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Nature and the Environment in the Nutmeg State

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Easy Things To Do To Go Green

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I was going to write all about April being National Frog Month, but now that Earth Day is upon us I changed my plan. I can’t believe it is the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day.    Here is a link to a good video overview of how it all started  and how far we have (or have not) come since 1971.   And tonight April 19th on PBS American Experience there is an excellent documentary entitled “Earth Days” about the history of the environmental movement. I’ll be sure to check that out.

Here below is my list of easy things you can do to help the environment. None of those far-fetched impossible things you know you would never do. I mean are you really going to ride the bus or put a clothes line in your yard, car pool or not eat a barbecued steak ? ! Let’s be practical. These ideas below are quick and easy. Most are self-explanatory, but I’ve given a short explanation for others.

I do most of them.  How many do you do?  I hope I give you some ideas of ones you never thought of too.

At The Store

Use biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaning products. I see more every day in the store.  I particularly like the Recycled Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil.

Choose items that come in less packaging.

Save energy at home by using Energy Star appliances. Consumers can reduce their utility bill as much as 30%. These products can be pricier, but they cost less in energy.

Just say no to plastic bags at the supermarket and everywhere you shop.  Bring your own bags. 

Support your local farmer. Fruit, vegetables, meat and milk produced close to home does not have to be transported across the country or the world, and the taste is great. Search www.localharvest.org  by ZIP code for farmers’ markets in your area. The website also identifies restaurants that specialize in regional and seasonal ingredients.

Don’t use plastic sandwich bags. But some plastic sandwich containers. And you sandwich dos not get squashed. 

Bring your own mug to the coffee shop. I mean, you know about how bad Styrofoam is, right?

Don’t use small water bottles.  They aren’t even recyclable for heavens sake. Buy a good Nalgene plastic bottle and refill it from a large gallon water bottle or filter your own water right from the tap.

In Your Home and Office

Open a window instead of running the AC.

Use less paper and use recycled paper. Paper does grow on trees: 900 million of them every year become paper. Buy more recycled paper. It uses 60% less energy than virgin paper. And don’t print out that email. 

Wrap your water heater in an insulated blanket. It only costs about $10 to $20 at home centers. Most water heaters more than five years old are constantly losing heat and wasting energy because they lack internal insulation. Who knew?

Turn off electronics and use timers. Turn off computers, monitors, lights, printers, fax machines. This cuts carbon emissions by reducing electricity use, extending equipment life and lowering maintenance costs.  Put your AC on a timer.

Adjust the thermostat a couple of degrees higher in the summer and lower in the winter. 

Caulk and weather strip all your doors and windows. 

Use some of those new compact fluorescent light bulb. They cost more but use one-quarter the electricity and last years longer. They contain mercury, and need to be recycled carefully. The emitted light may look funny, so I use them only in the basement and garage.

Use the dishwasher only when it’s full.

Wash your clothes in warm or cold water.

Turn down the thermostat on the water heater.

Close your window blinds.

Check your tires. Give your engine tune-up can improve gas mileage 4%. Replacing a clogged air filter can boost efficiency 10%.  Keeping tires properly inflated can improve gas mileage more than 3%.

Pay your bills and do your banking online. It saves trees. It also helps reduce fuel consumption by the trucks and planes that transport paper checks. ask your employer to directly deposit your paycheck.

In Your Yard

If you garden, make compost from kitchen scraps. Aside from stimulating healthy root development, the addition of rich and earthy compost also improves soil texture, aeration, and water retention 

Water with care. Add mulch and compost to your soil will retain water and cut down evaporation. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation only use 50 percent of the water used by sprinklers. Water early in the day to avoid evaporation. Water directly on the roots.

Grow your own food.  Take out a part of our your lawn and grow vegetables. Everyone is doing it in my Black Rock neighborhood: tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, zucchini, even corn !

Do something for the animals in your garden. Put out a bird bath. Or bird house or bird feeder, or bat house. You can do one of these even if you just have terrace.

Get a rain barrel. It’s an inexpensive and effortless way to capture water for watering lawns, yards, and gardens, as well as washing cars or rinsing windows. Hook it up to your drain gutter and you’ll notice a decrease in your water costs, and reduction in storm water runoff which helps prevent erosion and flooding.

Plant native species in your gardens and encourage important pollinators such as bees and birds by planting gardens full of their favorite plants. I like sunflowers, and bee balm.

Reduce  pesticides, weed killers, and chemical fertilizers that leak chemicals into the ground. Layer on some all-natural compost, instead. Use mulch, or grass clippings.

Reduce your lawn and go native. Replace part of your lawn with native wildflowers and indigenous plants. Some weeds are other people’s beautiful flowers. Native plants are easy to grow and maintain, and require less fertilizer and water.

And finally – do something fun – participate in a local environmental festival or event for Earth Day.  Here is a good list from the Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection. 

And who says tree huggers don’t have a sense of humor.  I found this fun video of the best earth day jokes of the decade.  Have FUN on Earth Day !

If you have a question or comment, or a nature topic you would like to hear about on my blog, please feel free to comment below here on this blog, or email me at madelinedennis@optonline.net.

If you would like me to let you know when my next blog is posted, please send me an email at madelinedennis@optonline.net.

Check out my listing of Connecticut nature and environmental web sites to the right on this page.

Madeline Dennis
Natural Nutmeg

Categories: General
Madeline Dennis

13 Responses

  1. Joan says:

    Madeline, Great simple ideas. Thanks for posting them. And the Earth Day links were fun.

  2. Timothy says:

    Installing a radiant barrier is another easy and affordable way to save energy and lower your monthly utility bills and at RadiantGUARD.com, they are offering free water heater jackets with radiant barriers orders. And all their products qualify for an IRS tax credit! Perfect time to start saving by going green.

  3. Mr. Barnum says:

    Another great blog, Madeline. Loved the comedy as well!

  4. Madeline Dennis says:

    Thanks for the comment, Timothy. the link you provided on radiant barriers was very interesting.

  5. Susan Earth says:

    Lots of people have to take the bus, have to hang their clothes on a line, can’t afford air conditioning and can’t afford barbecued steak.

    Maybe these activities will not only help the Earth, but help people appreciate how much they have compared to others.

  6. kHyal™ says:

    Madeline, Thanks for posting this and for alerting me to the post via Facebook. All very good points. My Bridgeport born character, The Weather sKwirl™ is also on board with being green and celebrates Earth Day to day with a post here: http://weatherskwirl.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/happy-earth-day-from-the-weather-skwirl%E2%84%A2/

    He can also be found with his friends in downtown Bridgeport in the form of a public art project across from the library on Broad Street. More on that here: http://www.weatherskwirl.com/newsweatherskwirl.html

    The Weather sKwirl™ is a proud member of the green community, here in Bridgeport and on a global scale in support of preserving resources and celebrating nature, community, art and more.

  7. Madeline Dennis says:

    Hi, Kyhal, Thanks for the comment, and Happy Earth Day back at ya !
    I love the Weather sKwirl and I am glad he is on board with being green.

  8. Happy Go Lucky says:

    Hi Madeline,

    Thank you for all of the suggestions & I’ll be sure to check out the Reynolds Wrap next time I’m shopping. Speaking of shopping, for the past several years, I have used my own bags. I just keep them in the car so they are ready to go. Whenever I don’t use them, I feel like I have walked into the store naked! But…. the reason I may not bring them to the store is because I sometimes use the bags as (small) garbage can liners, for cleaning up after my dog, or other miscellaneous uses. My auntie did this and they still sell the washable fabric bags you can hang under your sink or in a closet to store the bags. You can even make your own. Here is a link with some instructions: http://makeitandloveit.blogspot.com/2009/01/grocery-bag-holder.html

  9. This is great! As a solar installer, we encourage our customers to make improvements in energy efficiency first and foremost. They will lower electricity bills and will require less solar panels to offset their usage. A lot of the ideas I may have heard before, but it’s great learning about new ways to be more efficient!

  10. BrockO says:

    I agree completely that what we need more of is local, local, local. The centralization of our food supply, schooling, government, law enforcement, etc. is ruining the world.

    However, I have to kindly disagree with your approach because it is really nothing more than the approach advocated by the corporate controlled propaganda machine we call the mass media.

    Fear mongering – the selling of myths that widens the boundaries of panic and grows the markets for those who sell and deliver solutions.

    Rarely does switching from product A to product B produce any measurable difference with regards to the environment but it sure does fatten the wallet of those who sell the over-priced solutions.

    Green Products: Have You Been Greenwashed into Going Green?
    http://blog.thefolderstore.com/2008/10/18/have-you-been-greenwashed/

    By advocating the idea that making millions of little changes will amount to huge improvements is flat out wrong. If you are familiar with the Theory of Constraints, you will recognize these as false efficiencies. You may be making millions of little changes but the results will be as if you didn’t change anything at all. Instead we should be focusing on the biggest constraint in our critical chain for improving our environment and fixing that instead!

    And one of the biggest contributors to environmental destruction, animal cruelty, financial waste and chronic disease is factory farming. Ending factory farming would change our planet overnight.

    Livestock’s Long Shadow:
    http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM

    The only people who deny this basic truth are those who profit from selling their poisons to the unsuspecting masses.

  11. Madeline Dennis says:

    Thanks for your comments, Brock. I agree for the most part with your points. But I don’t think my little blog had a lot of “greenwash” as you call it. My blog article was about small ways to save money and energy at home and at work and also about natural things you could do in your yard for veggies and for animals. The title of my blog was meant to be kind of ironic, not literal… but I have changed it from “Easy Things To Do to Save the Planet” to “Easy Things To Do To Be Green.”

  12. BrockO says:

    Hi Madeline – thanks for the reply. Perhaps my words were poorly chosen as I didn’t mean to offend you. Sorry about that. I enjoy stirring the pot and considering the possibility that things are not what we think they are or have been programmed to believe through things like social engineering and propaganda.

    I like the change to your title. Frugality and simplicity are major tenets of my life so I am fully on-board with that. I have found that the more material possessions I get rid of and the less I consume – the better I feel and the quality of my life improves. Again, not switching but eliminating.

    The health of our planet cannot and will not change until human beings change. We have lost our connection to the land – to our Mother, the Earth. The natural world has become nothing more than an abstraction in our modern way of living instead of the center of the universe as the natives refer to it.

    Until we care about each element of the natural world (soil, water, animals, insects, plants, trees, etc.) the way we do our own family – because they are indeed our family – we are doomed. The quality of our life, and indeed life itself, rely upon all of them. No amount of science or technology will ever change that.

    “Humans are not the only species on the earth, we just act like it.” ~ Dan Pirarro (Bizarro)

    Keep up the good work and best wishes!

  13. Madeline Dennis says:

    Thanks for writing back, Brock. I also meant to say that I am also against the abuses of factory farming, and hope to write a future blog on this and animal ethics.