Like most people, I operate on a budget. While the bleeding-heart liberal in me would like to donate entire paychecks to animal welfare and environmental causes, buy only organic food and clothing for my entire family, and drive a hybrid car, the penny-pinching freelancer in me won't let this happen.
But I firmly believe that no matter what your economic status, there are little things every single person can do to help the environment.
Here are a few suggestions of cost-effective (or free!) things you can do to go green:
1.) Buy (Some) Organics
Isabella's diet consists mainly of organic foods (always organic fruits, vegetables, and dairy). I've written before about why organics are an important choice for my family, but I recently stumbled across this alarming fact: According to the Organic Trade Association, an estimated 2.5 million tons of pesticides will be used in agricultural production this year alone. These chemicals contaminate groundwater, degrade the soil, and put harmful chemicals into our food chain.
While it's nearly impossible for anyone on a food budget to buy all organic foods, why not buy a few each week? Every little bit helps, and it's my experience that in addition to the health and environmental benefits, organic foods taste better than conventionally grown and processed food.
2.) Reuse Plastic Sandwich and Freezer Bags
I got into this habit when I began making Isabella's baby food and burning through plastic freezer bags like crazy. Assuming you haven't used the bag for something extremely messy or smelly, simply wash out the bag after its first use, dry it, hang it over your faucet handle to dry, and reuse it a second (or third) time. Sandwich/freezer bags are made from petroleum plastics, a nonrenewable resource, and they also produce toxic emissions while manufactured. By reusing bags and cutting down your consumption, you can not only help our air quality, but also save a little money in the process.
3.) Replace Halogen Light Bulbs with Compact Florescent Ones
I've been steadily replacing all my halogen light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs over the past few months. Compact florescent bulbs use 50-80% less energy, and last 6-to-10 times longer than halogen bulbs. They cost a bit more, but in the end, you're actually saving money because you don't have to replace them as often and you'll have a lower energy bill each month.
4.) Buy Products With Minimal Packaging
As a mom, I find it infuriating when I have to spend 15 minutes hacking through massive amounts of cardboard and plastic, twist-ties, and thick tape just to release a new toy from its packaging. The waste one toy generates is often three times as large as the toy itself. I've made a concerted effort to seek out consumer products with as little packaging as possible to reduce waste. I also buy in bulk when possible.
In addition, here are a few helpful links:
Sign this Earth Day Network petition to ask Congress to cap greenhouse emissions and require utility companies to generate 30% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030, in addition to other global warming prevention initiatives. (Thanks for the link, Amy.)
Please feel free to share your tips and techniques to help save our environment. I'm always looking for new ideas to do my part.
Happy Earth Day.