educe, reuse, recycle. Turn the lights off when you leave the room. Take shorter showers. Until recently, I thought I was doing my part for the planet by just doing the minimum. It’s fine to use disposable cups because they can just be recycled, right? Maybe not. It turns out that we all have dozens of opportunities each day to make sustainable and responsible choices to save our planet.
Set yourself up for a minimal waste day by prepping an eco-friendly “go bag” that you can easily grab as you head out the door.
A Mason jar can be a cup for cold drinks or a sustainable replacement for to-go boxes when eating out. A travel mug is good for hot drinks or soup. The majority of plastic isn’t recycled each year, so cut down on the amount of plastic that goes to landfills by bringing your own silverware. You can opt for bamboo or metal, and if you want to save a few dollars, buy a mismatched set secondhand. A handkerchief can be used as a napkin, tissue or even a pouch. Store all of this in a reusable tote bag and try not to use any plastic bags throughout the day.
When it comes to longer distances, buses and trains are the most sustainable option. If you must fly, consider offsetting your carbon emissions by using an online calculator to estimate your footprint and then donating the equivalent of that amount to projects that support clean energy.
For example, a roundtrip flight between Pittsburgh and New York City generates a suggested offset donation of just 98 cents, according to carbonfund.org.
Say goodbye to the days of brown bags and opt for a reusable bag instead. Instead of plastic, which takes a long time to degrade and ends up piled in landfills, choose glass containers to store your lunches. If you must use plastic sandwich bags, consider rinsing them out and reusing a few times before they get tossed.
If you’re getting food to go, bring your own carrying container and reusable tote. If you’re dining in, request that your drink come without a plastic straw, and wrap up any leftovers in your Mason jar.
Many local restaurants are becoming more green. You can find out how your favorite spot ranks at sustainablepghrestaurants.org.
Consider eating meat-free when you can for an even bigger environmental impact.
Composting reduces food waste and greenhouse gas emissions by mixing together organic matter that may have ended up in the trashand allowing it to naturally decompose into fertilizer.
You want more brown material than green for the quickest process. Remember to stir the compost every time you add to it, and add a cup of water every week or so.
Green material: vegetable scraps, grass trimmings, crushed eggshells, coffee grounds, etc.
Brown material: newspaper, dry leaves, wood chips, shredded cardboard, paper towel rolls, etc.
You can easily make a compost bin from an old 5- or 10- gallon storage tote. Drill holes 2 inches apart all over (even on the lid and bottom) and fill the bottom third of the tote with soil. Now you’re ready to start composting!
Or you can take a composting class with the Pennsylvania Resources Council (prc.org). A compost tumbler is included in the cost.
Americans send tens of thousands of tons of clothing to landfills each year. While discarded clothes decompose, they create methane.
When shopping for clothes, buy secondhand when possible, mend those clothes when they begin to show signs of wear and only replace them once they can no longer be repaired. If you do shop new, invest in high-quality items that can outlast fast fashion brands.
If a piece of clothing can no longer be mended, donate it to be recycled. H&M at The Mall at Robinson will accept any brand of clothing, with any amount of wear. Madewell at Ross Park Mall similarly accepts jeans to be recycled into housing insulation.
Save yourself some money each season by keeping a minimal closet with classic pieces. Some environmentalists even keep a “capsule wardrobe,” which eliminates fast-fashion impulse purchases and reduces the amounts of trend items that end up in landfills.
noun • a collection of a few timeless and essential items of clothing, which can be easily mixed and matched with each other
Conserve water by investing in a low-flow shower head, turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth and running the washing machine on the quick wash setting — the clothes get just as clean with much less water waste.
Always run your washing machine and dishwasher on the lowest heat setting to save energy. You can also save energy lowering the thermostat in the winter and raising it in the summer.
Save trash from landfills by cutting T-shirts into square handkerchiefs instead of using tissues and use cotton towels instead of paper when possible.
Reduce what you’re buying new. Reuse and repurpose what you need. As a last resort, recycle what has served its purpose. Happy Earth Day!