“For a sustainable future, we have to understand that the structure and design of our planet require that we operate within natural ‘laws’ and principles, rather than attempt to overcome them. We have to see that ‘it’s all connected’, and that systems thinking requires us to think about our choices and actions over time. We need to understand that the pursuit of self-interest is best served through the development of mutually beneficial relationships. And we have to believe we are all responsible, and that intergenerational leadership and collective action are required. Everything we do and everything we don’t do makes a difference."
The Cloud Institute
Commentary: The Pocono Environmental Education Center -- Engaging Young Scientists, Sustainability in Action
PEEC Executive Director Jeff Rosalsky
Journal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science, December 2013
Sustainable steps that YOU can take at home!
- Make a New Year's resolution to consume less resources and live more sustainably.
- Just remember that resolutions can be hard to keep. Choose a small, manageable goal.
- Avoid using disposable products (paper/plastic plates, cups, napkins, utensils).
- Using reusable/washable products saves money and resources, plus they are more durable.
- Use rechargeable batteries.
- They can be used many times (until they don't hold a charge) and then they can be recycled.
- Disposable batteries are very expensive, especially when you constantly buy new ones.
- Disposable batteries are a source of toxic chemicals. When they are thrown in our landfills, they can contaminate groundwater.
- When you go grocery shopping, bring a reusable bag (instead of using the bags at the store).
- Canvas bags are cheap and they use fewer resources than both plastic and paper bags.
- Canvas bags won't tear and spill your goods all over the ground.
- Some stores offer discounts for using your own bags.
- On Valentine's Day, show your sweetheart how much you care. Take time to make your own valentines from reused materials, rather than buying the same, non-recyclable cards as everyone else.
- Keep the thermostat on a low setting to save on the cost of energy bills.
- Wear a wool sweater or cover yourself with a blanket to stay warm.
- Keeping the thermostat at 68 degrees (or lower) will save on heating bills and drastically reduce your carbon footprint.
- Money saved on heating can be used to buy more sweaters or maybe some hot chocolate.
- Look at your home appliances and how much energy they use.
- The Kill-A-Watt home energy meter projects the cost of running your appliances for a year.
- Energy Star appliances are good, but are not always the best option.
- Do research before buying new.
- How long will the appliance last? Spending a little more now for a durable model can save money and resources in the future.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL).
- CFL's use a quarter of the energy that incandescent bulbs use.
- They produce far less waste heat, making them less of a fire hazard.
- CFL technology is always improving and new bulbs for dimmer switches are now available.
- CFL's do contain mercury, a toxic substance, but if bulbs are recycled, it can be removed and reused in new bulbs.
- If every house in the US replaced just one old bulb with a CFL, the carbon savings would be equivalent to taking 1,000,000 cars off the road.
- Wash clothes in cold water instead of hot water.
- Cold water cleans clothes just as well as hot water does.
- Heating water is expensive and uses a lot of energy.
- Turn down your water heater to 120° to decrease how often it runs during the day.
- 120° is hot enough for all your hot water needs
- Every 10° reduction on a water heater translates to 500lbs of carbon savings a year.
- Install a low flow toilet to decrease the amount of water used.
- The water the fills our toilet is the same water that fills our glasses, so we need to conserve it.
- If a new toilet isn't possible at this time, place a plastic bottle filled with sand in the toilet tank. Be sure to place it so it doesn't interfere with the mechanisms inside; this can be difficult.
- Repair leaky faucets.
- One drop per second wastes 20 gallons of water each day.
- Use alternative transportation
- Rising fuel prices are felt by everyone.
- Carpool, walk, or ride a bike to where you need to go.
- You will meet more people, get more exercise, and breathe cleaner air.
- Support local farmers through the summer and fall seasons.
- Reducing how far food must travel saves dwindling fuel supplies and reduces the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere. On average, our food travels 1000 miles from farm to plate.
- Farmers receive more money for their goods when you buy directly from them.
- Money remains in the local economy, strengthening the area in which you live.
- Food grown by small farmers is higher quality, more nutritious, fresher, contains fewer chemicals (if any at all), and tastes better.
- Spend more time outside instead of sitting inside watching TV or using the computer.
- Indoor air pollution is a cause of asthma.
- Everyone could use more exercise.
- Unplug electronics not in use and reduce CO2 emissions by 1000lbs each year.
- Use fans and open windows instead of using air conditioners.
- Fans use much less energy than air conditioners.
- Air conditioners require more resources to manufacture, including dangerous chemicals that can damage the ozone layer.
- Conserve water during the hot summer months, especially during drought conditions.
- Take shorter showers; showers use 5-10 gallons of water per minute.
- Don't run the water the whole time while washing dishes or brushing teeth.
- Water plants during the cooler parts of the day to reduce water lost to evaporation.
- Use grey water (dishwater and sink water) to water plants (instead drinkable water).
- Install "low flow" fixtures to shower heads and faucets to reduce water consumption.
- Get out and collect some berries.
- Gathering your own food is a fun and rewarding experience.
- Berries in the grocery stores are expensive and usually from the west coast.
- Be sure that pesticides have not been applied in the area in which you are gathering.
- Follow local regulations for areas and limits for collecting.
- Composting is important to reduce the amount of waste from the kitchen.
- Americans generate over 30 million tons of food waste every year and most of it goes to the landfill where it will never decompose and become nutrient rich soil.
- Composting kitchen scraps along with yard wastes will drastically reduce how much garbage you produce.
- Composting is easy and fun. Try it today.
- Recycling is the easiest thing we can do to reduce our impact on our planet.
- Currently, only 24% of our municipal solid waste is recycled, even though 58.5% of it is recyclable.
- In 2006, 170,000,000,000 pounds of municipal solid waste was recycled, saving the energy equivalent of 10 billion gallons of gasoline.
- Introduce native plant species to your yard.
- Native plants require less water than non-natives since they are adapted to the local environment.
- Native plants provide habitat and food for native wildlife.
- Check your toilet for leaks.
- Put 10 drops of food coloring in the tank. If color shows up in the toilet bowl (without flushing), there is a leak that could be wasting up to 200 gallons of water each day.
- Don't forget to support local farmers. Many of them are still selling crops.
- Dispose of chemicals and heavy metals at a Household Hazardous Waste drop-off location.
- Drop-offs will often accept batteries, electronics, old paint, cell phones, fluorescent bulbs, cleaning products, pesticides, and used motor oil.
- Drop-off times are usually limited to a few times a year. Save the date.
- Begin preserving food for the winter months.
- Home canning is easy, fun, and inexpensive. It's becoming more popular each year.
- Food preservation can provide delicious food (free of preservatives, artificial flavors, and dyes).
- Conserve energy during the winter.
- Get an energy audit and identify areas where energy is being wasted. Utility companies will sometimes offer these for free.
- Make sure walls and ceilings are well-insulated.
- Replace old windows when possible. It may be expensive and time consuming, but the decrease in heating bills will offset the cost and can reduce your carbon footprint by about 2000 pounds over the course of the year.
- Use shrinkable plastic sheets to cover windows for extra insulation.
- Minimize disposable holiday packaging.
- Over 250 million pounds of plastic packaging are sent to landfills after each holiday season.
- 33% of municipal solid waste is packaging materials.
- Wrap presents in old newspaper instead of buying expensive wrapping paper.
- Look for wrapping paper that can be recycled.
- Use a real Christmas tree instead of an artificial plastic one.
- Artificial trees require a lot energy to produce.
- Real trees can decompose outside or be ground into mulch, but plastic trees are non-recyclable.
- Enjoy the holiday meals, but try not to generate too much food waste.
- A home composting unit makes a terrific present for an eco-conscious relative or friend.
- This is the time of year when consumption is highest. Try and remember that many people in this world are perfectly happy with less.