dishes, wash your hands, wash your face, and so on. Leave this jug in the refrigerator and use it for drinking water. This way you don't have to let the water run while you're waiting on it to get cold. Or just use ice! Get a bucket to collect water in the bathtub while you're letting the water warm up. Use this water to water your plants, or dump it in the washing machine. We can fill our washer about halfway up once for every 2 loads we wash!

8. Don't throw things away. There is usually a use for something. Hold a yard sale and make some money. Take wearable shoes to Goodwill. Tear up old shirts to use for dust rags, or keep a couple for those times you're going to paint, work on the car, etc. You can usually recycle computers, printers, and old electronics. Refill your ink cartridges instead of buying new ones. Try to find a use for things before throwing them in the trash. And think about how long you'll actually use something before you buy it.

9. Carry a water bottle or coffee cup with you. When you go to church and get your coffee you can eliminate the need for a paper cup with a plastic lid by having your own cup. It's stronger, won't clog landfills, and will keep your coffee hot longer. Invest in a good water bottle and keep it in the car. Then when you go to the mall, church, or out for fast food, you can bring your own bottle in for water/juice/soda. You'll save yourself money on buying water while out-and-about (fountain water generally tastes the same as bottled) and you won't end up throwing a plastic bottle/cup in the garbage at the mall or restaurant.

10. Don't buy styrofoam cups or plates. When you're having a picnic, buy paper. No, they're not as strong. But they'll disintegrate within the year. Styrofoam? Never.

So there you have it. Michelle's simple guide to green living. It's a far cry from organic clothing and furniture, but they're easy steps to take. Try to start doing at least one new one. When you're used to it, adapt a new one. Soon they'll be natural, and you'll be a greenie just like me!


  1. I hope people try the things you suggest. We do what we can. It always amazes me when people don't take advantage of the easy ways to recyle. We use the cloth bag, but if we forget, the plastic is used for our trash cans in the house. We have actually run out of plastic bags and deliberately left cloth bags at home to get more plastic bags rather than buy a box of plastic bags. We have done the light bulb changes, we recyle everything we can, and take advantage of electronic recyling programs when we need to. I also put my coffee grounds in the garden. Crushed eggshells too. Our church uses real coffee cups that the hosts for the day wash. We have a recycling location behind the grocery store where you take money back items. Instead of money you get a voucher to use in the store when you buy groceries. Cool huh?

  2. To go along with 1. & 2., you can also get brown paper bags from most grocery stores now (if you ask for it) and those bags are very recyclable. They also make a great weed barrier in the garden under compost or mulch.

  3. New computer???? Did yours finally give up the ghost? What did you get?

    October sounds good to me. I'm really really busy until the 9th and then things should slow down a bit. That one class that I'm taking that's only half a semester (two nights a week for 3 hours) is making my life miserable right now but I take the final on the 9th. Yippee!!

    I'm at 19 pounds now, although I think I gained a few back this weekend (it was our women's retreat at church). I'm writing a paper all weekend this weekend but maybe next weekend I can find some time to go shopping for a few things.


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