In July of
2002 I was driving from Philadelphia to Cape May, New Jersey. I
was going to the Jersey shore to go to my cousin’s wedding.
I had fond memories of visiting Cape May when I was younger, and
I was looking forward to the trek back.
The first thing that struck me about the Jersey shore
was the congestion. To people living in New Jersey, NYC and Philly,
the Jersey shore is the promise land.
When we finally got up to a cruising speed, we were
quickly cut off and nearly run off the road. The car zoomed in front
of us, and as the driver pulled his maneuvers, the passenger proceeded
to toss his garbage out the window.
Of course my reaction was anything but calm. I remember
turning to my boyfriend, with my jaw dropped, I gasped, “Did
you see that?”
A couple of miles up the road the space began to
open up as the ocean waterways cut into the land with more frequency.
It was beautiful and green. You could smell the ocean air. I spotted
a fisherman, wading in an inlet. As my eyes naturally flowed from
the sight of the fisherman to the rest of the area, my eyes stopped
immediately. I could not believe what I was seeing. This man was
fishing in the shadow of a nuclear power plant’s cooling tower!
At this point, I was seriously disturbed. This is
the vacation Mecca of the east coast? With the tolls that we paid
to get over to Cape May and back, our tour of the promise land,
cost about $25.
On our return trip to Boston, we took the Garden
State Parkway. A gigantic, congested highway that runs through the
most populated and wasted part of the United States. The tri-state
area is the home to 22 million people.
After traveling about a mile in an hour, we decided
to pull off at the first rest stop that we saw. The line for gas
was about thirty cars deep. The parking lot of the rest area was
so enormous that it looked like the lot for a mall. The first open
spot we could find was about 15 rows back. I stepped out of the
car to find myself ankle deep in trash. Mostly McDonald’s
bags, cups and wrappers. I waded through the trash and finally made
it to the rest room.
The point of this story is not that nuclear power
is bad (out for debate), or that McDonald’s produces a lot
of waste (although they do), or even that the Jersey shore is an
ugly place (it’s actually really beautiful). My point is that
so many people do not see that the decisions they make influence
the environment. Or they simply do not care. Imagine how much better
the shore would be if people stopped throwing their trash out the
window, or if there was less air pollution? Imagine.
Whether you live in New York City or Big Fork, Montana,
everyday decisions that you make can impact the environment. The
revolution starts at home. It starts with awareness, and gains fruition
with action. Start today and help save that place on earth that
it special to you. Whether it is the Jersey shore, the waters of
Lake Michigan, the top of Longs Peak or the beaches of La Jolla.
Help save YOUR world.
Below are ten simple enviro-friendly actions that
you can implement in your life.
Recycle: Recycling has become easier and more common.
Almost every community now offers recycling programs. Some are paid
for by the city and others require payment. Unfortunately, there
are many waste products that cannot be recycled. If you accidentally
included a non-recyclable piece of plastic or metal with the other
products, it can damage the machines that melt and sort. Your local
recycling company should provide you with a detailed list of what
can and cannot be recycled. Visit, www.obviously.com/recycle
for more information.
Buy bulk: Buying bulk goods eliminates the packaging
waste that most products produce. You local Whole Foods, or natural
foods store should have a large selection of bulk goods. You can
buy everything from pastas, to beans, oatmeal, granola, dried fruit,
Turn off the lights: It as simple as the flip of a
switch, literally. Turn off lights, appliances, televisions, stereos,
and computers if you are not using them. When you leave the house,
make sure the lights are off. When you are home, don’t have
every light on. Putting dimmers on your lights helps to reduce the
amount of energy used. (Not to mention creates some great mood lighting).
The popular “tiki style” halogen lamps use more energy
than the standard light bulb, whether they are dimmed or not. If
you are not watching the T.V. then turn it off. If you fall asleep
to the T.V., or music, use the sleep mode so that it turns off after
you are quitely asleep. This simple rule can save energy and money
on your monthly utility bill.
Walk or ride a bike: It’s Friday night, you
want to rent a movie from your neighborhood Blockbuster. The store
is about .5 miles away. What do you do? Most people would hop in
their car, cruise over to the store and cruise back. Why? It would
take you ten minutes to walk. Considering you are going to be sitting
on your ass for two and a half hours watching the movie, is it so
unreasonable to walk for twenty minutes? Or ride a bike, which would
take just as long as driving. We are too dependent on our cars.
A simple change of mindset to walk if you can, rather than drive,
will help to wean you off of the dependence. An energy crisis is
just around the corner. Owning a car is a privilege, not a right.
As a society, we have been abusing our privilege. Stop being lazy
and walk or ride. Check out www.bikewalk.org.
Re-use: If you own something that works perfectly,
it’s not broken, it looks good, serves its function, then
don’t buy a new one. It’s simple; if it ain’t
broke, then don’t replace it. Or, if you can fix it, then
don’t replace it. Technology has convinced us that we need
the newest, biggest, and best. If you already own a wide screen
television that works great, then why would you need a flat screen
TV? Because technology has brain washed you into think that you
“need” it because it is the best? Everyday I hear people
use the excuse that it costs more to fix something then to just
buy a new one. This is not about cost, it is about eliminating waste.
We have watched TV repairmen, cobblers, and tailors disappear. Everything
we purchase is temporary and will only serve our needs until they
break or tear, and then we return to the mall and spend MORE money
that we paid on the last item. We replace a pair of shoes that would
cost $10 to repair with a pair of new $60 shoes. We abandon our
VCR (that works fine) for a DVD player. Here is a great link where
you can participate in the “reuse” community: www.ebay.com.
Put on a sweater, sweat it out: It’s cold in
Boston. New England winters are frigid, wet, and long. Many a night,
I have come in from the cold commute home and wanted to crank up
the heat to 75 degrees. The thing is, it is winter. Put on a wool
sweater and fleece pants instead of turning up the heat. This simple
change in fashion makes the monthly energy bill a lot easier to
stomach. To see that the amount of therms that we used was less
than last year is really satisfying. Unlike some of the other items
on this list, heat and energy are two things that come directly
out of your pocket. If you decide to crank the heat, not only will
the earth be paying for it, so will you.
The same goes for using the air conditioner. So many
people run to the comfort of the AC. If you have ever been a part
of a blackout or energy loss during a heat wave, you know that it
is a direct result of all the cranking ACs. The AC is a greater
drain on energy than anything else. If you own a window AC and need
to use it, make sure that your space is secured so that none of
the air is being lost. Don’t have windows open. Try to cool
a specific room instead of the entire apartment. Think about if
it is really necessary to have an AC in EVERY room. The thing is
that our bodies need the opportunity to adjust to the heat. The
first heat wave is usually the worst, but with some ventilation
and flow of air using fans, your home can be cooled to a reasonable
level, and then your body can do the rest. Just try it, you may
be surprised how the 80 degrees in June, just some how is not as
painful in August.
Check out information on conservation and alternative
energy at www.cleanpower.org
Don’t leave water running: There have been those
that have said that turning the water off while you brush your teeth
really does not save enough water to make a difference. But is it
that hard to do? Even if I save a pint of water a day, that is worth
it. Shaving is another water waster. Ladies, shaving in the shower
while the water is still running is an incredible waste of water.
Use a little water in the tub instead. There is no reason to take
30 minute long showers. Guys, the same goes for you while shaving.
If you own a dishwasher, don’t run it until it is full. If
you can hand wash it instead, do it. If you own a washing machine,
don’t run a load with one item in it, wait until you at least
have a small load ready. Visit
www.awwa.org for more water conservation tips.
Why an SUV?: If you do not haul a boat, or go on four-wheel
outdoor adventures, then don’t own an SUV. These gas-guzzling
vehicles are so inefficient for a single commuter driving to work.
The average medium sized SUV gets 15 mpg, while the equivalent medium
sized car gets 23 mpg. Many people enjoy the room that an SUV provides.
Some smaller vehicles offer a lot of legroom and comfort. Shop around
and really think about your decision before you decide to buy an
inefficient vehicle. I encourage everyone to explore some of the
alternative fuel choices on the market, including the Honda Insight,
and the Toyota Prius. Visit the Alternative Fuel Data Center at
www.doe.gov for information from car manufacturers about their
investment in alternative fuel and what types of vehicles they offer.
In addition to these gasoline alternatives there is also a movement
to use Bio-diesel. This alternative fuel, which is made from soybean
oil, can be used in any Diesel engine made after 2000 without any
modifications. Check out www.grassolean.com
for more information about bio-diesel.
Don’t litter, duh!: No one likes a littler bug!
When I traveled to Japan a few years ago, there was one thing that
struck me the most; how clean it was. We were staying in Tokyo,
which is the most populated city in the world at 33 million residents,
and the place was spotless. As a culture, the Japanese still believe
very much in honor and respect. Part of this is to respect where
you live. It always blows my mind to see someone trashing his or
her own neighborhood by throwing waste on the ground. This includes
cigarette butts, spit, and urine.
There are two very easy ways to combat litter. 1.
Don’t throw your trash on the ground 2. If you see a piece
of trash on the ground, pick it up and deposit it in a proper receptacle.
Teach others that littering is not an option. Encourage local businesses
(bars, restaurants) to put ashtrays and trashcans outside. Lobby
for more public trashcans on the streets and in parks. Often times
if there was a trash can in sight, then the trash would not make
it onto the ground.
Vote green: The government can do more to harm or
help the environment in one vote, or signature, than all 280 million
U.S. residents combined could ever do. Unless, we all vote. Voting
for local, state and federal officials that have a track record
of protecting the environment is the most important thing that you
can do. Get involved in environmental groups, petition against those
wanting to relax environmental regulations, learn more about current
legislation, and preserve the land that you love. Here are some
great organizations that can help you learn more about voting for