Getting Started Going Green in Gwinnett

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You’ve decided you want to live a more eco-friendly life? Great! Are you feeling a little overwhelmed? Maybe you see all of the things you can change to be more green, and you don’t know where to start. Or maybe you’re on a tight budget and you simply don’t have the money to completely revamp your life. That’s okay! There are some simple, inexpensive things you can do to live a little more green. The first step is to decide why you want to go green. What is your main concern? For many people, they are worried about carbon dioxide and climate change, and they want to reduce their carbon footprint. Others are concerned about waste filling up landfills and want to start recycling. Still others are worried about chemicals in their home environment and want to start using green cleaning products or buying organic food. You might be concerned about all of these issues and more, but there is probably one thing in particular that has really convinced you it’s time to go green. Start with that one and you’ll be able to stick with your lifestyle changes easily, because they will be important to you.  Let’s look at some of these green goals and see how to get started.
So you want to reduce your carbon footprint
With carbon, climate change, greenhouse gas, and “carbon neutral” being such popular buzzwords these days, you can’t help but think about how your lifestyle is affecting the planet. A great place to start is with a Carbon Footprint Calculator. This will estimate how much carbon you personally put into the air each year. There are tons of calculators on the Internet, I like the one at http://www.climatecrisis.net/takeaction/carboncalculator/.
Now, that you know your carbon footprint, how do you make it smaller?
  • Adjust your thermostat. Is your AC set so low that your family wears sweaters around the house in August? Using less energy to heat and cool your home can definitely change your carbon output, AND save you some money. You can also open blinds in the winter to let the sun heat your home naturally, and close them in the summer to help keep it cool. When it’s nice outside, open windows and screen doors can let in fresh air and nice temperatures. A programmable thermostat is an investment in your home that will pay for itself in energy savings. They are very simple to install yourself.
  • Drive less. This one can save you money as well! Remember this summer, when gas was scarce here in Georgia, and we all tried to drive as little as possible? You don’t have to go to those extremes, but being mindful of how much you drive is important. Could you walk to any of your destinations? Can you carpool with anyone? My husband drives from Duluth to Athens for school, carpooling has saved us a ton of money! When you go out to run errands, take a minute to plan the most efficient route. It will save you both time and gas. If you’re lucky, you could even talk to your employer about working from home once or twice a week, and see the gas savings really add up!
  • Turn it off. How many lights are on in your house right now, in rooms that no one is occupying? I will admit, I am terrible about leaving lights on! Turning them off can save your electric bill and the planet. Also, you’ve probably heard that some of your electronics use “vampire power”. This means they continue to draw electricity even when they’re switched off. TV’s are notorious for this one. Unplugging these power hogs can save a lot of money. You can also plug them into a surge protector with a switch so you can turn several items off at once (for instance, if you turn off your TV, you can also turn off your DVD player and video game console).
  • Recommended reading for footprint reduction: An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore.
What if trash is your main concern…
Landfills take up huge amounts of space, and a lot of perfectly good stuff ends up in them. How can you cut down on the amount of garbage you send to them? The three R’s, of course!
  • Reduce. This is really the most important thing you can do to cut down on waste. Think about ways you can create less garbage in the first place. Are you using disposable plates and cups just for the sake of convenience? Using paper towel for household jobs that could be done with a washable, reusable rag? If you don’t make any other green changes, then at least start bringing tote bags to the grocery store instead of getting plastic bags. Trust me, you’ll be glad when you don’t have a giant pile of plastic bags sitting in the garage! Some stores, like Whole Foods, give you a credit for bringing your own bags ($0.10) while other stores like IKEA charge for using plastic bags. Reusable totes are $1.00 at many stores, but I bet you’ve got tote bags sitting around in a closet that would work just fine.
  • Reuse. It’s easy to find ways to reuse things around the house. Pasta sauce jars can be washed and used to store rice and pasta. Yogurt tubs and even toilet paper rolls can be used to start seeds. Every time you throw something away, try thinking of a way to reuse it. Remember that if you don’t have a use for something, someone else might. For instance, UPS Stores (in Dacula, Snellville, Lawrenceville and many other places in Gwinnett) will take foam packing peanuts for reuse.
  • Recycle. Recycling has never been so easy! Most, if not all, garbage haulers in Gwinnett offer some sort of curbside recycling for items like cans, bottles, and newspaper. The Recycling Bank of Gwinnett should reopen soon, and they accept many items that curbside recycling doesn’t pick up. There are a lot of other places in town that accept various things for recycling. The post office in Duluth, for instance, has dumpsters to recycle phonebooks and magazines. Many groceries stores accept things like plastic grocery bags and egg cartons. Visit http:arth911.com to find out where to recycle near you. You’d be amazed at all the recycling going on in Gwinnett! I found ways to recycle ink cartirdges in Buford, car batteries in Lawrenceville, and newspapers in Grayson.
  • Recommended reading for recycling fans: Living Like Ed by Ed Begley Jr.
Are you worried about chemicals all around you…
This seems to be an especially big concern among parents. Folks who never thought about what was in their cleaning products or food realize, when they have children, that they don’t know what most of these chemicals are or how safe they are.
  • Switch to green cleaning products. There are so many eco-friendly options out there, and they work just as well as traditional cleaning products. These days there are also plenty of green options that aren’t too expensive either. Detoxing your home can get overwhelming, the trick is not to replace everything at once. Use up the cleaning supplies you have, and gradually replace them with greener options as you restock.
  • Organic foods. Organic foods can be pricey, but you can prioritize your purchases. You can find out which foods tend to have the most pesticide residues, and which ones have the least. That way you know which foods it’s more important to buy organic and which ones you can probably stick to conventionally grown. Try this guide for starters http://www.foodnews.org/walletguide.php .
  • Beauty products.  Natural beauty products have gone mainstream, with both Target and Wal-mart selling many brands of bath and beauty items with natural and organic ingredients. Trust me, this stuff will work just as well, if not better than their chemical counterparts, plus you’ll be able to pronounce all the ingredients! I visited the Wal-Mart in Suwanee just this week and I was really impressed by the natural and organic beauty brands they carry.
  • Recommended reading for a non-toxic home: Organic Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck.
I hope this guide will give you some good suggestions of easy ways to go green. Do you have anymore easy green tips? Post them in the comments!
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One Response to “Getting Started Going Green in Gwinnett”

  1. Mary Says:

    It is wonderful to see organizations in communities that are trying to make a difference. I live in Suwanee, GA which is in Gwinnett County and I work for the EPA. I appreciate the time you are taking by participating in Green In Gwinnett Area.

    Like

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