April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day, here are 3 things you can do that will benefit the planet:

1) Eat less meat. Raising livestock is one of the most significant contributors to a long list of environmental problems from climate change to deforestation to water pollution. You don't have to go vegan, but anything you can do to cut back on meat will make a big difference. Start by trimming down your portion size to about three ounces (the size of a deck of playing cards), suggests Aaron Huertas at The Union of Concerned Scientists. Incidentally, their website also has tons of suggestions on what you can do about global warming.

2) Take good care of your car. Tuning up your engine, replacing your air filters and motor oil regularly, and keeping your tires properly inflated will improve your car's fuel economy by 8% to 20%, according to Jenny Powers at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

3) Make changes in how you do your laundry. Wash your clothes in cold water. Up to 90 percent of the energy used for washing clothing goes to heating the water, according to the Department of Energy. Rack up even more savings by air-drying some of your clothing.

This is part of a post on Yahoo Green called "Pick Your Green Battles." I would have just linked to it, but I didn't agree with some of the conclusions, such as that it doesn't matter much whether we use paper or plastic bags, or cloth or disposable diapers. I find those statements dubious. So I've picked out the part of the article I like.

Cutting back on meat is one of the most important things you can do not just for the environment, but for your health and your pocketbook. Even if you're a committed carnivore, it's easy to eat one less meat meal per week. There are so many delicious vegetarian options and recipes these days, and we're well past the time when the only alternative to meat was canned beans.

I also want to let you know about this fantastic website Earth911. It's where you can go to find out how to recycle anything, plus where to do it. So if you've got an old cell phone lying around, or anything else you don't know how to properly recycle, this is your resource. And they've got lots of other articles and information, like how to make every day Earth Day.

That's kind of what I'm trying to do this year, My Year Without Spending. Part of it is about tweaking my lifestyle so that every day is Earth Day. So while I'm not going to any Earth Day events, I'll be washing our clothes in cold water and running the dishwasher in the middle of the night, and taking cloth bags to the grocery store. Just the regular stuff. I think I observed Earth Day for the past four days when I managed to keep from turning on the air conditioning when the temperature hit 100 degrees.

The thing I would love to do to celebrate Earth Day is to see the Disney movie Earth. It looks great. Every time I see the trailer with all those cute baby animals I give a big "Aaaahhh." We're not going to see it until next month, when we visit our niece and nephew.

What about you? Are you doing anything special for Earth Day? Or do you pretty much live a green lifestyle year-round? Do you have any favorite "green" websites or blogs to tell us about? Please share in the Comments section.


Betsy Talbot said...

Three great suggestions! I don't drive much because we live in an area where almost everything I need is within walking distance. And lately we've been eating more vegetarian meals and enjoying the complexity of flavor that is sometimes missing in a "mainly meat" meal.

The thing I'm still struggling with is laundry. My husband has a lot of allergies, and I have been using the "extra rinse" cycle to make sure all the detergent is gone (and using gentle detergent). Maybe it is overkill, but I would like to find a way to use less energy when caring for our clothes. That includes air drying some things. So I'll be working on that. Thanks for the suggestions.

Angela said...

Hi Betsy-

I struggle with the laundry as well. I've mentioned that we have a 70s era dryer, so we're working on replacing that when we can afford it, plus my husband is putting up a clothesline in the back yard. But I have reservations about air drying- in the yard I wonder about all the smog in L.A. and inside I don't like stuff hanging all over the house cluttering up the rooms. I do use cold water 90 percent of the time though, and I have allergies and I seem to be fine as long as I use allergen-free detergent. I don't use an extra rinse cycle- maybe you can try without it and see how your husband responds.

Thanks for coming by!

Anonymous said...

It's amazing to think that what you eat is more important than what you drive (in terms of your carbon footprint). I'm mostly vegetarian, but i'm rethinking my consumption of dairy. Hemp milk anyone?

Betsy Talbot said...

Kate, I gave up cow's milk last fall and only drink rice milk or soy milk now. I'm still not sure in terms of carbon footprint what this takes, but it can't be as much as with a cow. (I gave up dairy for health reasons, not environmental ones.)

If I was still drinking coffee this would be hard to do, but I gave it all up at the same time and am doing well (after that first tough week of mental reprogramming)

Angela said...

Kate and Betsy-

I'm a dairy freak- I love milk, yogurt and chees- and can't imagine giving it up. But I don't eat any beef.

I think it's important to realize that small steps help and there's so much we all can do.

Oh, and I'm not a huge fan of rice milk or soy milk, but I love almond milk, for anyone who wants to try a substitute.

Thanks for your comments!

WilliamB said...

Betsy - use a front loading washing machine if you can. It spins out much more water than a top-loader. This means that the dryer has a LOT less work to do.

Angela, since front-loaders are a more expensive purchase, allow me to point out savings that you might not expect. If you budget, the savings will come a number of different places.
- Water bill: a front loader uses about 1/8 the water (yes, that's 88% LESS water) that a top-loader does.
- Gas & electric bills: a front loader uses 1/8 the hot water that a top-loader does.
- Gas & electric bills: a front loader spins out far more water than a top loader, so your dryer has a lot less work to do.