Saving the Environment, One Week at a Time

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

A reporter recently approached me with the task of helping her with a “green” Christmas gift guide. I told her I was giving all of my friends reusable bags as presents in order for them to refrain from using plastic bags. This got me thinking of a list of habit-changing tips everyone can use. With the recent start of a new year,  what better resolution than 52 ideas that everyone can incorporate into their daily routine, one to be done every week, to turn a regular individual into an environmentally conscious citizen by the end of 2009. Here are the first 26.

  1. Reduce the amount of waste created by unnecessary packaging by buying in bulk whenever possible.
  2. Reuse everything you can. Donate what you don’t use to be reused. I have a hand-me down circle of friends for children’s clothing. I also like buying at second-hand shops for rarely used items like winter coats. (Remember, in Puerto Rico it’s “summer” all year round).
  3. Recycle. Check your town or municipality’s requirements. If they don’t have a recycling program available bring all your recyclables to the nearest drop-off center.
  4. Opt for items made from recycled materials when making a purchase.
  5. Borrow large items and tools.
  6. Become a smart consumer. Research before buying to consider the most environmentally friendly option.
  7. Use reusable bags.
  8. Shop for durability from clothes to large items.
  9. Try to eat more at home or brown bag whenever you can. Eating out generates more waste from unnecessary packaging.
  10. Employ natural ingredients for cleaning the house like vinegar and baking soda. I like plant-based cleaning products too.
  11. Buy phosphate free laundry and dishwashing liquids. Phosphates promote algae growth that damages aquatic ecosystems.
  12. Plant native plants in your backyard. Exotic species need more care.
  13. Compost food waste and leaves for a soil rich of nutrients. This is a great project to do with the kids!
  14. Change your lights to CFL. They use75% less energy and last 10 times longer.
  15. If replacing an appliance, look for the Energy Star logo.
  16. The house needs paint? Pick low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) or no VOC paints.
  17. Install an Energy Star programmable thermostat.
  18. Plug electronics into power strips and turn off when not in use.
  19. Keep your fridge clean, this saves electricity.
  20. Install and use a clothesline.
  21. Choose local or organic fruit and vegetables. Non-local means gallons of fuels burned.E
  22. Even better grow your own! I have a banana tree in my backyard as well as navel oranges.
  23. Hosting a dinner or birthday party? Use real china and cutlery to avoid sending large amounts of waste into the landfill.
  24. Share your green habits with your relatives and children. They will be inspired to make a change too!
  25. Take your kids on long walks or bike rides. Let them explore the biodiversity around them. My kids love kite flying in El Morro and bike riding in Luis Muñoz Rivera Park in San Juan.
  26. Participate in a beach cleanup or the International Coastal Cleanup

The following 26 tips next week—stay tuned!