Whether we all agree on the science behind global warming, doubtlessly it has become increasingly important for all of us to become more mindful of the health of the environment we live in. With all the talk this year about “green” practices, the focus on energy-saving vehicles and the emphasis on organic food, I’m resolved to become more conscious of how my actions impact the environment I live in and to reduce the waste I create.
My resolution to become more environmentally-friendly is not just about saving the Earth and preserving its natural ecosystems, it’s also about making my lifestyle and that of my family a healthier, more energy efficient one. It may be a bit selfish to think so, but I believe that ultimately what we do to improve our own well-being will eventually contribute to the well-being of our communities. As an example, I’ll use the obvious one: the light bulb. It is cheaper for me to buy energy-efficient light bulbs; in the long run, they will cost me much less in electricity costs. This seemingly selfish decision also benefits our country in reducing overall energy consumption.
Without further ado, I commit to the following steps to achieve my “green” resolution for 2009:
1. Eliminate plastic as much as possible. If you take a quick look around your kitchen, you’ll be amazed at the plastic all around you. This is because plastic is convenient, versatile and durable. In a word, plastic is easy. It is also extremely detrimental to the environment. Because of the pervasiveness of plastic, we think of it as disposable – how many plastic water or soda bottles do you go through each week? Of course, we all know that we’re not supposed to re-use plastic water bottles – for good reason as many plastics can leach chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) into your food or drink. As a result, we are more likely to use a large amount of plastic each year, creating a large amount of waste, not to mention putting ourselves at risk for health problems caused by chemicals such as BPA.
Until recently, I thought I was doing ok as long as I placed my plastics in the recyclables bin – I know that without recycling, plastics degrade very slowly causing much harm to our ecosystems. I have since learned that recycling plastic is actually quite difficult specifically because separating the different types and then recycling them appropriately is a very time consuming and pricy endeavor. Not only are plastics detrimental after their use, but they also create large chemical pollutants during their production stage. Burning and recycling of plastics also creates toxic fumes, which are detrimental to humans.
It will, of course, be impossible to rid myself of plastic entirely. Everything has it: my cell phone, my laptop, the packaging for my energy-efficient light bulbs. However, I think it is realistic to aim for reducing my use of plastic paper bags at grocery stores as well as my consumption of plastic bottles for soda or water. This promises to be cost-efficient, healthy and good for the environment. I plan on using an aluminum water bottle and my Brita filter and I will bring re-usable bags to the grocery store.
2. Reduce paper waste. Just like plastic, paper is ubiquitous and a necessary part of our daily life. So pervasive is it that we have taken for granted its large consumption and all the waste we create. In 2009, I am committed to reducing my paper consumption in a number of ways.
I will start to limit the number of pages I print; eventually, I would like to get rid of the printer in my home. Out of convenience, I think I abuse my printer. I have noticed that when I run out of ink or the printer breaks, I somehow make due without printing! If I absolutely have to print something, I will make sure to always print double-sided or use the paper I print as scrap paper to write notes on. I also plan on using my laptop a lot more for keeping my calendar and agenda. Sometimes, nothing replaces a journal and a pen to jot down thoughts or brainstorm; in such cases, I plan to be prepared with a notebook created out of recycled paper. Additionally, I will try to encourage my co-workers to also adopt some paper-efficient practices at work.
Additionally, I am going to use my computer a lot more to do my online banking. I will switch to paperless statements and billing. These services will e-mail you every time a bill is due or whenever your statement is ready. You always have the option to look at older statements and check your payment history conveniently. As a member of Citizens Bank, I will also enroll for their Green Sense program. This program earns you 10 cents every time you use your debit card, pay bills online, and when you switch your account to paperless.
There are many more ways to reduce paper waste and consumption. As part of my resolution, I will commit to becoming more aware of when and how I am using paper and I will look for alternatives.
3. Save water. Water is quickly becoming a problem throughout the world, even in the United States. Many people think of water as a renewable resource; however, it is only renewable so long as it is conserved properly. In most of the United States, we take our access to unlimited water for granted – we have it all day long and we never fear that we will run out. In many parts of the US, however, states are suffering from prolonged periods of drought and many sources are warning about the danger posed by reduced water resources in the future.
In my day-to-day, I will try to become more conscious of my water use. I will make sure I run the washing machine only when I have a full load and I will make sure to conserve as much water as possible whenever I’m at the bathroom sink. We all have a tendency to leave the water running as we brush our teeth or reach for the towel – I will try to limit this. Washing dishes is another area I need to improve. Initially, I thought that if I stopped using the dishwasher, I would conserve both water and energy. Though it is true that you will notice a decrease in your electricity bill if you stop using your dishwasher, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be conserving water. It seems that the average person does not know how to wash dishes correctly – this includes me. We tend to leave the water running the entire time as we soap and rinse each dish. In this sense, using the dishwasher can actually conserve more water. In 2009, I’ll try my best to learn a better way to clean up after dinner.
I also plan on discussing the importance of water conservation with my family so we can all respect the same guidelines when it comes to water use in our home. Because we live in the Northeast, we also get a lot of rain – I will make sure to limit our use of sprinklers and to learn more about lawn-watering practices that conserve water. I hope I am also able to add plants that need little water to the garden.
4. Drive less. Although gas prices are now reasonable, I would like to keep my focus on reducing my reliance on my car. I will plan on using my bike for short trips to the drugstore and I hope to also add a basket to it – this way, I can also ride my bike to the grocery store when I need to only get a few items. Fortunately, I live close to public transportation. I plan on using public transportation to go to work daily – this will save me money on gas and parking. I will also convince my friends and family to carpool more when we are all heading to the same destination.
5. Spread the word about my resolution. I hope that in 2009, many of my friends and family members will also adopt my resolution to become more environmentally friendly. I plan to discuss this resolution with others and to brainstorm ways in which we can “green” our living spaces, offices, and communities. I will also join a volunteer organization in my town, which is focused on spreading the word about “green” practices. I hope this last step will also help me stick to my resolution as I get more and more people committed to it.