Humans are the cause of all environmental issues, and we have the power to solve them. Here are things you can do to become a better environmental citizen. Feel free to post this on your fridge or bulletin board, and try to tackle one item every week. We can all do our part to sustain the Earth and make it a cleaner place.
What YOU can do to be a more environmentally conscious citizen:
Consume less: Environmentalists agree that reducing is preferable to reusing and reusing is preferable to recycling.
- Opt out of junk mail at www.dmachoice.org and http://www.worldprivacyforum.org/toptenoptout.htm and telephone books at http://www.yellowpagesgoesgreen.org/opt-out.php .
- Make the environment a top priority in the voting booth.
- Bring your own bags (preferably fabric bags) to supermarkets and other stores; do not accept a new bag if you don’t need one.
- Avoid bottled water – fill reusable bottles.
- Bring your own washable mug/bottle to your office, school, coffee shops.
- Think before you print – do you really need a hard copy? If you must print, print on both sides of the paper or on the blank side of waste paper.
- Buy products with less packaging, and look for recycled and recyclable packaging and products; avoid styrofoam and plastic packaging; recycle the packaging after opening.
- Stop all unnecessary mail and newspapers; use the internet whenever possible for news, banking, bills, proxy information, etc.
- Use rechargeable batteries (NiMH or fuel cell) for everything, and recycle the batteries once they no longer take a charge.
- Choose battery-free flashlights, calculators, watches. These make great gifts!
- Recycle everything possible: metal, plastic, paper, glass, compact fluorescent bulbs (at Home Depot) and batteries of all kinds (especially "button" batteries and rechargeables).
- Eat less meat, poultry and fish, and substitute with produce – preferably locally grown.
- Compost all of your vegetarian food scraps and yard clippings; leave grass clippings on your lawn instead of bagging.
- Use 1/3 less detergent in the washing machine and dishwasher – you’ll probably notice better results!
- Air dry heavy items such as comforters, parkas and sleeping bags.
- Continually find ways to reduce your trash.
- Walk, bike or run instead of using the car.
- Use mass transit instead of the car.
- Carpool whenever possible.
- Combine as many errands/stops as possible into each trip.
- Select a vehicle with low emissions: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/sbs.htm has emissions and fuel economy ratings on all new and used vehicles.
- Keep your vehicle in good repair, tires properly inflated and wheels aligned.
- Use cruise control on the highway (though never in the rain).
- Turn off the engine if you will sit for more than 15 seconds.
- It is not necessary to start the engine to open windows, play the radio, use the 12 volt power outlet, etc. – just turn the ignition key to the ‘on’ or ‘acc’ position.
- Control your speed as much as possible with the accelerator (decelerator) pedal, instead of the brakes.
- Air conditioning only saves gas while cruising 45+ MPH, not in local driving.
- Slow down! Every 5 MPH above 55 decreases MPG by 3 to 4 percent.
Reduce Consumption of Utilities:
- Switch to compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs (and recycle them at Home Depot).
- Maintain your heating, cooling and hot water systems according to manufacturer’s recommendations; lower the hot water heater temp. in Spring as the weather gets warmer.
- Install and learn how to use a timer-driven thermostat. With most heating/cooling systems, it does save energy to change the thermostat if you will leave the house for one hour or more.
- When replacing cooling/heating equipment and major appliances, choose highest efficiency models and air conditioners that do not contain Freon gas.
- Remove or add clothing rather than changing the thermostat.
- Heat/airconditioning should be lowered by at least 5 degrees at night; add or remove blankets to compensate.
- Turn your home's a/c off and heat and water heater way down when you are on vacation; you can stand being uncomfortable for an hour or two when you return!
- Turn off lights (!) and close heat/aircon. registers in rooms not being used
- Switch to CleanPower electricity: http://njcleanenergy.com/renewable-energy/programs/cleanpower-choice-program/new-jersey-cleanpower-choice-program.
David Harrison has been a member of Millburn’s Environmental Commission for the past seven years and also sits on the New Jersey Groundwater Protection Committee.