Beginning this Earth Day~ 10 Simple Things You Can Do

1.)  Stop using plastic grocery bags.
I use the World Wildlife Fund bags; they are the perfect size (way bigger than ones the grocery stores sell) and very sturdy. They have nice pictures of nature and animals on them with the WWF logo which gives you a chance to promote an excellent environmental NGO and be the envy of other shoppers with your one-of-a-kind bags! Nearly every time I go to Publix someone comments on my grocery bags. And, if you're thinking, "But I use my plastic bags for stuff around the house," you're not alone. I use them too but typically get them out of the plastic bag recycle bin at the grocery store. People just use them for groceries and stick them in there so they're not dirty and they don't need to be in perfect condition to line trash cans around the house or pick up dog poop anyhow right? I even use old bread or tortilla bags to pick up the dog poo. So, there are a couple of suggestions in the bag.

2.) You don't need hot water to wash dishes and clothes.
When you turn hot water on, even if you don't give it time to warm up (like during the winter) it uses more energy than using cold water. That's because it triggers the furnace to warm up water and gas or electricity powers the furnace. You do not need hot water to effectively clean clothes or dishes. The temperature needed to actually kill bacteria is far hotter than what our skin can tolerate (referring to washing dishes) and hotter than what most washers will heat up to anyhow. -Research it if you don't believe me. And, I had an in depth conversation about this with a chemist and he explained to me that it's the interaction between soap and water that cleans materials, not the hot water. Hot water does kill bacteria~ I'm not debating that however you won't get it hot enough to do that in the first place so don't waste it. This will also save you money on your energy bill.

3.) Hang your clothes out to dry.
This is a semi-extension to number 2. The ultra violet rays of the sun kill bacteria naturally. And you will save energy and money by choosing to hang clothes out to dry rather than turning on the dryer. ~Just make sure you don't live in a neighborhood where someone will steal your clothes ;)

4.) Buy and use electrical adapters.
Use them wherever you have more than 3 electrical items plugged in at any given time. In our home we have one behind the computer desk (printer, computer, phone charger, etc. plugged into it), one behind the entertainment center (tv, play station, DISH box, etc. plugged into it) and one in the bedroom (fan, phone charger, etc. plugged into it). Now, get this- when you're not home or not using these items flip the off/on button to OFF and it won't suck up unnecessary energy. Isn't that amazing?! Terms like Vampire Energy or Leaking Energy have even been coined to describe the phenomena of energy being used when no one is using it. Vampire Energy accounts for 10% OF TYPICAL HOUSEHOLD ENERGY USE. That is due to leaving everything plugged in and turned on. So buy your electrical adapters ($5 or less at Big Lots or the dollar store) and start using them properly. UNPLUG EVERYTHING THAT IS NOT IN USE. It's easy and becomes a habit. -In many countries this practice is already mainstream. 

 5.) Switch out 3 commonly used household products for earth conscious brands.
We all use detergent, shampoo, dish soap, etc. on a daily to weekly basis. And yes, you know where I’m going with this and, yes, I understand suggesting people switch out their trusty, oldie but goodie brands for new ones makes blood boil immediately. That’s precisely why I’m challenging you, the reader, to commit to switch out only 3 products for earth conscious ones (at first). This is still a work in progress in my own household. Oftentimes common body hygiene products and brands (Pantene, Suave, Johnson & Johnson, Axe just to name a few) rampantly test their products on animals and I’m sure you don’t like the thought of shampoo being dropped into forcefully held opened bunny eyes now do you??
And the phosphates in popular laundry and dish detergents cause algae levels to rise dramatically, decreasing oxygen in freshwater and inevitably kill fish. This can’t be a good thing people! So, which 3 items are you going to switch out?? Personally I’m up to earth conscious: laundry soap, chap stick, dish soap, shampoo & conditioner, bug repellent, baby soap/lotion and general spray cleaner, making your own solvents is also a great option.

6.) Become a member of one environmental NGO this year, better yet, today!
WWF, NRDC, The Nature Conservancy, Earthjustice, The Center for Biological Diversity, DFGFI are a few of my personal favorites. You can become a member for as little as $15 annually and this will put you on the group’s newsletter mailing list (typically go out quarterly). By reading the newsletters you will be informed on what is going on in our country and world from an environmentalist viewpoint. The articles in WWF and NRDC newsletters are particularly enthralling. And don’t give me the ‘right wing’ excuse… I don’t care what political party you belong to; we all breathe the same air and to re-iterate these are NGOs (non governmental organizations). Tips: check out fiscal reports for any non-profit before joining on and request to not have your mailing address sold to other groups to avoid being bombarded with junk mail. 

7.) Leave environmental publications you receive at local offices.
You may already belong to numerous environmental and/or animal welfare groups and  receive quality newsletters regularly. And if you're like me you have a hard time tossing them in the recycle bin after reading because of the excellent content and superb photography. So don't! Share them. I collect DFGFI, WWF, Jane Goodall Institute and NRDC newsletters until I have a dozen or so (every few months) then I distribute them, by bike, to a few different local places with waiting areas (dentist office, doctor office, insurance agent office). Of course I ask if it's o.k. to leave a few recycled publications for their customers to read; I've never been told no. It's a great way to promote these groups and leave quality, educational material among some brain-freezing mags like Us, Glamour and the likes. ...Not saying these mags don't serve a purpose too but everything has its place and time ;)

8.) Eat less meat. 
It takes 630 gallons of water to produce 1 hamburger, source: WWF Focus newsletter.
The agriculture industry is the largest in the world and accounts for 69% of all fresh water consumption. And, it takes far more water to produce meat than it does to produce: beer, vegetables, textiles, etc. So, drink more beer, eat less meat! Seriously, try to cut meat out of your diet 3 meals a week to begin with... try having a veggie sandwich rather than a cold cut for example, try a meat substitute every now and then; they're really quite tasty. I eat meat but only buy free range beef and chicken from farmers who practice responsible grazing, raising, etc. Greenwise at Publix is what I buy. You will feel so much better knowing where your meat comes from- research it- and- it tastes better :)

9.) Don't forget the 1st two Rs in Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.
Reduce: take only one ketchup packet with your to-go meal, rather than three if you're only going to use one; squeeze a quarter size dollop of shampoo into your hand rather than a half dollar size unless your hair is very, very long; don't pull off half a roll of toilet paper to wipe your ass if you don't truly need it (biodegradable baby wipes are more efficient anyhow) pour yourself a half cup of juice rather than a full cup if you're not going to drink it all anyhow, dump the remainder of your water you don't finish into a house plant or the dog bowl rather than pouring down the sink... these are all examples of reducing your consumption.
Re-use: Get those re-usable grocery bags, rinse out and re-use your ziplocs when possible, re-fill those little travel bottles of shampoo, conditioner, etc and save them for your next trip, rather than buying new ones every time, give away stuff you no longer want or need rather than throwing it away... a lot of people would love to have some of the stuff you throw out... just a few examples of re-using here.

10.) Recycle Properly.
Yes, there is a proper way to recycle. Most cities do not accept plastic grocery bags in general recycle bins so then why do people (in my bldg.) constantly collect their recyclables in these bags and throw them in the bin? I don't know why! Containers should be rinsed out a bit. Styrofoam is not accepted/recycled by most cities either. Just do a little research so you'll know what's recyclable and what's not. It's simple and you'll likely discover some articles you could be recycling that you hadn't even thought of... toilet paper rolls, aluminum foil, etc.

Footnote: this blog was initially written and posted on 07/05/12. I re-visited and revised it a bit for this Earth Day, 2014. Shared again 4-22-16

Lastly, this Earth Day, go HUG A TREE! 

Picture initially featured in article at: