Sunday, July 28, 2013

"America's Dirty Habits: Bad for the Environment, Bad for U.S."

Of course there are many things that we have adopted into our culture that are bad for the environment but today's post outlines some big offenders. I am spreading awareness to try to break this mold of "standards" that have originated from other ecosystems (Lawns), to get people to consider alternatives to dry-cleaning and hot air drying, investing in reusable universal BPA-free plastic bottles, and even trying to raise awareness about communities that aren't recycling. Check 'em out!

-> Comment Forum: Let me know about any other Bad Habits for the environment that you might be educated about below.

1. GREEN LAWNS. Lawns are a big offender. First, there's the water waste in watering the millions of lawns across America, many of which are in ecosystems where green grass is not natural. There are also the billions of gallons of fossil fuels used to mow and maintain these lawns. Then there are the pesticides, herbicides and chemicals used by landscaping companies with big development or business contracts that are polluting the ground, and areas nearby and underneath these lawns. Read more about the hazards to the environment as a result of lawns here on Smithsonian's Blog.  I truly resent that the "classic green lawn" is the standard for subdivisions and businesses everywhere. They are not conducive to a green planet, even though they may look like it.

Where did lawns originate? In England, where rains are a daily occurrence. It's ridiculous to me that this fashionable landscape can be found in the deserts of America in subdivisions and of course at golf courses throughout many climates where irrigation, reclaimed water and vast amounts of chemicals are needed to maintain the greens.

What are alternatives to a green lawn? (1) Replacing your lawn with clover, which requires little water, no herbicides and gives you good luck! (2) Planting a wildflower garden or meadow. (3) Replacing your concrete or asphalt driveway with gravel. (4) Creating a vegetable garden paradise instead of a lawn. (5) Creating a pebble or rock "zen" garden. (6) Creating a "southern desert" rock garden.

2. ELECTRIC DRYERS. I live in the humidity of Tampa, Florida and I understand why hanging laundry outside is a bad idea: mold, bugs, pollen, spores, etc...However, there has to be an alternative to these electric dryers. Even the newer ones use a large amount of energy. However there are ways to be mindful of the energy being used. Read my friend Nicole's blog post about "Ten Eco Friendly Laundry Tips" here. For example:

  • Use a tennis ball, or a natural dryer ball (read Nicole's review of organic ones here.)
  • Use less of the heat, more of the air dry.
  • Consider hanging clothes inside instead on a clothes rack or a line.
3. DRYCLEANING. Don't dryclean your clothes. EVER. The chemicals are extremely harsh (and carcinogenic), and are put on your skin when you wear the clothes. You can read all about it on the EPA's website here.  Educate yourself! Besides, contrary to the name, dry cleaning is not a dry process, and also requires heat drying, which wastes power. Hand wash instead! Or consider trying to find an "Organic Drycleaner" which are becoming more and more popular. 

4. PLASTIC BOTTLES. I can't believe how many plastic bottles Americans go through each year. This isn't going away, folks. They are just increasing in number in vast quantities and so many of them aren't being recycled! It's sickening. Please buy reusable BPA-free bottles. TIP: While I know they can pile up and be expensive, if you buy many that are the same type it is easier to find lids for them. 

5. COMMUNITIES that AREN'T RECYCLING: That's on you, Florida! (And many other places.) While the counties around me recycle, none of the apartment/condo/townhouse subdivisions do. That's hundreds of pounds of trash that needn't be in the landfills. It makes me ill to think about it, and no one is advocating for change in this regard. I've been known to drive bags of plastic and paper to recycle centers, but these are few and far between, and it still uses gas to get there. Any ideas on how we can clean this dirty habit up? Comment below. 

So perhaps I missed the Bad Habit that you wanted to read about: Flying, home energy consumption, junk mail, newspapers, eating meat, plastic bags, driving and parking. I too considered these habits, and wanted to learn more about them. I found a great article by the Chicago Tribune which included these habits, which is highly worth reading if you want to educate yourself about even more bad habits. 

Really, to change a habit requires commitment for about thirty days. So challenge yourself this year, and if you forget for your New Year's Resolution to axe some or all of these habits from your list and you can join me in the quest to leave less of a carbon footprint on mother Earth. Thank you for considering making some of these changes: together we can change the world.

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