There are many easy ways to make a big difference in the environment that start and stop with you and the activities you do every day in your house. Some of them you may already know, but don’t practice, and others may be completely new to you. Read this list and make a vow to do at least some of the things on it.
Forty-eight percent of Floridians recycle. Do you? You can recycle many waste products that were once used in the home, such as newspapers, cardboard, metal and aluminum cans, glass and plastic. All of the major cities in the Hotspots distribution area (St. Petersburg, Tampa, Orlando, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami) offer curbside recycling programs for single-family dwellings. If you live in an apartment or condominium, you can request a recycling bin for your building; you need to call sanitation or waste services in your city to order the bin. A fact you may not have been aware of: In many cities, owners of condominiums and high-rise apartments have to supply such bins; it has been the law in Miami since 1992 and in Fort Lauderdale since 1995.
WATCH THE THERMOSTAT
Getting the most out of your thermostat is one way to reduce your carbon footprint. Florida Power and Light (FPL) conducted a survey last year and found that 59% of Floridians love to keep the thermostat set low, at 72 degrees or below. It’s understandable, Florida can be very hot many months out of the year! By the same token, 68% of the Floridians surveyed admit they are not at all energy efficient! FPL recommends that you set your thermostat to 78 degrees while you’re at home and 82 degrees while you’re away, so you can save money and conserve energy. Don’t think you can do it? Feel free to use ceiling fans, but make sure to turn them off when you’re not in the room. If you’re curious as to how much energy your family uses every month, you can estimate your usage by taking a survey at the FPL website; visit app.fpl.com/ohes/HomeEnergySurvey.
CONSERVE PLASTICS USE
“Paper or plastic?” You usually get asked this question when shopping at Publix or other supermarkets. They prefer to give you plastic, and that’s usually the bags people use to cart home their groceries. But consider this. Plastics are made from petroleum products, and the process in which plastics are made (which involve the burning of petroleum) is one of the biggest factors in accelerating the climate change problem we have today. The easiest way to do your part is to buy your own bags and ask the grocery store bagger to please use those bags. I don’t think anyone will give you a hard time for putting a little more “green” in your life.
DO YOUR PART TO SAVE THE TREES
We’ve heard about deforestation for decades, and how many trees are bulldozed and processed each year just to produce the world’s supply of paper. Fewer trees means less oxygen in the world and more carbon dioxide: a scary proposition! Here are a couple of ways to make sure you cut down on the vicious cycle of deforestation. First, make sure that when you have the option of buying products with “100% post-consumer recycled paper” packaging, that you do so. It means no new trees have been harmed in giving you this product! Also, cut down on your junk mail by removing yourself from junk mail lists. You may be surprised to learn how many lists you’re on! Did you know that according to the Native Forest Network, 4.5 million tons of paper is used in junk paper mailings each year? You can remove yourself from junk mail lists by filling out this application at dmaconsumers.org/consumerassistance.html.
RENOVATING? PICK THE RIGHT PAINT
What’s wrong with paint? Nothing, if you pick the right one. Say you want to change the color of your room, like we recommended a few weeks ago in our Interior Design issue. Many commercial paints have high levels of “volatile organic compounds,” or VOCs. Many household paints hold a shocking number of VOCs: did you know that, on average, over 150 VOCs found in a mainstream brand of paint can cause cancer? These kinds of toxins in the air can be harmful to yourself and to others. So how do you find out which paints are low-VOC or no-VOC? Nationwide brands PPG and Sherwin-Williams both offer no-VOC options. For a full list of paint brands ordered by VOC content and price, go to greenguard.org.
All of these things are very simple to do. If you keep this list in mind and make a good-faith effort to follow through on even one of these things, you are well on your way to becoming a good global citizen.