Earth day, whatcha gonna do part II

A popular misconception claims one needs to be inconvenienced or spend money in order to help the Earth. After all, environmentalists are people that live in the dark, have a roof made of expensive solar panels and a floor of dirt. This untrue stereotype discourages people from exploring their own impacts and making changes that suit their lifestyle or budget.

I commented previously about ways that save resources, yet are not inconvenient and do not cost more. Here are three more:

1) More efficient lighting. I was one of the people that hated compact fluorescent lights when they came out. Much of my hatred came from my hatred of the long fluorescent tube lights that are used in public schools. The color is weird, they buzz, and the weird shadows strain my eyes. I assumed CFL lights would be the same, so I hated them before I even tried them (to be fair, schools use the cheapest bulbs available, and the more expensive bulbs are much better). A few years ago, I moved into an apartment that had CFLs in all the fixtures. I felt the light quality and color was a good as an incandescent bulb, but unfortunately took too long to reach full brightness. When I bought my house, I replaced all bulbs with CFLs. The ones they sell today have light quality equal to an incandescent bulb, and reach full brightness in a few seconds. Plus, then no longer cost more, especially considering they last much longer.

But here’s the kicker – they save me a ton of energy – twice. First, they use less energy to produce the same light. They also don’t get as hot, and that is less heat I have to remove with my air conditioning, saving even more energy.

2) Toilet paper tubes. Check your bathroom trash to see if there is a cardboard tube in there. Better yet, check when you visit someone else’s house. These things are recyclable, and most communities have curbside recycling. So why do most people still throw them in the trash? Probably just a habit.

It’s not just about toilet paper tubes. Look at what you throw away, and think about ways you can either recycle more or simply waste less. Perhaps consider reusable plastic food containers instead of aluminum foil or disposable plastic bags. In most cases the containers even work better (no more smashed sandwiches at work!). Yet, most of us still have a habit of putting our PB&J in a plastic zipper bag – because that is what our mom did when we went to school. Break the habit.

3) Driving. You don’t need a hybrid to save gas. I would bet a beer that every driver makes at least one trip per week that is either not needed, or where walking or public transportation is a more logical choice. I have seen people drive across the street to MacDonalds, when the distance from their desk to their car is actually LONGER than from their desk to MacDonalds’ counter. In other words, they walk further just to be able to drive across the street to get fattening food.

A shopping center near me has several popular lunch restaurants. At lunch time, double parked cars and people waiting for parking spaces clog the parking lot. I would estimate 75% of the lunch crowd comes from the three adjacent multistory office buildings, or the 3 adjacent apartment complexes. So why is the parking lot full? Force of habit, I guess. We have been trained to get in our car if we want to go somewhere, even if walking may be faster or cheaper. Break the habit.

Media and advertising suggest that we need to buy new expensive gadgets or live primitive lifestyles in order to be “green”. The real lesson should be about getting people to change their attitudes such that wasting resources is just as bad as wasting money.

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