The Layperson’s Guide to Going Green

Whether you are a parent or grandparent, aunt, uncle, or godparent, you probably have at least one youngster in your life who you care enough about to want to do your part to keep your community a safe and healthy place for future generations.

The good news is you don’t need a degree in environmental science to make a difference.  With a few small adjustments to your home and your daily routine, anyone can be a steward and reduce their carbon footprint.  While not every solution will be right for you, taking advantage of those that are can help save you money while preserving the environment.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

Recycling is one of the easiest ways to do your part. Most communities have some sort of recycling program that covers paper, glass, cans and certain types of plastics. Even when curbside pick up isn’t available, many locations have drop points where residents can deliver common recyclables.  It’s also important to make sure you are disposing of electronics, motor oil, tires, batteries, and other household hazardous waste such as paint in the appropriate manner for recycling. Retailers of many of these products either accept them for recycling or can aid you in finding a place that does.

It is also important to focus on the reduce and reuse aspects of the popular Three R’s slogan.  Purchasing items based on recyclability is a good way to reduce what ends up in landfills.  Donating or repurposing items you no longer want or need ensures they get reused instead of put into the trash.

Choose Green Power

Other ways to reduce your carbon footprint include looking at green power options to upgrade your home energy system.  These are a subset of renewable energy sources and are considered zero emissions options, unlike conventional power sources.  Well-known options include solar, wind, and geothermal, but other options exist as well.  Solar energy in particular is becoming more affordable for the individual homeowner.  The average cost to install solar panels is $19,510.

If a large scale home energy system revamp is not in your budget, there are other steps you can take to be energy efficient at home.  The Energy Star program helps you find products and appliances that provide the best efficiency for your home, and many offer rebates and tax incentives for buyers.  It also offers tips to help consumers save money and improve their homes’ energy efficiency.

Community action and education

Taking on projects that reduce your carbon footprint at home are critical to improving the environmental outlook for the future.  However, don’t let your efforts stop there.  Taking action within your community and increasing demand is the best way to expand services in your area.  When more homes recycle, more options become available, and more types of items get recycled.  Even if you local program is limited to drop points, make sure you use them and encourage others to do the same.  These often cost the community money, and disappear if they go underutilized.

Likewise, teaching kids about environmental responsibility and stewardship at a young age will help instill in them the importance of recycling, and making energy efficient choices. Making it fun and educational is a great way to keep kids engaged.  If you don’t feel equipped to teach, volunteer or donate to support the cause.

The next time you head toward your waste bin or flip the lights on or off, ask yourself if there is anything you can do right now to make a difference.  Any efforts you make toward energy efficiency, recycling, or reduction of your carbon footprint are important, no matter how large or small.  Whether at home or in your community, you are not only setting an example for future generations, but helping ensure they have a clean and safe community to grow up in.

By Neil Stawski of Photo by Daniel Hjalmarsson on Unsplash

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