Sunday, February 1, 2009

New Year’s Resolutions, A Little Belated: Five Ways to Get A Little Greener

Dr. Think Science (aka me) is a biologist. As such, you might think I am the model for living an earth-friendly life. I am not, nor are most of my colleagues. I mean, we all try to do our best, but I am no environmentalist. For 2009, I took the opportunity to look around me and came up with five really simple ways to green my, and maybe your, lifestyle.

1. Recycle more. Most of us recycle pretty well at home, but do we go to the effort of taking the water bottle home to recycle it since there is not a recycling bin handy wherever we are at right at that moment?

2. Use a re-fillable water bottle/coffee-mug. I highly recommend aluminum (they’re a bit of an investment, but consider your investment into bottled water over the past year to put it into perspective). Plastic bottles release a number of nasty compounds as they age.

3. Bring re-usable bags to the store, at least some of the time. I admit I am only halfway successful at this. I have the bags in the back of my car, and constantly forget to lug them into the actual store. Plastic grocery bags are an environmental success story in that they are one of the most reused items in the house, according to National Geographic. If you use your plastic grocery bags, like me, for trash bags instead of purchasing more plastic bags at the store, at least they’re used twice. But, even I still end up with far too many bags to re-use. Consider taking them with you to the store to be recycled (most stores have bins), and consider using reusable bags when at those stores who don’t provide bags suitable for your re-use needs. You can also check out

4. Use less, or less of, toxic cleaners. I try to use earth-friendly cleaning products as much as possible, like vinegar or baking soda for mold and mildew. But, there are those times when you need the extra power of one of the not-so-earth-friendly ones. Mildew is my personal nemesis. In those cases, I started trying to use a really small amount. For example, you can apply the products to target areas with small brushes or Q-tips instead of spraying everywhere. You can also place the products in glass jars (placed in kid-safe storage) so that you can soak items, like your detached shower head that has really bad lime scale, instead of spraying and spraying and spraying. And, you can then reuse, reuse, reuse.

5. Unplug it. The credit for this idea goes to a friend, but she is saving loads on her energy bill just by unplugging the appliances when they are not in use. The energy it takes to keep those little clocks on our toasters and coffee-makers going really adds up.

Now, I expect I’ll have about a thousand pairs of eyes out there helping me to keep these new resolutions! I don’t mind if you give me a little poke to remember. Do you have ideas too that you can share?