Ten Simple Things You Can Do
Get Rid of Junk Mail. About 4 billion pounds of paper are used every year to make direct-mail catalogs. Along with other types of junk mail, catalogs account for more than one hundred million trees being chopped down every year. Next time, instead of simply recycling unwanted catalogs and junk mail (everything but the plastic windows in envelopes can be recycled), take a minute to call the companies up to ask that they remove your name from their mailing lists. You can also use the envelope provided to return the form with "Remove from your list, and do not release to other groups." You can also remove your name from catalog mailing lists by sending a postcard with your name (note all variations that appear on your mail, such as A. Smith, A. M. Smith, Amy Smith), home address and signature to: Stop the Mail, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008. It's still important whenever giving your address; whether it's to make a donation, buy from a catalog, apply for a credit card, etc., to request that your name not be put on their mailing list or rented/sold to any other group.
- Reusable Shopping Bags. If every shopper took one less bag each month, we could save hundreds of millions of bags every year. Paper bags are made of virgin paper, and plastic bags are not degradable, so a reusable bag goes a long way toward helping our environment.
- Rechargeable Batteries. Americans use 2 billion disposable batteries a year. Only a small percentage of these are handled as the hazardous waste that they are. Batteries release heavy metals, in particular cadmium and mercury, into the soil when they are in the landfill.
- Cloth Napkins and dishtowels (instead of paper towels). If a family of four used cloth napkins at every meal for a year, they would save 4,380 paper napkins from the landfill. Cloth napkins are an inexpensive, simple way to reduce your family's trash.
- Before throwing something out, ask yourself if it can be reused: return hangars to your dry cleaners, take packing peanuts to any branch of Mailboxes Etc. — these merchants are grateful for your efforts!
Be an enthusiastic participant in our curbside recycling program. You can recycle #1 & #2 plastics, glass, newspaper (including glossy inserts), catalogs, magazines, telephone books, white office paper, aluminum and steel cans. A little effort has a big impact.
4. Use "Alternative" Transportation
Americans rely on automobiles more than any other society in the world. We use more than 200 million gallons of gasoline each day, which release about 4 billion pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — daily. Simple things we can do are to carpool with others, use alternative transportation, such as buses, subways, trains, bicycles, or good old-fashioned walking. Set a personal goal — leave your car home one day a week, or use your car only on weekends — whatever you can fit into your lifestyle will make a difference. Besides saving money, you'll be surprised what a difference it makes to replace stressful rush-hour commutes with exercising, relaxing, catching a few winks, or sitting back to read the newspaper.
5. Conserve Electricity
Use Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs. Replacing regular incandescent bulbs makes sense for the environment and the consumer as well. While a regular 60-watt bulb will last for 750 hours, a compact fluorescent with one-third the wattage will generate the same light and burn for 7500 hours. Compacts also keep a half-ton of C02 out of the atmosphere over the life of the bulb. Turn off or decrease your heat and air conditioning when you are at work or away from home - help your budget and the environment at the same time!
6. Help Combat Water Pollution You can do your part by conserving water. This is because most cities' aging sewer systems (including Washington's) are no longer able to process the volume of waste, which results in raw sewage overflowing into local rivers and streams. You can take a few simple steps to make a big contribution to keeping water pollution in check:
- Check your toilet for leaks. A leak in your toilet could mean 50 gallons of wasted water a day. To check if your toilet has a leak, put a few drops of food coloring in the back of your toilet tank. If the coloring seeps into the bowl (don't flush during this experiment), you have a leak. You will need to call a plumber or adjust or replace the flush valve yourself.
- Flush when necessary. Your toilet is not a trash can, so avoid flushing to throw away a cigarette butt, tissue or other small bit of trash. Each time you throw such items in the trash can, rather than down the toilet, you save five to seven gallons of water.
- Don't leave the faucet running. A running faucet uses from two to four gallons of water every minute. If you brush your teeth with the water running, you use 5-9 gallons of water. But if you turn it off, you use only one-half gallon of water. The same goes for washing the dishes!
- Install water-saving showerheads. The average shower head releases five to ten gallons of water a minute. You can conserve water by getting an inexpensive showerhead that uses less than three gallons per minute. It's likely that you won't even notice the difference — except on your water bill. Contact the Department of Public Works to ask what water conservation devices (e.g., "low-flow" showerheads, faucet aerators,), services, or information they offer. Call the DC Energy Hotline at (202) 673-6750.
7. Eat Less Meat
For those of us who are not vegetarian, we can benefit the environment and our health at the same time by reducing the amount of meat in our diet. Many people believe that a plant-based diet is the single most important action one can take to protect the environment and to move toward a sustainable lifestyle. Raising animals for our food supply has big impacts on global warming, deforestation, water pollution, and soil erosion, among other environmental impacts. Set a personal goal, whether it is to be vegetarian for one meal a day, one day a week, or whatever works for you.
8. Support Natural Foods and Organic Produce
Buy in-season local produce. Buying local produce at farmers' markets and co-ops helps sustain your community and its surrounding environment. Locally grown produce is often fresher and tastier, healthier (more likely to be pesticide-free) and less expensive than produce available at grocery stores.
9. Get Involved
Organize an environmental activity for your school, family, neighborhood, church, girl or boy scout troop - your imagination is the limit. Children are great advocates for the environment, and it's important to give them a sense of responsibility and respect for the earth early on. You can organize a neighborhood or park clean-up (and separate recyclable materials from trash), a recycling drive, or an environmental education and outreach project. You can volunteer with the DC Sierra Club.
Teachers who want to bring environmental awareness into their classrooms can contact Friends of the Earth for a free information packet.
10. Be an Environmentally Conscious Consumer
- Get a water filter. If you regularly buy bottled water, consider investing in a water filter. The production, packaging, and transportation of bottled water use an enormous amount of resources.
- Buy clothes that don't need dry-cleaning. Dry-cleaning releases toxic chemicals into the atmosphere and is an expensive way to clean your clothes. Also, the chemicals damage the fabric, so dry clean only when necessary. Buying natural fibers, such as organic cotton, eliminates the need to dry clean, and the clothing will probably last a lot longer.