Everyone has heard the importance of having a green thumb – reduce, reuse, recycle. But what does that really mean? Sacrificing hours of your day to do what you think will make a huge impact on the environment? Or are you someone who would like to help the planet, but have no idea where to start? Regardless of opinions on the subject, the earth isn’t becoming any more habitable for humans- we rely on an outstanding amount of limited resources which are now becoming a scarce supply. Therefore, small changes in our lifestyles could, believe it or not, really add up to the benefits of conserving resources and saving money.
Ms. Joanna Miller, a learning disabled teacher and former leader of Howell High School’s Environmental Club, realizes that anyone, even students and staff at HHS, can easily make changes to support the environment.
“I think it is important that we all do our part,” she says. “It may not seem like you recycling one water bottle will make that big of a difference in the whole scheme of the world’s problems, but when the majority of individuals start making the decision to recycle it will make a huge impact on the amount of garbage we have floating around on this planet.”
Besides “doing her part” and running the Environmental Club last year, Ms. Miller continues to recycle at home, donate to organizations that are trying to protect the earth, help the local community by buying products and services within the district, and cut down on gas and plastic consumption. She even goes out of her way to pick up and throw away or recycle discarded trash when she sees it.
“I basically always try to remain conscious of my impact on my environment,” she says. “I can only control me, but I try to lead by example.”
Ms. Carolyn Bishop, a special education teacher at HHS, also demonstrates responsibility and leadership by directing her students in the JET (Job Exploration Training) program to pick up the recyclables in every part of the high school. She, too, understands the importance of “going green”, and hopes that her and her students’ part will, in some small way, help the environment.
“Amongst our jobs that the students do around the building is the recycling for the 10-12 building,” Ms. Bishop explains. “We believe as a group that the little part we play in recycling helps eliminate needless trash going into the landfills. You would be amazed at how much time goes into this sometimes thankless job. The students work very hard separating out plastics, paper, ink cartridges, and returnable’s. Sometimes we have been asked to dispose other materials as well.”
But even though Ms. Bishop’s classes are geared towards helping our high school’s vicinity, at times their tasks receive very little recognition, or worse, complete disregard.
“Sometimes people are careless and disrespectful towards [our job in recycling], but we take pride in it,” she says. “The students have come a long way from the beginning of the year. They are now quite independent in performing their job.”
It’s comforting to know that there are those at HHS who care about our environment, but there’s so much more yet to be done on a daily basis. These days we can’t afford to rely on others to take care of the planet for us while we continue to waste precious resources or fill landfills with our junk; that’s just destroying progress that we’ve already made. Helping the environment doesn’t always involve arduous, time-consuming tasks. In fact, there are many lifestyle adjustments that are effortless to make, but with many rewards.
Below is a list of 13 ways to “go green” in every area of your life:
1) Change your incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL). This is probably one of the quickest ways to save energy and money. Instead of converting most energy into heat, CFLs transfer energy into light, which makes them last up to ten times longer than incandescent light bulbs. Although CFLs are a bit more expensive than incandescent ones, they can potentially save your household electricity bill about 83 dollars per lifespan of a CFL. Multiply that by at least ten light bulbs and you’ll have some pretty big savings.
2) Unplug appliances at the end of the day. Even though this may take some time, using power strips or extension cords will allow you to unplug multiple appliances and electronics at once, which would only claim five or ten minutes of your day. Major culprits that use energy are TV’s, printers, computers, and phone chargers, which suck up tons of energy from the socket even when the electronics aren’t being utilized. Combining their power cables into a few extension cords could save a lot of time when you want to unplug all of your appliances and electronics throughout your home. But extension cords or not, the results of unplugging your appliances and electronics would be the same: a potential savings of up to 200 dollars a year.
3) Flip the switches that aren’t in use, no matter where you are. Turning off lights in each room can save an equal amount of energy as actually unplugging appliances and electronics. And speaking of power strips, turning the switch off those can also save energy. Again, this is where combining electronic and appliance cords into one power strip come in handy, which would allow you to easily flip the switch to turn off the energy source. In other words, this is another way to save energy and money without giving up a lot of time.
4) Fix leaky faucets. This can be done with a wrench, a little elbow grease, and a few minutes of your time, or you could also get it professionally done (although it’s much cheaper to do it yourself). Fixing leaky faucets can save 30 dollars a year on your water bill, but most importantly, it can save up to 27,010 gallons of water per year.
5) Wash full loads of laundry. This will save water, time, and money. But to go even further, buying energy efficient washers and driers will save even more water. However, this may not be the option for everyone, so a good alternative would be to wash loads in cold water, which saves a good amount of energy (versus using hot water for each load of laundry).
6) Create your own household cleaning products. It’s scary just to think about all the toxins that go into cleaning supplies you see on the shelves at stores these days. There could be chemicals that cause potential allergic reactions or those that may cause others to get incredibly sick. So instead of buying expensive cleaners that may not end up doing their job anyway, make your own solutions. Some websites and blogs suggest using a simple mixture of vinegar and water, which could take care of spills and stains on most surfaces. However, I would recommend looking into all the different types of ingredients needed for your specific cleaning purposes.
7) Look for recycle bins. In almost every classroom there are two boxes for recycling- one for plastic bottles and another for paper. Usually every week Ms. Bishop’s students in the JET program go around to those classrooms to pick up the recyclables.
Ms. Miller, who has witnessed the amount of plastic bottles that aren’t being recycled, stresses this easy ways to recycle paper and plastic throughout HHS.
“Recycle bins are popping up everywhere,” Ms. Miller says. “We have recycle bins in almost every classroom, yet more people throw their bottles and paper away rather than recycle them. I am surprised at how many students tell me that a bottle isn’t recyclable because it doesn’t come with a refund…they don’t understand that the plastic is what we are recycling, not getting ten cents back. It baffles me really. If people start to make it a priority, there will be even more opportunities to recycle those basic products [at HHS].”
8) Turn off computers, projectors, and other electronics at the end of the day. Along with the significance of turning off lights and unplugging electronics at home, any electronics that can be turned off at school should be. This could potentially save the school hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars each month.
9) Use a permanent water bottle. Not only are we using millions of plastic water bottles each year, but we don’t recycle them, which is resulting in huge build-ups in landfills. Of course there’s the convenience of buying a 24-pack of water for $4.99, but with an inexpensive water bottle, you can save tons of plastic- literally. At the very least, follow the seventh tip and recycle those store-bought plastic bottles of water.
10) Carpool. One simple word, yet a hard concept to grasp. There’s no doubt about the expenses that come with owning a car – not to mention the gas prices that refuse to decrease for those on a budget (like teachers and students). So it’s doubtless that going to and from school with a friend would save money. This could also give students more free time because instead of working at their jobs in order to pay for car expenses, they could be doing an activity that they enjoy. It also prevents the amount of pollution that would be created if every independent student and staff member brought their own car to school. Carpooling with just one person would cut budgets, pollution, and school parking lot space in half.
In your community…
11) Try to support local farmers. Not only is the produce organic, but by going to a local farmer’s market, like the Sunday Farmer’s Market in Howell, you will be able to talk face-to-face with those who grow the fruits and vegetables and raise the products available. Only open during the crop season, Howell’s Sunday Farmers’ Market is located next to the Livingston County Courthouse. They’re open every Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., from May 6 to October 28 for the 2012 season. There you can purchase all sorts of items, from fresh produce and breads to potted plants. You save time and money with driving to downtown Howell versus a supermarket five to ten miles further, and everything is locally grown, great quality, and the market itself is full of a fun-loving ambience.
12) Personally recycle your own plastic and paper bags, or use cloth bags for grocery shopping. But you don’t have to pay $5 per grocery store-brand cloth grocery bag to feel good about saving plastic; the potential cost for a 20-bag grocery shop would be $100 for the bags alone! Of course most stores give you five cents back on your overall bill for each bag you use each time you shop at their store, but that could take months to just make your money back. Instead of going through all that trouble, you could simply save the paper and plastic bags that you receive when you shop the first time and take them to the store on your next grocery shopping trip. You still technically save paper and plastic since you’re not using new bags for each visit, and you don’t have to spend any extra money while doing it. A win-win situation.
13) Recycle everything else at Recycle Livingston, a huge non-profit organization in Livingston County. With the fast-paced technology world, all electronic gadgets seem to become bigger and better every year. Each holiday season the consumer world proposes a newly developed device that would make your life a thousand times easier, but then what do you do with your old-modeled version? What would you do with the old cardboard box that housed a big flat screen TV? What would you even do with old junk mail? Easy. Recycle Livingston will happily take most anything old and recycle them for you- whether it’s used batteries, cardboard boxes, or an ancient keyboard. Its location is in Howell, and a typical fee for non-members is $3 to drop off the recyclables. For more information, visit recyclelivingston.org.