What difference can one person make? That’s a question or justification I hear too often from people who do not recycle, reuse or believe in environmentally conscious practices. Being from California, I don’t understand this mentality since I was brought up being green, and therefore make informed choices about the way I live my life and how it affects others. But I’m not a tree hugger or wearing clothes of wheat, so don’t roll your eyes.
In India, the majority of its people are responsible for disposing the garbage they create. Think about that for a moment — there is NO garbage truck coming around to pick up your bakery boxes, one-time batteries and plastic bottles. Some might say it’s backwards or uncivilized, but I think it’s smart. Why? Well, wouldn’t it force you to make more informed decisions about avoiding waste if you were responsible for its fate?
Let’s make every day Earth Day and celebrate by adopting new habits to help save our wonderful planet and its inhabitants (us!). Here are 10 easy things:
1. Use a coffee cup at work instead of paper or Styrofoam disposables. If you stop at Starbucks, they sell and give credit for reusable containers; perhaps your local cafe would do the same or at least let you bring your own travel mug.
2. Bring a reusable bag to the grocery store and laiki (AB sells them and gives 1 point credit for each use). That one-use bag takes 1000 years to degrade; with 500 billion distributed every year, that’s a lot of landfill going nowhere fast.
3. Look for a compact fluorescent light (CFL) or “energy saver” bulb instead a common incandescent, which will be illegal in some countries by 2010. CFLs initially cost more at the store, but in the long term last years longer, use a quarter of the energy and reduce your electric bill…so, they’re really cheaper.
4. Stop using shower gel, it takes 800 years to degrade. Soap anyone? Further, consider a shampoo bar instead of bottled shampoo — it’s biodegradable, it won’t explode in your luggage, and there’s nothing to throw away when you’re done.
5. Buy rechargeable batteries for your remote and portables. Duracell makes a nice charger holding both AA and AAA batteries, which are powerful and take less than an hour to recharge. Saves tons of money, saves toxic materials from degrading over 3000 years. (If you want to be extreme, get a Solio solar charger for your iPod, digital camera and cell phone.) If you must use normal batteries or get rid of your final set, Carrefour, Alfa Bita and Praktiker have recycling programs.
6. Shut off your stuff and unplug your phone charger. Up to 75 percent of your home’s electric bill is *standby* power for the TV, laptop, VCR and stereo when it’s “sleeping” (aka, if there’s a light or display on, it’s still ‘on’ not ‘off.’) I have everything I want to shut down each night on a strip. Shutting down your computer also saves approximately 83 percent carbon emissions.
7. Filter your own water with a Brita pitcher or faucet attachment. Saves you money and keeps one-time bottles out of landfills. Carrefour has them, maybe others do too.
8. Eat fresh, not packaging. Get your muscles moving and cook something instead of giving the microwave a workout. Sit at a restaurant to eat instead of using takeout containers.
9. Check your tire pressure. The car or motorcycle will need less gas thus reducing carbon emissions by up to 90 kg/year, just like that Firestone commercial says.
10. Sign up for paperless statements and pay your bills online, if possible. I know options are limited in Greece for the moment, but some establishments are getting on board.