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7 tips for greener living

By Lila Havens, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth
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Every spring Earth Day rolls around, and we’re encouraged to be more aware of our impact on the planet. But why limit yourself to one day? Being “green” is a smart strategy all year long. It’s good for the environment, and it could also save you money.

There are lots of ways to live greener. And you don’t have to jump in with both feet at once. Doing even a few of them can make a difference, both to the earth and to your pocketbook. Here are some ideas to help you reduce, reuse and recycle.

7 Steps to Greener Living

1. Drive less. You’ll make a difference in local air quality and cut your travel costs.

  • Carpool, bike, walk or take public transportation as much as you can.
  • When you do drive, combine errands so you make fewer trips.
  • Keep your car well-maintained. This will help you use less gas.

2. Use less energy. There are lots of ways to reduce energy use at home, which can also help cut your power bills. Here are a few ideas:

  • Replace standard bulbs with compact fluorescents. They cost a little more up front but last years longer.
  • Wash clothes in cold water when you can. (Added bonus: they’ll fade less and shrink less.)
  • Put up a clothesline and let the sun dry your clothes.
  • Install low-flow showerheads to use less hot water.
  • Turn off lights when you leave a room.
  • When you buy electronics and appliances, look for energy-efficient Energy Star models.

3. Choose reusable items. Spend a little for items you can use over and over. This will pay off with less waste and cost savings in the long run.

  • Say “no” to plastic or paper bags.Get some sturdy canvas, mesh or nylon shopping bags and take them when you shop. Some stores will give you a few cents back if you provide your own bags.
  • Use cloth towels and sponges for cleaning instead of paper towels.
  • Use cloth napkins. They’re cheaper in the long run than paper napkins and so much more elegant.
  • Use plastic food storage containers instead of throw-away plastic bags.
  • Invest in rechargeable batteries and a charger. Over time, they cost less and reduce waste.

4. Use less paper. Cutting your paper use can save trees, cut waste and lower carbon emissions (by reducing the fuel used to move all that paper around). You’ll also save money by using fewer checks and fewer stamps, and your account information will be more secure.

  • Ask your company to direct deposit your paychecks.
  • Sign up for online billing and statements.
  • Pay your bills electronically.

5. Be responsible with electronics. Don’t toss old electronics. They contain hazardous materials, and besides, it’s a waste. Instead:

  • Working TVs, computers, monitors, cell phones and other items can be donated. Check with local nonprofits like Goodwill or refugee agencies.
  • Items that are broken or obsolete can be recycled. To learn more, go to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website at www.epa.gov and type “recycling” in the search box.

6. Fight junk mail. Mountains of catalogs and junk mail end up in the garbage every week. Recycle it if you can, but it’s even better to keep it from arriving in your mailbox. Here are some ways to reduce your junk mail:

  • Contact the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Mail Preference Service (www.dmachoice.org) and ask to be taken off direct mailing lists. There is a small fee.
  • Sign up for a free service like Catalog Choice (www.catalogchoice.org), which lets you choose which catalogs you want to receive. This cuts the number of unwanted catalogs that end up in the trash or recycling.
  • Pay a service like 41 Pounds (www.41pounds.org) to contact direct mail services for you. This can cut your junk mail by 80 to 95 percent.

7. Dress green. Yes, it’s possible to be green and fashionable at the same time.

  • Look for clothes made with organic fibers. This helps reduce pesticides in the environment.
  • Choose shoes and clothes that use recycled materials, such as fleece made from plastic bottles.
  • Shop at consignment stores. Buying lightly used clothes reduces the use of raw materials, and you’ll pay a fraction of the new price.

These tips are just a beginning. Get creative, and you’ll think of more ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.

SOURCES:

  • California Integrated Waste Management Board. Waste prevention and recycling at home. Accessed: 03/23/2009
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Save energy and money at home. Accessed: 03/23/2009
  • Co-op America. Go for green energy. Accessed: 03/16/2009
  • PayItGreen Alliance. Pay it green: get the facts. Accessed: 03/16/2009

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