Sam’s Sustainability Solutions – 7 Tips For Sustainable Living
This is the first in what will be an occasional series of sustainability tips from our Chief Sustainability Officer, Sam Holloschutz. We hope you’ll be able to incorporate some or all of these tips for green living into your lifestyle:
These tips are designed to help you reduce your carbon footprint, save money, and improve your health. The beauty of sustainability is how these three pillars all connect. When you engage in an energy-saving technique, you’re helping the planet by lessening your use of fossil fuels (particularly if you live in Pennsylvania), saving money on your electric bill, and improving air quality by reducing your dependence on the grid.When you walk or bike instead of drive, you do not produce greenhouse gas emissions, save fuel costs, and improve your health by being more active. Going green is easy, and the following steps and subsequent blog posts will help you lead a more sustainable life:
- Unplug appliances (consider an appliance anything that plugs into an outlet) not in use: If it’s plugged in, it’s drawing electricity, even if you’re not currently using it. This is known as “vampire electricity” and you don’t want to be a victim of it. Appliances to especially be considered are those with digital displays. Think about your microwave, oven, sound, and gaming systems. These items are ALWAYS on. If you can survive in your kitchen without knowing the time on your microwave, or don’t need to be told it’s always 12:00 somewhere, unplug them. I understand the oven’s plug may be more difficult to reach, but if you’re fortunate to have your circuit breaker conveniently located (mine is in the kitchen), flip those switches! The circuit breaker can be your best friend against vampires. My laundry machines, HVAC unit, dishwasher, oven range, and one of the kitchen switches (it powers an outlet, the light/fan over the range and garbage disposal) are always switched off except when needed. If your circuit breaker is not located in the best spot, carefully decide which switches are used most infrequently and leave them off. If you have cords in hard to reach places, like your TV area, use a power strip. Yes, power strips do draw electricity too, but not as much as your appliances combined. If you need your cable box and internet router plugged in at all times, there are strips with outlets that are always on. Bonus tip: hit the “test” button on these types of outlets. It turns off the outlet and gives you added safety.
- If you drive, charge your devices while you drive. Buy a decent USB charger with at least two ports and charge every time you drive. I have an extra power cord for my phone, which I leave in the car, so I routinely charge my phone every time I’m on the road and almost never need to charge indoors.It’s free energy and as a bonus, I’ll put my phone in airplane mode or turn it off to charge even faster and save more electricity/money. If your device charges with a USB cord, you can charge it in the car. I’ve been known to also charge tablets and portable speakers while driving. Having spare charging cords in the car will really help you get into the habit.
- If you have to put out your recycling in bags, use paper bags. Most municipalities cannot recycle plastic bags (more on them below) as they can damage machines, costing time and manpower to fix and risking worker safety. Paper is recyclable so it makes sense to use them for your curbside recycling. Leaf bags can hold a substantial amount so if you have a lot (as I often do as leftovers from neighborhood cleanups), you can use ’em.
- What to do with plastic bags: if you can’t recycle them easily (though it can be done), reuse them. Do you hoard plastic bags because you just know you’ll have a use for them one day and feel guilty about throwing them out like I do? I have solutions for you:
- Use them for your dog’s business or for scooped cat litter. I stopped buying “biodegradable” doggie bags because the entire concept is greenwashing. Those doggie bags go into landfills, and landfills are the wrong environment for biodegradation. Biodegradable bags serve no purpose other than to trick the consumer into making the “right” decision. Before I realized this, I never thought I’d live long enough to use all the plastic bags I had collected. If you don’t have a pet but have accumulated a lot of bags, you could give bags to friends with pets (my neighbor gives me his newspaper bags). Bread bags also work well for this purpose.
- Use them as trash bags for the car and tailgating. Don’t forget to designate which bags are for trash and which are for recycling.
- Store gardening gloves/shovels/anything that gets dirty when working outdoors in them.
- Store automobile items (antifreeze bottles, funnels, gloves) in them.
- Replace your incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs: Traditional (and soon to be extinct) bulbs use a lot more energy, much of which is given off as heat and wasted. LEDs and CFLs use much less energy and last a lot longer. The U.S. Dept. of Energy says “A typical CFL can pay for itself in energy savings in less than 9 months and continue to save you money each month. A CFL uses about one-third the energy of a halogen incandescent.”
- Empty your dryer lint (and compost it): your machine will run more efficiently and dry your clothing faster when you empty the lint catcher between (or during) cycles. Emptying the lint also decreases risk of fire. Bonus tip: if you use dryer sheets, reuse them. Dryer sheets can typically be used for at least 3 loads. Keep using them until they lose their coarseness. Here are 55 ways to repurpose dryer sheets.
- Dim your screens: not only will your eyes thank you, you will also preserve your batteries, use less electricity and your devices will last longer.
Some of these steps may seem obvious or you may have heard them before, but if you haven’t incorporated any of them into your lifestyle yet, give it a shot! Every bit we can do to help the environment counts. Please share this post and/or your own tips in the comments.