It’s that time of year and Earth Day is staring us all right in the face. We hear words being thrown around like “be more sustainable” but what are we supposed to do? Adding solar panels to a home or buying a hybrid vehicle are huge investments and, I don’t know about any of you, but I’m not ready to start growing all my own food. Unfortunately, I don’t have a way to turn your kid’s horse play into something that can power your house. I do, however, have a few ways we average people can do our part to be more sustainable and help the environment, not just for Earth Day, but all year long.
Turning Some Knobs
Just being self aware can be one of the most impactful things you can do. One of the biggest energy drainers is heating up water. Simply turning down the temperature on your water heater or setting a timer (to run in the early morning right before you take your morning shower, and turning off after your night time routine) can make a huge difference. You can also install an eco-friendly temperature sensitive shower head, that only releases water once it senses the water has reached your desired temperature (one of these nifty shower heads can save hundreds of gallons of water a year).
Believe it or not, using warm water instead of hot water to wash your clothes can cut engery usage up to 50%. Over the course of the year, just waiting until the dishwasher is full before running it, can also put an enormous dent in consumption.
Creating a Kitchen Herb Garden
With all the creative ideas on self-help sites like Pinterest, if your kitchen doesn’t have a DIY herb garden it isn’t complete. Cutting back on the plastics, chemicals, and energy used to create the herbs found in our local grocery stores, a DIY herb garden allows us the pleasure of creating fresh eco-friendly herbs our taste buds love. Most of what you need to make your own herb garden can be sourced from recycled goods laying around your house. Mason jars work as the container, egg carton as a bedding, soil from your outdoor garden and herb seeds, which you can get these seeds from your local hardware store. If your kitchen doesn’t have enough lighting, you can use LED grow lights, which don’t consume a lot of energy.
Essential herbs for your garden: Basil, Cilantro, Chives, Dill, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Parsley.
Composting is natures way of naturally recycling organic materials to enrich the soil. You can easily cut down as much as 30% of your household waste by simply grinding up some of the garbage you would normally throw away and adding it to a compost pile. If nothing else, put your eggshells in a blender, collect your coffee grounds and add them to the soil of your indoor and outdoor plants.
What to Compost: Eggshells, table scraps, fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds, chicken scraps, newspaper, shredded paper, cardboard, wood ash, dryer lint, grass clippings, leaves.
Wikihow has detailed instructions on how to build a rain collector, which basically only involves adding a spigot to a plastic barrel and connecting the barrel to your rain gutter. Voila! You have a self sustaining water source to use for watering plants, washing gardening tools, filling dog bowls, etc.
Switching to LEDs
Our favorite of course is making a switch from traditional bulbs to LEDs. LEDs last so long nowadays people are starting to take them with when they move to new homes. They use up to 80% less energy than standard lights and last 25 times longer. They are also mercury free and 100% recyclable. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, replacing one light bulb with an Energy Star-rated LED in every American home would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 9 billion pounds, or about the amount from 800,000 cars!