De-ice the green way
Consider using non-toxic de-icing substances such as clean clay cat litter, sand, or fireplace/stove ash to prevent hazardous waste from chemicals. Chemical de-icers can be hazardous to your pets, your trees and shrubs, and the environment. Antifreeze that leak from car engines and chemical snow melters on driveways, roads, and runways can pollute surface waters and groundwater through the soil. Source: Environmental Protection Agency
Winterize Your Vehicle
As October comes to a close Anchorage is beginning to find its vehicles covered in a light frost every morning. We all know what this means; winter is just around the corner. Weatherize your car to save gas and reduce carbon emissions! Here are seven things you can do to weatherize your car: (1) Check your tire pressure (2) Protect against freeze-ups with antifreeze/coolant (3) Check the battery (4) Replace worn brake pads (5) Get a tune-up (6) Check the tread (7) PLUG IT IN! Invest in a block heater for your vehicle. For more information on block heaters, click here. Source: Ecomall
Reuse Your Bags When You Go Shopping
Single-use bags are a waste of trees (paper) or fossil fuels (plastic). They contribute to water pollution during production and landfill overload at disposal. Re-usable cloth or paper bags reduce these problems. Purchase sturdy, light-weight, re-usable cloth bags and remember to carry them with you in the grocery store or shopping. One way to remember your bags is to keep your shopping list in them, hung by the door, or keep spares in your vehicle, purse or case. Source: Washington Department of Ecology.
As people take over more and more of the land, we need to provide food, water, and shelter to the animals that are now relying on us for their survival. A backyard wildlife habitat or "naturescape" can be created in your own backyard. A miniature version can even be created on your patio or deck. Basic elements include fresh water (i.e., a bird bath and, if in a yard, water low to the ground); plants and feeders that provide nourishment for birds, insects, etc.; and rocks, trees, bushes and/or bird houses for shelter and nesting. Purchase plants that are native to your area. The National Wildlife Federation has an excellent program The Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program which provides some helpful, detailed examples. Click here for more information. Source: Global Stewards
Thinking about spring cleaning? Don't forget the environment. The irony is that in making your home brighter and fresher, you may inadvertently harm the soil, air, and water. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Nothing is completely safe. Almost anything we dump down our drains, even if derived from plants and other "natural" substances, can cause problems. Even with the increasing number of greener products on the market, none is perfectly safe for the earth.
- Don't accept vague claims. Words like "biodegradable" or "nontoxic" have no legal definitions. Ask companies to substantiate their environmental claims in plain English.
- Avoid cleaners containing phosphates. They biodegrade totally and quickly. But when they get into rivers and lakes, they cause algae blooms, robbing the water of oxygen, blocking sunlight, and ultimately killing marine life.
- Minimize use of bleaches. The most common bleach is chlorine, which in wastewater can create toxic compounds. Non-chlorine bleaches are gentler to clothes and the environment, though they are less effective in colder-water temperatures, requiring more energy-intensive hot water.
- Buy concentrates whenever possible. Ask manufacturers to produce refillable versions that allow you to refill a spray bottle by adding water to a packaged concentrate.
- Check with local authorities. Contact a Poison Control Center (usually listed in the front of the phone book) if you are unsure about a product. Most centers have data about chemicals' health hazards.
- For more information and a Green Cleaning Guide, visit the Alaska Community Action on Toxics website
Save a tree and send electronic greetings! Seven billion greeting cards are sold each year. Reduce the number of trees lost to this industry by sending electronic greeting cards for appropriate occasions. Here is a partial list of websites from which you can send free, personalized greetings to anyone with an email address:
- www.e-cards.com (a portion of the proceeds go to World Wildlife Fund and other environmental groups)
Making your house energy efficient: Winter in Alaska is a very important time to be energy efficient, especially when it comes to heating our homes. Use a lighted candle around windows and doors to find drafty spots in your home. Fix draft stoppers on doors (particularly on external doors), draftt-proof your windows with insulation strips and close off unused pet doors and open fireplaces. Close the doors between heated and unheated areas. This way you'll keep the heat in and the cold out. And you know, conserving energy is conserving cash.
Light bulbs: If every family in the United States replaced one regular light bulb with an energy-saving model, we could reduce global warming pollution by more than 90 billion pounds, the same as taking 7.5 million cars off the road. So, replace your incandescent bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescents, which now come in all shapes and sizes. You'll be doing your share to cut back on heat-trapping pollution and you'll save money on your electric bills and light bulbs. Source: Union of Concerned Scientists
Spring clean up is such a drag, why not do a fall clean up instead? Winter is coming, but before the first real snowfall take some time to walk around your yard, neighborhood or local park and pick up that forgotten summer trash. We all know the sad sight of an old fast-food bag peeking out of a pile of melting snow, so take care of it now!
Be careful how you wash! The detergents we use in washing machines often include phosphates as a water softener. They are not normally removed by the sewage works and end up in our waterways. They are a fertilizer and contribute to the excessive growth of small plants in rivers, making them look like thick green roads. This explosion of vegetation chokes off other water life. Look for phosphate-free detergents and cleaning products.
Using a washing machine
Laundry is no one's favorite chore, but there's no reason to add injury to insult by polluting in the process. There are environmental considerations on Wash Day, including the energy used to wash, dry, and iron clothes, and the products used to make clothes come out whiter, brighter, and smelling like a sunny day in May. Here are some tips to consider:
- Warm up to cooler water. Using hot water for both washing and rinsing uses three and a half times more energy than washing in warm water and rinsing in cold.
- Get efficient. The newest, most-efficient washers use four times less energy than the least-efficient machines, and save up to $70 a year in energy costs.
- Don't overheat. Lowering your water heater's temperature to 120 will suffice for most household needs and cut energy costs.
- Get loaded. It takes less energy to do one big load than two smaller ones. But don't overload the machine or nothing will get clean.
- Go with the flow. Check your dryer's outside vent. Make sure it is clean and closes properly, or it could allow cold air into your house.
- Hang it up. Reduce the need for ironing by taking clothes out of the dryer slightly damp and hanging them up. That can save energy - including yours.
Avoid buying food packaged in plastic: Except for plastics made from PET(1), the EPA cannot allow plastics used for food to be recycled back into food containers because plastics cannot be heated at a temperature that will kill all contaminants that may remain. With the exception of PET plastics, all plastic food containers are produced using virgin resources. Using virgin resources for the production of plastics uses more energy than any of the sector of the chemical industry and generates the most hazardous waste as well.
The Habitat for Humanity ReStore is a retail business which sells donated new and used building materials, electrical fixtures, appliances, kitchen cabinets, and even doghouses - at greatly reduced prices. The income generated from a ReStore is used to build more homes for low-income families and to support administrative expenses for Habitat for Humanity-Anchorage.
ReStores also benefit the community by keeping reusable items out of the landfill and providing a source for discounted materials for "do-it-yourself" home improvement projects. Visit the Restore website here.
Around the world, roughly 4-5 trillion plastic bags of all kinds were manufactured in 2002, and Americans throw away 100 billion plastic grocery sacks a year, the Worldwatch Institute reports. That's a lot of petroleum used to produce items that clog our landfills. Governments worldwide, from South Africa to Ireland, Taiwan, France and the UK, are restricting the manufacture of plastic bags or taxing them. Many stores are charging customers a few cents extra for them. And some markets give a small refund for each of their bags you don't fill. So tuck your own bag into your purse, pack or pocket next time you shop. For an enormous assortment of bags of all shapes and size, visit www.reusablebags.com
Summer is on the way and this time of year presents all kinds of opportunities to make your lifestyle a little more green. This summer, try eating a locally produced diet. Grow your own food or support local farmers, natural food stores, and food co-ops. You'll save money, eat quality foods, create jobs, increase farmlands, and strengthen your community. You also reduce pollution generated by transportation and energy costs from shipping food.
For more information about local produce, visit the Alaska Grown website here.