As summer approaches and the sun is out longer, we are taking advantage of the great outdoors. But, it is important to understand the implications our summer activities have on the health of the Earth. Here are 10 small habits you can implement today that will make a big impact on our planet tomorrow — and beyond.
Recycle smarter, not harder
1. Throwing away electronics like old phones, computers, and gaming consoles can fill up landfills and release harmful toxins into the environment. Habit: Give your old electronics to in-store recycling or buy-back programs, or donate to someone else who will use them.
2. Don’t recycle anything smaller than a credit card. When these objects are recycled, they can jam recycling equipment. Tip: According to the Association of Plastic Recyclers, bottle caps can still be recycled if they are screwed onto the bottle.
3. Greasy pizza boxes and salsa-covered burrito bowls will only contaminate the rest of your recycling, fast-tracking the whole load to the landfill. Recycling should always be clean and dry before throwing them in the bin (earthday.org). Habit: Wash out glass jars and plastic containers before recycling.
4. Don’t ‘wishcycle.’ Wishcycling is the practice of placing non-recyclable materials into the recycling bin in hopes that they will be recycled. By doing this, you may be overwhelming the recycling center and forcing recyclable materials to be thrown into a landfill. Additionally, down-cycled materials could become contaminated and, ultimately, be sent to the landfill (University of Colorado Boulder). Tip: Only recycle what you know is recyclable.
Check your appliances
5. Your gas stove may be leaking, even when it is not on. According to a study published by the American Chemical Society, gas stoves leak 75% of their methane gas when turned off. That is equivalent to emissions from half a million cars on the road. Habit: Consider switching to an electric stove. If you have a gas stove, make sure to always use the hood and clean the filter regularly.
6. In addition to upgrading gas stoves, look for ENERGY STARⓇ efficient appliances that meet federal standards for energy efficiency.
Save on energy
7. Shed a layer or two. By changing your thermostat from 72 to 78, you could save up to 12% of cooling costs (SDGE). Go a step further and invest in a programmable thermostat that will adjust the temperature throughout the day and cut 20% of energy consumption (NRDC).
8. Don’t use boiling hot water. Lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120F or lower to save on energy.
9. Did you know that computers, TV’s and charging devices still use a small amount of power when plugged in, even when not in use (NRDC)? Habit: Unplug devices when not in use or plug them into a power strip so they may be shut off easily.
10. Replace incandescent bulbs with LED’s. LED’s use 75% less energy and last longer while emitting the same amount of light. It’s a no-brainer.