For Earth Day I encouraged you to go green. Lots of tips on ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle in an effort to use fewer resources. Well, I found a strategy to reduce the use of paper towels that I feel can’t wait until April 22, 2014. I hope you’ll watch this short video. I’ll never forget this paper towel lesson.
Of course, Mr. Sam, the docent at the Silver River Museum always taught the fourth graders to dry their hands like the early inhabitants of the area. No paper towels. Super simple. Just shake.
Yesterday I encouraged you to “Go Green” by reducing, reusing, and recycling. Today, I’d like help you make it happen.
First reduce water consumption:
Turn off the water while you’re brushing your teeth. Take shorter showers. Wash only full loads of laundry or dishes. Wash your car so that the extra water runs in to the grass instead of paved surfaces. Follow guidelines for watering your lawn. It doesn’t take a lot of water to keep your grass and plants healthy. If you get really serious there are numerous ways to reuse water from baths and showers or by installing environmentally friendly plumbing fixtures.
Next, reduce electric usage:
Turn off lights, TVs, and other items not in use. Unplug chargers, toasters, and anything else that isn’t essential. (I saw a woman swear she was saving over $50 each month just by unplugging electronics when not in use…sounds like an exaggeration, but saving money would be a good extra benefit.) Adjust the temperature on your water heater or better yet put it on a timer so you’re not heating water that you don’t need.
Reduce fuel consumption:
Plan your trips more efficiently. While buying a car with better gas mileage is a worthy goal, it doesn’t make sense to buy a new car just for the mileage – especially if you don’t need a new vehicle. I’m no poster child for gas saving vehicles. A Suburban can hardly be used as a good example of energy efficiency, but you have take into consideration your needs. If you need to pull a trailer, or carry more than two passengers, or transport items, or travel, you may need to make some mileage concessions to meet other needs. Carpool. Maybe you want to use a bike for some of your transportation. John and I rode bikes to work every day during the gas shortage in the summer of 1979. Of course it helped that we were working at a camp so dress clothes were not required. I also rode a bike to South Ocala to teach summer school one year. It really does feel great if you can do this, but if not, you may able to ride to the store or to a local restaurant or friend’s house. An interesting statistic: for every 10 miles you bike instead of driving, you reduce carbon emissions by 500 pounds. Just think how much I’ve saved by working from home!
Reduce use of paper, plastic, and packaging: Eliminating paper plates and other disposable eating utensils may not be practical everyday, but make an effort to use these products rarely instead of daily. Use fewer paper napkins and paper towels. You might even consider using cloth napkins. (You know you can use them more than once.) Fewer paper cups, plastic bottles, and no Styrofoam are goals to set. These are easy ways to make small changes in your habits.
The single best change I’ve made in recent years: reading digital content. We no longer need to recycle the two newspapers that were delivered daily and haven’t sacrificed access anything since we can access the information on the computer, iPad, even the phone if you can tolerate reading on such a small screen. Next Issue eliminates stacks of magazines with expanded digital content, and since receiving a Kindle for Christmas four years ago, I rarely purchase a book in the traditional format. If it’s not available digitally, then it’s time to make a trip to the library.
While the purpose of these tips is to conserve resources, they also result in saving money. Just last week I got our lowest utility bill in the 25+ years we’ve lived in this house. With five people and a pool, we’ve had utility bills as high as $600. Last week, for the first time, I received a bill of less than $200. In fact, only $167, of which $41 are for services and fees-not related to water or electric use. Of course, we’re down to two people and the pool is gone, but it sure feels good to save money, water, and electricity. Going green saves green too.
When I was in sixth grade in 1970, we celebrated the first Earth Day. I remember numerous news stories on TV and in the newspapers about pollution problems in the Jacksonville area. There were pictures of who knows what being discharged from factories in to the St. John’s River. Of course, the paper factories were a major industry in Jacksonville and the odor emanating from them was a constant reminder of the air pollution problem in the city. At that time plans were being formulated to protect the bald eagle since there was a real danger that our national symbol could become extinct. Looking back, it’s pretty amazing that so much focus was placed on the environment by the government and the media. What a successful campaign!
Schools were encouraged to spend time studying the issue of protecting the environment. That’s why I remember the news reports. We were to watch the news and cut out articles from the newspaper to share. My teacher, Mrs. Boyle, assigned research papers (an excellent way to get 12 year olds interested in the environment) and my project was on water pollution. But the important thing about that first Earth Day is that it started a conversation about the very real problems people were causing and how we might make changes to reverse the damage.
Many improvements have been made as a result of our nation’s focus on environmental protection. You no longer see the haze surrounding large cities. In the 1960s and 70s smog and other air pollution caused a visible haze especially noticeable when approaching a city. The air no longer has an odor associated with pollution except of course when fires are burning due to drought (or when you’re in Palatka where you can still smell the paper mills). Many rivers and lakes in the U.S. are in much better condition than 40 years ago, but I fear that some of that progress may be lost due to relaxing of some of the protections enacted during the past three or four decades. That’s why it’s more important than ever that each of us do our part to make a difference.
I remember your Dad complaining about the crazy woman who would bring all of her mesh bags to Publix because she objected to cutting down trees to make paper bags. And at the same time my Uncle Bill was encouraging everyone he knew to ask the bag boys to double bag their groceries to help the paper industry. We weren’t very environmentally friendly.
While our nation is backsliding on environmental issues, more citizens are taking an active role in the protection of resources and the environment. So 43 years after the first Earth Day I want to remind you to make every day Earth Day and do your part. The Reduce, Reuse, Recycle slogan of Earth Day campaigns is the best way to issue these reminders. Do your part: reduce consumption, reuse resources, and then recycle. You can make a difference.