Saturday, July 13, 2013

Six Surprising Ways to Save the Environment

There are the usual ways of saving the earth: recycle, use less water, eat local food, drive less and bike more, grow an herb garden, use cloth bags. Here are a few you may not have thought of:

1. Pee in the shower. Yep, a little gross. But it takes over a gallon of water to flush your urine down the pipes. Pee is sterile; and hey, you're washing yourself off anyway. If you're in the shower, you might as well use that water for a dual purpose. Having just told you that...

2. Shower less. Showering also takes gallons of water. Do you really need to wash your body every day? If you do, are there ways you can shorten your routine? A couple girlfriends of mine "shiver shave;" they turn the water off to shave their legs, and turn it back on when they're done. Try using a two-in-one shampoo/conditioner. I've found that my joints are stiff when I wake up and only loosen under hot water, but I only need to shower every other day or so, so I've compromised: I only do a part of my shower routine every day (say, wash my hair), and switch off (the next day I shave my legs). My showers are super short, but I still get that blast of warm water every morning.

3. Use less TP. This is another personal one. It's hard to tell you to skimp when wiping your tush. It's a little gross to even contemplate. But if you can lessen your toilet paper usage by a foot each visit to the WC, you'll save money and paper. Every square saved counts for something! Pat yourself on the back.

4. Switch from paper to cloth in your kitchen. This is surprisingly easy. We keep the paper towels around for the absolutely horrific messes, but otherwise we use cloth napkins, cloth placemats, cloth towels, cloth cleaning rags, even a home-made mesh sponge (I didn't make it, a friend did). Have one for dirty hands, one for dirty dishes, and one for dirty counters, if it makes you feel better to delineate. But going all-cloth will save some serious trees. ;) And the amount of water it takes to clean them once a week or two is worth it!

5. Keep your car tires fully inflated. The gas station has an air compressor that's free (just go in and ask them to turn it on) and it's easy enough to check the pressure in your tires with a little pressure-gauge you can get for a couple bucks. Keeping your tires bulked up will improve your gas mileage surprisingly, and for no charge and very little time. And that saves money!

6. Use a recyclable toothbrush. You know how your dentist always tells you to trash your old brush every 3 months? It seems so wasteful! But my mom and I have started heeding the doctor's orders and found that it really makes a difference in mouth cleanliness; new bristles just do the trick so much better. But before guilt could set in about throwing out a tooth brush so often, I discovered that Trader Joe's sells cheap brushes that are fully recyclable. Hooray!

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There are so many things flying around about conservation and climate change, and I just want to say a word. I believe in anthropogenic climate change, but I don't believe in flogging the dead horse in argument: at this point, you either believe it or you don't. But either way, the earth is something we should protect and steward and use wisely.

But where do you start? There are a thousand things to consider, it seems, but it can actually be broken down into five main categories of environmental concern (though they all impact one another):

(1) water
(2) trees and plant matter
(3) oil
(4) soil
(5) habitats/diversity

It can be hard for any of us to do something about the last two directly, but the first three show up in our daily life all the time. Conserve them--don't overuse them--and you're on the right track.

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What are your everyday suggestions for saving the earth?