You’ve heard the term “going green” countless times before. But what does it really mean and what are the true extents of this lifestyle? Going green means pursuing practices to live in a more environmentally friendly way. Going green is often perceived as being expensive, so maybe you are afraid that you would not be able to financially sustain this kind of lifestyle. However, there are many ways to go green without breaking the bank, and some ways even save you money. It is also important to remember that you do not need to drastically change your lifestyle right away. You can start gradually by doing just a few things and adding more as time goes on. Depending on what you do, your actions will help the environment in many different ways, but they will all add to help reduce the impact of climate change. So let’s dive right into what kind of things you can do to go green and how your actions will help the environment and your wallet. We will also discuss and bust the myths you may have heard about some of the ways to go green.
1. Unplug Everything
Have you ever heard of something called “phantom energy”? Phantom energy is the energy that is being consumed by electronics even when they are not on or in use. Reducing the amount of energy you use helps protect the air and reduces pollution, as it decreases power plant emissions from coal, crude oil, or other fossil fuels. Unplug your chargers, computers, microwaves, TVs, etc., when they are not actively being used, as the energy it consumes is a waste, and can also add up to 10% on your electricity bill. You can also buy a power strip with a power switch so you don’t need to go and unplug everything. You can even invest in surge protectors that prevent phantom energy by turning the power off when the item is not in use if you know you won’t remember. According to the US Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average residential monthly electricity bill is around $110. $1.10 doesn’t seem like a lot, and neither may $13.20 a year, but this action is quite simple to do once you remember. Besides, who wouldn’t want to get $13.20 a year for clicking some switches and helping to save the environment?
Myth: Small electronic devices don’t need to be unplugged.
This is untrue, as even the smallest item still wastes energy. Unplug everything.
2. Use Less Water
You have probably heard this one before. Conserving water is undeniably important. Reducing water use reduces the energy required to deliver it, which helps conserve fuel resources. It is also so important because only 1% of all the water on Earth is available fresh water, and since the population is growing but the amount of water is only depleting, we must conserve this necessary resource. One simple thing you can do to help conserve water is shut the water off while you are brushing your teeth. According to North Carolina State University, doing this simple action can save 200 gallons of water per month. You should also shut off the water while you are scrubbing your hands with soap for 20 seconds, as this could save an average of six gallons of water a day. Take shorter showers or use low-flow showerheads. The standard maximum flow rate for shower heads is 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm), but a low-flow shower head is 2.0 gpm or less. Invest in an energy-efficient dishwasher or be aware of how long you run your faucet while washing dishes and try to cut the time down. Only do your laundry if you have enough for a full load and don’t use hot water to wash your clothes unless they really need it.
Myth: Using cold water to wash your clothes doesn’t actually clean them.
This is untrue most of the time, as it will only not work against the strongest dirt or oil stains.
3. Use Reusable Items
Reusable bags are sold everywhere and are often sold for less than a dollar. Using reusable bags have a greater impact than you think. A plastic bag can take anywhere between 15-1,000 years to break down, depending on where it ends up. They also do not biodegrade, they simply break down through photo degradation, which means that it decomposes due to light exposure. When this happens, the bag actually breaks down into a ton of toxic particles. The plastic bags or the plastic particles that end up in the water kill many sea animals, as ingesting them blocks their digestive tract and they starve to death. Store your reusable bags in your trunk so you never forget them. Buy a reusable water bottle as well to reduce the amount of plastic water bottles you use or to cut them out of your life entirely.
Myth: Paper bags are fine, and reusable bags are not necessary.
The assumption that paper bags are better than plastic bags is widespread. However, paper bags could end up in landfills far away from the type of environment that would actually let them biodegrade easily. Also, research finds that they have a higher carbon footprint than plastic bags because of the amount of energy used to make them.
4. Recycle Your Old Clothes and Cell Phones
Everybody has old clothes that they don’t want anymore for whatever reason, and recycling them is a great option to free up some closet space. Of course, giving them away to somebody you know is a great choice, but if the item is too old, stained, or ruined, recycling is your go-to from now on. Discarding a clothing item not only wastes the material, but all the water and energy it used to be manufactured. Almost every item of clothing can be recycled, no matter how bad the quality or condition it is in. If you recycle clothes, you will be reducing the amount of solid waste that ends up in landfills, help reduce carbon footprint, and provide employment to semi-skilled workers. Recycling cell phones is beneficial for similar reasons. When you recycle a cell phone you conserve valuable resources like precious metals, copper, and plastic. Also, it also reduces the need to extract, process, and manufacture the materials in the first place, which produces air and water pollution and greenhouse gases. It also helps save energy. In fact, it only takes one recycled cell phone to save enough energy to power a laptop for 44 hours. Cell phones also have hazardous materials inside like flame retardants, lead, and mercury which should all be recycled so that they do not get dumped into landfills to contaminate the Earth. That means that your old iPhone from 2013 idly sitting in your desk drawer has a bigger impact than you think.
Myth: Americans donate or recycle most of their used clothing.
You may think that this statement is true, so you think that their impact is big enough that you don’t need to recycle a few articles of clothing once in a while and you can just toss them in the trash instead. However, this is the mentality of most Americans, as most still throw them away. In fact, on average, of the amount of pounds of textiles people get rid of each year, 85% of them end up in the trash.
5. Eat Sustainable Meat
Sustainably raised meat means that it is produced without hurting the environment or public health, and buying it supports responsible farmers. Factory farms devastate the environment, as their effects are way too large for the amount of meat they actually output. They pollute the Earth with hazardous contaminants, produce massive amounts of wastes and greenhouse gases, and they also consume too many natural resources such as land, water, and fossil fuels. It is more expensive to raise animals this way, and the responsible farmers don’t get the benefits of large government subsidies, which means that the prices are usually higher, but you still can and should purchase and enjoy sustainable meat. You may have to buy smaller amounts, but the taste will be delicious (and may even be better) and you may be eating too much meat anyway. On average, Americans eat twice as much meat as they are supposed to eat for a healthy diet. Sustainable meat will be labelled as “grass-fed”, “pasture-raised”, and “organic”.
Myth: Just go vegan, it’s better for the environment than eating meat at all.
Veganism is a huge lifestyle change that not everybody needs to do, and you don’t need to feel guilty about not being vegan. As long as you stick to sustainably sourced meat, and preferably locally as well, you are actually helping the environment more than eating an avocado from the other side of the world. This is because when you buy food that is imported, it can hurt those that consider the food a staple, as it raises the price within the country it is imported from. Carbon dioxide (CO2 ) concentrations in the atmosphere are rising because of human activities such as deforestation and fossil fuels being burned for energy, as well as natural activities such as respiration and volcanic eruptions. Why is that so bad? Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, meaning it is a gas that absorbs heat. The Earth’s surface radiates heat from sunlight. Greenhouse gases absorb and then release that heat gradually. This is vital to human life on Earth, as without this effect, the average temperature of the planet would be below freezing. However, there have been increases in greenhouse gases, which are causing additional heat and increasing the Earth’s average temperature to unwanted levels. Carbon dioxide does not absorb as much heat as other greenhouse gases like methane, but it is more abundant and lingers in the atmosphere longer than the other gases. It also can absorb certain wavelengths of heat energy that others cannot. Carbon dioxide also dissolves into the ocean. Originally, many scientists would view this is a positive thing, as the ocean is absorbing some of the CO2 from the atmosphere. However, after decades of observations, it was discovered that the dissolved CO2 reacts with water molecules and produces carbonic acid, which lowers the ocean’s pH levels. A drop in pH is called ocean acidification. Increased acidity affects marine organisms like coral shellfish, sea urchins, and other calcifying species that rely on equilibrated pH levels to build their calcium-based structures. A lower pH level makes it difficult for these species to make their calcium structures such as reefs, shells, and exoskeletons. Since the increased carbon dioxide levels has such a strong effect on the planet, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was created. RGGI is a CO2 cap-and-trade program in nine Northeast states, which sets a maximum limit for the amount of a pollutant to be released into the atmosphere. It then divides this amount into “credits” for companies to buy and sell. So, companies can simply pay for more credits in order to be allowed to pollute more. The RGGI reduces the cap every year, but too much CO2 is still being emitted. This is where Soli comes in. Soli buys carbon credits at RGGI auctions and then retires them so companies cannot buy them, thus reducing the amount of CO2 being polluted into the air even further. For every dollar you spend using the Soli app, you prevent two pounds of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere. With Soli, we the possibility to cause one of the largest divestments from fossil fuels in history. Come help make history and join the Soli movement today.
“5 Myths About Used Clothing.” Planet Aid, Planet Aid, 13 July 2018, www.planetaid.org/blog/5-myths-about-used-clothing.
“10 Ways to Go Green and Save Green.” 10 Ways to Go Green and Save Green, Worldwatch Institute, 2006, www.worldwatch.org/resources/go_green_save_green.
Davis, Carla. “6 Times You Can Turn Off the Tap to Save Water.” Sustainability, North Carolina State University, 10 Mar. 2014, sustainability.ncsu.edu/blog/changeyourstate/6-times-you-should-turn-off-the-tap-to-save-water/.
Evans, Marni. “5 Reasons for Conservation and Why We Should Care About Saving Water.” The Balance Small Business, The Balance Small Business, 17 Mar. 2018, www.thebalancesmb.com/conservation-efforts-why-should-we-save-water-3157877.
“Factory Farming and the Environment.” Farm Sanctuary, Farm Sanctuary, 2017, www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/factory-farming-and-the-environment/.
Henderson, Emma. “Why Being Vegan Isn’t as Environmentally Friendly as You Might Think.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 27 Jan. 2018, www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/veganism-environment-veganuary-friendly-food-diet-damage-hodmedods-protein-crops-jack-monroe-a8177541.html.
“How Will Ocean Acidification Impact Marine Life?” World Population Program: Research Overview & Aims – Research – IIASA, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, 3 Feb. 2015, www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/about/news/150203-Ocean-Acid.html.
Lindsey, Rebecca. “Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide.” Climate Change: Global Sea Level, NOAA Climate.gov, 1 Aug. 2018, www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide.
Lober, Douglas. “Ditch Your Plastic! 25 Reasons to Use Reusable Grocery Shopping Bags.” ReuseThisBag.com, ReuseThisBag.com, 25 Oct. 2017, www.reusethisbag.com/articles/25-reasons-to-go-reusable/.
Simmons, Andy. “13 Going Green Myths, Busted.” Reader’s Digest, Reader’s Digest, 2018, www.rd.com/home/cleaning-organizing/13-ways-to-go-green-simple-ways-to-save-the-environment/.
“The Meat To Eat.” GRACE Communications Foundation, GRACE Communications Foundation, 2018, www.sustainabletable.org/1649/the-meat-to-eat.
“Why Recycle Shoes and Clothing?” World Wear Project, World Wear Project, 2018, worldwearproject.com/about-us/global-responsibility.