Take a moment to think about the many items in your life that are disposable. The paper and wax coffee cup from a cafe that you visit every day is not recyclable, and ends up sitting in a landfill for years. The plastic strawberry container and your grocery bag are both disposable items. You can, however, make conscious choices to avoid using disposable products, minimizing how much waste you create and your impact on polluting the earth. Here are a few ways to do so
Bring your own
Those people at the grocery store who bring their own bags have the right idea. Consider how many plastic or paper sacks you end up taking home and stuffing under the sink every time you go to the store. You may think you are reusing them by lining your trash can with one or using them to pick up your dog's waste, but this doesn't actually reuse the plastic material, it ends up in the landfill anyway. The best way to use plastic bags is to simply not require them at all. You can get well-made reusable grocery bags at many health food stores and even chains like Target. Toss them in the wash if they get a little dirty and be sure to store one in your bag or car so you don't forget. Some varieties even fold up into tiny balls so they easily fit into the smallest of purses. Also bring your own thermos or mug to coffee shops, and take a container to a restaurant if you think you may have leftovers.
Switch your cleaning routine
When you clean your home, you likely utilize many products that can not be reused. Sanitary wipes, disposable toilet cleaning wand heads and even certain floor mopping items are tossed in the trash immediately after use. Instead of letting all these materials make their way to the dump, opt for reusable versions. Nix the wipes and choose to clean with washable rags. For floor mopping, use a head that can be washed. To ensure your toilet wand is clean and ready for the next use, soak it in a mixture of vinegar and lemon water before returning it to its stand or holder. You'll find your home is just as clean as when you were using disposable products, but your environmental impact is much less long-lasting.
One of the major causes of carbon emissions in the world is vehicle traffic. When every employee at your place of work drives to and from the office each day, that's a lot of carbon that is eroding the ozone layer and will cause serious environmental decline. There's hope, however. If you change the way you commute, you can reduce your carbon footprint and improve your health. Here's how:
Do you have a rusty Schwinn in the garage? Give it a quick tune-up, put air in the tires and hit the road. Biking to work will allow you to take one car off the road and get in shape at the same time. You can improve your respiratory and cardiovascular health by becoming a cyclist. Plus, you may find you lose weight and overall feel better just by switching from driving to biking to work.
Some people aren't huge fans of bicycles and would rather spend their commute pounding the pavement. Some people are concerned that they'd need a shower after getting to work. If so, stop at a local gym to do so, or give yourself a quick face wash, towel-off and fresh application of deodorant in the bathroom before putting on your work clothes. Keep an outfit at the office so you don't have to worry about carrying one while you run. Make sure your running shoes fit properly so you don't get blisters. You may even find you are more energetic and productive after running to work than if you'd sat in your car and driven there.
Take Public Transit
For many employees, running or biking to work isn't possible because they live too far away. If that rings true for you, see if you can take public transit instead of driving. Find a bus, train or combination of the two that will allow you to get to work in a timely manner. This will reduce your carbon footprint and you can even enjoy reading a book on your way to the office.
Not every area has a public transit system and you may not want to run or bike to work. Instead, find a colleague that lives near you and switch off driving. Have him or her drive one day and you the next. This way you are still eliminating one car from the roadway, and you can make a new friend or strategize for the workday on your commute.
While you can do a lot to promote a sustainable world just by doing your part at home, you can also help make a difference on a bigger scale in your city. There are many ways you can personally help your local community work to promote sustainable resources and using recycled materials. Here are some great places to begin:
Start a Recycling Initiative
Most towns have a sanitation department that includes a recycling division. This means residents have their own trash and recycling bins that are collected on a regular basis and brought to a processing plant. If your town does not have such a program, talk with the sanitation department and your city leaders to see what you can do to get one started. You can also discuss adding recycling bins throughout the public areas of the city, such as near the sidewalk on street corners or at parks. While there are usually garbage bins in these areas, many cities don't also have recycling available in the same place, leading a lot of potentially reusable materials to end up in the landfill.
Talk About Electricity
When you leave a room in your home, you probably turn the lights off. This saves electricity and cost. Do you think local business people do the same in their offices? Do the community library, swimming pool and museum shut off their lights when no one is in the building? Many people and businesses can benefit from turning the lights off, as they'll save money while they're promoting a more eco-friendly world. Start a group of concerned neighborhood members to canvas companies and homes to talk about the importance (and positive aspects) of turning off the lights. When you mention that it can help them save money, they'll be likely to come around to your side and save electricity.
Plant Some Greenery
Looking to improve the environment right now? Talk to your town leaders to see where you can create a new park, or update an old one. Plant some trees and flowers, maybe even add a community garden where residents can grow fruits and vegetables. Everything from apple trees to dandelions helps to filter the air and produce oxygen, which can make your city less polluted and more pleasant to be in. It doesn't hurt that promoting community-wide activities looks great on politicians' agendas, so don't hesitate to get the mayor or alderman involved!
Today, June 8, is World Oceans Day. On this momentous occasion, people all over the globe will take part in activities and discussions about our saltiest natural resource: the ocean.
Ways to get Involved
- Clean a beach. Garbage and detritus often wash up on beaches, making them unsafe for both wildlife and area residents. Wear gloves and bring bags to place the collected trash in. If you pick up the plastic rings that hold together beverage 6-packs, be sure to cut into each ring so animals won't get stuck in them. Toss the garbage in nearby dumpsters or bring it straight to your local sanitation department for proper disposal. The fish and other critters that inhabit the beach will thank you, plus it will be a nicer place for people to spend the summer.
- Buy sustainable seafood. One of the major stressors on the oceans and their inhabitants is seafood harvesting. Fish, crabs, lobsters and other sea-dwelling creatures are being harvested in such massive quantities that they are not being replaced. Species are no longer thriving, with some even becoming endangered and on the way to extinction. If you enjoy seafood and fish, be sure to go for options that were locally harvested and are not endangered. This is a good way to support local businesses while also helping promote a sustainable world.
- Avoid plastic. Plastic is one of the most commonly found pollutants in the oceans. Wrappers, bags, bottles and other containers make their way to the sea via drain pipes, the wind and careless people. The best way to reduce this dangerous waste product? Don't use it. Bring reusable bags to the store and opt for glass containers instead of plastic. Bring a reusable cup, thermos or water bottle in your bag so you can always grab coffee or a drink without needing a throwaway plastic cup.
- Learn about the seas. There are many great documentaries and websites available for people who are interested in learning about the ocean. The more you know about these magnificent ecosystems, the better you'll understand the importance of protecting them. Share your knowledge with friends and family, and consider getting your community involved in taking care of your local bodies of water. You can even talk with area government about saving species that are in trouble and adding rules to prevent littering and dumping.
The United Nations Environmental Programme started World Environment Day to encourage people to take part in environmental actions. This annual event falls on June 5, 2015. Here are some ways to get involved:
Host a Clean Up
Get your friends and neighbors together and tackle a local area that is ridden with trash. Bring gloves and trash bags and see what a big difference you can make in your own community.
Do a Documentary Showing
There are many great documentaries about environmental decline, food production and global warming. Help people learn about using less natural resources and more recycled materials by holding a screening of one of these great movies. Locations to consider include the library or a school. You can even do it in your backyard if you have a projector. After the showing, host a discussion on what people thought about the film and ways they can help the environment.
Buy in Bulk
Most grocery and health food stores offer areas where you can buy food in bulk. Items like pasta, rice and other grains as well as beans and even candy are stored in massive cannisters with release valves at one end. Bring your own bag or container and get as much or little as you need. This method of purchasing food eliminates the wasteful plastic, cardboard and other packaging materials that sit in our landfills for years to come. Big box stores that sell many items in one container or assortment may offer cheaper prices for "bulk" items, but they are just the regular version of the product that has been packaged together. They have a similar environmental impact to purchasing the normal size of the item.
Change Your Washing Habits
Instead of washing your clothing every time you wear it, only toss items in the wash when they are dirty or start to develop an odor. Jeans and pants, for example, can be worn several times before they lose their shape and need to be washed. It's also helpful to use cold water on the washing machine. This takes less energy than hot water. As for detergent, you can make your own with washing soda, borax and shaved bar soap like Dr. Bronner's or Ivory. Use all-natural ingredients to eliminate the chemicals and dyes that are often found in commercial laundry soaps. These harmful materials can end up in the water supply where they can be hurtful to humans, animals and plants.
As citizens of Earth, it's our duty to keep the planet healthy, happy and thriving. Unfortunately, the carbon footprint of humanity is becoming a larger and more terrifying detriment to the environment as people continue to choose comfort over the well-being of the world. While some are uninformed, others are too afraid to make big changes to their lifestyle in the effort to go green. Consider applying some of these suggestions to your life, and recommend them to others wary of taking on an environmentally friendly lifestyle:
- Take shorter showers: Cutting your shower time in half means you use 50 percent less water. On average, an eight-minute shower uses more than 17 gallons of water. Reducing your shower time to four minutes can save 8.5 gallons per day. If you shower every day, that equates to more than 3,100 gallons per year.
- Do laundry in cold water: Water usage aside, cleaning your clothes in a washing machine utilizes a large amount of energy. However, most of this energy goes toward heating the water – a whopping 85 percent. There are even some detergents specially made for cold water to help you make the adjustment.
- Skip meat one day per week: If you eat meat, make a big change for the better of the environment by following a plant-based diet one day per week. The energy required to maintain livestock, process meat and transport it is astonishing, so reducing that amount by 1/7 can make a much larger impact than you might believe for very little sacrifice.
- Make your own cleaning supplies: If you find yourself out of cleaning supplies, don't immediately run out to the store. Rather, make your own with common household items. For instance, you can make toilet bowl cleaner by mixing 1 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda right in the basin, letting it sit for a few minutes and then scrubbing with a toilet brush. This product is safe on the environment and reduces unnecessary packaging.
- Adjust your thermostat two degrees: In summer, raise your thermostat temperature two degrees if you use air conditioner, and reduce it by two degrees in winter. This barely noticeable change makes a much bigger difference than you might expect. Another useful tips for energy efficiency is to use a programmable thermostat that regulates temperature depending on the time of day.
- Donate old items: Rather than throwing something away, consider if it it could be of use to someone else, whether it's a friend or a charitable organization. This might apply to an ill-fitting sweater, an old computer or just a worn-out book.
A big benefit to many of these suggestions is that they don't just save energy, water and other natural resources, but they also save money. Keep this in mind when spreading the word to friends, family and neighbors about the importance of minimizing humanity's carbon footprint.
According to Recycle Across America, only 35 percent of households and 10 percent of businesses recycle. This simple act of collecting the items that your family uses and putting them in a designated container can make a huge impact on our planet. As Ilchi Lee teaches, our resources are finite, and making changes to our lifestyles can make a big difference in creating a sustainable world. Did you know these interesting facts about recycling?
Recycling Reduces Landfill Waste
You've probably driven down a highway and seen a massive landfill. These hugs areas of land contain all the things we throw in the garbage. Trucks bring the materials here where they are spread onto the dirt and then mixed in with other items. Some things like food scraps and paper decompose here. Others, like plastic and glass, simply take up room. When you chose to recycle them instead, they go to a plant that melts them down to raw materials and makes new containers. An aluminum can, for instance, can be recycled and back on a store shelf within six days.
Using recycled materials is Better for the Environment
According to the source, it takes 95 percent less energy to recycle a can than to create a brand new one. By recycling, you are not only lessening the need for new materials, you are saving electricity. Paper is another commonly-thrown away item. While it is much less harmful to the Earth than plastic, it is still better to recycle it. When companies use pre-existing paper to make new pages, they create 95 percent less air pollution than if they were to make entirely new paper.
Glass is Infinite
As you browse the grocery store shelves looking at the many varieties of beverages you may notice that some are made of glass. When you can, choose these drinks. Glass can be recycled repeatedly and never loses it's integrity or ability to be reused. It is simply melted down and reshaped. Using recycled materials to make glass reduced the potential water pollution caused by the process of making new glass by 50 percent. While there are fewer food and beverage options available in glass (it is heavier and may be slightly more costly to purchase), they can be found everywhere. The grocery store, gas station and likely even your local coffee shop offers some kind of drink that comes in a glass bottle. Choose that one over plastic every time and you'll be taking a major step towards preserving our natural resources.
According to the National Multifamily Housing council, about 35 percent of Americans rent their homes. Often, this means they are not able to make major sustainability decisions involving their space, such as planning a garden or choosing energy-efficient appliances. Many people who rent their homes don't think they can do much to be eco-friendly either. However, there are many ways to make less of a negative imprint even when you don't own your home. Here are some small things to do that can add up to a major positive impact:
Use Recycled and Reusable Materials
One of the biggest threats to the environment is the creation of new things. There are so many items that are already in existence that can be reused, there is no reason to continue making brand new products. When you need to buy clothes, consider shopping at a local thrift store or resale shop. There is plenty of clothing that's in good condition. If you're going out to eat, bring a reusable container with you in case you want to bring home the leftovers. Then you won't have to use a Styrofoam one that cannot be recycled and takes over a million years to decompose. Heading to the store? Bring bags from home so you don't have to use plastic or paper.
Try Green Cleaning Products
Bleach and other harsh chemicals that are often a major part of store-bought cleaning products can harm the Earth and are not good for your family's health. Instead of using these items, make your own with baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice. Add salt as an abrasive if you are trying to scrub something really dirty like your stove, and you can even make your home smell nice by adding a few drops of your favorite essential oils.
Ilchi Lee considers working towards a sustainable world to be of utmost importance. The spiritual leader teaches that the Earth is a place that needs to be protected in order for human beings to continue living and thriving. We get our energy from the sun, the universe and the plants and animals that we consume, and working to make our daily lives more sustainable is of utmost importance, even if you don't own your own home.
Your carbon footprint is a number made up of the amount of greenhouse gasses that were produced because of you. This includes gasses caused by the agriculture production that feeds you, city busses that transport you to work, the post office's emissions when bringing mail to your house and more. Even your breath emits CO2. The ozone layer is constantly becoming depleted because of these greenhouse gasses. You can reduce your carbon footprint with these tips, promoting a sustainable world like Ilchi Lee teaches:
Ride Your Bicycle
One of the most common causes of greenhouse gasses is vehicular traffic. Your car, no matter how new or "energy-efficient," emits carbon dioxide. While you can drive it less to decrease your carbon footprint, the best way to try this is to ride your bike instead. Pump up the tires, strap on your helmet and start commuting to work via the bike lane. You can even get groceries with your ride so long as you have the proper carrying method like panniers or a backpack.
Purchase Energy-Efficient Appliances
Your refrigerator, stove and microwave are also contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer. All of these appliances use electricity, whether you are using them or not, so long as they are plugged in. Your computer is also a culprit, even when asleep as it is still connected to the grid. When you buy new appliances like these, The Carbon Fund recommends looking for ones with the Energy Star logo. This means the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deemed it energy-efficient.
Insulate Your Home
Unfortunately, many homes are not properly insulated. This means that hot or cold air you are paying for is finding ways to seep out, depleting your wallet and using a lot of unnecessary energy. Have a professional come to your home to be sure it is properly caulked, weather-stripped and insulated to keep the air in your home at the temperature that you prefer. If you have the necessary tools, DIY. You should also take a look at your windows. If they are older they may need to be resealed to keep them weather-proofed. Some glass is better than others, so look for the Energy Star logo when purchasing windows as well.
In order to sustain life, we must pay more attention to what we are throwing away. Our natural resources such as land and water are becoming polluted with trash and chemicals. If we don't pay more attention to what we throw away, Mother Earth may not be able to recover.
"Your body is a flower that life let bloom, a phenomenon created by life." Ilchi Lee said in his book, "The Twelve Enlightenments for Healing Society." To let life continue blooming, we must try our best to return nutrients to the earth. A good way to do this is by composting. Learn how to do so below.
Make Your Own Compost
Many people don't realize how easy it is to make their own compost. You don't even have to keep it at your home, many cities have large urban composting facilities that will come pick up your waste and use it to grow plants and feed animals. Some urban dwellers choose to do their own, using worms to vermicompost in their refrigerators or other cool places. There are some rules to composting, like what you can put in it.
Compostable materials include:
- Vegetable scraps
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Fruit rinds, peels, etc.
- Grass clippings
- Manure from healthy herbivores
- Corrugated cardboard
- Tree bark
- Wood chips
- Egg shells
- Tea bags
- Tree needles
- Brown paper bags
It is common that the following items are not allowed in compost:
- Thorny plants
- Treated paper or wood
- Walnut shells
- Waxy plants
- Cheese or dairy products
- Cat litter
- Manure from any animal that is sick or is not an herbivore
- Rhubarb leaves
- Infected or diseased plants
- Coal, ashes or charcoal
Uses of Compost
People who make their own compost often use it to give their garden or even house plants some extra nutrition. To do so, simply sprinkle some of the freshly decomposed dirt onto your plants and watch them grow. Make sure that the compost is finished, meaning it is a dart color that easily crumbles. You shouldn't be able to spot any of the original parts of the mix (like banana peels, food particles, etc.) once it is completely processed. This can take from three to 12 months, depending on what is in it and how moist the compost is.
Each composting company or particular compost environment is different. One item may work for a vermicomposter but not for a company that feeds the mix to livestock or uses it to fertilize their plants. Be sure to check that your particular setup doesn't have special requirements for the compost mix.