Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day! 4-22-13

Happy Earth Day hostelers!  Since environmental awareness is the reason for the season, it’s fitting that we explore some easy ways that you can decrease your carbon footprint while increasing the quality of life for your grandchildren.  Of course, driving a hybrid car and installing solar panels on your roof are highly effective, but they are also pretty pricey.  Here are some simpler alternatives that are affordable and easily incorporated into daily life.

1. Avoid disposable bottled water.  The bottles are all assembled at one location, and shipped all over the world, which means huge amounts of carbon emissions are released by the vehicles that transport them.  Many people use the bottles once, and then throw them away when they should recycle them, so they also cause huge amounts of waste.  A good alternative to this is to use a reusable water bottle (like the ones available at the hostel’s front desk) or a canteen to store your daily H2O.

2. Buy organic or locally produced food.  Organic farmers tend to use fewer pesticides and other harmful techniques when growing food than commercial farmers do, and locally grown produce reduces carbon emissions because it only has to travel around the corner to arrive at your doorstep.  Many restaurants even offer a locally grown/organic option these days, so you won’t have to worry about where the hamburger on your plate used to graze anymore!

3. Take direct flights.  This one is especially important for all you travelers out there.  It can sometimes be tempting to choose a connection because the flight will cost a little bit less, or because you think you’ll be able to spend the five hour layover exploring San Francisco, but taking just one flight reduces your environmental impact dramatically.  You can also avoid feeling like this woman when your first flight is late, and you miss your connection altogether. 

4. Use eco-friendly modes of transport.  While it’s true that driving a car is very convenient and efficient, there are a lot of other options that can get you where you need to go.  Walking or riding a bike are the two most eco-friendly choices, but taking buses or trains also reduces carbon emissions because they transport so many people at one time.  It is also pretty nice to be able to sit back and relax while the train glides you speedily along the track instead of experiencing the road rage of a Chicago-style traffic jam.

5. Just hang out!  Nowadays, it’s hard to resist the incredible options we have to entertain ourselves.  We can go out to eat for a fancy dinner, or indulge in a shopping spree without even thinking about it.  But you could cut the negative effects that those activities have on the environment by simply spending time with the ones you love.  Have a game night, have good conversation, or even have a nice home-cooked dinner!  When you cook for multiple people at one time, the cost of food per person is greatly reduced.

6. Always unplug.  Even when you aren’t using your electronics, if they are plugged in to the outlet, they are still consuming energy.  Always remember to unplug your phone charger, laptop, television and stereo when you are not using them.  To make it easier, you can plug them all into the same power strip and simply turn that off before you leave.  Also, always remember to turn off the lights when leaving a room.  Don’t waste electricity on a bunch of furniture that really could care less about being in the dark.

7. Understand the beauty of cold water.  The amount of energy it takes to heat water is astronomical.  Of course, the modern conveniences that most of us have enjoyed up until this point would make it almost intolerable to take cold showers (especially in the winter), but there are many other opportunities to reduce energy consumption by choosing cold water.  When washing your clothes, cold water is not only more eco-friendly, but it also works better for removing protein stains, like sweat, and causes much less shrinkage and wrinkles than hot water cycles do.  You can also use cold water when washing your hands or washing your face.  It’s actually quite refreshing.

8. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!  This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Buying less, and fixing or reusing items that you already have, is very effective in decreasing your carbon footprint.  Recycling is also one of the easiest and most helpful ways that you can eliminate waste.  Paper, plastic and glass are always recyclable, but did you know that you can also recycle things like wooden furniture and even batteries?  It may take a little more effort because you will need to contact a local recycling agency to arrange a pickup or drop-off, but the reward of having a cleaner Earth is definitely worth it.

If you want to find out what your current carbon footprint is, visit and take the quiz.  It only takes a few minutes, and the results can be very enlightening.  Today is a beautiful day!  Go outside and enjoy the sweet gifts our planet has given us, and maybe think about incorporating some of these techniques into your life so you can give something back.

By: Intern Sarah Consoer

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