Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lighten Up by Going Green

My last posts were pretty serious, and with good reason.  So I am going to lighten it up a bit for this installment.  After all, it’s March, the beginning of Spring, and we’re supposed to be thinking green.  We celebrate all things Irish, blossoms arrive on tree branches and grass begins to poke through the melting snow.  With that said, what are you doing to bring more green into your life?  What little changes could you make, or eco-steps could you take to make our world a greener place?  Conservation is key.  Sure, conservation is b-o-r-i-n-g when compared to cool things like wind turbines, solar panels and bio-fuels.  But with all of the talk about alternative energy this, and renewable energy that, we lose sight of the fact that we already have the capability to make a tremendous difference by reducing our consumption of energy.  How?  Really, it can be as simple as turning off a light switch.  Powering down may not seem like a big deal, but think of all of the electronics and lights that are left on or plugged in when we’re not even home.  Those things all draw power when they’re not in use.  Plugging electronics into power strips and then turning those off can really add up to big energy (and money) savings.  In addition, if every American household changed just one light bulb to a compact fluorescent (CFL), collectively we could save enough energy to light over 3 million homes for a year, save more than $600 million in energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 800,000 cars off the road!  That’s HUGE!  Just think about how much energy we could save if we changed all of our light bulbs to CFLs.  We could be reducing our need for greenhouse gas-producing  power plants all over the place.  Wouldn’t that be neat?
Recycle. If we consume less and throw out less garbage, it’s a win-win for us and the planet.   This might seem like a no-brainer but what most of us don’t know is that the average American throws away 4.5 pounds of garbage every day.  And the EPA estimates that 75 percent of that could be recycled and could create jobs in the process.  Recycling 10,000 tons of waste creates 36 jobs. Wow!  We could be throwing a whole lot less away and create jobs.  Talk about making more green!  Unfortunately, that is still only part of the story when it comes to garbage and recycling.  According to Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff project, for every one garbage can of waste you put out on the curb, 70 garbage cans of waste were made upstream to make the junk in that one garbage can you put out on the curb.  So we still need to focus on consuming less while recycling more.  Find out more about recycling at Earth 911.
Drive less.  No matter how you look at it, the US is dependent on foreign oil.  The more we conserve, the less dependent we are on foreign oil and the better the environment is for it.  Depending on where you live (urban, suburban, or rural areas), you may have limited options for public transit.  But we can all drive less and save some green by combining errands into fewer trips, carpooling, telecommuting, bicycling or walking whenever possible.  A point to ponder:  According to the New Jersey Transit Authority, commuting 40 miles per day alone in a car costs roughly $8,768 per year.  Carpooling with one other person can save $4,384 and with two other people, $5,845.  So putting a little bit of thought into driving less can really add up to a lot more green for you!
Plant a tree.  With Earth Day and Arbor Day right around the corner, what better a way to go green than to plant a tree?  It can be a fun and meaningful way to give a little green back to Mother Nature.  And while you’re at it, be sure to wish Earth Day a Happy 40th Birthday this year.
To find out more about how you can make our environment and your wallet a little greener, you can visit the EPA website or calculate your own carbon footprint by taking the Earth Day Eco Footprint Calculator.


  1. I went through the footprint calculator and I came out at 4.1 Earths needed if everyone lived the way I live. They then provided 5 scenarios: 1. cut animal product usage in half, 2. buy products made from recycled materials or with little packaging when possible, 3. have most of your power provided by solar panels for your house, 4. buy only ENERGY STAR appliances, 5. take mass transportation at least one day a week. If I did all 5, then it only goes down to 3.5 Earths.

    I think that points out that the road to sustainability is not an easy road. Even if I could easily do all 5 of those things, which I cannot (#2 buying things made of recycled materials or without packaging is infrequently an option, and #3 providing all my power via solar panels are especially difficult) ...even then, I would have only shaved off 0.6 Earths. I'd still need to do 2.5 Earths worth of cutting. Ouch!

    On the plus side I am thinking about planting a cherry tree. Maybe an apple tree too! They will both provide some food and take a little carbon out of the air at the same time.

  2. Hi TSotD!

    Thanks for sharing your footprint calculator results. You're doing great just by being aware of the impact of your choices! I welcome all my (3) readers to take the quiz and share your results in the comments section!