The expression ‘green living’ or ‘going green’ has gained momentum in the U.S. over the past few years. Because of its growing popularity, many households are adopting new habits and even businesses are changing their operations to minimize pollution and keep the environment clean.
Although people are becoming more aware of the need to be more environmentally conscious, the amount of waste produced in the U.S. is staggering: 60,000 plastic bags are used every 5 seconds, 2 million plastic bottles are used every 5 minutes, 1 million plastic cups are handed out on airline flights every 6 hours, and 1.14 million paper bags and 106,000 aluminum cans are used every hour.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces about 4.4 pounds of garbage a day or a total of 29 pounds per week and 1,600 pounds a year. That’s a lot of garbage.
With the idea of green living being relatively new, some may still not fully understand exactly what it means. The main concept behind this new way of life is to actively reduce, reuse and recycle everyday and to consciously work toward making healthier and smarter choices for the environment. While the motto of the three R’s is nothing new, these changes are just now being made on a larger scale throughout the U.S.
You might be wondering – I’m just one person. What difference can I make? However, your everyday habits can be modified in a number of ways to decrease the amount of waste you produce whether you’re at home, work, school or on vacation.
Reusable Water Bottles
One of the best ways to reduce waste, save money and benefit your health is to invest in a reusable water bottle. Aluminum and stainless steel water bottles can be found at most stores and online for reasonable prices. Choosing a water bottle made from these materials can be beneficial, as recent studies and tests have found certain types of plastics leak the chemical compound Bisphenol A (BPA), which can be toxic and have negative and harmful effects on the body.
Recycled Shopping Bags
To cut down on the number of plastic bags used, purchase reusable shopping bags. These bags are usually made of canvas, other types of fabric or even other recycled materials. Prices start around fifty cents and go up depending on the size and location where it’s purchased. Also, with the popularity of these bags on the rise, many stylish and trendy designs can be found aside from the traditional khaki canvas tote. Keep in mind that these reusable bags should be regularly washed and air dried as they can harbor bacteria and mold over time. Meat should be double packed in a “first-use” bag to prevent accidental leakage or drips into the reusable bag. Worn or ripped bags that can’t easily be washed should be replaced.
Use reusable containers for packing lunches and storing foods. The waste from plastic baggies and products bought in individual packets adds up fast.
Products from Recycled Materials
Buy products from companies that use recycled materials to make their products. Preserve Products are made from # 5 polypropylene which is a material that is not as readily recycled as other plastics. Their line consists of highly attractive personal care products, tableware and a variety of kitchenware. Radius uses sustainable materials in all of their products which include toothbrushes, razor, soap and other travel cases along with biodegradable silk and natural cranberry dental flosses.
Print on both sides of paper if you’re working on drafts or lists that don’t need to be turned in for work or school. Or cut up used paper into smaller pieces to use for messages or notes as opposed to buying sticky pads or other note pads. Also, opt for electronic billing from your bank and credit card companies to cut down on excess paper. The good news is that most companies this service for free. To cut down on the number of unwanted catalogs and promotional mail you receive, sign up for Catalog Choice. This free service lets you reduce unwanted mail and choose how you hear from merchants. At the same time, it helps to reduce the tremendous amount of printed material that you end up dumping in the trash.
Donate Old Clothing
Instead of throwing out your old clothes or shoes, donate them. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and a lot of families have to go without because of low incomes. If your shoes are too worn out to donate and be used by someone else, they can actually be recycled and the rubber can be used for playgrounds and sporting fields.
Energy Efficient Appliances
According to Energy Star, a joint program started by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, your home can cause twice the greenhouse gas emissions of a car. Appliances, heating and cooling systems and water heaters are just a few of the culprits that can contribute to this green house warming. The Energy Star program was devised to help Americans save money at home, as well as businesses, by offering products which use less energy and in turn help protect the environment as well.
Water consumption is a part of our everyday life. From cooking, to cleaning, to drinking, to bathing, water is used numerous times all through out the day. While water is commonly thought to be an endless resource, many areas in the U.S. are currently going through a drought period. Taking shorter showers instead of baths, turning the water off while brushing teeth and hand washing dishes, and watering the yard and garden in the evening as opposed to the middle of the day, are all simple ways to conserve water. If you’re curious about your water usage, the following link provides a short survey to estimate how many gallons of water you use in one day.
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.