Clean Air, Energy Efficiency

What Does “Going Green” Mean?


Today is Saint Patrick’s Day, a celebration of heritage and culture of the Irish people. For some, recognition of the day includes taking part in religious traditions or joining parades, while others participate in festivities at home or out on the town. What unites most everyone on Saint Patrick’s Day is the wearing of green attire.

On a day where green is so prominently displayed, it seems fitting to talk about how color can become the focal point of a larger idea, specifically environmentalism. “Going Green,” as the phrase goes, speaks to pursuing a lifestyle and personal decisions that reduce our consumption of natural resources to preserve the planet for future generations.

In color theory, the color green signifies growth or renewal, but it can also convey a lack of experience. In the developed world, we operate under the social and economic ideology that encourages the buying and selling of goods and services. More often than not, this process doesn’t place a lot of importance on conservations.

Simple Ways To Go Green

Without this urgency towards environmentalism, it’s easy to forget what makes it important because we lack experience in its practice. It’s awesome if you can install solar panels on your home or operate a composting heap of your waste, but those things aren’t alway practical for everyone, which is okay. Environmentalism shouldn’t just be about making a big impact with a broad stroke of a brush; rather, making minor changes in existing habits, while also influencing those around you by educating them with your experiences.

Environmentalism Around The Home

Did you know hand washing dishes uses 5,000 more gallons of water, 230 more hours of personal time, and costs you an extra $431 each year when compared to washing dishes with an ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher?

This fact is a great example of the misconceptions that sometimes surround environmentalism; namely that it is more expensive or more tedious. Below we have outlined some other simple ways to save money without using much if any more time while also being “green.”

Go Green Around The Home:

  • Lights – Switch to CFL or LED and turn them off when leaving the room.
  • Brushing Teeth – Turn off water after wetting the brush.
  • Showers – 5 minutes is the goal, but 10 minutes should be the maximum.
  • Replace filters – Changing filters every 30-90 days can reduce energy use by 15%.
  • Thermostat – Set the furnace to 66 in winter; 78 in summer.
  • Washer – Wash clothes and lightly soiled items in cold water (they’ll be just as clean).
  • Chargers – Electronics continue to draw power even when off, even cellphone chargers.
  • Recycle – Not every area offers to pick up recycling, so try to gather recyclables for the neighborhood and make a single trip to your local recycling center (the fewer trips, the better).
  • Upgrade to ENERGY STAR certified appliances.

When making just a few of these changes, keep an eye on your electricity and water bill and see what kind of savings you can make! Also, think about whether any of these suggestions saved you time or were an inconvenience when compared to their benefit.

Environmentalism At The Store

Perhaps giving up your job, home and possessions to go off into the wilderness and live a life devoid of environmental impact isn’t for you—it’s not for us either. When you make purchases or use services, look for labeling that advertises recyclable content, or boasts about their environmentally friendly manufacturing process. Also, give some of these suggestions a try if you haven’t already.

Go Green While Shopping:

  • Reusable bags – Tote bags are a smart way to cut back on plastic waste, just please don’t forget them at home!
  • Farmers markets – Locally sourced produce doesn’t have to travel as far and is likely to be more fresh.
  • Eco-friendly cosmetics – These put fewer toxins into the air and down the drain when washed off; also fewer chemicals will absorb into your body.
  • Reusable bottles – It takes more water to produce a plastic bottle of water than is actually in the product and is not believed to be more “clean” than tap water.
  • Water filters – If you want healthier water, purchase a Brita faucet filter or a Zero Water fridge dispenser.
  • Natural cleaning products – These are safer for your family and put fewer toxins into the air.
  • Green Label Plus – Carpets that are awarded GLP are made with fewer toxins than conventional carpets.

As consumers, minimizing our environmental impact of every purchase is a significant step in the right direction.

Environmentalism From Behind The Wheel

According to AAA, Americans drive an average of 29.2 miles per day across two trips that last 46 minutes. Unless you live in an urban area, not owning a car can leave you disadvantaged. In many regions of the United States, people find that access to buses, trains or other forms of mass transit to be limited.

We need our vehicles for personal transportation, and shifting away from gasoline powered vehicles to alternative energy vehicles isn’t always practical given the higher initial cost, low resale value, or the limited energy storage capacity of batteries.

And the statistics back that up. In the first quarter of 2015, just 2.7 percent of new car sales were hybrid or electric. Also interesting, 22 percent of people in that period traded in their hybrid or electric vehicle for an SUV. While people might not prefer alternative fuel vehicles, there are some practical ways that you can save fuel in your gasoline burning vehicle.

Go Green While Driving:

  • No A/C – According to the Society of Automotive Engineers, turning off the A/C and driving with the windows down can increase fuel economy by up to 10 percent.
  • One trip – Complete multiple errands in one trip, and try to talk between locations for added fuel savings.
  • Coasting –  During testing that analyzed driving behavior over a 35 second period, researchers found that coasting to stops uses up to 50% less fuel when compared to slamming on the brakes.
  • Speed limits – In some situations, keeping to the speed limit can improve gas milage by up 15%
  • Not idling – Unless you have a hybrid or stop-start system, you are burning fuel to power the alternator which ends up being wasted to power the climate control system or radio.
  • Check tire pressure – Gas mileage drops an estimated 0.2% for every 1 psi drop in the average pressure of all tires – properly inflated tires also ride better and last longer.

Our vehicles are the second most expensive purchase we’ll make in our lives. They cost us money to buy and maintain while also steadily depreciating in value over time. Not only does driving more efficiently cut down on fuel use and our contribution to greenhouse gasses, but it can also keep us safer because it forces us to be less aggressive.

A Little Bit Here and There Helps

A big issue with changing individual habits is that other people don’t seem to be making the same changes. While individual actions might not have a noticeable effect in the grand scope of the planet, small actions might influence those around you, and a lot of smaller actions will eventually result in a more noticeable change.

You probably have more opportunities to “go green” than what we could list here. Think about all of your tasks at home or work, and everything in between, and find ways to be a bit more green.

How are you “going green?” Share your thoughts in our comments section!




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