Designing the future using recycled materials. #loopclosed

Earth Day Resolutions You Can Commit To

April 21, 2017

Celebrate Earth Day 

 

Resolution? - Yes, the same word that makes you cringe around New Years every year when you're bombarded with discount gym memberships, Groupons for far-off travel adventures saying this year is the year, coupons for the next widget that'll help you stop smoking or drink less or become more organized or dig your way out of debt. This word quickly takes on a meaning not of resolve & encouragement, but more along the lines of unattainability, disconnect, or just pure b.s.

So let's face it: it's late April, and you've most likely already forgotten about that generic New Years resolution you clutched firmly for a few weeks, revisited a bit in February, then let vanish like a fart in a wind tunnel.

Yet have no fear, Earth Day is here! Plus, it's 2017: sustainability is for everyone. You can order up a little take-out sustainability, dabble a few days AirBNB-style with it, maybe even intern on a sustainable initiative. The realization of the big impact even small lifestyle changes make will eventually take you straight to the altar of sustainability (a Vegas drive-thru style wedding here is acceptable).

 

Now, before I dive into the good stuff, these resolutions will only work if you first reboot & recognize some key points:

      • Acting sustainably (a.k.a. responsibly, or giving a crap), takes a lot of self-discipline at first - but it quickly makes you a better person. My friend Ted in college gave me some straightforward advice once when it comes to dating; he said, "Find the one who makes you a better man." That's it. That's all you need to do, and if you maintain that wherewithal, well, it works. This advice applies beyond soulmate-searching to finding great friends in general. It also applies to sustainability; that is, living sustainably in and of itself is you making the world a better place for others (even when no one is looking). Essentially per Ted's point, you're becoming hot-to-trot. You're leading by example. You're making informed decisions free of buyer's remorse. Your conscious perspective attracts broader understanding and your passion is sexy, and passion is inherent to sustainability. Before you realize it, your relationship with sustainability has made you a better person, and in turn, that better person others pursue.
      • Sustainability is beyond politics. If you think about it, the political realm generally addresses topics with higher degrees of controversy - such as abortion, gun rights, medical marijuana, or I don't know - cloning. But sustainability is about preserving what we humans need to survive: air, water & food. Last I checked, these basic human needs are not controversial topics, and thus beyond politics. If an initiative acts to preserve air quality, or safeguard drinkable water, or maintain a reliable food supply, then we should do it - no debate needed. How best to do it deserves thought, but the goal remains the same.
      • Committing to sustainable changes is exciting! - if not totally addicting. Doing good (supporting social & environmental causes) is no longer a peripheral activity but one central to to the way we live. Unprecedented developments in sustainability are occurring with greater frequency. With all of the different ways you can live your life more sustainably, the incremental value you create in doing so provides vitality to your life. The independence you'll feel relying less on other entities to provide for your needs builds self-worth that swells into excitement towards the next change, and the next, and so on and so forth.

       

      So without further ado, here are some green resolutions you can commit to (sans treadmill).

       

      Resolution #1:  Think Before You Buy.

      I don't list this resolution first because you're reading this on a website dedicated to selling exclusively products made from recycled materials. For the most part, you buy something everyday. You might pay your electric bill once a month, but it's a total of your daily energy purchased. You buy food, you buy transportation, you buy toiletries - you even buys things indirectly (what'd your tax dollars buy today?).

      Today's retail offerings serve up a harmful mix of cheap imports, fast fashion and overabundance (the U.S. leads the world by far in retail space per capita at nearly 23 square feet per person1). With convenient, cheap options all around, your greatest impact starts when simply slow down and consider the impact each purchase will have on our environment. Where did it come from? What is it made from? Who is the company behind it? How do I recycle it? - and etc. Ask yourself these types of questions about everything you buy, and you will soon be voting with your wallet.

       

      Resolution #2:  Learn The Basics.

      Look around you right now at all of the things in sight that you have no idea how to recycle. If it is still usable, you should always look to first donate it or give it to someone in your community who can use it. There is actually a term for this: freecycling, which is to give away used goods or materials to people who want them, or to obtain such items for free.1 There are apps for freecycling, such as Listia, RecycalizeTrashNothingCraigslist ProOlio (food sharing) and others.

      If the item is beyond use, the material itself still holds value and can be recycled. Familiarize yourself with your community's guidelines on recycling, then educate your friends & family too. Earth911 maintains one of North America's most extensive databases of recycling centers for various materials. If you find that your community does not recycle a certain material, speak up! Contact your city representatives and start the conversation.

      Just remember: both environmental and economic reasons exist to recycle. Recycling creates local jobs, preserves natural resources, stops landfill waste buildup (which affects the waste disposal fees you pay), saves energy, boosts local economies, prevents pollution - many great things!

       

      Resolution #3:  Save Green by Going Green.

      I'll start with a few questions here. For example, what's your return on investment (ROI) on your monthly power bill to the electric company? - Answer: $0. Do you know how much it costs to have a solar consultant come to your home to assess your property for installing solar and estimate your energy cost savings & investment payback period? - Same Answer: $0. The point here is that with minimal research, you can find many ways to save green by going green. I find many times that residents are simply unaware of the local or Federal programs available to them that provide significant financial incentives to change.

      Even the smallest changes will accrue noticeable savings over time. Here are 6 changes I made last year to lower my footprint while saving money:

      1. Switched to an all-electric lawn mower. By trading in my gas-powered mower, I bought my new mower for just $100 through my state's CARROT Program (Clean Air Retrofit, Replacement, and Off-Road Technology). I now never make trips to buy gas or oil, and I love that I don't reek of gas after mowing.
      2. Purchased a rain barrel. This is a barrel that connects to the water sprout on your home to collect rain water. I bought mine 50%-off through our local RainHarvest Program, and you can buy one too for ~$50-$80 at local home improvement stores. You'll cut your water use and water bill as well.
      3. Downsized my waste hauling service. Some cities allow multiple waste haulers to service residents, so it is always worth it to comparison-shop your bill. Here in Salt Lake City, the City provides the only service, but they offer 3 different can sizes. Downgrading from the largest to the smallest saved me $84/year.
      4. Installed energy efficient light bulbs. Yes, these are a bit more pricey, but the energy savings and longer lifespan make them more than worth it. I actually found a case of new bulbs for 80%-off that were donated to my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
      5. Switched to a hybrid to park for FREE & use the carpool lane by myself. My city offers free metered parking for green vehicles that achieve an EPA city fuel economy rating of 41+ miles/gallon. Since our new Prius qualifies, all I had to do was go pickup a free sticker and slap it on the back window. My state also allows vehicles in this program to use the carpool express lane by single occupant vehicles.
      6. Built garden boxes. Using free scrap lumber from a construction site junk pile and purchasing some soil & seeds, I grew enough vegetables to feed a small village and saved money otherwise spent at the grocery store.

       

      Resolution #4:  Support a Local Environmental Effort.

      Even the smallest monetary donations are great - and many purchases you make have an alternative option that benefits an environmental non-profit. For example, instead of buying just any coffee table, you purchase one from a furniture company that donates a % of profits to preserve forests. Or, if you need a belt, buy one made from fire hoses that donates 10% back to local fire departments. If you need to buy something on Amazon, purchase through smile.amazon.com so that the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to the charitable organization of your choice.

      Kids activity or date idea? - Find a local community clean-up, or CHaRM event (Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials), or tree planting event, etc. This year I am looking forward to volunteering for the SLCgreen FruitShare Program, which connects volunteers with homeowners needing assistance harvesting their trees. Each year, tens of thousands of pounds of fruit fall to the ground and rot: by harvesting these trees, the food is not wasted. In fact, it is split three ways between homeowners, volunteers and local food assistance programs. How cool is that!

      If anything, locate some local environmental non-profits on Facebook or other social media outlets and support their pages.

       

      Resolution #5:  Venture Proudly Into Sustainability.

      Let's be honest: I once thought "greenies" were weirdos who I could not relate to, or basically decided not to just to maintain my assumed hardass image. I didn't care about my impact whatsoever. I was sustainable perhaps only in that I did not litter, that's about it. So versus then, my words here are spoken from the other side. The better side. It's awesome living sustainably and I can't imaging living any other way at this point. Just to take a minute to consider your impact and be proud to leave the world a better place: it is a very rewarding feeling.

      Remember: you're not going to know how to do everything perfectly "green" at first, so don't worry about asking others your silly questions (I've asked more than my fair share). Your dignity will remain intact, trust me. When you start to try something new, you are leaving your comfort zone, and that my friend is a good thing.

       

      Be Green,

       

      About the Author:  Jason Utgaard is an ecopreneur focused on designing tomorrow's world using recycled materials by connecting little-known brands with everyday folks to help them see beyond trash and to stop thinking of ourselves as "consumers" but rather as "temporary users." He enjoys spending time outdoors in the mountains or on the lake, and of course, chatting about sustainability and green tech.



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