My Earth Day

I am not a big eco-warrior, but I grew up recycling, and college was the same way. I've been recycling for most of my formative years. Moving to places without recycling is a bit perplexing. Anyway, I thought I might implore you all to make a few simple changes in your life to help make the world better. Trust me, these items are easy and will assuage your eco-conscience.

Change to fluorescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs burn out quicker and require more energy. Fluorescent bulbs last for years and use a fraction of the energy of an incandescent.

Conserve energy simply. Turn off lights when you're not using them. Things like toasters and other household appliances still use energy even if you're not using them, so unplug them. My coffee maker and toaster are never plugged in unless I'm using them!

As much as you hate recycling, please recycle glass and metals! I know that plastics are a chore, ESPECIALLY if you live in a non-recycling area (or even worse, a place that makes you sort the plastic recycling by number...). But glass and metals are things that can be reused relatively easily and cheaply. In fact, recycling aluminum takes only 5% of the energy needed to produce from ore.

Avoid Styrofoam. It's big, it's bulky, and it will never, ever, ever go away. Never.

Use canvas shopping bags. Both paper and plastic shopping bags suck for the environment. Better off using neither. If you persist in using disposable shopping bags, reuse them. I use shopping bags (paper and plastic) for trash bags. Some retailers will give you a credit for using reusable bags ($0.05 on average). In three years of using 2 canvas bags, I paid one off entirely. And it's not as if canvas bags aren't useful for other things.

Keep the thermostat low in the winter, high in the summer. In winter, 60 degrees is adequate to keep your pipes from freezing, etc. In the summer, most people do quite well at 78 degrees. If that's too drastic for you, then follow the same advice when you're NOT home. In the winter, when I leave the house, I turn the thermostat down to 58. In the summer, I turn the A/C off before I leave.

Please argue that it will take more energy to cool my place down, blah blah blah. The truth is that when I wake up, the sun is rising, and when I get home, the sun is setting. The hottest part of the day I am at work. By the time I get home, I may not even need the A/C.

Much more effective than simple temperature control is being smart. If you're not using a room, why keep the vents open? In one of my apartments, the bathroom had no exterior wall (it faced the inside of the building). So I closed the vents to the bathroom. It didn't need the heat. Also, when I ran the A/C, I closed the bathroom door.

Keep the refrigerator door closed. It leaks energy like a sieve. If you have items that don't need to be in the fridge, then leave them out. Also, if it's cold outside, use the weather! In the winter, when I want something cold to drink, I'll put it on the porch for an hour.

Use thermal mugs for all your drinks, hot or cold. That way, you always have hot coffee or cold soda, and you're not wasting your beverage, and not generating garbage. A lot of places, like Starbucks, will give a $0.10 discount if you bring your own mug. I drink a LOT of coffee, and average about 2-4 cups of gourmet coffee a week. On average, 25 cents a week let's say. So, my reusable Starbucks mug cost me $10. I'll pay off the mug in less than a year.

So, to sum up, I think that it's good to remember that there are some easy things you can do to make this world a little better!

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