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Last month was Earth Month, and while we are always happy to spend time celebrating the planet, we can do even better. The need to reduce our impact on the environment and reestablish a regenerative relationship with the ecosystems around us doesn’t end after a single month. Instead, let’s start celebrating EARTH YEAR – 365 days committed to reducing our respective environmental footprints, and living in greater harmony with planet Earth.

To help you get started, we’ve come up with some essential tips and suggestions that are sure to give you new ideas on how to start “going green” throughout the year.

Start Volunteering
Start Volunteering
If you have the time to spare, there are hundreds of opportunities for you to volunteer for the environment throughout the year. Community gardens are a good place to start, and your volunteer efforts can help ensure that shared gardens in your town or city continue to flourish. To find a community garden near you, check out the American Community Garden Association’s website: communitygarden.org/find-a-garden

Check out other environmental nonprofits and organizations for even more volunteer opportunities. The Nature Conservancy, for example, has an extensive volunteer network, along with online tracking tools to help you find volunteer opportunities in your state. Events might range from river and beach waste clean-ups, to tree planting events and environmental education workshops. Learn more about The Nature Conservancy’s volunteer opportunities here: nature.org/about-us/volunteer/

Small Lifestyle Changes Add Up
Small Lifestyle Changes Add Up
Changing your lifestyle sounds intimidating, but it’s every step forward that counts. Combined, these incremental lifestyle changes can amount to a big reduction in your annual environmental footprint.
Getting started can be as easy as changing the way you consume certain products in your everyday life. Look twice at the disposables you regularly consume, and see if there’s a way to make them last longer before disposal. For instance, after washing your hands and drying them off with a paper towel, lay the damp towel on your countertop to dry and reuse again (assuming it is clean!). Better yet, use a cloth towel that you can use over and over again.

If you’re a frequent purchaser of bottled water, you’ll save both money and plastic bottle waste by switching to the tap and a reusable water filter. For some perspective, the Container Recycling Institute estimates that Americans throw away nearly 60 million plastic water bottles every day. If you keep the potential impact of your purchasing decisions in mind at every opportunity, you’ll already be one step closer to a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

Finally, being mindful of how you accomplish basic tasks around the house can significantly reduce your environmental footprint throughout the year. During hot summer months, resist the urge to blast the air conditioner, and instead keep the windows open for a fresh breeze. In winter, keep the heat at a reasonably low level and wear a sweater to compensate. To reduce your water footprint, only wash full loads of dishes and laundry, and never leave the sink running.

Recycle at Public Drop-Off Locations Near You
Recycle at Public Drop-Off Locations Near You
What materials does your curbside recycling program accept? Even today there are many waste streams not accepted by most municipal recycling programs (e.g. Styrofoam, CFL lightbulbs, paint cans), forcing us to either throw those potentially valuable materials into the trash, or find alternative recycling solutions.

Here’s where resources like Earth911 and Recycle Nation come in. There are hundreds of places with drop-off programs for difficult-to-recycle waste streams, and the aforementioned online search tools will help find the programs closest to you. Home Depot and other home improvement stores, for example, often accept paint cans and fluorescent lightbulbs for recycling. In the same vein, most supermarkets today have drop-off bins for those plastic grocery bags that have been accumulating in your closet.

At TerraCycle, we have a variety of public drop-off recycling programs for traditionally difficult-to-recycle waste streams. Participants interested in starting a public drop-off location in their community simply sign up for a program, set up a collection bin, and begin accepting waste from others in the community. As one example, participants in the MOM Brands Cereal Bag Drop-Off Locations program will accept any empty cereal bags and plastic cereal box liners brought to their collection location, which is featured on a map on the program page. Once enough waste has been collected, it is sent to TerraCycle for recycling.
Public drop-off locations for waste, and consumer-facing take back programs for difficult-to-recycle waste streams, give you a far wider selection of recycling solutions to choose from—so be sure to keep up to date on what programs and opportunities are in your area!

Sustainable (and Homemade!) Cleaners
Sustainable (and Homemade!) Cleaners
Household cleaners, like window or countertop cleaners, often contain synthetic chemicals that, if introduced into the environment, can harm nearby wildlife and vegetation. Instead, and for the most sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives, why not try making your own?

Starting with the basics, white vinegar and baking soda are two effective all-purpose cleaners with many applications. Plain white vinegar can be used as a strong cleaner for things like toilet bowl rings and deposits left in your bathtub or sink—just apply the vinegar and start scrubbing. Baking soda can work in much the same way: apply the powder right on a soap deposit or stain on a hard surface, and scrub until the stain is gone. Adding some water and letting the mixture sit for several minutes can help remove even tougher stains.

For an easy-to-make window and glass cleaner, dilute one cup of rubbing alcohol with one cup of water, and add about a tablespoon of white vinegar. For an all-purpose cleaning spray, get an empty spray bottle and fill with one cup of white vinegar diluted in one cup of water. The vinegar smell will completely dissipate, but you can add a drop or two of lemon essential oil for a fresher scent. Continue exploring other homemade cleaners, and soon enough you’ll never have to resort to store-bought ever again.

Track Your Environmental Impact
Track Your Environmental Impact
Using a variety of online tools, you can track just how eco-friendly you are throughout the year.
The Nature Conservancy’s Carbon Footprint Calculator, for example, will compare your household’s carbon footprint with the national average. After completing a short survey, the calculator will determine your “estimated impact” on the environment, giving you a greater sense of where improvements to your lifestyle could be made to reduce your overall carbon footprint.

Home Energy Saver is another tool—designed primarily for homeowners—to help you reduce your energy consumption and save some cash on your monthly energy bills. After completing a detailed survey about your living situation, the calculator will present you with a list of suggested upgrades that could make your energy use more efficient while reducing your carbon emissions.

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Now that you have some tools, tips and resources at your disposal, tell us how you plan on “going green” throughout the year! What strategies do you implement in your daily life to reduce your environmental impact, and give something back to the planet that sustains us?


www.Dishmag.com / Issue 180 - September 7029
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