Why Go Green: 8 Ways to Make the Case

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This story is part of Earth911’s “Green Eight” series, where we showcase eight ways to green your life in various areas.

We’ve all been there. A co-worker or family member throws that plastic bottle in the trash. Your response:  “Hey, that’s recyclable!”  In return, you get a blank stare followed by “So…Why does it matter?” While thousands of reasons flood your brain, how do you translate those into a simple, easy statement that sums it all up?


Don’t worry. We are here to sort through all the mumbo-jumbo with some stock replies that lay out easy answers to that complex question. From reduce to reuse, with a  little recycle mixed in, our eight green activities are easy to translate to even the toughest of crowds.

Bored? Head outside for a bike ride or a round of tennis. You'll work up a sweet and get back to nature. Photo: Phillyburbs.com

Bored? Head outside for a bike ride or a round of tennis. You'll work up a sweet and get back to nature. Photo: Phillyburbs.com

1. Take It Outside

Why Apply: In general, outdoor activities use less energy while offering a more natural experience, and often times, cleaner air. For all our outdoor worries, we spend up to 90 percent of our lives indoors, where pollution levels are often higher than they are outdoors, based on volatile organic compounds released by paint and cleaning supplies.

How to Do It: Take a hike! We’re not trying to throw you out but, Gorptravel.com is a great place to find info on national parks, hiking trails and forests.

2. Power from the People

Why Apply: Energy use is a huge deal, but why? All energy sources, including fossil fuels, coal and natural gas, give us the ability to run our cars and power our homes. However, energy use is not without its consequences. The harvesting, production and use of these energy sources leads to byproducts and in some cases, greenhouse gases. It’s easy to know what your impact is and more important, how to effect it. There are carbon calculators, energy audits and even programs that weigh your recycling.


How to Do It: Monitor energy usage on your utility bill and set a target for the following month. You can find high energy-draining devices using a Kill-a-Watt and save heating/cooling energy with a programmable thermostat. Check your next bill for a progress update and keep reducing until you hit the target.

3. Upgrade Your Plastic Recycling

Why Apply: You may already recycle plastic bottles in your curbside program and bags at your grocery store, and this represents a good majority of the plastic we use. But as a whole, we recycle less than 7 percent of plastic, and often times this plastic is landfilled because we don’t know where else to take it.

How to Do It:

  1. Take bottle caps to your local Aveda store
  2. Mail used gift cards, hotel key cards and other plastic cards to Earthworks
  3. Ask your local shipping store if it reuses packing peanuts and Styrofoam blocks
  4. Your local Whole Foods may accept Brita filters for recycling
  5. If you have biodegradable plastic, it can be commercially composted
    Photo: Rhodo.co.nz

    Add some green to your backyard and create a healthy output of resources for your garden. Photo: Rhodo.co.nz

4. Let Organics Nourish Your Yard

Why Apply: A healthy garden is beneficial to the environment. But part of every garden is yard waste, such as leaves, weeds and tree trimmings. This organic material can be combined with food waste in a composting bin, which converts it into nutrient-rich fertilizer to use in the garden. In laymen terms, your garbage from yesterday could be your free soil of tomorrow.


How to Do It: Start a compost pile. If that step is down the line a little, you can do other things today to help get you in the swing of things.  The next time you mow the lawn, let grass clippings decompose instead of collecting them. This is known as grasscycling and provides nutrients to the remaining grass while reducing the water requirements for your lawn.

5. Give Your Car Some DIY Love

Why Apply: Many times we associate gas mileage with how eco-friendly our car is, and that’s understandable. But just because a car is capable of 30 mpg doesn’t mean you’ll automatically achieve it. In addition to smart driving, there are several do-it-yourself jobs that can improve your car’s performance and save you money. For example, under-inflated tires can significantly reduce your gas mileage and reduce the life of your tires.

How to Do It: DIY activities for your car maintenance range from monitoring/re-filling your car fluids to testing your air conditioning system. If you’re not much of a car person, make sure you stay on track for schedule maintenance with your dealership or mechanic.

6. Make Your Paperless Documents Shine

Why Apply: The idea of going paperless makes sense, especially since it accounts for about a third of our total waste. Beyond the waste factor, non-printed items can easily be jazzed up to make a better impact on the viewer. Save trees and get creative, it’s a win-win.


How to Do It: Take advantage of features offered in email programs and word processing documents. You can often import templates and choose non-traditional fonts that will stand out on a computer screen. Play with color and photos and let your imagination be your guide.

Utilize social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about your eco-activities. Photo: Foxnomad.com

Utilize social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about your eco-activities. Photo: Foxnomad.com

7. Speak Up

Why Apply: How many times have you heard one person can’t make a difference? Regardless of how you feel about the statement, one person is not what it use to be. With the Internet, most people have a much larger reach then they did 10 years ago.

No matter how you decide to be green, you have an opportunity to educate others in the process. In today’s age of blog posts, Facebook updates and hourly Tweets, there are plenty of outlets to green by example.

How to Do It: After you’ve finished making your own household cleaners, tell others your secret recipe and steps to avoid. You can even brew extra and offer it to friends to get them started.

8. Small Things Add Up


Why to Apply: Think those things you do every day are not making a big difference? Believe it or not, you can always make your green activities even greener. Carpooling takes one car off the road, but a pair of carpoolers taking public transportation once a week takes two cars off the road. It really starts to add up.

How to Do It: Let’s take a step further. You’ve already cut your shower time to reduce water use. Now, put a bucket underneath the faucet to capture water before you’ve reached the desired temperature. You can use this clean water for plants, washing your car or even flushing the toilet while using less water. It’s tweeking your everyday effort to make it even bigger.

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Trey Granger

Trey Granger is a former senior waste stream analyst for Earth911.
Trey Granger

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Comments

  1. Going green has become a very serious matter everyone should consider. Taking a look at several areas around the world that are facing a water shortage it is important to consider all possible ways to conserve water. You will be surprised at how simple these steps are yet how effective they can be. Easy things we can do to help save water include fixing leaky sprinklers, installing water efficient shower heads, toilets etc. Check out all the tips on how to save water at this site. http://tr.im/sfHU

  2. Trey, Great tips! I work daily with businesses, campuses, etc. looking to implement simple green lifestyle changes that in the big scheme of things create positive results for the environment. For example, we place EcoHangers (a 100% recycled / recyclable apparel hanger) in residence halls on college campuses featuring tips on how to live greener on campus.. tips on saving water and energy all the way to bus schedules to promote mass transit and directions to a local farmers market.

    Not only is the product helping to reduce toxic resins and plastics from the waste stream but it is also serving as a great platform to communicate ways to live greener! It all start with participation as stated in the article!
    Well done!

  3. I like the sound of this–sometimes people feel like “why bother? i can’t make a difference.” This is a great article that gives the inspiration and information about why to bother.

    Thanks!

  4. Replacing some of your lawn with edible plants is a great way to go green with some healthy (and yummy) advantages for you too.

    I replaced part of my lawn with blueberry and cranberry bushes. Both of these beautiful plants are low maintence, requiring only acidic soil, some sun (the more sun the more they will fruit), and a little organic fertilizer. In adition to fruit, blueberries have nice fall color. Cranberries are evergreen (although in places like Vermont they will be under snow all winter). I use them more or less as a ground cover around the blueberry plants. Instead of trashing or composting your coffee grounds, add them to the soil arouond your blueberry plants.

  5. Geothermal heat pumps are durable and require little maintenance. They have fewer mechanical components than other systems, and most of those components are underground, sheltered from the weather. The underground piping used in the system is often guaranteed to last 25 to 50 years and is virtually worry-free. The components inside the house are small and easily accessible for maintenance. Warm and cool air is distributed through ductwork, just as in a regular forced-air system.
    Since geothermal systems have no outside condensing units like air conditioners, they are quieter to operate.

    How Do They Work?
    Remember, a geothermal heat pump doesn’t create heat by burning fuel, like a furnace does. Instead, in winter it collects the Earth’s natural heat through a series of pipes, called a loop, installed below the surface of the ground or submersed in a pond or lake. Fluid circulates through the loop and carries the heat to the house. There, an electrically driven compressor and a heat exchanger concentrate the Earth’s energy and release it inside the home at a higher temperature. Ductwork distributes the heat to different rooms.
    In summer, the process is reversed. The underground loop draws excess heat from the house and allows it to be absorbed by the Earth. The system cools your home in the same way that a refrigerator keeps your food cool – by drawing heat from the interior, not by blowing in cold air.
    The geothermal loop that is buried underground is typically made of high-density polyethylene, a tough plastic that is extraordinarily durable but which allows heat to pass through efficiently. When installers connect sections of pipe, they heat fuse the joints, making the connections stronger than the pipe itself. The fluid in the loop is water or an environmentally safe antifreeze solution that circulates through the pipes in a closed system.
    Another type of geothermal system uses a loop of copper piping placed underground. When refrigerant is pumped through the loop, heat is transferred directly through the copper to the earth.

    As with any heat pump, geothermal and water-source heat pumps are able to heat, cool, and, if so equipped, supply the house with hot water. Some models of geothermal systems are available with two-speed compressors and variable fans for more comfort and energy savings. Relative to air-source heat pumps, they are quieter, last longer, need little maintenance, and do not depend on the temperature of the outside air.

    US Department of Energy http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/space_heating_cooling/index.cfm/mytopic=12640

    http://www.geothermalexperts.net

  6. Being aware of green travel options, hanging towels to dry after shower instead of getting new for each day of stay, not changing sheets every day, even having your own stainless steel water bottle and not constantly using plastic and glass drinking bottles ~ makes a big difference! Your 8 tips are well presented & will look forward to more info on this site, Thanks!!!

  7. Pingback: Green social media, twitter, sustainability, arizona ad agency | ParkHowell.com

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