5 things the Average Joe can do to help the environment
Friday, May 15, 2009 - 15:45
Concluding this last week of finals, I thought back on my experience living in the dorms. What had I really learned from being thrust into a mass of strangers? What was I going to take out of this past year that would help me in the future? I figured it out quickly--it was the differences of the people that affected me the most. In my dorm, we had local kids that lived around Georgetown, some that traveled like I traveled (3-5 hours) in Texas, others that traveled from clear across the Lone Star State, and quite a few that were from clear across the continent--just to attend Southwestern University. With this mesh of people, they brought with them interesting habits that I learned very quickly were helping them be self-sustaining, and more importantly, most of these habits were a move to a conscious, eco-friendly lifestyle. Upon pondering, I figured that not only were these good practices for the average college student, they were things the Average Joe could do to help out the environment (even if some of them are just small things, small things add up!). I have compiled a list of 5 important practices that I found prevalent in my first-year dorm at Southwestern University that I believe to be simple things that the Average Joe can do to start becoming a bit more green.
1) Invest in a stainless steel water bottle. This reusable container saves your family money by cutting out the constant expense of buying plastic water bottles. In addition, this product eliminates the hazards of BPA Polycarbonates that are sometimes used in the manufacturing of certain plastic water bottles. I know most people have now started to recycle plastic bottles, but wouldn’t you rather cut out the middle man and not have those plastic bottles to recycle in the first place? At my university, one can see a variety of these stainless steel water bottles being carried around campus. They come in some pretty cute designs, but if you’re cost-conscious like I am, do your research for the best deal. Some of these designer stainless steel bottles can be found at Wal-Mart, Target, etc., for 20-30 dollars. Instead, I found a website for Eco Canteen stainless steel bottles, which are just 10 dollars (plus a free insulated tote to put it in). This Eco Canteen can be found here, or you could just Google “Stainless Steel Water Bottles,” and search the possibilities yourself! (Image from www.redlipsgreenheart.com)
2) Eat out at restaurants often? Sometimes have leftovers? Do the environment a favor and bring your own takeout box. The Styrofoam containers most restaurants provide are just a single example of the many products of Styrofoam manufacturing that make up 30% of Styrofoam located in landfills. Sad fact: Styrofoam takes half a millennia to biodegrade, and what makes up Styrofoam (Benzene, Styrene, CFCs) is then absorbed by the soil, and sadly, into the earth’s underground water system. If you know of a restaurant that does not offer alternatives like Eco-Foam (or even plastic is better than Styrofoam, because it can be recycled), pick up some reusable Tupperware or a reusable equivalent to use instead. Take it into the restaurant with pride, knowing that you saved one or two Styrofoam boxes from being introduced into the landfill. This idea might catch on in your town if others see you being eco-savvy. College students: Does your cafeteria offer takeout meals? Instead of using their Styrofoam box, bring your own Tupperware instead.
3) How often do you do a load of towels in the laundry? Take it from a college student, laundry is only necessary when items are absolutely soiled. Reuse a towel a couple times, I mean, at least you know where it has been! The average washing machine uses 55 gallons of water per load. Saving the environment from even two loads helps. (Image from www.pro.corbis.com)
4) One word: carpool. It might seem that the notion of carpooling has been pounded into your head, but it is a pretty simple answer to overtly using bunches of fuel and creating bunches of emissions. Organize a carpool to work with people that live in your same area and take turns driving, do the same for: your kids’ organization/group/club meetings, Little League and the sort, etc. This will eventually save you some money on gas, and help out the earth--one carpool at a time. If you are all going to the same place, why not? Or you can do what the college kids do (other than carpooling): invest in a bike!
5) Buy eco-friendly, whenever you get the chance. Common products like toilet paper, household cleaners, and even clothes have joined the green side in the fight against waste and the like. My roommate was obsessed in this endeavor, and in turn, I got pretty excited too. She loved this website, which compares the prices on absolutely everything made green! They also have a great “Did You Know” section that opens your eyes to many of the problems with mainstream products today. This website, Pristine Planet, also gives you a list of other websites that offer all-green products. If you do not “do” online shopping, you can keep shopping in your favorite stores (like Wal-Mart, Target, etc.) and browse the selection of green products that they now offer--just be conscious of your choices concerning the earth! (Image from www.greenworkscleaners.com)
This first year of college has been a great learning experience. I have learned to open up myself to what others around me can teach me. You can do the same as well! If you see a great eco-friendly idea, use it in your life! These are just some tips to help you get started in living a greener, cleaner life. Kermit the Frog sang, "It's not easy being green," but Kermit...it is!
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