It is the middle of July and we are doing a check in on the New Year’s sustainable resolutions that were made about six months ago. With summer in full swing, you may have had a slowdown in your “Resolve” commitments. No worries – here are some ideas to help get you back on track! Last week we provided sustainable tips to inspire a renewed determination with three of the “Resolve” activities: choosing renewables, going meatless, and driving less . Today we will visit the last two: cutting down on paper waste and going brown. If you are just tuning in, you can still use these tips to shed pounds of CO2 – especially if you participate in our Summer Carbon Slimdown!
The Summer Carbon Slimdown is designed to help you stay on track by giving you sustainable tips and tricks to works towards a sustainable goal you decide to commit to. Participants will receive a certificate at the end of summer (after 22 of September).
Cut down on paper waste.
Paper is a never ending chore to sort through. Just when you have gone through those last few items – a new pile emerges to taunt you. The average a person uses about 160kg of paper per year. That creates between 130 – 250kg of CO2 and it is roughly equivalent to the carbon emissions produced by a car driven 500 miles. The good news is that there are several painless ways to keep paper consumption in check and those piles smaller.
Stop unsolicited mail: The average American household receives 1.5 trees in the form of unsolicited mail every year. The “Stop Junk Mail” website has a free kit, consisting of prewritten letters to primary sellers of compiled name lists to direct mailers. It is designed to walk you through the steps of stopping unsolicited mail, e-mail and phone calls. You can download the kit and, by combining it with the website’s plan, you will reduce unwanted junk mail by 90% or more.
Sign-up for online bills: Receive paperless or electronic bill statements and pay for them online with your credit card or through your bank account under the pay bill section. This can keep dozens of envelopes out of your mailbox each month.
Use thinner paper if you need to print: Thinner paper costs less, uses less material and has a smaller carbon footprint. Most printers work well with 70gsm and 80gsm. You can find the reference to the thickness of paper on its package, mostly ranging from 60gsm or g/m2 (grams per square meter) to 100gsm. Sometimes, you will find a paper weight in pounds instead of a paper thickness in gsm. In general, printer papers and personal stationery range in weight from 20 lb. to 32 lb. The rule of thumb is that the heavier paper is, the thicker the sheet.
Take our Summer Carbon Slimdown Challenge to go zero waste for 1 month: The easiest things to do are to
- Reuse or recycle the paper you use, don’t shred it – shredded paper is not recyclable.
- Think if it is recyclable before you buy a product. For example, juice boxes, milk cartons and paper coffee cups are rarely recyclable – they contain a plastic film that is hard to separate.
- Avoid from the start products that will end up in the landfill. Some things are destined for the landfill even if they have a recycle sign. Bright-colored paper or soiled pizza boxes are just some examples.
Use less water
Did you know water can have an effect on your carbon footprint, and using less is better for the environment even if you don’t live in a drought-prone area? Moving, treating and heating water all use electricity, so if you use less water you will use less electricity. Simply turning off the tap when you don’t need it running, like when we brush our teeth will also help.
Look for WaterSense: When shopping for new faucets, toilets or other water-using devices, be sure to visit the EPA WaterSense website or look for the WaterSense label on the products you choose. The good news is that most sustainable products made for conservation today are also high quality, and gone are the days of sacrificing performance for sustainability.
Reuse warm-up water: While you’re waiting for the hot water to reach the tap, place a bucket under the faucet to capture “warm-up water”. This water is as clean as any that comes out of the tap. It can be used for drinking, washing veggies or watering the garden. Insulate hot water pipes and you’ll use less water waiting for the tap to warm up.
Take our Summer Carbon Slimdown Challenge: wash all your laundry in cold water and line dry at least half of it all summer. This will reduce your electricity use and, accordingly, your carbon footprint. Before you hang your laundry outside, check your local by-laws as some communities still prohibit it. Laws vary, but the following states have enacted laws to permit outdoor drying: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Don’t limit your water conservation to inside your house! Resolve to save water in your garden as well.
Alternative lawns: There are many alternatives to lawns which will have you wondering why you have spent so much time mowing. “Going brown” outside doesn’t have to be dreary, there are plenty of beautiful and water wise plants and gardens to keep your landscape looking lush Take a look at our Pintrest page for some inspiring examples.
Rainwater: Although most of the West Coast has not seen much rain, you can still make use of it, when you have it. WikiHow has a simple DIY project for a sustainable rainwater capture system. For more advanced DIYers out there, click here for large DIY construction projects and legalities to capture and reuse water.
Going Brown by using Grey: With drought hitting the US Southwest, one of the key ways to help the environment is a grey water system. Grey water is water that has been “lightly used”. It comes from your bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines, but it is not water that has come into contact with feces, either from the toilet or from washing diapers. Grey water can be reused, but is not drinkable! Click here for resources on professional systems to capture grey water and here is a DIY system to capture water from laundry. Please be sure to consult the authorities in your area to make sure you are legally allowed to modify your plumbing.
Over the past two weeks we have shared some ways to keep you on track for your low carbon year. Have you found anything that we have missed? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below or on our Facebook page.