02 November 2005

simple steps to undo

Did you know that the average American uses enough energy to release about 50,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, the major contributor to global warming, per year? (source: www.undoit.org) Thanks to some of you who responded to my last post b/c that made me feel like I'm not alone in my concern for the environment.

In response to the question posed of what we can do to undo global warming, I'm posting some suggestions most relevant to urban living from the Environmental Defense website as well as my own thoughts:

From the Environmental Defense's list of 20 steps to undo global warming:
Step 1: Be informed about environmental issues.
Step 2: Run your dishwasher only with a full load. Use the energy setting to dry dishes. Don't use heat when drying.
Step 3: Wash clothes in warm or cold water, not hot.
Step 7: Buy energy efficient compact flourescent bulbs for your most-used lights.
Step 9: Install low-flow shower heads to use less hot water.
Step 12: Whenever possible, walk, bike, carpool, or use mass transit.
Step 13: When you buy a car, choose one that gets good gas mileage. (Hybrid!)
Step 14: Reduce waste: buy minimally packaged goods; choose reusable products over disposable ones; recycle.
Step 20: Recycle your potentially recyclable material (paper, plastic, metal, and glass).
My $0.02 worth of practical advice....I'd love to hear your own tips for being environmentally responsible!
  • For 2-3 days, monitor everything that you use and throw away. Self-awareness is key to recognizing how your actions can impact the environment.
  • Bring your own bags to the grocery store. This is my latest obsession. I know many of you have that giant plastic bag stuffed with smaller plastic bags...can you really line enough trash cans to match the pace which you accumulate them? Reuse plastic bags you have, or better yet, use cloth or some other reusable bag. (Caption for the picture: many animals mistake plastic bags for food and die from choking or blocked intestines. The U.S. produces about 1 billion plastic bags every year. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags. Source: www.reusablebags.com)
  • Turn down the heat of the shower. If you're addicted to hot showers, turn it down just a pinch every other day or so til it's a comfortable cool temperature.
  • Turn off the water when you're shaving in the shower.
  • Advocate for environmentally friendly, sustainable practices in your workplace. This doesn't mean you have to become the "enviro-freak" of the office. Little changes can make a huge difference, especially given the volumes of energy and paper used and waste generated by workpalces. Is there a recycling bin for paper near the copy machine? What is the practice of double-sided printing? Does your employer partner with other services and organizations that are environmentally responsible?
  • Lobby for environmentally sound practices in your area. In New York City, the air quality is horrendous in neighborhoods often occupied by the poor and people of color. The result is disproporationate rates of asthma and other respiratory problems in these areas. This is due to practices such as the routes garbage trucks take on their way to landfills. Sign petitions, write to alderpersons/congress represatatives, do what you can to be informed and active!
  • Encourage your friends to be environmentally responsible! Peer pressure can be a source for good!


Elaine said...

This is a great post with good, practical solutions. I admire that you bring your own bags to the store. I should start doing that. One other thing that can be done too is asking for paper instead of plastic and using the paper bags in your recycling bin to separate aluminum/plastic from paper products. Or just recycling the bag.

The government and big corporations needs to join motivated citizens like you and demand better standards to prevent global warming. As Tom Daschle pointed out the other day when he was here at NU, the auto companies haven't been subject to new fuel efficiency standards since 1983!

Steph said...

From a friend too "principled" to leave a comment on a blog (boo!):

"i have a suggestion for your blog: TURN OFF YOUR MONITOR! or turn off computer."

Thanks for your support guys! It's true that government needs to take responsibility, and we shouldn't just sit around and wait for them to wake up. There needs to be greater education and mobilization of the general public as well. Then again, isn't that the answer to all societal issues? sigh.

stine said...

hey steph,
this is a great blog. i have to say that being in california, i am so impressed with how environmentally conscious people and institutions are. so many campuses are gree campuses where they recycle up to 95% of their waste. for example at san francisco state, they do not give out bags when you buy something. they assume you will bring something to the bookstore, cafeteria, snack shack to carry your stuff. this is just one of many examples i have seen of small changes making a big differences. all professors use double sided photocopying or have everything online to save paper. i hope to have this become more and more of my everyday life but it also helps to have the structure of an institution or organization implement it.
btw, great seeing you!