The color green has traditionally been associated with regeneration, rebirth and nature so its not surprising it was adopted by those interested in environmental protection and social justice. Of course ad-men never miss a marketing opportunity and with increased public awareness of ‘green’ issues, we have seen an alarming array of products being marketed with varying degrees of honesty as being ‘green’. Being ‘green’ isn’t about being a consumer though and trying to be more environmentally aware doesn’t have to cost a cent. So lets look at a few simple, practical ways that we can all be a little ‘greener’ without breaking the bank.
Ditch the Bottled Water
(image via: internet journalist)
One day our descendants are going to look back on this period of history and laugh their asses off. All these people carrying bottles of ridiculously expensive water around and sucking on them like dehydration was a heartbeat away instead of just having a free drink of tap water whenever they were thirsty. For most people, most of the time, bottled water is a total waste of money and is probably the greatest advertising con in history. Not only is it usually both unnecessary and expensive, but it generates large amounts of container waste as well. Far better to use a simple filter to purify tap water if that’s really necessary instead of buying bottled water. If the danger of dehydration between our tap at home and the office water-cooler truly is a risk, rather than just an advertising-generated illusion we can even get a reusable water bottle, preferably aluminum rather than plastic, to take with us.
Join a Library
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Most new books that are bought tend to be read once and by only one person. Natural resources go into making the paper and ink for all those books and also transporting them around. Wouldn’t it be a great idea and so much less wasteful if every book could be read by many people ? It wouldn’t necessarily be better for the people trying to sell the books of course but it would be cheaper for us and kinder to the planet. Well the good news is that’s perfectly possible. Just join your local library and enjoy thousands of books and DVDs for free. Sure there might still be some rare DVD or brand-new, just-out book they don’t have that you might still want to buy, but if you’re much of a reader libraries can cut your expenses dramatically as well as helping you be ‘greener’.
It Needn’t Be New
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For most of the last century advertising has been a powerful force shaping our lives. From birth to grave, seven days a week and for every waking moment, we are remorselessly bombarded with ads that want us to buy new ‘stuff’. Its very hard to resist. If it was easy to resist then hard-headed business men wouldn’t spend billions every year on advertising. But it is possible, if we try really hard, to take a step back and ask ourselves if we really need that new widget. If we can block out the voices of the ad-men for a moment maybe we’ll realize that we don’t need it at all. Even if we do need it, does it have to be a brand new widget? Save money and the planets resources by asking yourself these questions. There are great thrift shops and bargains to be had if we accept that some things don’t always need to be new.
No More Gas Guzzling
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I’m not saying rush out and spend a lot of money changing your monster-truck for the latest expensive eco-mobile. Lets be practical. It is possible, though, to cut down the amount of expensive and scarce fossil-fuels we use pretty easily and without spending a penny. Just use the car a little bit less. If its at all possible walk or bike to work. This saves on gas and parking costs while improving our cardiovascular health and reducing our risk of obesity. Plan shopping trips so we get everything we need in one trip rather than several. For commuters, consider car-pooling or public transport. Just think about it. Remember when its cool enough to do without air-conditioning that you can save 10% of fuel costs just by switching it off. Tires running under recommended pressure waste gas too so check them regularly.
Buy Local Food
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Buy locally raised, humane, and organic meat, eggs, and dairy whenever you can. Purchasing from local farmers keeps money in the local economy. The supermarkets are full of food that’s transported from the far corners of the globe at huge cost to the environment. Some of its not available locally and, as I’ve tried to say all through this piece, lets keep it simple and practical. I’m not going to get all holier-than-thou green if someone fancies an out-of-season peach from the middle-east. All I’m saying is that there is often a choice and, wherever there is, locally produced food is likely to be tastier, fresher, and kinder to the environment than stuff thats been shipped half way around the world.
Share a Shower
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We’re not entirely serious about the sharing idea, but water is as much a natural resource as the energy used to heat it. As a nation we’re notoriously profligate with both but, without becoming stinky, there’s a lot we can do to improve matters. For example, showers use far less water and energy resources than baths. Shorter showers reduce water use even more and will lower water and heating bills. A pretty cheap low-flow shower head helps and the water and energy savings can quickly pay back the investment. Having a faucet aerator on each faucet conserves heat and water too, while keeping water pressure high. Oh and of course you could always invite that special person in your life to get in the shower with you. That can generate fun as well as savings.
Save Your Energy
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Unless you’re a banker on big bonuses you’ll be concerned by ever-escalating energy costs. I know I am. The good news is that pretty much anything you do to reduce those costs is going to be ‘greener’ too. Some easy, practical things you can do include setting your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer to save on heating and cooling costs; installing compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) when your old lights need replacing; unplugging appliances when you’re not using them ; washing clothes in cold water whenever possible because as much as 85 percent of the energy used to machine-wash clothes goes to heating the water; using a drying rack or clothesline whenever you can to save the energy used during machine drying. None of that need cost a cent but it will save money and scarce energy resources.
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A little thought can make a big difference. For example we could buy clothes that don’t need to be dry-cleaned to save money and cut down on toxic waste. Instead of constantly replacing clothes with whatever the ad-men persuade us is the latest ‘must-have’ style that totally-doesn’t suit us we could instead just buy fewer, better-quality clothes in a more classic style that doesn’t date so easily and keep them longer. But maybe the smartest thing we can do is to ask whether we really need to buy something at all. The country is disappearing under a mountain of ‘stuff’. Everyone has garages and attics and basements full of it. Perfectly good ‘stuff’ is discarded every day to make way for newer ‘stuff’. So lets be smarter. Do we really need whatever it is we’re being tempted to buy ? And if we do, can we buy the product that is least damaging to the environment ? Its just a different way of looking at things.
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Most cell-phones, computers and other electrical ‘stuff’ gets replaced not because it needs to be but just because the ad-men have been successful in persuading us that its a good idea. It is a good idea, for them and the manufacturers. For us though sometimes just keeping things that are working well-enough going for longer makes better economic and environmental sense. When our gizmos finally do bite the dust we should recycle them responsibly because E-waste contains mercury and other toxics and is a growing environmental problem. Cell-phones can be recycled easily enough and even if your computer doesn’t have the latest bells and whistles there’s probably someone who would be glad to have it. If our discarded ‘stuff’ can be used by others surely that’s better than then it being dumped or left to gather dust.
Use the Internet
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It might seem with all this talk about not being suckered into being on the ‘leading-edge’ of technology, where things are always expensive, that I’m not enthusiastic about technology but I am. There are lots of times when using the internet can positively help us be greener. Home-working via the Internet is a great example because it uses a lot less resources than driving a gas-guzzler through traffic jams to get to the office. Okay, we can’t all work from home but there are other things we can do. Like checking out used bargains at places like Ebay and Craigslist or using one of the online services which allow people to exchange or pass on their old stuff like Freecycle.org. There is information about free local services and re-cycling, libraries, and car-pooling in your area, as well as local and government assistance to be more energy-efficient. The Internet is an absolute treasure-trove of information on how to save money and be greener too. So use the Internet and be ‘greener’.ï»¿