by Anna Sugden
It’s a beautiful spring day -- the sun is shining, the birds are singing and squirrels and chipmunks scamper (at least they will until my cats go outside). The sky is bright blue with white wispy clouds. The trees and bushes, which only last week were winter-bare, have exploded in a profusion of leaves and flowers. The air is fresh; summer’s humidity hasn’t set in yet.
A perfect Earth Day.
Is it too much to hope that future generations -- our children’s children and beyond -- will be able to enjoy the Earth as much as we do?
I must admit, I’m not a stridently ‘green’ person. I like to do what I can to help. But, I am not prepared to compromise my life too much to do it.
What I’ve learned, this year, is that you can make lots of little, seemingly insignificant, changes to your life and they add up to a much bigger change. Imagine if we all made those little changes … the impact would be huge.
It is easy to make a difference, if we think about three important tenets:
1. Use less
3. Reduce waste
If you're like me, you need practical tips. I’ve listed below, ten things that are easy to do, which barely inconvenience our lives and yet which can help our planet.
1. Bottled Water - drinking tap water is ideal. But, if you prefer to drink bottled water, then make sure you choose brands which are made locally or in the same country (think how much energy is spent to transport bottled water!). Buy water dispensers instead of cases of plastic bottles. Re-use or recycle the plastic bottles.
2. Shopping Bags - ideally, use your own instead of taking the store’s bags. But, if that’s not convenient, ensure that you reuse the bags and/or recycle them. eg you can use them to line bins, get rid of pet waste etc.
3. Lightbulbs - changing to Energy Star lightbulbs can significantly reduce the amount of energy you use. The bulbs last much longer too, so you spend less on lightbulbs, lower your energy costs and reduce the waste from lightbulb packaging.
4. Car journeys - can you reduce the number of car journeys you make in a week by 1? Can you walk, take public transport, cycle or car pool for one more journey a week?
5. Billing - many firms offer paperless billing and paperless payment. Not only does this cut down on the paper used, think of the energy used to transport both the bill and the payment.
6. Reduce food waste - make a shopping list and stick to it - a great way to reduce food waste. We all do it -- buy more than we need, buy food we think we need, only to find we had some, and then throw out food that is past its sell-by date. This is especially true around the holidays.
7. Use colder water - with the quality of laundry detergents and washing machines today, it is possible to wash clothes at significantly colder water than we used to. 40 or even 30 degrees is sufficient. For lightly soiled clothes, often cold water will do. And don't forget to reduce how often you use your tumble drier ... can you dry clothes in the sun? Or use the central heating and drying racks?
8. Change your thermostat by 1 degree - set it to be cooler by one degree in the winter and one degree warmer in the summer. Get a timer on your thermostat so that you don’t waste energy overnight or while you are out. You’d be surprised by how little difference one degree can make to how it feels, but what a difference it makes to the energy consumed (and to your bills!)
9. Buy local produce and goods - wherever possible, choose goods and produce that have not had to be transported over great distances.
10. Plant a tree - the best way to redress the balance in the energy chain is to plant a tree. Many companies are now doing this - we, as individuals, can too.
Hopefully, you can see that none of these suggestions is too onerous. Maybe there are one or two that you hadn’t thought about which you could incorporate into your daily life.
If we all try to make these little changes in our life, it really will add up to a great big difference.
Do you have any hints or tips that you can share with us? Are you dark green or light green? Are there things that you do now, that you weren’t doing a couple of years ago, to help the Earth?