In Columbia, Missouri, municipal facilities filter “black water” through constructed wetlands of rich clay and waving cattails. In Dearborn, Michigan, the Ford River Rouge Center cleans stormwater and provides insulation using a 10.4-acre “living roof” garden. In Törökbálint, Hungary, the Karton Design Company sells sophisticated furniture made from cardboard.
All over the world, bright minds are developing new ways to make life a little easier on Mother Nature. Maybe it’s time to dedicate your New Year’s to a new earth? Here are some ways you can do your part – whether you are a slack-tivist or an eco-superhero.
Slack-tivist Solutions: Do you think Ramen Noodles deserve their own space in the USDA Food Pyramid? Do you purchase reversible socks? Then these go green life hacks are for you:
- Meatless Monday. Having your family give up meat and cheese just one day per week reduces the same amount of gas emissions as taking your car off the road for FIVE weeks. Just substitute mushrooms for meat. Both provide a savory flavor, but mushrooms boast a lower carbon footprint.
- Switch to Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). CFLs can save 80 percent on electricity costs, and they come in a variety of soothing hues.
- Choose Tap Water. Bottled water costs 100-300 times more than tap water. That’s like buying a gallon of gasoline for $932.55!
- Replace plastic shopping bags with reusable bags. Halfway between California and China is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a state-sized clump of marine debris filled mainly with plastics, killings millions of fish, birds, sea turtles and marine mammals every year. What more justification need be?
Conservation Promises: Doing without is most people’s concern when it comes to green living. After all, wasn’t the pre-Xbox world “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”? Fear not! These simple resolutions will benefit Mother Nature without making you feel like you’re going without.
- Ride a bike. Besides the smaller gas bill, you’ll soon be wearing your favorite yoga leggings with pride.
- Buy local and/or organic produce. Wait … real food? Who knew!
- Air-dry clothing. Add fabric softener during the wash cycle to prevent stiffness.
- Staycation! What’s the point of driving nearly 2,000 miles to Pikes Peak, Colorado when you could be enjoying one of the many great attractions, historic sites, parks or beaches right here in Hampton Roads?
Eco-Hero Revolutions: Conservation and substitution can only accomplish so much. As Henry David Thoreau said, “What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” If you’re the sort of person who already recycles, bikes to work, plants lots of (native) plants, and has at least one rain barrel, these resolutions are probably for you.
- Reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Install a tankless hot water heater, photovoltaic solar panels and attic blown-in insulation. If you are mechanically challenged, hire a local garage rat named “Al.”
- Compost. You can compost lawn clippings, banana peels, Christmas trees, and more. Just get some red worms, sawdust and a city permit, if necessary.
- Grow a gutter garden. Reuse old rain gutters to create a garden of tomatoes, lettuce and strawberries. Attach the gutters to any sunny exterior wall space and, four months later, bon appetit!