It was the early 1990s, you were at the top of your game and it looked like the rest of the decade was going to sit in your lap and give you a kiss. You decided to celebrate by buying that SUV you always wanted. Everyone else was doing it; it was an accepted form of being ostentatious so you went down to the dealership and rolled back in a luxurious behemoth. You were happy with your purchase. You had spent time at the dealership and talked with the sales person for a least an hour to get all of the information possible on the vehicle itself and how it compared to other vehicles in its class. You felt safe behind the wheel as it was a big sturdy vehicle that would, for all intents and purposes, be an extremely safe vehicle. The mileage was a little costly, but you were heavily invested in technology and you could afford the trip to the gas station. But now nearly twenty years later, the economy has taken a turn that no one expected and issues related to the health of the planet have caused us to reexamine our priorities and the size of our vehicles.
You know this and want to leave a world behind that your children will be able to enjoy; you want to sit down and make a good decision. But what information do you need to make the right decision? First, look at fuel mileage. The bigger the vehicle, the more fuel it will need to propel itself. One statistic that may get your attention is that 95% of the energy created by the ignition of fuel in your engine is used to propel the vehicle. This means that the fuel mileage is even worse for the larger vehicles. If you look at this as a conservation issue, the SUV uses more fuel than a car. The pollution generated by both types of vehicles is also disparate in quantity. Considering that you are burning more fuel in an SUV, you are also producing more exhaust. Therefore, you are damaging the atmosphere more than you would if you were driving a car. For instance, according to recent studies there is a wild difference in the amount of airborne pollution put into the atmosphere by cars and SUVs. SUV’s are reputed to emit over forty percent more airborne pollutants that collect in our atmosphere. To be more specific, the SUV puts out over twenty pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon of burned fuel. That may seem insignificant, but consider that in North America alone, there are almost four hundred million metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by cars and trucks each year. If you take a look at the large number of SUVs within that contingent, the elimination of unnecessary SUV usage would result in the reduction of millions of tons of released CO2.
You may think that a larger and heavier vehicle is safer than a smaller car. There is only one advantage that comes to mind, if you are involved in an accident with a smaller vehicle. The sheer size differences will leave you unscathed in a majority of mild to medium MVAs. However, the SUV has a danger all of its own. The SUV has a high center of gravity and considering how heavy it can be, it may be extremely dangerous to operate when fully loaded. There were studies done on SUVs from most of the major North American auto manufacturers and it was discovered that if the vehicle carried only the listed maximum number of passengers plus four pieces of luggage, the vehicle was dangerously overweight. Since a car is lighter, it is inherently easier to handle and with its lower center of gravity, it doesn’t flip as easily.
You now need to consider something else that isn’t discussed much in the media, especially the marketing sectors that are either in complete denial or desperate to keep the truth from us. What truth is this? The cost of some vehicles (whether you are talking personal monetary costs or environmental costs) does not begin with the purchase. The cost begins long before that. There is energy applied when the engineers begin to design the vehicle; there is energy applied in the production and manufacture of the parts that make up the vehicle; there are costs associated with the assembly of the vehicle; and there are costs in the distribution of the finished automobiles. It would be interesting to see if someone could put together these numbers, as most of the statistics are readily available, and come up with the real cost of an SUV. Add that cost to the ten thousand dollars a year you will spend on driving and maintaining it and you will be amazed how much less a car will cost you and the environment. Ditch the SUV already.
Maybe you have always dragged the garden hose out and soaked the garden to water it. And when the grass looks brown, you bring out the hose again and douse it with a good sprinkle. You’re actually not doing as much good as you can for the environment when you use a garden hose to water your garden and lawn. And the bigger the lawn, the worse the practice is.
What you can do instead is install an environmentally friendly irrigation system. However, this needs to be done by a professional to get professional results, but what you’ll get for your money is a system for a landscape that looks lush without wasting water.
When watering with a standard hose, you’re soaking some areas and leaving others parched. The areas you are soaking are not getting the benefit of excess water. That water just runs off and is wasted, and the parts that stay dry aren’t getting any benefit at all. A good irrigation system will allow each part of your landscape to get the exact amount of water it needs. It can be so precise that it can bring different amounts of water to different plants. No more spraying water to the wind and hoping it lands in the right places.
As a homeowner, you have a great way to save water. An irrigation system with a rain sensor will shut off the system when it’s not needed. Not having a rain sensor can account for more wasted water than you’d care to think about.
Yes, you will save water with an environmentally friendly irrigation controller. But there are other benefits too. If you are a homeowner and install the proper system, you can even expect lower air conditioning bills. Having healthy plants in your landscape will help insulate your home and keep the hot air out in the summer and the cold air out in the winter.
You’ll also find it nicer to sit outside and enjoy your patio. Trees that grow to their full potential can help shade your yard and cool it as well as provide privacy and soak up unwanted noise. And plants help absorb carbon dioxide from the air and regenerate it into oxygen.
Controllers that regulate all of this delicate process are not hard to come by. Look for a company that specializes in irrigation. They will have the latest technology on hand to guide you. Some of these high tech controllers work with weather technology instruments and use software to map out the landscape’s watering needs. A good system will also regulate itself and adjust for the weather so you don’t have to do a thing. Your soil will always be at the optimum saturation level.
While some do-it-yourselfers out there are going to want to tackle this task on their own, most people will want to call in the experts. Installing a good irrigation system correctly is no small order, so it’s probably best to find a Certified Landscape irrigation professional. They can help test your site and recommend the best irrigation solutions. They will also help you grade the landscape and choose plants that will work best for the space you have, and they can even assist you in figuring out how to group your new plants for maximum effect. They’ll even help you figure out a potential savings your efforts will generate.
It’s wise to go with a pro if you want to really design a landscape that is environmentally conscious. Just putting plants in the ground and watering them haphazardly isn’t going to do any good. You need a direction, a good solid plan, and advice on how to accomplish it all.
You have lots of options when it comes to irrigation costs. You don’t have to go to the extreme. You can start with a simple AC/DC controller for a small area. There are also solar powered controllers that require nothing from you at all. Harness the sun’s power and you’re making great use of natural resources. You can also use drip irrigation products and micro sprinklers that are not going to break the bank. It’s not necessary to install a huge underground system to take part in landscape irrigation at all. Start small and do what you can.
If you are planning on a do-it-yourself version of irrigation, get a good starter kit from a reputable company. There are many irrigation specialists online that offer kits designed for smaller scale watering needs. They range from automatic vacation watering kits to mist and drip waterers.
Irrigation is a smart way to make good use of the water you have. It’s a sound practice that will help you to conserve water and energy and have livelier plantings at the same time. So go out and sip a nice cool drink in the shade of your yard knowing that you’re doing your part in environmentally friendly practices.
You can’t open a magazine, search the Internet, or go into a store without seeing and hearing about LED light bulbs. You may never have given them a second thought before, but these little marvels are everywhere and are used to illuminate many things around you. But why should you care about a little bulb? Because each LED light bulb is helping save the environment.
LED stands for light-emitting diode. These little clusters of bulbs are made with a new technology that allows them to last over 50,000 hours, and they are ultra energy-efficient. You’ll find LED lights now in Christmas lights and rope lighting as well as in household appliances and gaming systems. They are becoming more and more common and energy usage goes down wherever they are used.
LED lights are gaining popularity because they don’t emit their light from a gas or with a filament. They don’t break and are very stable. Another benefit of the LED light is that it stays cool to the touch. Unlike bulbs of old that scald the eyes when looked at and hands when touched, these little units keep a cool head. This coolness translates into energy efficiency.
A typical incandescent bulb may last 1,000 hours before it burns out. A fluorescent bulb may last 10,000 hours. But the magic of the LED light is that it lasts at a minimum 50,000 hours. They have even been shown to last up to 100,000 hours. For a toy that has LED lights, that means the child will tire of the toy long before the light ever has a chance to burn out.
You also don’t have to baby an LED light or worry about something happening to it. They can withstand the heat and the cold and basically anything reasonable that might happen to it. That means you can use them outdoors in rope lighting where other lights just wouldn’t be able to go. And because they’re not fragile like glass bulbs, it’s ok if someone accidentally steps on it.
The European Union has now banned the use of 100 watt incandescent bulbs. Other areas may soon follow. It makes sense to use LED bulbs. The light they emit is pure, resemble day light, and they are readily available. They can replace halogen bulbs too and work with dimmer switches as well. LED truly is the wave of the future.
Since LED bulbs don’t require frequent changing, they can be used in places where it would be inconvenient to constantly access them. And for holiday decorations, where at one time if one bulb went out, the whole strand went dead, LED lights are a must. The National Christmas tree in Washington, DC is strung with LED lights now. Where in olden days a man on a ladder went up every time a bulb went out and changed it, the LED bulbs don’t burn out and don’t have to be replaced with that kind of frequency.
LED lights also make good economic sense. They will lower your electricity bill and light your way longer than any other type of bulb.
Here are some of the most popular LED bulbs consumers should know about:
- The Sun Dusk LED Accent Bulb: These are perfect for areas where you need a softer light such as on a bedside table. They are perfect for evening reading because they are easy on the eyes while still emitting enough light to read by.
- Vivid Plus LED Bulb: This type of bulb gives a high output and is good for small rooms or for an outdoor porch lamp.
- Vivid LED Bulb: These are accent light bulbs. They are best for accenting under counters and other covered areas that need a little burst of light. They are also perfect for use with dimmer switches.
- LED Fluorescent Bulbs: You can switch out any current fluorescent bulb you have now with an LED fluorescent. They have the same housings, so they fit exactly without having to adapt your light fixture in any way.
- RGB Color Changing LED Light Bulbs: These nifty LEDs can be used with a remote programmable switch box. They can be used inside or out and will change colors. You can also opt to stay on one color as long as you like. They come in strips that you can pause, flash or strobe for effect. These are a popular pick for clubs and bars as well as for mall settings.
LED lights are widely available. They have the same bases as your traditional bulbs but are so much more efficient. Ask at a hardware store if you’re not sure which bulb is right for your usage needs. You will pay a little more than for a glass bulb, but you’ll have it in working condition a lot longer and less changes mean more money in your pocket in the long run.
There are many ways that you can help out the environment. Recycling is one of them. But shopping locally is a less noted and yet still helpful way to protect the environment. Shopping locally often has other benefits as well. In a local market, the crowd tends to be friendlier and stall owners more helpful. A farmer’s market is more likely to offer samples that give you a chance to try the food in question before you buy. These foods are often less processed and better tasting, because more care goes into making them. Due to having to entice people to come and buy from a local stall, the makers of homemade breads and cheeses have a larger incentive to create something healthy and rich flavored, rather than tasteless, bland, and so highly processed that it can last for weeks on end before molding.
Depending on where you buy from, shopping locally can sometimes save you money. The incentive to grab a candy bar while waiting in line to check out simply isn’t there, even if you do have an eye on the fresh baked cookies across the street. To cut down on that problem, you can decide to bring just enough money to buy what you need: the staple foods and the fresh produce. While supermarkets are a good way to get certain types of produce year round, you may find that a lot of the goods sent to the store come from several states away or another country entirely!
This is where shopping locally helps the planet. Shopping locally means that food is not transported nearly as far, cutting down on the amount of fuel burned and the number of emissions released into the atmosphere. It also means that you are less likely to have to drive to the local market, meaning that a walk or bike ride is in order. This is good exercise for you, and you may even be able to make a family excursion out of it so that everyone can enjoy the fresh air and looking around the market.
Besides being a pleasant trip and cutting down on transportation fuel emissions, buying locally also reduces the amount of processing that the food goes through. This means that the food is not only healthier, but less energy was put into making and preserving the food, thereby cutting the amount of natural resources burned to create that energy. You are also able to support local farmers, relieving the amount of stress that is put on farms to be productive and pay off all the bills that comes from renting land, buying seed, and harvesting. Plus, you get to know more people in the process, rather than simply bumping into strangers at a crowded supermarket.
Shopping local is a good way to help the environment in terms of recycling, too. Farmer’s markets typically don’t use as many plastic bags, and when they do, the bags have often been reused from earlier trips to the grocery store. These bags can be reused again and eventually recycled. Local produce doesn’t require excessive packaging, thus reducing the amount of waste that comes from having to package foods to last for extraordinarily long amounts of time. When you shop locally, you cut down the costs of farmers who would have to ship their products elsewhere, get fresh food, and potentially buy less than you would if you were buying at the city supermarket.
The environment already suffers enough from factory emissions and car’s fuel emissions and landfills that are so heavily compacted that the items that normally are biodegradable can’t even do that. Buying locally means that any food scraps you have will more quickly be recycled into your compost pile, because there are fewer preservatives keeping microorganisms at bay. Buying locally reduces both factory and car energy emissions, and reduces the amount of packaging that ends up in landfills. Plus, you don’t have to pay for the extra packaging and transportation costs that would normally be put into the cost of goods provided at the local supermarket.
Help out the planet’s environment, and help out the economy by buying locally. The economy has been greatly impacted by outsourcing, and though companies are able to produce products cheaper in another country, their prices often don’t reflect it. Outsourcing also negatively impacts workers who have lost their jobs they would have once held, causing a loss in the amount of money that can flow freely in the economy. Buying locally supports this economy and helps get money back to those you know. It means they are able to buy more products, which helps out other local shopkeepers. Buying locally not only helps the planet, but it also helps the economy, and it also helps you.
We know about the problem. Landfills are overflowing with trash that is going to take a long time to decompose, and those Styrofoam coffee cups may never biodegrade. We’re running out of places to put landfills. We know these alarming facts, but what can one person do about it?
There is plenty you can do in your everyday life to make choices that help the environment. You probably already know not to run the tap while brushing your teeth so you don’t waste water and to turn off the lights when you leave a room, but you can make landfill-friendly decisions a part of your routine in much the same way.
Here are some ideas for keeping extra waste out of landfills:
- Plastic is so last decade. Chic water bottles are now made of stainless steel. Not only does the water taste better and stay cooler longer, but you’re also saving money by not having to buy repeat cases of bottled water. Plastic has been known to leach into the contents of what it houses too. So out with the plastic and in with the reusable bottle. Send kids to school with a drink bottle they can reuse every day. Don’t pack lunches that contain plastic water bottles or drinks in plastic bottles. You’ll be saving space in the dump and putting healthy drinks into their bodies. Do the same for yourself.
- Use cloth napkins at home. Landfills are stacked high with paper, and disposable napkins are part of that heap. Use cloth and not only will you have a more elegant table, but you’re helping the planet too. Teach kids not to take wads of napkins at a restaurant or fast food place where one or two would do.
- Forego the morning latte? It’s probably not going to happen. But you can use your own cup. Many chains and independent coffee houses will offer you a few cents off your drink if you bring your own cup. And some will give you free refills once you buy their travel mug. This is great for reducing landfill waste and keeping money in your pocketbook.
- Reuse papers around the house. This can mean using the old wrapping paper from a birthday party for book covers for the kids’ schoolbooks or making gift tags out of last year’s holiday cards. Use both sides of computer paper before you toss it. If the document isn’t going to be seen by your boss and isn’t an important contract, use the back for scratch paper when you’re done with it.
- Read newspapers and magazines online instead of subscribing to them. Don’t feel bad for the magazine or press. You still have to pay for the online membership to read their offerings. But you’re saving valuable space in the landfill by not buying glossy printed magazines.
- Get off the junk mail lists and save yourself from having toss several piles of envelopes every week from mail you never asked to receive. Get your name off catalog lists and charities you don’t belong to and probably aren’t going to donate to. You’ll not only save yourself the aggravation of picking through all the junk mail, you’ll also be doing the mailing company and the post office a favor. If they don’t have to mail to you, they save on printing and mailing costs.
- But wait…don’t just toss that junk mail. Shred it. Then use the shreddings for packing materials when you mail something next time. What are those packing peanuts made of anyway? Whatever it is, you’ll keep it out of the landfill if you stop using it.
- Recycle for real. Most people say they recycle when pressed, but they’re the same people who have no idea what’s recyclable and what isn’t. Not all glass can be recycled. Nor all aluminum. You have to do a little searching to find out what’s recyclable in your area, but it’s worth it. You’ll keep heaps of junk out of the landfill when you take a few minutes to check for the recycling number on the glass or metal can.
- Don’t throw away electronics. If you have an old cell phone or cordless phone, recycle it. Don’t drop it into the trash can. You can send your old electronics off to places that will refurbish them for the needy or for the military overseas. And certainly don’t throw batteries into the trash. Bring them to a recycling center so they can be disposed of properly.
Making small choices can impact the environment in big ways. And if each person does their part, no matter how small it may be, the landfills will decrease in size. There are so many other smart ways to reduce waste. These are just a few of the many. Get savvy about things you can do and teach your children to do the same.