‘If I can do it…’: The Basics
I titled this installment of this blog series ‘The Basics’. In my mind, the basics are things that many Americans already do, things that most people would identify as ‘good for the environment’. As a family, we were already doing these things anyways, and only these things. These activities were our base, our jumping off point into a greener lifestyle.
Recycling: I told you these were basic. Recycling starts with collecting things that are deemed ‘recyclable’ by the local recycling facility, such as paper, aluminum cans, plastic, etc. The next step is taking those recyclables to the local recycling facility. There items are made into other things and can be re-used again in a different form by another consumer. We keep a paper bag by the trash can in our kitchen so we have a visual reminder to recycle when we throw things away. The first couple of weeks were difficult with the kids having to be reminded which things should be recycled but they picked it up pretty quickly. They bring home so many papers from school and being able to recycle these instead of throwing them away makes them feel like they are helping out.
Where I live in Eagle River, the Municipality of Anchorage makes recycling really easy. For a small fee, Alaska Waste picks up our recyclables twice a month from our curb. In the Municipality, areas that don’t have curbside (I guess it’s not available to everyone in Anchorage and Eagle River), there are recycling facilities all over town where recyclables can be dropped off for free. We did this when we first moved here. We just collected our recyclables in our garage and once a month made a trip to the recycling center! Click here for information about Anchorage’s curbside recycling and other recycling locations.
CFL (Compact Fluorescent) light bulbs: You know- the ‘swirly’ light bulbs! These odd-shaped bulbs are not only good for the environment since they are so much more energy efficient than their older counterparts, but they also make better financial sense. While the sticker shock might be daunting (they are pricier), they last up to 10 times longer than traditional bulbs. These bulbs also use 75% less energy so there is a definite savings in the home energy bill. I listed this under basics because we’ve been using these bulbs for at least the last few years. Our motivation is laziness (is that an oxymoron?). The least number of times we have to change a light bulb, the better! As the traditional bulbs in our fixtures burnt out, we slowly replaced them with their CFL counterparts until all of our bulbs were swirly! For more information about these bulbs and where you can find them near you, click here.
Re-usable grocery bags: I know everyone has seen at least one person bringing in their own bags when grocery shopping. When you think of how many plastic bags you use over the course of a year, that’s 1,500 for the average family, this ‘basic’ makes eco-sense. Plastic bags do not biodegrade well. It takes at least 1,000 years for a plastic bag to degrade. Yuck. Perhaps the most depressing statistic I found while researching for this post was that in every square mile of ocean, there is 46,000 pieces of plastic. That’s six times more plastic in the North Pacific Ocean than zooplankton. Here are some more facts about plastic bags, link.
I’ve heard from many people that they have a problem with this ‘basic’. Many people tell me that they try to use their reusable bags but end up forgetting them at home when going to the store. Here is the ‘Pritchett Family trick’. Keep them IN your car. When we go to the store, we just pull them out of the trunk. When we are done unloading groceries, we stack them up and immediately put them back IN our car. That way we have no excuse not to use them. Occasionally one of us forgets them in the car but it’s a whole lot easier to trek back through the parking lot then it is to drive all the way home. We then put them in the shopping cart and when we get up to the cash register, we hand them to the bagger. Another plus is that these bags hold many more groceries than the plastic ones and make it easier for my boys to carry the groceries into the house.
One final note on reusable bags- be careful where you buy them. Last fall it was discovered that many of the bags contain lead based paint. Make sure that you buy them from a good company so that you know you are getting a great product. Click here for just one of many online stores selling reusable grocery bags.
Lastly, while one person and one family makes a HUGE difference when they decide to become ‘greener’, there are many organizations that are better equipped to handle environmental conservation on a state and federal policy level which is where things really happen. There are a few conservation organizations that we’ve run across over the years that we really like (I’m not going to name names!). I subscribe to their mailing lists so I get emails when there are issues that I can discuss with my elected officials, opportunities to sign petitions, specific campaigns that need support and much more! I’m sure you already have one in mind but if not, feel free to check out our organization at http://www.akvoice.org.
That’s all I have for you this month! Feel free to comment about any of the content in this post or if you can think of any other ‘basics’ that should be included here. Next month- our switch to ‘greener’ cleaning products!