Below are the things I do to contribute. Doing just a few, makes a big difference.
Recycle: It’s really easy. I keep two garbage bins next to each other in the house. One for garbage and one for recycle. Before I throw something away, I check the bottom of the item to see which recycle number it has on it. Read Tucson Recycles for more information.
Unplug Small Appliances And Phone Charges: They all use some electricity when plugged in. It’s called standby power usage or you may hear someone call it vampire power usage. I’ve made it a habit of unplugging each appliance in my kitchen right after I use it. According to http://standby.lbl.gov/faq.html , standby power accounts for 5% of residential electricity use in the U.S each year. That’s only residential and only the United States. That’s about 4 billion dollars! You should check out the other countries spending.
Electronic Billing: If you ask, most companies will send your bill via email and stop sending paper bills. You can save them and copy them if whenever you need. I have found that it’s actually easier. When the bill arrives, I schedule it in my calendar and save to file.
Online Bill Pay: I stopped using paper checks years ago. It was weird at first, but I got used to it very quickly. Just remember to put each transaction into you check register. When bills arrive online, I pay online, and save another check and a stamp and an envelope.
Walk: As you know, I sell real estate and Realtors drive a lot. One of the ways I did something different was to stop using my Jeep Grand Cherokee as often instead of selling it (which would not be a good financial move for me). Instead, I moved into central Tucson and now I walk a lot more. So much more that I reduced the mileage on my Jeep by more than 10,000 plus miles in 2007.
Grocery Bags: Paper or plastic. Neither. I use washable canvass bags that I take with me. Do I always remember? No, of course not, I’m just like everyone else. But I definitely try and the more I do the more it becomes a habit.
Plastic Water Bottles. Stop buying them. Use a filtered water pitcher and carry your own bottle. Preferably stainless steal.
Shop At Your Local Farmers Markets: It takes 4-17 times less oil to produce local food. Also saves on a lot more packaging necessary to protect produce on long trips.
Natural Cleaning Products: I use natural, non-toxic, biodegradable products in my home. First, a large percentage of indoor air pollution comes from the chemicals you use. Second, there are companies that help the planet by creating earth friendly products and have earth friendly policies and procedures. So you can breath easier, literally, and you can breath easier knowing your healthier and saving the planet. PS My favorite company is Shaklee. I love the cleaning and laundry products and they are a very green company.
Energy Star: I always look for the Energy Star label. My washer and dryer save a lot of water and electricity. The “Star” lets you know that the product meets energy efficient guidelines set by the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy. You can find out more at http://www.energystar.gov
Save Water: I pour left over water from drinking glasses on the plants, not down the drain. The ivy plant really likes that. I also set my irrigation system to water less in the winter and them monitor the plants as it gets hotter. For showers, even though I could sleep standing under the hot water sometimes, I try to get in and out as quickly as possible. I also use as little hot water as possible without screaming.
Dishwasher: I only run it when it’s full.
Heating: I turn down the thermostat about four degrees and run a small humidifier. The moist air feels warmer, is better for you skin and you plants, and costs less than running heater.
No VOC paints: If I’m helping a client sell a home or redecorate after move-in, I always encourage no VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints. In February of 2008 we listed a vacant home that needed interior paint, basic cleaning and carpets. We used Sherwin Williams no VOC paint. It was incredible to work with and I didn’t miss the fumes at all. We also had the home cleaned with Shaklee cleaning products and used a green carpet cleaning company. What a refreshing difference. Indoor air quality on that home got an A+ and it sold in 47 days.
Hot Water Heater: I set my hot water heater at a lower setting
Green Companies: Patronize local companies that green. For marketing I buy recycled paper post it notes and post consumer bic pens.
Read Green Magazine. It’s a great newspaper, it’s free and easy to find.
Eat at locally owned restaurants. There are a lot of fantastic places to eat in Tucson that are owned by people who live in Tucson and spend in Tucson.
Shop for recycled items and earth friendly items. I try to shop at local stores like 17th street so the money stays in Tucson.