It’s Easy Being Green
What You And Your Family Can Do To Be Green
By Beverly Burmeier
Sure, you recycle aluminum cans and newspapers. You get bonus points for mailing in empty printer cartridges or taking them back to the office supply store. Maybe you even drive a hybrid car.
But your conscience still nags. Are you really doing enough to protect and preserve the environment? What more could you do to live gently on Earth?
April 22 is Earth Day, and there’s no better time to take stock of the many ways—big and small—that we can live responsibly. Today, more than ever, there are myriad opportunities for families to develop an environmental conscience and help preserve our planet’s resources, whether you have thousands of dollars to spend or just a little time and effort.
Here are tips to make a significant difference.
AROUND THE HOUSE
Flush with Funds:
• Install a whole-house rainwater harvesting and filtration system to provide clean water for cooking, drinking, and lawn irrigation. ($10,000 and up)
• Install a solar-panel system that generates all the electricity your house needs.
• Add insulation made from recycled cotton such as blue jeans.
• When your shingles need replacing, consider a metal roofing system made from recycled aluminum cans
• For new construction, build two-foot-thick walls made of compressed granite and cement (a technique called rammed earth).
• Install a thermal chimney to ventilate your house
• Add deep eaves to shade windows.
• Install a solar or tankless water heater ($650-800)
• Use stained concrete or environmentally friendly flooring such as bamboo instead of carpet ($1,000 and up)
• Install water-conserving toilets and showers ($250 or less)
• Install solar-powered lighting in your yard or on your patio.
• Paint your house with low volatile organic compound paints (VOCs), chemicals that are potentially harmful to you and the environment ($15 a gallon or less)
• Buy furniture made from recycled plastics, wood, bottles, bags, etc.
• Collect rainwater in small tanks for non-potables uses (Tip: Set 5-gallon buckets outside when it rains. Then give your indoor plants a drink of fresh rainwater instead of using chemical-laden tap water).
• Decorate your home with plants that help remove indoor air pollutants like easy-to-grow English ivy and peace lilies.
• Use non-toxic botanicals to control insects instead of chemical sprays that may harm humans and the earth.
• Landscape with native plants that require less water and pest control.
ON THE ROAD
Flush with Funds:
• Drive a gasoline-electric hybrid—or totally electric-car for better gas mileage and reduced emissions.
• Buy a vehicle that uses biodiesel or ethanol fuel instead of fossil fuel (oil)
• Take an eco-vacation. Take tours at your destination to learn more about the flora and fauna in that region. Look for vacations that allow you to work in a volunteer capacity on environmental projects (national parks are good bets for this).
• Visit resorts or restaurants that have been certified “green.”
• When you need a rental car, choose hybrids, or rent cars powered by recycled vegetable oil (biodiesel)
• Consider group travel, or purchase carbon offsets.
• Avoid Styrofoam containers for take-out food
• Observe the “carry in, carry out” rule for hikes in nature areas
• Buy souvenirs made from recycled or reclaimed materials instead of endangered plants or animals.
• Eat locally grown products; items “flown in fresh daily” consume extra energy to reach the table.
• Sweat the small stuff: turn off lights and reuse towels in hotels just as you would at home.
AT THE TABLE
• Switch your daily cup of java to Bat Magic coffee grown in rainforests and marketed specifically to raise awareness of the importance of bats in our ecosystem.
• Become a Flexitarian, and swap out one meat dish a week for a veggie plate. Why? Because raising produce requires less energy that raising livestock.
WITH YOUR WALLET
• Invest in environmentally conscious companies that put your dollars to work for cleaner air, cleaner water, and a safer planet.
• Donate to charities that promote preservation of resources, such as Nature Conservancy or Natural Habitat. Build your child’s college fund while you help protect the environment.
• Buy renewable energy where available.
• Purchase 100 percent organic cotton clothing, organic cosmetics, and paper products made of recycled materials, even if they cost a few pennies more.
• Adopt a whale or other wild animal. Numerous organizations and zoos collect funds for support of different species by selling sponsorships, which is a great way to personalize aid for endangered species and teach kids a little basic biology.
• Borrow books and movies from your public library.
• Become a “natural gardener.” Start a compost pile using kitchen refuse.
• Apply for applicable rebates on appliance purchases, air conditioning systems, toilets, certain construction techniques, and more from your local energy company.
• Conduct as much business as possible online: No more checks to write, and less paper waste for statements
• Skip drive-through lines at the bank, cleaners, or fast-food restaurant where your car might idle for long periods of time.