Week 2: Reduce (Part I)
To follow my New Years resolution, this months theme is the Environment. Also known as our home, our shelter and our reason for existence. It may seem like our world is a never ending treasure trove of resources, but that is so far from the truth it hurts. We are using up our resources faster than we are replenishing them or giving mother nature time to do so. The sad truth is we choose to ignore our impact because we feel like, as individuals, we’re not having that big of an impact. It is this mentality that is hurting ourselves as well as our future children and grandchildren. Therefore, Week 2 of 52 Weeks of Good is: Reduce. I understand the want to live comfortably, but there are things all of us can do to reduce usage on precious resources. Even just a little bit of reducing adds up and helps. I have attempted to focus on ways to reduce, however, you will find hints on how to reuse as well. Also, with there being so many solutions to our current bad habits, I have split this Week of Good into two parts. Part II will be released on Wednesday. Stay tuned!
Here are 5 cold hard facts of things we do daily (think of them as glasses of cold water being splashed in our faces to wake us up) :
- Plastic bags: A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down. About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute. Plastic bags used for dry cleaned clothes are an often-overlooked source of plastic bags, but an estimated 300,000,000 pounds of these single-use bags are disposed of in landfills each year. You do the math.
- Plastic water bottles: The Container Recycling Institute estimates that supplying plastic water bottles to American consumers in one year requires more than 47 million gallons of oil, the equivalent of one billion pounds of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere.
- Styrofoam cups: Americans produce enough Styrofoam cups every year to circle the earth 436 times. These cups are completely non-biodegradable, deplete the Earth’s ozone layer, waste enormous amounts of landfill, and are deadly to marine life.
- Household cleaners: Common household cleaners (including toilet bowl cleaners, air deodorizers, floor cleaners, window cleaners, and some detergents) often contain very toxic chemicals. Even when used properly these toxins make their way into the environment at large through evaporation of volatile components. (EPA)
- Paper towels and tissues: Paper and paperboard products (a blanket term for all paper refuse, including paper towels and tissues) made up 20.7 % of the municipal waste discarded in 2008–more than any other type of refuse measured by 6,550,000 tons.
Those numbers are so large it is hard to imagine and a little overwhelming. Feel that splash? Are we awake now? Good. It is hard to think how the things you do everyday can add up to something like that, but it is the people everyday that make the difference.
“The solution is to embrace a cultural shift away from use-and-toss mentality.” – Reuse it.
Here is a list of 5 easy solutions you can do this week to reduce usage on our natural resources:
- Plastic bags: Bring reusable bags to the grocery store! Leave some in your car so you will never be without them. When they ask, “paper or plastic” you can say, “Oh! I have my own.” Then walk away knowing you added one less bag to the landfill. While you are in the store, think if you really need to put your one pepper in a plastic bag? Probably not. You’re going to wash it at home and cook it anyway, so instead of finding another way to use plastic, go without this time. One way I have used grocery bags for in the past is for picking up puppy presents. There is something better I can do: use biodegradable puppy poop bags and bundle up all of my plastic bags and drop them off at a local grocery store who is collecting plastic bags to recycle them. If every person switched from disposable dry cleaning bags to bringing their own reusable ones, we would cut down on plastic bag refuse in our landfills by 300,000,000 pounds. See Reuse Its reusable version of the classic dry cleaning bag here, and remember: The little things add up!
- Plastic water bottles: Find a reusable plastic cup or water bottle that is BPA free. I use one at the office everyday. Not only does it help me to stay healthy and drink more water throughout the day, but I’m also not wasting cups or putting harmful chemicals in my body that come off the bottles. Each high-quality reusable, BPA-free bottle can eliminate hundreds (if not thousands) of disposable bottles.
- Styrofoam cups: The easy answer about Styrofoam cups… DON’T USE THEM! They’re terrible and wasteful and there is nothing good about them. Use mugs or isolated reusable containers. Or if you have them out for clients or to use in a waiting room, find ones that are not made out of Styrofoam. Please. And thank you.
- Household cleaners: Make the switch! Eco-friendly cleaning products are often very competitively priced when compared to their toxic counterparts and green cleaning products can be just as strong as traditional cleaning products.
- Paper towels and napkins: Stop using disposable napkins and paper towels. Instead opt for durable, washable cloth napkins that won’t wind up in a landfill. When it gets dirty, all you have to do is throw it in the wash and by the end of the cycle it’s like having a new napkin all over again! Also, if you need to use paper towels or napkins, find ones that are recycled or that can be composted after use.
When you start with little habit changes like these suggestions, you will not have to apologize to your grandchildren for the things you didn’t do, but could be proud to tell them about the changes you did to make their world a better place.
All facts, statistics and some suggestions came from: http://www.reuseit.com/learn-more. Check out Reuse Its selection of high-quality reusable household items at the reuseit.com™ store and start making a difference!