How to be More Green This Earth Day
April 22, 2013
Dietetic Intern Rebekah Facteau gives two ways in which you can help the planet on Earth Day – and for the rest of the year!
Stop buying bottled water
A great way to help reduce waste is to invest in a water filter and a reusable water bottle and stop buying bottled water. Did you know that 1,500 plastic water bottles are used every second in the U.S., totaling 29 billion each year? Only about 13 percent of those bottles are recycled, meaning over 25 billion bottles end up in oceans and landfills annually.
Ironically, the actual process of making plastic bottles to hold water requires over two gallons of water for every one gallon of water the container will eventually hold. Plastic bottles are made from the petroleum product polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and require large amounts of fossil fuels to produce and transport. If you fill a plastic bottle up 25%, that’s about how much oil was used to produce it.
Using a reusable water bottle will not only conserve water, oil and energy, but will also be easier on your wallet. A filtered water pitcher can cost as little as $20, with replacement filters only costing about $18 per year (filters help to remove impurities from tap water like chlorine and lead). Throw in a reusable bottle for about $12 and your total comes to roughly $50. Compare that to buying a bottle of water every day for lunch, which can cost anywhere from $300 to $480 a year, and your savings will quickly add up.
If you haven’t already jumped on the “Meatless Monday” bandwagon, it’s time. Going meatless at least once a week can reduce your risk of developing chronic illnesses such as type two diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Skipping meat one day a week can also help to control your waistline by reducing saturated fat intake and increasing your consumption of fruits, vegetables and other high-fiber foods. You may even see improvements in high blood pressure or cholesterol levels from the added fiber and antioxidants.
The benefits of Meatless Monday extend beyond your personal health. According to a 2006 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, it’s estimated that worldwide livestock are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation industry. In addition to air pollution, large-scale and mainly industrialized farming operations add to land and water pollution.
Due to the increasing volume and expansion of livestock productions, it is currently considered a threat to biodiversity in 37% of the worlds’ terrestrial ecosystems. Moreover, the animals being raised for human consumption have to be fed too. It takes seven tons of grain to produce one ton of beef, four tons of grain to produce one ton of pork and two tons of grain to produce one ton of chicken. By going meatless once a week, you can help to slow down these negative environmental effects, benefiting both your personal health and that of the environment.
A few more ideas
Already carry your own water bottle and forego meat at least once a week? Here are a few other sustainable practices to consider:
- Bring your own (reusable) bag. The US uses 380 billion plastic bags each year, equating to about 76% of plastic bag use worldwide. Like plastic bottles, the majority are used once and thrown in the garbage.
- Start a small garden. A windowsill herb garden is easy to start and maintain. Having plants in the house (or office) also helps to reduce indoor air pollution. Some studies have even shown indoor plants to improve people’s moods.
- Participate in a composting program. Compost makes waste useable. Many farmers’ markets are now offering compost drop-off points to take eggshells and banana peels off your hands. Check your local markets to see what options are available to you.
Do you have any sustainability tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section below.
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