As we exercise our individual and collective responsibility to reduce viral transmissions to preserve human health, we can still exercise our responsibility to act for environmental health. We can use this solitary time to reassess our current habits and develop new ones that are better for the planet.
Here are ways to take action for the planet while social distancing — we hope they’ll stick, even after our global health crisis subsides.
Go plant-based and compost:
When you’re stuck in your house, time is your friend. Now is the time to get creative and break those food ruts! Maybe you made a resolution to eat more plants this year, or maybe you just want to boost your immune system with an abundance of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. Either way, now is the time to get creative with your cooking.
Try some new plant-based recipes — Non-perishable foods, like canned or dry beans and rice, are easy to prepare and nutritious. It’s always important to save leftovers and reduce food waste, and this is an especially good time to be making the most of what you have. If you have any produce that has gone bad and you can’t use, try composting. You can compost in a tupperware and store it in your freezer, under the sink, on a balcony, wherever!
Reading over streaming:
Reading is good for the mind, the soul and it turns out, the planet: A pastime like reading easily replaces streaming, which is notoriously carbon-intensive. So, dust off that massive book you’ve been meaning to read, and get to work. Also, if you’re craving sports amid a “sports-less” pandemic, why not crack open a biography about your favorite athlete or sports moment? Since libraries are closed, opt for an e-book through your library’s digital platform.
When life gives you lemons… make disinfectants:
When trying to fight a very contagious virus, cleaning products and disinfectants are our best friends. Whether it might be because your store is out of stock, or because you enjoy natural solutions, you can skip the harsh chemical sprays in favor of safer alternatives. Plus, they’re probably already in your pantry.
If you’re making homemade disinfectant solutions, sprays and wipes using hydrogen peroxide and alcohol, just make sure your mix is 70% alcohol, and leave it to dry on its own. White vinegar and vodka are power cleaners, easily cutting through grease and removing mildew, odors, stains and wax buildup. For surfaces that need to be cleaned — but not sterile — lemons can also be used to clean non-porous surfaces. For extra points, reuse existing spray bottles in your home instead of buying new ones!
Switch to green power:
Did you know you may have a green power option available? Not everyone can put up solar panels or connect to a windmill, but more and more electric utilities are offering green power options, where you can sign up to get some, most or all of your electricity from renewable energy sources. While some utilities may charge a small premium, you likely will find savings in your bill over time. Contact your local electric utility today — it will be worth it.
Take stock, and make stock:
Being stuck at home allows us to take stock of what we already have, and what we don’t need more of. You might be surprised to find that those jeans you had crammed in the back of your closet are back in style. Knowing what you already have can prevent you from making impulse or unnecessary purchases in the future, thus reducing your consumer footprint in the long-run.
Also, everyone’s always telling you to “use your vegetable scraps to make stock” — now you finally have the time to do it! Throw all your veggie scraps into a pot, add some dried-up and forgotten herbs you found at the back of your fridge (just me?), add water and let them simmer away for a few hours. Strain and use this stock to make some soul-comforting dishes like ramen, risotto or just plain soup.
Start a garden exchange:
Start a neighborhood garden or seed exchange, as well as a repurposed wood (for building raised garden beds) and dirt swaps, with your neighbors — now we’re growing our spring gardens together, but separately. To ensure safe social distancing, exchange seeds, wood and dirt by leaving them in front of homes, or set up times to exchange them in a safe manner.
Keep your body moving:
Social distancing doesn’t mean we have to stay indoors all day. Take 20 minutes to get outdoors and take a walk around the block, explore new trails or go for a bike ride. Many of these spaces allow you to connect with others from a safe distance. Spending time in nature, especially among trees, significantly reduces stress and anxiety, improves mood, energy, sleep and boosts the immune system.
Compliments of The Green Committee at St. Anne’s
As the brilliant colors of early fall fade in the northern U.S. states, many of us are preparing for the long winter ahead. In between dusting off our snow boots and digging out our favorite cozy sweaters, we can take some time to think about living sustainably in the cooler season.
With shorter daylight hours and lower temperatures, you may find yourself turning on more lights at home or taking long, hot baths. Of course, we all know that the same rules apply year-round when it comes to turning off lights and taking shorter showers to conserve water.
Here are a few other friendly green living reminders for fall:
Preserve Your Garden Goodies
Before the first frost hits your vegetable garden, preserve as much of your harvest as possible. In case you haven’t heard, canning is cool again, and for good reason. Canning provides you with fruits and vegetables during the months when they can’t be grown in your region, reducing your reliance on produce shipped in from distant warm-weather climates (which adds to your carbon footprint).
Check Your Tires
Cooler temperatures can lower tire pressure and under-inflated tires reduce your car’s fuel efficiency. It takes just a few minutes to inflate your tires to the proper pressure and it’s well worth the grimy fingers. And while you’re at it, check your car service records; is it time to rotate your tires yet? By regularly rotating your tires, you make sure your tires wear evenly. Regular rotation can extend your tire life and improve your gas mileage.
Clean and Test Your Furnace
Did you know that your furnace needs a regular cleaning? Throughout the year, it collects lots of dust and debris, both of which can affect the furnace’s performance and could even cause a fire. Clean out or replace your furnace filter regularly and get your furnace serviced by a professional before the cold weather calls.
Bring In the Houseplants
If your houseplants spent the summer outside, don’t forget to bring them in before it gets too cold. If you don’t have any houseplants, maybe now is a good time to consider getting one or two. Not only do plants brighten up the interior of your home, they will also help clean the air. Since most of us in cooler climates open the windows less frequently in the winter, houseplants can do a lot to improve your indoor air quality.
Do Some Yard Work
If you have a yard, spend some time getting it ready for the winter. Scoop up any fallen leaves and use them in the garden to protect plants throughout the winter — or add them to your compost pile. Fall is the time to plant spring bulbs and some perennials. And you can also plant many types of trees and shrubs in the fall, which will give them enough time to develop a deep root system over the winter months and reduce their water needs come spring.
We all love the coziness that candles provide during the cooler months, but did you know that most candles on the market are made from paraffin wax, a product of petroleum refining? A more environmentally friendly choice is candles made from beeswax — even better if you can find them at a local market or craft fair to avoid the carbon costs of shipping. Be sure to do your research before you stock up on products that make you feel cozy during the fall and winter.
Courtesy of The Green Committee at St. Anne’s Retirement Community
Although Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring on Groundhog Day, recent snowfalls seem to indicate that warm weather is still quite far away. With that in mind, our Green Committee has complied a few tips that can help you be more eco-conscious through the end of winter.
Opting for firewood rather than turning on the thermostat in the winter months can save energy for many homeowners. But fireplaces and wood-burning stoves can emit large amounts of soot and carbon pollution into the air. Older model fireplaces and stoves can also harm the air quality in your home. Upgrading to a newer pellet or wood-burning stove is provides greater efficiency than traditional open-air models. Using clean-burning stoves such as a biomass- and bio-fuel burning stove is more efficient alternatives to wood burning. Clean-burning stoves give off fewer toxic emissions and use cleaner fuel, such as ethanol or bigas. Biofuels used for home heating come in the form of logs, wood chips, wood pellets or other recycled materials. Contemporary stoves typically burn cleaner and can reduce home heating costs.
Plug Drafty Leaks
Walk around your home to check for leaky windows and doors. You may be surprised to learn that cold air is coming in. The potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home may range from 5% to 30% per year, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Thankfully, in most instances, solutions are relatively easy and affordable. Homeowners can conserve heat and energy by weather-stripping and caulking leaks. I did this and realized that I needed stripping for my patio doors and had to ensure my screen door was properly secured to avoid a draft. Window treatments or curtains may improve your home’s energy efficiency by trapping heat in, but the U.S. Department of Energy also encourages homeowners to open curtains on south-facing windows during the day. Natural sunlight is a great way to heat your home for free.
Choose a Safe De-Icer
Another way to make winter a little greener is to avoid using toxic chemical de-icing salts and sand. Homeowners typically use salt and sand on icy sidewalks and roads to make them safer, but they aren’t the best for the environment. Before choosing a chemical de-icer, consider its impact on plant life, concrete, vehicles and animals. And although sand isn’t corrosive, it can clog storm drains and cause flooding in the spring. Even rock salt can cause environmental contamination and damage pavement. Greener alternatives include Magic Salt, which is rock salt treated with magnesium chloride and a sugar byproduct. It has earned the EPA Design for the Environment label, which recognizes that the product is considered to be safe for the environment. Magic Salt is 70 percent less corrosive than rock salt and works to 35 degrees below zero. Ice-Clear, another green option, is a liquid you spray on the pavement and is best used before snowfall. It is made of a corn extract so the sugar reacts with the pavement to form a bond that prevents ice from sticking. Ice-Clear is 100 percent organic and noncorrosive. Also, Ice Melt by Earth Friendly Products is both animal- and eco-friendly salt.
Buy Seasonal Produce
When you buy vegetables and fruit out of season, not only are they being shipped longer distances, burning more fuel than usual to get to your grocer, but they also ripen during transport instead of being picked ripe. Season-appropriate produce requires less energy for transport, is less expensive and often tastes better. According to healthyeating.org, eating fresh fruits and vegetables provides the body with more nutrients, easier digestion and a boost to the immune system. Examples of produce in season from October through the winter months includes apples, pears, beets, pumpkins, cranberries, blackberries, cabbage, celery, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflowers, potatoes, beans, winter squash, sprouts, leeks and spinach. I’m sure you can find something you love in this list!
Buy Eco-Friendly Clothes
Have you considered buying organic clothing? Organic clothing may be good for the environment. Chemicals used in the process of making clothes can damage the environment through run-off water after heavy rains, which poisons lakes and rivers. According to the Organic Consumers Association, cotton growers around the world often use liberal amounts of insecticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers to grow the cotton. Seven of the top 15 pesticides used on U.S. cotton crops are potential or known carcinogens. Organic cotton apparel may also help reduce allergies and respiratory problems. So when you load up on warmer cotton clothes this season, consider choosing organic cotton. In the winter, wool, hemp or fleece are greener fabrics that will still keep you warm. Wool is a natural product, unlike many synthetic materials that won’t biodegrade. It is durable, which creates less waste since it will last longer.
Carpool If Possible
It’s no secret that winter is harsh on both humans and vehicles. If you know people who are taking the same route every day, consider carpooling to save on gas expenses and wear-and-tear on your car. Consider starting a driving rotation with three or four people to lighten your load. Even carpooling once or twice a week can save money and help the environment. If one person is driving, split the cost of gas between the other passengers. Not only are you and the others minimizing your carbon footprint, but you may feel safer and get a sense of security from having partners to ride with in the event of a weather-related problem. Driving in the winter can be stressful at times. On days when you don’t need to drive, you can relax, read or just take it easy during the commute for a change.
Information sourced from https://www.quickenloans.com/blog/six-must-read-green-tips-to-use-in-winter
Whether you’re hosting Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas Day brunch or a holiday open house, our tips can help you make help make the season bright…and a little greener too!
- Simplify the day. Celebrate being with those you love. Don’t overdo the cooking – and savor whatever you make. Linger over dessert, play games, watch football or a favorite movie, take a walk. Revive special traditions from the past and create new ones you can turn to next Christmas and other holidays in the future.
- Use the good dishes and cloth napkins. Disposable dishes and plastic utensils create a ton of waste. If reusable won’t work, choose disposable plates, cups, napkins and utensils made from 100 percent post-consumer waste recycled paper, sugarcane and corn—they are compostable, too.
- Decorate with boughs and berries. Head out to your yard with a pair of shears and find tree branches, bush stems loaded with berries, flowers whose seed heads have dried on the stem, and flowering grasses to fill tall vases or holiday baskets.
- Let there be light. Illuminate your table with candles of varying heights and widths.
- Serve locally grown food. Even in colder, northern climates, farmers markets are still selling locally grown greens, potatoes, apples, pears, spices, breads, and cheeses.
- Offer organic beverages. From apple cider to wine and beer, you have plenty of organic drinks to offer your family and friends.
- Eat all the food you make. Send guests home with leftovers in glass jars rather than wrapped in plastic or aluminum foil. Freeze leftovers in easily re-heatable portions.
- Use reuseables. Serve your meal on cloth tablecloths and napkins, accompanied by “real” silverware and plates. Worried about cleaning up after a large crowd? Let everyone pitch in – that’s half the fun!
- Simmer cinnamon. Roasting vegetables and baking pies should infuse your home with delicious holiday aromas. For even more fragrant smells, simmer a few sticks of cinnamon and a few cloves of allspice on the stove. Dab a few drops of pine oil or other favorite fragrance on stones or pinecones that are part of your centerpiece.
- Prepare less food. Everybody feels compelled to make a huge meal and prepare numerous courses. This year, if you’re serving turkey, choose a smaller bird and skip some of the less-popular dishes to reduce food waste.
- Turn down the heat. If all your holiday cooking doesn’t heat up your house, your guests will. Turn your thermostat down 3-5 degrees – no one will notice the difference.
- Recycle and compost. Keep a bin handy for glass, plastic and paper trash you can recycle rather than toss. Make soup from vegetable peelings, leftover meat and bones. Picked-over vegetables can be composted, though remaining meat and bones will need to be thrown away.
Compiled by the Green Committee at St. Anne’s
St. Anne’s Retirement Community’s Mission Committee and Green Team Committee
would like to thank you for all that you do through recycling
and conserving resources at St. Anne’s and at home
for our Mission of Healing Earth, Healing Lives.
America Recycles Day, a Keep America Beautiful national initiative, is the only nationally-recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States. Each year, on and in the weeks leading into Nov.15, thousands of communities across the country participate by promoting environmental citizenship and taking action to increase and improve recycling in America.
This America Recycles Day, November 15, EPA recognizes our nation’s progress on recycling, which has contributed to American prosperity. The recycling rate has more than tripled over the last 30 years to the current rate of 35 percent, and this steady growth has created jobs and wages for Americans, and has supported community development. For example, according to our most recent data, recycling and reuse activities in the United States created 757,000 jobs and produced $36 billion in wages in a single year.
There is opportunity for even greater contribution, as the most recent data shows that materials worth $9 billion are thrown away each year. As we celebrate the 21st anniversary of America Recycles Day, the EPA encourages every American to recycle more and trash less to minimize environmental effects, create jobs and strengthen the economy.
Green tips for the office:
- Instead of printing hard copies of your documents, save them to your hard drive or email them to yourself to save paper.
- Make your printer environmentally friendly. Change your printer settings to make double-sided pages. Use small point fonts when possible and use the “fast draft” setting when possible to save ink.
- Pay your bills via e-billing programs when possible to save paper.
- Use paperclips (over staples) when possible.
- Reuse envelopes with metal clasps and reuse file folders by sticking a new label over the previous one.