Mixing Up Your Environmentalism

Plateaued on your earth-friendly efforts? Here are a few ideas to help.

Environmentalism has become almost old hat despite its increasing importance. Recycling? Composting? Sure, we do it, but, yawn. We collected a few out-of-the-box ways to impact (or not impact) the environment. So, here they are ranked from simple to a bit more extreme:

Tighten up your shelving game. (Courtesy of Salvation Army)

Reducing Food – First In, First Out

Almost everyone has experienced a time when they wanted to get experimental with their cooking. So, they buy groceries but never actually get around to cooking it. Instead, the fish, spinach, or mushrooms hang around in the back of the fridge, and naturally, we forget about them. If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. But these foods turn bad, moldy, and even smelly. Keeping your groceries neat, visible, and not crowded in the back is a good step toward utilizing all those ingredients. Follow the “first in, first out” principle. Eat older groceries before touching the new ones.

Afterwards, whenever people do finish their meals, they should consider composting their food scraps. Food in landfills often can’t decompose properly and creates toxic gases, such as methane. However, composting isn’t necessarily the best alternative. The EPA has a food recovery hierarchy on how food should be treated. People should first reduce waste, donate food, feed it to livestock, and then compost.

It’s the same idea as “reduce, reuse and recycle.” First, reduce consumerism. Then, reuse and repurpose any materials, especially before resorting to expensive and even inefficient recycling practices. And lastly, throw them in the big blue bins.

Reducing Waste – Containers

Grocery delivery robots seem as obnoxious as scooters, but there are human-based delivery services like Instacart and Shipt. (Courtesy of Mart Rootamm)

Trash found in a typical household often consists of non-recyclable containers from food, such as pre-packaged pasta or to-go boxes. Waste can be reduced if shoppers go to the deli or farmers’ market with their own sealable containers. If ordering to-go at a restaurant is necessary, bring your own containers as to-go boxes. The idea is far from normalized, but this practice cuts down the amount of trash produced by the average meal.

Reducing Pollution – Grocery Delivery

Most shoppers that head to grocery stores travel by car, which, as we know, creates air pollution. Instead of taking these individual trips, shoppers can purchase and have them delivered online. Even though this sounds a little bougie and too convenient, grocery delivery actually reduces pollution since the drivers drop off several orders in one trip. This also discourages shoppers from impulsively buying food they don’t need (see "Reducing Food" above). It's beneficial for the environment and reduces potential food or plastic waste.

Reducing Water – Flushing

Toilets can use any type of water to flush, but they generally use clean water. Not only is this wasteful, but the average flush uses between 2 and 7 gallons of water, according to Conserve H2O. The average person uses the restroom seven times a day, according to the Bladder & Bowel Community. Do the math and that's between 14 and 49 gallons per person every day.

If it's yellow let it mellow? Mother Earth says yes, but you decide. (Courtesy of Wolfmann)

To reduce water usage, residents can place a large container in the bathtub while they shower to collect the runoff. This can then be dumped in the toilet to flush everything. This saves water and money even if your shower might be a little cramped.

Reducing Electricity – Electric Showers

Americans tend to use boiler systems which preheat and store water. Electric showers, on the other hand, are more efficient, warming up only the water that’s needed. These showers eliminate the extra cost of keeping 40 to 50 gallons of water hot 24/7.

Since cooler water is heated within the unit itself, these showers will also almost never run out of hot water. This is a great solution for large families that quickly find themselves taking cold showers.

Unfortunately, these showers haven't worked out all the kinks. Users have to turn on a switch first and wait several minutes rather than seconds to have hot water at their disposal. Achieving a consistent temperature also takes practice. If you set the flow speed to low, the water has more time to heat up and become too hot. But if you set it too high, you'll have the opposite problem. While there is a learning curve, electric showers become easier to use with time and can be installed relatively cheaply.

Whether you follow all of these guidelines or refuse to take a bucket into the shower with you, everything small thing you do helps and lets larger polluters (fossil fuel companies, etc.) know that the environment is a priority for you. But, if you really want to become eco-friendly, you can always go off the grid and really become one with nature.

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