Easy Green Tips for 2016
Jan 02, 2016 08:49AM
We know that there are many habits we can form and actions we can undertake to become more sustainable, or “greener”. In fact, there is so much information out there that it may seem overwhelming. To wrap up the year, we asked a few of our leading citizens to contribute their favorite tips and advice. Remember, even before the first Earth Day in 1970, we had a national campaign called Keep America Beautiful, with the slogan, “Every litter bit counts.”
Jessica Blue Sky Vigil, Living Well Health and Wellness Center
Artist’s tip: empty plastic shampoo or conditioner bottles can be used to store watered down acrylic paints. Old towels can be cut into smaller pieces and used to creatively blot paint designs or clean up messes. Kitchen smarts: Small glass condiment jars can be used to store objects such as barrettes, paperclips, nails or dried herbs. A family project: Large glass jars that once held items such as pickles can be used as a Gratitude Jar by gluing a collage of images on the outside, cutting a slit in the lid and adding notes of happiness throughout the New Year. Household plant care: Instead of buying poison to wipe out pesky flying houseplant bugs, sprinkle some cayenne pepper on the top of the soil and use a fork to fluff the top half-inch or so, mixing in the pepper and eradicating the pests.
Brandon Morton, North Lake College
Ride public transit at least twice per week to work or for daily errands. Riding public transit not only reduces pollution and saves you money, but also contributes to a recommended fitness activity of 30 minutes per day. It also can be a great way to meet new people or to catch up on reading or emailing while riding to your desired location.
Plant a window garden and learn the benefits of traditional, home-grown food. It can be overwhelming with all the home-gardening trends, but if you start small, a little can go a long way. The easiest foods to grow are oregano, peppers or tomatoes. All of these can thrive year-round in Texas if they are set in a small planter inside on your window sill with the best sunlight. You can keep them inside all year, or take them outside for some sunshine during spring, summer and fall months.
Replace your cookware with cast iron or stainless steel. The surface coating in “non-stick” cookware is made from a family of chemicals called fluoropolymers. Although non-stick cookware right out of the box is relatively harmless, studies show that harmful chemicals are released into food being cooked as the coating becomes scratched and worn from repeated and extensive use. Cast iron or stainless steel cookware will outlast and outperform any polymer-coated cookware.
Do not use fire ant killer on your yard. It is expensive, will not kill fire ants and increases public health risk to pollutants in our water systems. Fire ant killer from the hardware store will kill almost any other bug in your yard, and it may increase the cost of water treatment in your city. Instead, try using vinegar or ammonium as a homemade fire ant and weed killer. These chemicals are relatively harmless to humans.
Carrie Schweitzer, Brookhaven College
Don’t just think green; wear it! Purchase clothing with organic fibers such as cotton, silk, wool or hemp, or fabric made from recycled materials. Try to avoid clothing that requires dry cleaning.
Martie Whittiken, HEALTHY BY NATURE show and Natural Healthfest
Buy organic food. Not only is it safer food, it supports farmers that are kinder to the environment. Dispose of drugs properly to avoid contamination of the water table with drug residues leaking from landfills. Better yet, find natural solutions to health problems and thereby avoid having your sewage pollute water with drug residues flushed from the body. Buy grass-fed animal products. Not only are they healthier foods with a better ratio of inflammatory/anti-inflammatory fats, the other choice from feed lots creates many environmental problems.
Kathleen Graham and Murray Myers, city of Dallas Sanitation Services
Recycling right: Check with your city and know what is collected for recycling. The information can be found on each city’s website and it is important that the right materials are always placed out for collection. Buy recycled: Supporting recycling means feeding this loop by not only recycling, but also supporting recycled products. Now you can purchase all types of things with high recycled content from printer paper to office chairs. Electronic reuse: Search for local companies that will recycle electronics. Some stores offer trade-ins for certain electronics that are good condition.
Compost first: Compost provides nutrients, soil biology and pest resistance which leads to healthier lawns, flower beds and gardens without the use of harmful chemicals. It also helps us understand and improve our diets by improving our food habits and knowledge. Home chemical recycling: Home cleaning products, lawn/garden chemicals, automotive fluids, batteries, pool chemicals and paint should not be poured down any drain or placed in the trash. Products as alkaline/lead acid batteries, motor oil/oil filters, latex paint and used antifreeze can be recycled.
Howard Garrett, The Dirt Doctor
Stop using high-nitrogen, synthetic, soluble fertilizers that are so destructive to the health of the soil, water and air. Start using products that build and maintain life in the soil without polluting. They include compost, organic fertilizers, natural rock minerals and biological stimulators.
Stop leaving irrigation systems on auto settings and change to manual settings, so watering is only when someone pushes the button. Over-watering and watering during and after rains are huge wastes of resources and cause dramatic damage to the environment. Stop removing organic material from commercial and residential sites. Cities should make it illegal for grass clippings and tree trimmings to be removed to landfills. The clippings should be left on the lawns and the tree trimmings should be shredded and used as the best mulch and a great ingredient in the compost.
Pallavi Raj, Home Bliss, Inc.
Turn off the faucet when you are brushing or shaving. Did you know that an average faucet uses two gallons of water a minute—that is over 150 gallons of wasted water if you leave it running while you brush twice daily. Use washable microfiber towels instead of paper for everyday cleanup. They are easily available in regular supermarkets and can be reused. Vinegar water is a great substitute for disinfecting and general cleaning while, eliminating harsh chemicals that are loaded in the store bought cleaning supplies.
Kevin Lefebre, city of Dallas Environmental Services
Lots of families receive a large amount of advertisements and other junk mail that they do not want. You can stop the mailings and reduce waste by writing to the correct address and requesting that they take your name off of their distribution list.
Purchase products that do not have a lot of packaging. Buy only what you need and buy products in bulk containers and concentrates with less packaging. Some products are wrapped in many layers of plastic and paperboard, even though they need not be. You can also look for things that are packed in materials that require minimal energy or resources to produce.
Instead of buying something you are not going to use very often, see if you can borrow it from someone you know. Start a compost bin. Some people set aside a place in their yard where they can dispose of certain food and plant materials. Over time, the materials will break down through natural decomposition. The compost is good for the soil in your yard and means that less garbage will go to the landfill.
You can reduce waste by using a computer. Many newspapers and magazines are online now. Instead of buying the paper versions, you can find them on the Internet. Also remember to print out only what you need. Choose rechargeable batteries and long-life bulbs. Avoid disposable razors, pens, pencils and lighters. Take your own mug or thermos to the coffee shop or to work
Julie Thibodeaux, GreenSourceDFW.org Editor
Use eco-friendly dishwashing soap as an all-purpose household cleaner, including for mopping. It cleans other surfaces as well as it cleans dishes. If you garden, save plastic bags that once held mulch, compost or soil to use as workshop garbage bags. Save twist ties from bread wrappers to close them up. DIY bird feeder: Cut four evenly spaced holes in an aluminum pie pan. Hang with two pieces of straightened coat hanger wire. Bend each wire in half and loop the ends through holes on opposite sides.
DIY cat toy: Repurpose an old sock by filling it with organic catnip. Tie a knot at the open end to close.