A Wisconsin “Going Green” Guide
Not only can it save you money on utilities in the long run but, you will be doing your part to contribute to a safer world for everyone.
There is so much more awareness now about the environmental dangers associated with our dependence on oil and nuclear power.
The Gulf oil spill of 2010 re-emphasized the importance of green energy (or green power) alternatives. Then, more recently the Fukishima nuclear disaster has also demonstrated the need for green energy solutions that do NOT include nuclear facilities in or near populated coastlines.
Going Green is a Mindset and a Lifestyle
Being green is not just about recycling and simple living, it’s a mindset that say’s “Do No Harm” to your environment, whether that be at home, work, or for the earth we share.
Many “green-for-life” enthusiasts had to learn how to be green too and they started by living more simply. That’s how our family made the transition to living a green life.
Being Green Means using Green Power and Less Electricity
We started small by changing our day-to-day habits first. We did some research online and learned about saving electricity and living off-grid. Though we couldn’t completely unplug from the utility company we did add renewable energy solar and wind power to our home.
We had to learn not to be so dependent on electrical devices. We use hand tools rather than power tools or electrical appliances when possible. We changed all the light bulbs in our house to energy-saving ones. We often dry our clothes on a clothesline. As appliances need to be replaced we only buy those with a good energy star rating. We mend our clothing rather than buying new if a button falls off or a seam needs repair. We have also learned that buying quality goods, though more expensive, saves us money in the long run. (Less spent on parts and repairs) Shoes are just one example.
Our family agreed to only use non-toxic products and avoid the use of chemicals in our home and garden whenever possible. Whether we needed a natural remedy for our dog’s flea spray or a mosquito repellent, we learned to make our own with non-toxic ingredients.
Organic Gardening is a Great Way to Go Green
One of our favorite ways of being green is going organic with our food. One of the best ways for saving money on your groceries is to grow your own fruit and veggies. Gardening organically can be challenging at times, but is so worth the effort! (See our Grow Organic page for tips) There’s nothing that compares with your own home-grown tomatoes and salad greens!
It took many years to perfect our irrigated raised-bed garden system, but eventually we were able to grow 90% of our own fruits and vegetables. (We still buy citrus and greens in the winter months) Our biggest challenge was long-term storage. We found canning and freezing were the best solutions. Drying our produce was a bit tricky and didn’t always have the best results. I have information up about canning basics and will be adding more about food preservation over time.
Living green doesn’t have to be challenging or overwhelming. Start small and simplify your life with a few changes at a time and you can learn how to “be green” too!
Learn How to Be Green at Work Too
When you apply green practices in your workplace you’re helping to reduce global pollution, preserve forests and biodiversity, and keep our air and water clean. And you can also help protect your bottom line because environmentally responsible businesses are efficient businesses.
Here are a few ideas to help your business go green:
- The average office throws out about 300 pounds of paper per employee, per year. Reducing this waste and purchasing paper with post-consumer recycled content can help save trees and encourage the pulp and paper industry, one of the most environmentally destructive industries in the world, to focus on recycling more. Note: Copier paper should be a minimum of 30% recycled content. (100% is even better!)
- Set your printers to print double-sided, or designate a draft tray and fill it with paper that’s blank on one side. Note: Another green tip is to use non-toxic inks whenever possible. Ask your office supplier to provide environmentally safe ink and toner if they don’t currently have them available.
- Collect used paper separately for recycling, and coordinate with your building manager and waste management company to set up a recycling system that works for everyone. If you can, also recycle other materials, like aluminum, glass and plastic.
- Stock bathrooms with post-consumer recycled tissue products. Tissue manufacturers destroy forests when they turn virgin wood into throw-away paper products. Install hand air dryers to use instead of paper toweling. Note: Using old towels as rags (that can be washed and reused) is a great alternative to all that paper towel waste.
Being Energy Green at Work is Good for Everyone
Using less energy reduces the demand on power plants, the nation’s leading contributors to global pollution. Energy conservation obviously helps us save money too. If you are a business owner who really wants to make a difference add some solar panels or a wind turbine to your roof. (for the wind turbine you will need to check if there are any height or other restrictions for your area) If necessary, contact a renewable energy dealer for help designing the right system for your needs.
More Green Business Ideas:
- Contact your utility company to arrange for a free (or inexpensive) energy audit. An engineer will examine your operations and provide you with a detailed report about how your firm can save on energy costs, from rebates to improved maintenance.
- Turn off lights and unplug electronics after hours — computers and other electronics use energy while they’re plugged in, even when they’re switched off. (Plug appliances into a power strip and you’ll only have to flip one switch at the end of the day.)
- Set computers to sleep and hibernate when inactive. Avoid using screen savers, they can use about $50 or more of electricity in a year. Look for power management or energy saving features on the control panel for Windows, or system preferences under the apple menu for Macs.
- Use Energy Star office equipment — most major brands carry energy-saving models marked with the Energy Star label.
Reduce Water Waste
One billion people on our planet don’t have access to safe drinking water. In the United States, some rivers and lakes are being depleted faster than nature can fill them up. Using water efficiently today will help ensure that future generations have access to clean water.
Here are a few simple suggestions:
- Install faucet aerators and low-flow toilets
- Check for and fix all water leaks
- Recycle water whenever possible
- Landscape for maximum water efficiency
Green Means a Healthier Working Environment
Employees are on the front lines of any sustainability initiatives your company chooses to make. Participation from all levels of your staff is a crucial part of any greening effort.
- Buy less toxic cleaners to improve indoor air quality and reduce risks to employee health.
- Create an employee “green team” to help implement the new plans and brainstorm other ideas that would help create a eco-friendly workplace.