Monday, June 4, 2007

Go Green!

While I'm at it, I may as well talk about the green movement. I have to admit, I don't have the guts to go green head first. I'm just a regular person that tries to do little things when they're convenient and to push myself to do little things when they're not. I encourage, sometimes strongly encourage, friends to recycle when it may have slipped their mind and have, on occasion, moved items from trash to recycling bins. Anyways, I thought I'd make a list of the little things I try to do so that it might encourage others to do the same kinds of things.

My Little Green Things:
  1. Save water. Yes, Earth's surface is 3/4 water, but did you know only 3% of that is freshwater. Furthermore, groundwater and water in rivers and lakes make up only 0.3% of the water on Earth. Don't believe me, well maybe you'll believe the BBC. Read it for yourself here. It's hard to imagine, growing up on the East Coast, so I try to remind myself about the Southwest and large regions of Africa. I try to do everything I can to limit the amount of water I use to a minimum.
    1. Navy-style showers. Well, I'm not sure that's the real name, but I think I heard that somewhere. This means I turn the shower OFF while lathering up my bod, while shampooing, while conditioning, while shaving.
    2. Navy-style dish washing. Okay, I made that up, but it's the same deal. Turn the water OFF while scrubbing and soaping up the dishes. I try to use the water only to rinse.
    3. Navy-style tooth brushing. Again a made-up term; you get the idea. I've been doing this since I was really little.
    4. Navy-style face-washing.
    5. I also try not to waste water when I'm washing my hands by not having the faucet on full blast.
    6. I'd like to capture rainwater for watering our patio garden, but we have bad mosquitoes. That stagnant pool of water would make a very happy breeding ground for them and very itchy skin for me. If any of you can do it without the same risk of sanity, more power to ya.
  2. Recycle. We recycle everything they'll let us, though I'm still very suspicious about what happens to it after they take it away. Certainly in some counties I believe it actually gets recycled, but I've also seen some very questionable recycling centers. Maybe I should start an investigation. Do you know where your recycling goes? What about your batteries--do you recycle them? Did you know you can even recycle your average AA, AAA, etc. battery? But you have to take those to special places. What about your old electronics, including old computers? I am going to try to take my old PC to be recycled this weekend.
  3. Reuse. This is a hard one because American consumer products are so disposable. Here are the things I reuse on a regular basis.
    1. Lunch items. I take my lunch to work almost every day. I always use a washable and reusable plastic container. I often have sandwiches and bring crackers in a plastic bag. Since the same crackers go into the bag everyday, I just keep using the same bag. Is that gross? I don't think so. If I bring carrots in a plastic bag, I reuse that, too, but I rinse it between uses.
    2. Water bottle. This is very important: I use a hard plastic water bottle at work instead of consuming dinky pre-packaged bottled water. Usually, the water in those things isn't any different than filtered tap water anyways. My husband and I just ordered aluminum water bottles for ourselves because I learned this is better for you than plastic. Plus they're recyclable if you decide you want to switch to a new one.
    3. Grocery bags. We use these to bundle our recycling, as bathroom trash bags, to carry a few things around, etc. They just keep piling up. I wish grocery stores wouldn't waste them. Sometimes they'll only put a couple of little things in one bag. We like to bag our groceries ourselves whenever we can.
    4. Paper. I like to use bad print jobs for scrap paper. Everyone in my lab does this. We all also print double-sided whenever possible. Speaking of paper, does anyone know how to stop all the junk mail? It saddens me to think of all the wasted paper in credit card offers. Plus, they can be a security risk for people who aren't diligent about shredding.
  4. Save electricity.
    1. We've changed almost all our light bulbs to those energy efficient ones.
    2. We turn off the lights whenever we leave a room.
    3. We use a programmable thermostat in the heat and air condition months. However, we try to extend the months when we don't need either by opening windows and strategically opening or closing curtains/blinds, which allows or prevents the entrance of natural sunlight into the house.
    4. We've only just started to try to turn off some of those electronics that sit in standby mode until they get used.
  5. Save gasoline and reduce pollution. I'm currently in a data analysis stage of a research project. This allows me to work at home instead of making the half-hour to hour long commute in each direction. It saves me time and money. Plus, I get to look after our patio garden, which brings happiness to every day. Not everyone has this flexibility, but what about public transportation?
  6. Use natural cleaning chemicals. We're just trying to phase these in now. Sometimes we can't afford them.
These are just some of the things I do. The great thing about many of them is that they also save money, which is a welcome side-effect for poor graduate students. Do you do any of these or anything else? Do you want to try to be more green? I saw some good tips on Ellen's May 22 episode. You can find lots of good links to green-related products and info on her website and navigating to that day. I found some more ideas for going green while saving green, if you know what I mean, and realized there are some that I do but didn't list.

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