Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Few Small Ways to Save the Planet (and maybe a little money too)

Over the past year, I've tried to find ways to lessen my impact on the earth. Even though the earth's resources aren't going to be depleted in my lifetime, that doesn't mean I can ignore the fact that I'm contributing to that possibility for future generations. I just thought I'd share a few of the changes I've made, in case anyone else finds them useful! Feel free to share any of your tips with me, through comments. I'm always looking for more ways to make positive changes.

The biggest thing I've changed in my life is to try not to be so wasteful. When you go to the grocery store, do you notice how many plastic bags they use? More often than not, it seems like a bag won't even be filled up all the way before they start another one. Also, milk or other heavy items will be put into two bags, when it really doesn't even need to be bagged at all. Then you get home and unpack and you have a million plastic bags. It just seems so silly considering how many trips we make to the grocery store each month. I've started trying to bring my own tote bags with me when I go grocery shopping. That way I can use them over and over again and avoid plastic bags altogether. If I happen to go shopping and forget the totes, I make sure and save all the plastic bags I received so that I can bring them back in for recycling the next time around. It's wasteful to throw them away when there's a recycling receptacle at almost every store. Also, if I just run in the store for a few quick items, I carry them out without a bag.

Whenever I go to the mall, I usually visit a few stores. If I happen to buy something from three different stores, I get home and have three bags to throw away. Now I've started either bringing my own tote when I go shopping, or just using the bag I get from the first store for all subsequent purchases. I know it doesn't make that big of a difference, but it's a start.

Most work days I snack on cereal, or pretzels, or carrots, or other things like that. These items usually come in large packages, and I just need an individual portion each day. I buy plastic sandwich bags or quart-sized bags for bringing them to work. It didn't take that many days for me to realize I'd go through those bags like crazy if I brought two to work every day and threw them away after each snack. Now I've started bringing the bags back home with me and filling them up again for subsequent use. It makes a lot more sense to reuse them and it saves money too.

If you work in an office, (especially in an accounting position), then you know how much paper gets used/thrown away each day. If you work in an office that provides free sodas (like I do), then you also know how many cans are thrown away each day! Jer and I try to recycle as many things as possible at home, so I figured it shouldn't be any different at work. I have a box in my cubicle where I collect recyclable items. It's amazing how quickly it fills up! And to think, all those items would've previously been thrown away and would've probably ended up (unnecessarily) in a landfill. Imagine the difference we'd make if we all recycled more!

Besides sodas, I drink a ton of water. Previously I would use the styrofoam cups my employer provided, and get a new one each day. Man, that was wasteful! Recently I received a Nalgene bottle from my employer for my participation in our wellness program. It makes so much more sense to drink my water from a reusable bottle each day. It creates less waste, and would save my company money if we all did it.

In my position, I'm constantly jotting down notes or working through solutions on a small spiral steno pad. I'd fill up a page with ink, flip it over, and move on to the next page. Just recently it occurred to me that I'm going through these notebooks way too quickly. Do you know why? Because I'm only writing on the front of each page. I'm not sure why I apparently was purposely avoiding the back of each page, but there definitely wasn't a good reason for it. It was just another wasteful habit I had developed. Now I make sure I get the full use of each notebook before I go looking for another one.

Jer and I were at Lowe's today, and I needed to pick up a couple rollers to finish painting one of the guest bedrooms. I saw a two-pack and grabbed it and started to walk away. As I did, a display caught my eye and I stopped to read it. It was for a roller made from recycled materials. Huh. Interesting. I compared the prices and they were actually a little bit cheaper than the "value pack" I was holding. Well that was an easy decision! I'd definitely prefer to give my money to a company that uses recycled materials, especially at a reduced price!

Do you ever notice that you either don't get any napkins when you drive through a fast food place, or get a billion of them? There's no in-between! In situations like the latter, Jer and I would eat our dinner, use like two or three of the napkins, and throw the rest away without giving it a second thought. Lately I've been saving all those extra napkins and either putting them in my car (for random spills or runny noses!) or just keeping them at the house for everyday use. It really cuts down on the paper towels we go through.

I know each of these examples, in themselves, are very minute. They seem a little pointless when viewed on an individual basis. But, making little changes like these helps me be more aware of my impact on the planet. Some people may think I'm turning into a penny-pincher, but that's really not it at all. The potential money-saving effects weren't part of my motivation. I got fed up with how wasteful I felt I was becoming, and knew I needed to change that. Anything above and beyond reducing my carbon footprint is just bonus!


Jo Mama said...

Does your company not have aluminum recycling in your kitchens? I thought most companies were at least doing that by now...

Janet said...

We've got a can recycling bin in the main cafeteria, but most soda-drinking is done at people's desks, on other floors.