Posts filed under ‘Cherie Graves’
Hundreds of years hence, archaeologists will be digging through our middens to find clues about our culture.
Checking out our trashed magazines, they’ll conclude that ours was a culture obsessed with eating and losing weight (eight of the top ten best selling magazines in the US include recipes, dieting tips, or both). Judging by paper wrappings and bags in the landfill, they’ll assume that fast food restaurants were a primary food source that provided an excellent diet full of nutrients and anti-oxidants since images on our magazine covers indicate robust health.
In addition to paper, archaeologists will find food scraps, medications, French Roast coffee grounds, bottles and cans. They’ll find plastic. They’ll wonder why we harvested pet by-product and preserved it for all eternity in a plastic bag.
Excavators will uncover baubles and trinkets, chicken bones and shards of clutter that we bought and then discarded with the change in the fashion season.
Future archaeologists will find metals such as aluminum and steel, and wonder why we buried it again after having gone through all the trouble and cost of mining it in the first place. “What were they thinking?” they’ll ask and feature 20th-Century-born humans on their equivalent of History’s Mysteries.
This shopping season, I intend to reduce the clues I leave in our landfills. I won’t buy clutter or items that go directly into the trash can. Garbage can liners have been crossed off my shopping list. Since I haven’t figured out what to do with chicken bones (can’t compost them, can’t feed them to the dog) I won’t buy chicken bones either. I should probably cross spinach off the list as well, since it only detours to the crisper (where it goes quietly brown) on its way to the trash can. My new year’s resolution: make a list and check it twice before I add an item to my shopping cart.
- Check your buying habits. Pass up the Buy One, Get One sales if you don’t need two. Or, Buy One, Give One to someone else who needs a 100-count bottle of aspirin.
- Check the clutter factor of items before you buy them. Will the item end up in the garage or back of a closet before Spring Cleaning time comes ‘round? Resist the urge to buy another holiday coffee mug set, even if it is marked down 75 percent.
- Check the expiration date. Don’t buy anything you can’t use before it expires.
- Check the label. When practical, buy products made with recycled content. Some companies make common kitchen items such as cutting boards and cooking utensils with bamboo (a renewable resource) or recycled plastic.
- Check the packaging. If a favorite two-ounce jar of hide-the-wrinkles eye cream comes with two pounds of packaging, check to see if the packaging is recyclable.
- Check the pantry and refrigerator before you grocery shop. Maybe you already have cream of mushroom soup that you impulsively added to your cart at the last Buy One, Get One sale back in September.
- Check the Web. Find out where to recycle almost anything (old appliances I’m replacing with energy-efficient models, tech toys I’m upgrading, those skinny jeans I’ll never wiggle into again, that stationary bike that hasn’t moved in two years, holiday coffee mug sets) at Earth 911.
Unless my air is visible, I don’t think much about it. Out of sight, out of mind. What I know is this: No air, no life. How much air do I need? According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average adult breathes more than 3,000 gallons of air every day.
Now that I’m thinking about it, what is air anyway? What I remember from middle school science class (with a little help from Google) is this: Air is 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.03% carbon dioxide and 0.003% other trace gases. Water vapor (also known as humidity) is also present in air, particularly evident on a hot August night in Florida. I suspect pine and oak pollen are also present.
What endangers our air quality most? Emissions from motor vehicles account for almost a third of the air pollution in the United States, so this month’s Easy Action list was created especially for drivers. Evidently, Floridians have places to go and people to see—13 million of us have a license to drive.
Whether we’re on the road, on the deck or on the couch, all of us can protect air quality. Here’s a starter pack:
Burn calories instead of fuel. Walk or bike to travel short distances. Sweep the deck or porch instead of using a leaf blower. Power plants burn fossil fuels to generate electricity. The less electricity I use, the better my air quality.
Save time, save energy, save money. During hot months, let your hair dry naturally. Hair driers use electricity and heat up the area where you’re primping, which causes the AC to work harder to cool the room.
Save fuel, save money, save the aggravation. Avoid the morning and afternoon rush hour traffic–telecommute when possible.
Take it. Take reusable bags shopping. It takes energy to make those one- or two-time-use bags. Saving energy helps protect air quality.
Leave it. Plant a tree or adopt a plant. Leaves absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, helping to clean our air. Trees provide shade, another energy-saving feature.
Check it out. Find your air quality index at http://www.airnow.gov/.
We can’t decrease the amount of air we breathe, but we can easily decrease the amount of emissions we cause.
Our office is pretty green. Recycle bins for paper, plastic and metal live on every floor. The recycle bin overflows long before the trash can fills. We rarely print–we e-mail, e-file, forward or CC. Our default print is set to grayscale and two-sided. At the end of the work day, computers and monitors are shut down. When we leave our office for lunch or a meeting, and at the end of our work day, it’s lights out.
We’ve gotten the green office memo. At a meeting last week, I realized that we’d taken it personally. All of us were drinking our morning caffeine or water from reusable containers.
Curiosity aroused, I surveyed my colleagues to find out what green things they did on their days off. (This was not strictly a scientific survey; the sample wasn’t random—we all work for DEP.)
Survey Question: What easy thing do you do after you get off work that protects air or water quality, conserves water or reduces waste?
Protect air quality
- Nancy uses green cleaners to keep her home clean and free of harsh chemicals.
- Shelton traded his car for a more fuel-efficient ride. He gets 40 MPG, saves on gas money and reduces emissions.
- Kristin upgraded to energy efficient appliances that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and her utility bill.
- Martha carpools with two other people who work in the same building. They all save on gas. Emissions from the work commute are 2/3 less than if all three drove.
- Ann keeps her car tuned. She gets better gas mileage and fewer emissions enter the air.
Protect water quality
- Amy has a professional change her oil. Oil change centers recycle the oil. Motor oil, if not properly disposed of, can contaminate groundwater.
- Deas is a boater and uses pump outs. After a day of boating, she brings trash and recyclables back to the dock with her for proper disposal.
- Brad actually reads and follows the directions on the bags of fertilizer he uses on his lawn. Too much fertilizer contaminates groundwater and surface water.
- I catch rain to water plants. Rain is free. The oregano and thyme, which didn’t have to fly in from another state, make tasty additions to many recipes.
- Lauren mulches her flower beds to retain moisture and reduce the need for watering.
- Everybody surveyed turns off the water while brushing their teeth.
- Dianne bought reusable plates, cups and flatware for her staff. This keeps about a dozen paper products out of the landfill every time we order pizza.
- Leah feeds kitchen scraps to her chickens. Then the chickens lay eggs to feed Leah and her family. It works out nicely.
- Kathalyn doesn’t buy flavored water in bottles. She flavors water from her tap with fresh fruit, mint or lemon grass. Less wasteful, more tasteful.
All those surveyed have adopted easy green habits. Whether we brought those habits to the job or the job brought them to us, we’re pretty sure that protecting our air and water quality, conserving water and reducing waste makes sense and saves dollars.