I've been getting a lot of questions lately about whether small acts, like reusing something, make a difference in the big picture. I have two minds when I think of this. On the one hand, I believe that no real change will take place unless we have strong legislation in place that forces us to do so. But on the other hand, what kind of legacy do I want to leave? I'm okay with making the small changes that I know are going to be kinder to the planet. It helps me sleep better at night.
Here are 10 Surprisingly Easy Things You Can Do To Be Kinder To The Planet!
1. Ditch the aluminum foil.
Statistics Canada reports that the "residential sector generated 10.2 million tonnes (41 percent) of waste in 2016 and 96,718 tonnes come from mixed metals like aluminum foil.
Unlike aluminum cans, foil that has food on it is much harder to recycle. Make sure if you are using it, you wipe it first. Also, try to reuse it as much as you can before placing it in the bin.
I'd prefer you don't use it as there have been studies that link it to a number of illnesses.
Tinfoil also has a really negative effect on the planet. One ton of aluminum takes about 170 million BTUs to produce — about as much as 1,400 gallons of gasoline — and emits about 12 tons of greenhouse gases. It's also very long-lasting, taking as much as 400 years to break down after it's discarded.
Instead of tin foil, you can use unbleached parchment paper to cook and bake with and for food storage, opt for things like silicone bags or beeswax wraps, which are a great addition to any zero waste kitchen.
2. STOP with the coffee pods already!
Coffee pods are probably one of the worst eco-offenders.
In Canada, two-thirds of adults enjoy a cup of coffee daily, and 25 percent of those cups of coffee come from single-use pods. This is according to the Coffee Association of Canada, which conducts an annual study on coffee-drinking habits.
Club Coffee estimates Canadians discard 2.8 million pods a day, including those made by Nespresso, Tassimo and Keurig. UGH!
Coffee pods are not recyclable because they are made from number 7 plastics, which is not accepted in most recycling facilities.
To try and help the situation Keurig released a compostable coffee pod which according to their website takes "84 days for the pods to fully break down". Sounds good right? Well, what we don't know is whether or not they need sunlight to compost, if they are buried in a landfill they are not exposed to light and will probably take much longer to break down.
The other major issue is that many cities are simply not in a place to handle all these pods.
Jim McKay, general manager of Toronto's Solid Waste Management Services, says the compostable single-serve coffee pods don't break down quickly enough.
In an interview with the CBC this is what he had to say:
"What we're really concerned about is mixed messaging to the consumer. That they're buying a product that they believe is compostable, and in some cased potentially paying a premium for the product, and in the end, it's just going to end up in the garbage anyway," he said.
Robinson also appreciates companies and consumers who are trying to do the right thing to cut waste. But she says Toronto and other municipalities are not equipped to deal with all the coffee pods.
"I think the usage is going to go up. People are going to legitimately, and understandably, feel they are doing something good for the earth. They're going to buy these, and throw them into the green bin. But the truth is, they're not going to be composted, they're going to go directly into the landfill site."
What can you do instead? Brew a cup of coffee using a kettle.
3. Reduce dryer time
If static is a big issue, remove clothing just before it is completely dry and hang it on a clothesline. If you put on a skirt and it sticks to your side, try spraying some water in the air and walk through it to solve your cling problem.
Your dryer is also an electricity hog. Using a clothesline or rack is the greenest option. If it’s time to replace your unit, check out washer-dryer combos and high-efficiency models, which use less water and are able to squeeze out more moisture during the spin cycle. Also, look for a dryer with a moisture sensor, which shuts down the machine when clothes are dry. The air-dry cycle, which uses cold air, also reduces energy use and wrinkles.
When it comes to appliances like the dryer and even your dishwasher make sure you are using them on off-peak times, normally between 8 pm and midnight, check with your electricity provider for peak times. And never run big appliances at the same time.
4. Be on the lookout for Vampire power
Vampire or Phantom power, electricity sucked up by appliances even when they're turned off or in standby mode, may be responsible for up to 10 percent of your annual electricity bill or more than $100 for the average household.
Conserving power will have a big impact on your bill, trust me! You can reduce this use by unplugging devices you are not using, like your cell phone charger, or your blender.
Invest in a power bar that automatically shuts down the power to your computer's and entertainment center peripherals. This unique feature not only saves you money and helps the environment, but it also makes shutting down your systems fast and easy. Like this one.
When you buy new electronic devices look for the Energy Star label. Those products meet or exceed the lowest standby power standards.
Buy a low-cost wattmeter and measure the power used by the devices in your home. This will arm you with the information you'll need to reduce your electricity consumption.
5. Reduce Plastic use!
This seems like a no-brainer, right? But have you ever thought about the impact your body was having on the planet?
Liquid soap uses five times the energy for production and nearly 20 times more energy for the packaging than a bar of soap does.
With bar soap, there is no packaging so it's a win-win and, you will use less of the soap. Studies have shown that we can use almost seven times more liquid soap than bar soap. What a waste right? A zero-waste bathroom consists of items that you can use over and over again.
6. Use reusable batteries.
They are a great alternative to traditional batteries. According to a study done by the University of Illinois, roughly 3 billion batteries are thrown away every year compared to the 350 million rechargeable batteries that are sold. Investing in rechargeable batteries may have a higher upfront cost, but the investment is more sustainable. Rechargeable batteries can save you money and reduce pollution in the environment! Just make sure you are discarding the old one properly.
7. Look for leaks
Feeling a draft coming from your windows? It's costing you and the planet. Caulking and weather-stripping your windows will stop between 25% and 50% heat loss.
8. Install a programmable thermostat!
This is a great way to control when your furnace comes on and how warm it is and by reducing the temperature in your home at night by only 2 degrees will help you save almost 7% on natural gas.
9. Think before you wipe
Now onto a product that we all use, in fact, we here in Canada overuse it. Did you know the average Canadian uses about 22kg of disposable tissue paper products each year, including about 100 rolls of toilet paper? Buy cutting down trees that are over 100 years old, for me is obscured!
Always use recycled tissues and toilet paper and make sure they are 100% post-consumer recycled. Look for the TCF label that means its “totally chlorine-free”, PCF will work as well, which stands for "Processed chlorine-free". Every ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, 4,000-kilowatt-hours of electricity, 3 cubic yards of landfill and 7,000 gallons of water.
Save Money: Buy in paper products in bulk and look for the FSC symbol.
10. Be mindful
Think before you buy it!
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