News and ResourcesA "Greener" Resolution - January 1, 2017
As we begin a new year, we also begin to think about what our New Year’s resolutions might be. Many will focus on ways that we can improve ourselves, such as exercising more often or having a healthier diet. Other resolutions might be to spend more time with loved ones or to save more money. One resolution that is frequently overlooked though is to become more environmentally friendly. By making small changes in our daily routines, we can collectively have a large and positive impact. In addition to being beneficial for the environment, many “green” decisions can also save money!
Reducing energy usage is a great way to save both money and the earth. Replacing regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) is one simple energy reducing method. CFLs last approximately ten times longer than traditional light bulbs, reducing the amount of waste created all the while being more energy efficient. Turning off lights when leaving a room for more than 15 minutes and unplugging appliances that are not in use, also saves on energy costs. Adjust your thermostat to be a few degrees warmer in the summer and few degrees cooler in the winter. For each degree change, your energy bill can be reduced one to three percent. Washing clothes in cold water can save a considerable amount of energy; up to 85% of energy used by washing machines goes to heating water. Air drying your clothes saves energy and money and at the same times keeps your clothes in better condition than machine drying.
Water conservation is a critical aspect to going green and saving money. Taking shorter showers is an easy way to conserve water and energy. By reducing your shower time by two minutes, you can conserve more than ten gallons of water and save on water and heating bills. Installing a low-flow showerhead will also lessen the amount of water used. Turning off the water while brushing your teeth can save up to five gallons of water a day. If everyone in the United States did this simple task it would save 1.5 billion gallons of water every day. You can also find ways to conserve water in your yard. Planting drought-tolerant native plants reduces the amount of watering needed. Collecting rainwater in a rain barrel to water plants also is an effortless way to save water.
By changing habits on your daily commute you can help reduce your environmental impact. Using cruise control when possible can get up to 15% better gas mileage for your car. Keeping your tires inflated and maintaining your engine can increase your miles per gallon by up to 7%. When feasible, walk or bike to your destination to save on gas and get exercise! Limiting the amount we use our cars, greatly reduces our carbon footprint.
Reducing, reusing, and recycling limits the number of products that need to be produced from raw materials. Instead of using bottled water or a disposable coffee cup, purchase reusable cups and mugs to reduce the amount of waste created. Almost 90% of all plastic bottles are not recycled and end up in a land fill or polluting the environment. Every year in the United States alone, 84 billion plastic bags are used. These bags are not biodegradable and often end up in the ocean as pollution. When shopping, use reusable shopping bags and help instate legislature banning plastic bags in your state. In the office you can reduce waste by printing double-sided and recycling paper when you are finished. Each year American businesses throw away over 21 million tons of paper. Recycle old newspapers and magazines, or better yet read them online. The majority of newspapers will be thrown away, by recycling just Sunday newspapers over half a million trees would be saved per week.
Adjusting what we buy at the grocery store is an easy way to reduce our carbon footprint. Buying locally grown or sourced food limits the amount of transportation needed. Purchasing food at your local farmers’ market supports local businesses and the economy. Consuming less red meat and dairy has even a larger environmental impact than eating local. Eating one meatless meal a week or replacing 30% of calories from red meat and dairy consumption with a combination of chicken, fish, and eggs will save more carbon than eating locally for a whole year. When choosing meats to eat, it’s also important to choose animals low on the food chain. Instead of choosing tuna or mahi, choose sustainably raised tilapia or catfish to lessen the environmental impact. Roughly 40% of food in America is thrown away. Limiting the amount of food waste reduces the amount of food that needs to be produced. Instead of throwing away unwanted food, consider starting a compost pile. By using plant and kitchen waste, you can create nutrient rich material for your garden or yard.
By making small changes in your daily life, you can make a big impact on creating a healthier environment. Larger changes are still necessary to prevent additional severe damage to the environment. Until these fundamental changes can be made, it is important to do our part to create a healthy environment for ourselves and the generations to come.
Phillips is the Program Manager for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.
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