I have a confession to make. I am a wasteful person. For sheer matter of convenience and laziness, I have contributed to the ongoing depletion of our natural resources. I confess that I have carried a cardboard box out to the dumpster in our condo complex and have thrown it in the regular trash rather than the recycle trash, simply because the recycle trash was a good 20 yards further from my door. In fact, I have probably done that several times. I have left the air conditioning on while I was out in the summer, just so I would not come home to a hot house. I have driven to the supermarket that is directly behind my house.
In my defense, our family does try to recycle cans and bottles. Of course, we do exchange them for cash. Honestly, if they weren’t worth money, I don’t think that I would have made the effort.
I have been lazy and careless, but I just never thought it made that big of a difference. This past weekend, I visited a friend who lives several hours north. I have been friends with her for many years, but she had always lived nearby until recently, and so I had never stayed at her house. After just a short time visiting this friend, I realized how wasteful I am. She does not make a big deal about her efforts to be environmentally friendly, which is why I never noticed them before, but it has definitely become part of her way of life. Upon returning home, I suddenly became aware of how easy it would be to make some simple changes. As I go about making these changes in my own household, I would like to share some of these simple ideas.
Have Two Trash Cans – One for Recycling, One for Trash
This seems like such an obvious thing to do, and so many people I know have been doing it for years. In fact, when I was growing up, my parents had a separate can for recycling, but for some reason I never picked up the habit as an adult. At first, I believe it was because the apartment complex I lived in did not have separate dumpsters, and my small studio didn’t really have room for two trash cans anyway. Years later, separating my trash just became something that I would get around to one day.
Last night, I went out and bought a trash can just for recyclables. I made a list of what can be recycled and what goes in the trash and posted it near the trash cans to help remind myself and the other members of my family to toss things in the right can. It seems like a small step, but every little bit helps. According to Waste Management, the average person will produce 600 times their body weight in trash over the course of a lifetime. We might be just one family, but we can prevent a lot of excess waste.
Stop buying bottled water
The reality of store bought bottled water is that most of it comes from the same source as the tap water that is in your faucet; it is merely filtered and mineral enhanced for taste. Personally, I will not drink water straight from the tap and had always thought that buying filters was too expensive.
When we went shopping, I was surprised to find that a water filter attachment for my faucet was relatively inexpensive. We were able to find a very nice one that not only filters, but also runs the water over natural minerals for a fresh taste. Surprisingly, this faucet attachment only cost about $20, and there were smaller ones in the store that cost even less. The filters only need to be changed every few months and are less than $15 each. When you consider that a case of bottled water cost about $5.00, we are going to save a lot of money by filtering our own water, not to all the natural resources that would be used up making plastic for disposable water bottles.
Replace light bulbs with energy efficient ones
According to Energystar.gov, “If every American home replaced just one light bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.” While I had always thought that the glowing fluorescent light given off by these bulbs would not look as nice as the regular light bulbs, I was surprised to find that the energy efficient bulbs in my friend’s house were better light than regular bulbs.
A six pack of these light bulbs can be purchased at Walmart for less than $10! For more information about these lights (where to put them, what kinds to buy, etc), check out the energy star website http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=cfls.pr_cfls
I am by no means an expert on all things green, but I have come to realize that it does not take much effort to make a few simple changes that will make a big impact. Although the amount of natural resources that one person can save by doing such simple things might seem miniscule, it all adds up. Some of the biggest changes in society have been the result of the mindset changing, one person at a time.