Why is it important to be greener?
The innovations and advancements in technology that marked the past century have resulted in a globalized world with record productivity levels, a fast growing population and very competitive markets.
One of the consequences of this reality is the emergence and propagation of consumerist societies. These societies, fed by advertising and social media, rely heavily on single use—or throwaway—products (such as disposable cups and bottles, produce and shopping bags, and to-go containers) and no longer consume goods only to satisfy their needs but also their wants. Fashion trends, electronics, transportation, and comfort accessories are also part of this modern lifestyle in which overconsumption has almost become a necessity.
The truth is that while the overall quality of life has improved, the world’s waste and pollution levels have skyrocketed. We are exhausting our natural resources and jeopardizing the heath of the planet: The Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.4°F, our global fresh water supply is rapidly shrinking, and there are millions of people and species around the globe that are already suffering the consequences. Managing our impact on the environment and lowering our carbon footprint is a necessity.
The good news is that as a globalized and advanced world, we can use technology and the power of social media to educate an influence people (consumers) to live more simply and demand more efficient and environmentally friendly products.
In order to become more efficient and reduce waste and pollution, we need to start at home! Small adjustments to our daily routines and habits can effectively green up our lives and improve the health of the planet. Together, we can help improve the quality of our lives today and preserve the planet—and its finite resources—for future generations. GSU would like to suggest 7 simple ways to start your green evolution today!
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- Be a responsible consumer by applying the 4 Rs: REDUCE the consumption of nonessential items, REUSE and repurpose things you already own, RECYCLE your waste, and RESTORE things to extend their life cycle. Do not buy things only because they are cheap or on sale…or cute. Think long term, our waste doesn’t disappear from the map once the garbage truck takes it, so do your best to prevent waste, reduce consumption and reuse things, and then recycle and compost!
- If still useful, give your old stuff a second chance by selling it on Craigslist, e-bay or Amazon, ask friends, co-workers and family members if they need it, or donate it to Goodwill or another organization. Remember the old saying “One men’s trash is another men’s treasure.”
- Keep your refrigerator clean and organized and do not buy more food than you can prepare and consume. Growing, transporting and refrigerating food for human and animal consumption takes a lot of energy and resources.
- Restrain from plastic produce and shopping bags: When you go shopping anywhere—not only the market or grocery store—bring your own reusable shopping bags (you can buy economical reusable produce and shopping bags online and at most stores). Plastic bags take hundreds of years to break down, contaminate the environment, fly around and get stuck in bushes and trees, and are a threat to wildlife.
- When possible, extend the life span of your clothes and linen before each wash. In other words, wash it only if it is dirty. Also, learn how to fix basic wear and tear by acquiring basic sewing skills.
- If you are a woman and still get your period, give the Diva Cup a try! Once you get used to it, it will become your best friend!
- If you are crafty and can make the time, restore your old furniture and repurpose your stuff with cool DIY projects. These projects can be quite rewarding!
- Go paperless with all of your bills, stop your junk mail, and use your toilet paper as if it was your last roll!
- Apply the Japanese LEAN philosophy and principles (elimination of waste “MUDA”) and learn how to DO MORE WITH LESS!
- Spread the word: Tweet, like, share, e-mail, text, talk…Show other people how to be green and get them on board!
- Reduce your energy consumption:
- Try to adapt more to the weather and its seasons (instead of keeping your home at 75 degrees year around, acclimate to the high 60’s in the winter and the low 80’s in the summer). Dress according to the weather.
- Buy LED or energy-efficient light bulbs for the areas with the most electric light usage.
- If you need to upgrade your appliances, choose Energy Star/energy efficient products.
- Turn off the lights, electronics and appliances when they are not in use! Set your water heater to 120 degrees, and try to always run full loads in your washer and dryer (if possible, use clothes lines instead of the dryer).
- Sign up for energy conservation programs or plans. Utility providers often offer rebates and discounts if you do!
- Ultimately, consider downsizing! As reported by the American Enterprise Institute, “Today’s new homes are 1,000 square feet larger than in 1973, and the living space per person has doubled over the past 40 years.” On the other hand, according to the 2013 American Time Use Survey, the average citizen spends 8.5 hours a day sleeping and 2.8 watching TV (2), two activities that we do from the comfort of a bed or couch. Opting for a more frugal and simple lifestyle can open new doors, enrich your life, save resources and lower your carbon emissions! If you need some inspiration, learn about the tiny house movement!
- Learn to be WATER SMART and save hundreds or thousands of gallons per year by making small adjustments to the way you consume this precious resource!
- Upgrade your bathroom with a water efficient low-flow faucet and showerhead. Take short productive showers (avoid baths) and close the faucet while brushing your teeth.
- The brick in the toilet: Place a recycled water bottle (filled with water) in your toilet’s water tank and every time you flush they toilet, you will save 1 liter of water! And remember the old saying: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow.”
- Soak and scrub your dishes in some water and load your dishwasher skillfully.
- Choose your landscape according to your climate zone and keep an eye on your irrigation system; finding and fixing leaks as soon as possible is crucial!
- Re-think your transportation options:
- Walk and ride your bicycle more often: get fit, save gas, explore more, and produce less carbon dioxide!
- Vanpool or carpool when possible. Remember that we are social creatures; connect more with others, save gas and money, and ultimately, reduce the amount of carbon emissions in our air!
- If you live in a large city, consider public transportation: Save yourself from the daily stress of traffic and lay back and enjoy the trip! Some cities even have public transportation incentive programs, with rewards and discounts!
- Explore your surroundings! Consider vacations nearby, go camping, or experience the Greyhound bus ride.
- Drive an electric or fuel efficient car or convert your car to flex-fuel. Alternative fuels, such as natural gas or ethanol are abundant and cleaner than gasoline (E85 can be produced out of garbage, if we, the customer, increase demand!). By avoiding gasoline we are also reducing the possibilities of more oil-spill disasters!
- Get your green thumb up:
- Plant a tree: It promotes biodiversity and absorbs carbon dioxide, and it will green up your home. To maximize the act, make sure you choose the right tree for you and your climate zone!
- Incorporate some houseplants into your home and workplace: Indoor plants remove common pollutants from the air and add beauty to any environment.
- Plant a garden: By growing your own organic vegetables, you are not consuming the pesticides and fertilizers that are used to grow most vegetables and fruits sold at the store. Also, having your own garden will help conserve the resources needed to refrigerate and transport your produce: Zero carbon footprint. Start with a pepper plant, which is one of the easiest vegetables to grow, and go from there!
- If you have the space, compost your organic waste and turn it into fresh and nutritious soil!
- Eat less animal products and more vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and grains! What you eat not only affects your health but the health of the planet:
- Eat less resource consumptive foods, such as meat and dairy products, and more products that stand lower on the food chain, like vegetable, fruits, legumes, nuts, and grains. Incorporate a couple of meatless days into your week or ultimately switch to a plant-based/vegan diet. GSU has a whole section dedicated to delicious and nutritious vegan dishes and smoothies! Visit Green Cuisine page and get ready to indulge with confidence!
- When possible, choose organic: less pesticides and fertilizers in your diet and in the environment.
- Buy foods and products with less packaging or choose paper instead of plastic. Buying in bulk and reusing your bags is also a great green choice!
- Be more adventurous and get outdoors more often! Connecting more with nature will help you to appreciate it and protect it!
- Hike, backpack and camp: Activate all of your senses and enjoy the effusive sounds of birds and frogs, and the whistling wind flying through the abundant foliage; the unique smell of grasses and weeds, wild flowers, and moist decaying wood; the energetic mornings spent hiking trails and the playful afternoons swimming in the river…enjoy the beauty of nature.
- Start surfing, climbing, biking or any other sport that requires you to have some outdoor fun!
Staying informed and educating yourself is always a proactive and positive way to evolve! Never stop learning and don’t forget to spread the word!
If you need some inspiration, take a look at Green Straight Up’s PHOTO GALLERY!