From hopping on your bike, to turning unused lights off, here are just a few of the changes – big and small – you can make to cut down on waste and energy use.
Reducing your contribution to plastic bag pollution is as simple as using a cloth bag, or one made of biodegradable plant-based materials, instead of wasting plastic ones. And when you do end up using a bag, be sure to recycle it. According to Time Magazine’s Global Warming Survival Guide, every year more than 500 billion plastic bags are distributed, and less than three percent of those bags are recycled. They are typically made of polyethylene and can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade in landfills that emit harmful greenhouse gases.
Every hour, Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic water bottles. Convert to a resusable water bottle.
Check Out What Can Be Recycled in Madison
Learn about some of the waste items that can now be recycled through the City of Madison's curbside service. You might be surprised by how much can now be recycled. To learn more, visit http://www.cityofmadison.com/streets/
- Green STEPS: Myth Busting with the City of Madison Recycling Expert
- Myth Busting with the City of Madison Recycling Expert (pdf)
Compost Your Coffee
Coffee grounds make for excellent fertilizer for flower beds and gardens. Save your coffee grounds each week in a bucket and let them dry, then sprinkle them in your garden or on potted house plants. If you're not an avid coffee drinker, many local coffee shops give away bags of used grounds for people to use in their homes and gardens.
Get To Know The Wisconsin Bike Federation
Check out the events and resources provided by the local group: http://wisconsinbikefed.org/. Consider joining the ranks of Madisonians heading to the city's commuter paths in celebration of Bike to Work Week (typically late spring).
Head To Your Next Offsite Meeting By Bicycle
Madison B-cycle has B-stations near the following UW Health locations: 1 and 20 S. Park, AFCH, CSC, DHC and U-Station.
One Person's Junk Is Another Person's Treasure
You know the saying. As you do your spring cleaning, consider donating your unwanted items instead of junking them. For example, the Madison Children's Museum will take many of your unwanted items. Check out their online wish list
Pay Bills Online
If every U.S. home viewed and paid its bills online, the switch would cut solid waste by 1.6 billion tons a year, and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 2.1 million tons a year. To get started, Kipplinger suggests deciding on a service. When it comes to paying bills online, you basically a few choices:
- Make payments directly through a biller's website by entering a credit card number or authorizing a withdrawal from your checking account
- Sign up for a bank's online bill-pay service
- Use a third-party service, many of which collect bills for you and send e-mail alerts when payments are due
Over the course of the average lifespan, each American will generate 52 tons of garbage, one-third of which is simply packaging material. Consider the packaging the next time you are at the store and shop around for products with less packaging, or that use recycled/recyclable packaging.
Try Decreasing Your Meat Consumption
Believe it or not, eating a burger can be more harmful to the environment than your car. The international meat industry generates roughly 18 percent of the world's greenhouse-gas emissions - even more than transportation - according to a 2006 study by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization.
Try Focusing on Just One Step or One Area
Perhaps try to change shopping habits this week. Next week, try a new greener travel option next week, and after that, focus on changes you can make at home. Celebrate each new step, knowing you are making a difference.
Tune-Up to Save
Just by giving your engine a tune-up, you can improve gas mileage by at least 4 percent, and often much more. Replacing a clogged air filter can boost efficiency 10 percent. And keeping your tires properly inflated can improve gas mileage more than 3 percent. Besides saving money on gas, increasing your gas mileage puts less CO2 into the atmosphere - a win-win for you and the environment.
Turn Off Your Electronics
A screen saver is not an energy saver. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 75 percent of all the electricity consumed in homes is standby power used to keep electronics running when TVs, DVRs, computers, monitors and stereos are "off."