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Being More Environmentally Friendly

FlayFlay Registered User regular
edited December 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
Considering the recent conclusion (and failure) of the Copenhagen climate-change summit, I think a thread regarding climate change and environmentalism is appropriate.

What I'm looking for is general advice on reducing my own impact on the environment. This includes (but is not limited to) reducing energy consumption, buying more sensible products, using fewer resources such as water and fuel and even as far as political activism.

So, collective consciousness of the PA forums, what environmental tips and advice do you have?

Flay on
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    ReznikReznik Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    For the Christmas season I've taken the small step of using newspapers instead of going out and buying new wrapping paper for presents.

    There are the obvious ones like walking, biking and taking the bus as much as possible, recycling as much as you can, composting, buying a hybrid car if you can't walk/bike/bus, buy energy efficient lightbulbs instead of incandescent, turn off all the lights in rooms nobody is using, wrap up in blankets instead of using a heater, turn your computer off instead of leaving it on standby (same for consoles)... a lot of little things, but they'll all add up

    Reznik on
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    DocDoc Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited December 2009
    Take public transit if you aren't already. One fewer car on the road is probably the biggest difference you can make in your personal life.

    Doc on
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    nukanuka What are circles? Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Keep in mind those energy saving bulbs contain mercury. If you break them you are so fucked. Not just your house and those that live there with you but your neighbors, the environment, etc. Go ahead and use them but oh my god please be careful. D: You actually have to hire professionals to clean up a mercury spill.

    If you have something like a treadmill, donate that to someone and start jogging on your own if you can. If you have an MP3 player, a regular phone and a camera you just use casually donate all of those and switch to a smart phone, you won't have so many things requiring a charge and you don't have to worry about the batteries in your camera. Do things like that, oh and also unless you literally don't own a clock in your house, turn off things like the DVD player. There's no reason to keep those things on all the time, and if they still have a blinking light on when they're turned off then unplug them.

    nuka on
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    FlayFlay Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Doc wrote: »
    Take public transit if you aren't already. One fewer car on the road is probably the biggest difference you can make in your personal life.

    Yeah, I walk pretty much everywhere I can't get to by train.

    Also, when in the shower and it's not freezing cold, I only turn the taps on when I need to rinse off. The taps are on for around 30 seconds total.

    Flay on
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    DocDoc Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited December 2009
    Flay wrote: »
    Doc wrote: »
    Take public transit if you aren't already. One fewer car on the road is probably the biggest difference you can make in your personal life.

    Yeah, I walk pretty much everywhere I can't get to by train.

    Also, when in the shower and it's not freezing cold, I only turn the taps on when I need to rinse off. The taps are on for around 30 seconds total.

    Don't worry too much about conserving water at the tap unless advised to do so during a drought or something. The amount of water consumed to produce things like the food you eat daily utterly dwarfs any amount of water that you use in your home.

    Doc on
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    Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Limit your consumption of consumer goods and to buy as much locally grown/farmed food as you can.

    Really though the most effective thing you can do is contribute somehow to eventual political solutions to environmental issues.

    Eat it You Nasty Pig. on
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    DocDoc Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited December 2009
    Also buying more stuff used helps quite a bit.

    Doc on
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    DeathPrawnDeathPrawn Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    While on the subject of food, try to buy organic and local produce. Most of the environmental impact of our food comes from transportation, so when push comes to shove local is more important than organic. It might be tough this time of year depending on where you live, but come summer/fall you should try to buy most of your fruits and veggies from your local farmer's market.

    Similarly, if you don't make most of your food yourself, learn to cook. I don't want to come across as some crazy "rah rah raw veganism and raw foods diet" hippie, but generally speaking the more commercially processed a food is the more environmentally unsustainable it is. If you prepare food yourself from basic ingredients, you're cutting out a whole lot of extra steps in the processing chain, each of which has a non-negligible environmental footprint.

    DeathPrawn on
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    Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Isn't buying used actually not generally that helpful?

    Eat it You Nasty Pig. on
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    FlayFlay Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Doc wrote: »
    Flay wrote: »
    Doc wrote: »
    Take public transit if you aren't already. One fewer car on the road is probably the biggest difference you can make in your personal life.

    Yeah, I walk pretty much everywhere I can't get to by train.

    Also, when in the shower and it's not freezing cold, I only turn the taps on when I need to rinse off. The taps are on for around 30 seconds total.

    Don't worry too much about conserving water at the tap unless advised to do so during a drought or something. The amount of water consumed to produce things like the food you eat daily utterly dwarfs any amount of water that you use in your home.

    Hm, honestly haven't thought of it like that. I pretty much do it anyway, since I hate having the water constantly flowing when it's hot.


    On the subject of vegetarianism: I've also heard that this is a particularly significant way to help the environment. Going completely vegetarian is out of my reach at the moment, but at the moment my family tries to eat around/at least two vegetarian meals a week.

    What's the truth to this?

    Flay on
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    DocDoc Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited December 2009
    Dyscord wrote: »
    Isn't buying used actually not generally that helpful?

    Generally speaking, if it helps products that currently exist see longer lives before they are discarded, it's helpful.

    Doc on
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    Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Doc wrote: »
    Dyscord wrote: »
    Isn't buying used actually not generally that helpful?

    Generally speaking, if it helps products that currently exist see longer lives before they are discarded, it's helpful.

    all you really do is pollute in slow motion, though. Which isn't a bad thing by itself, but if you're talking about an item that's a common used purchase (a car, say) buying a used one vs. a new one probably doesn't make that much of an impact since you're not reducing the overall demand for cars.

    if stuff that would otherwise just wind up in a dump can be kept out of a dump though, go for it

    vegan/vegetarianism is good because meat requires many more resources to produce than vegetable matter. The resources that produce one meat-cow can produce enough grain to feed a hundred times as many people, or something ridiculous like that (don't quote me on the factor, but the disparity is nuts.) This is true of many other animal products, although probably to a much lesser degree.

    Eat it You Nasty Pig. on
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    FlayFlay Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    A pretty effective graph explaining the relative impacts...

    co2-emissions-of-meat.jpg

    And also some articles:

    New York Times - Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler

    BBC News - Hungry world 'must eat less meat'

    Flay on
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    FerrusFerrus Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    I hope nobody mentioned it yet but you could use special shower heads that help save water. They add a percentage of air to the stream of water which can save about 50% while still feeling like 100%.

    Energy saving bulbs are a bit problematic, as someone already said. Not only do they contain mercury but you should only use them in rooms where the light will be on for long periods - Actually lighting them takes up way more power than a normal bulb does, so they can even have a negative effect on your power consumption if you turn them on and off all the time.

    Also I think you can't use normal bulbs and energy saving ones in the same lamp.

    Ferrus on
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    L|amaL|ama Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Energy saving bulbs are a bit problematic, as someone already said. Not only do they contain mercury but you should only use them in rooms where the light will be on for long periods - Actually lighting them takes up way more power than a normal bulb does, so they can even have a negative effect on your power consumption if you turn them on and off all the time.

    This isn't true.

    L|ama on
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    ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    I wouldn't stress about organic, but do focus on local food. Maybe read The 100 Mile Diet

    Improvolone on
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    L|amaL|ama Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    ugh jailed

    anyway, there is a slight surge of power when you start one of those lights but it's only equivalent to a few seconds of normal use. I think that myth got started by people confusing the economics of it - switching them on and off makes them wear out quicker, which can cost more in the long run.

    L|ama on
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    LadyMLadyM Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    What kind of corrogated cardboard can be recycled in those blue bins? Does it have to be, er, cardboardy on both sides or can one side be glossy (the way most storebought boxes are, advertising the product)? The one in front of my apartment specifies no pizza boxes or cereal boxes, but that's it.

    LadyM on
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    RUNN1NGMANRUNN1NGMAN Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    LadyM wrote: »
    What kind of corrogated cardboard can be recycled in those blue bins? Does it have to be, er, cardboardy on both sides or can one side be glossy (the way most storebought boxes are, advertising the product)? The one in front of my apartment specifies no pizza boxes or cereal boxes, but that's it.

    What can and cannot be recycled depends entirely on your municipality or private trash/recycling service.

    RUNN1NGMAN on
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    RUNN1NGMANRUNN1NGMAN Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    nuka wrote: »
    Keep in mind those energy saving bulbs contain mercury. If you break them you are so fucked. Not just your house and those that live there with you but your neighbors, the environment, etc. Go ahead and use them but oh my god please be careful. D: You actually have to hire professionals to clean up a mercury spill.

    If you have something like a treadmill, donate that to someone and start jogging on your own if you can. If you have an MP3 player, a regular phone and a camera you just use casually donate all of those and switch to a smart phone, you won't have so many things requiring a charge and you don't have to worry about the batteries in your camera. Do things like that, oh and also unless you literally don't own a clock in your house, turn off things like the DVD player. There's no reason to keep those things on all the time, and if they still have a blinking light on when they're turned off then unplug them.

    You don't have to hire professionals to clean up the mercury if you break a compact fluorescent, and the OMG MERCURY! concerns are way overblown, given the amount of mercury in a bulb.

    http://www.energystar.gov/ia/products/lighting/cfls/downloads/CFL_Cleanup_and_Disposal.pdf

    RUNN1NGMAN on
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    ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    When my dad was in school they used to play with mercury in their bare hands. You need a decent amount to geet sick from it, eating it will help (you get sick).

    Improvolone on
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    RUNN1NGMANRUNN1NGMAN Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    When my dad was in school they used to play with mercury in their bare hands. You need a decent amount to geet sick from it, eating it will help (you get sick).

    Yeah, I was jut thinking about how I broke a mercury thermometer when I was a kid, and my mom wiped it up with a paper towel or something. That was about 500 times more mercury than there is in a lightbulb. Yeah, mercury is bad for you, but breaking a lightbulb isn't going to turn your house into a Superfund site.

    RUNN1NGMAN on
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    DocDoc Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited December 2009
    That graph of food consumption in developing countries is kind of deceptive, even if it wasn't intentional. It makes it look like people in developing countries are eating more meat than they are eating roots, tubers, and cereal.

    I mean, what does the graph tell us? Maybe it went from people eating 1/3lb of meat a month to 1lb a month.

    Doc on
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    Robos A Go GoRobos A Go Go Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    There was a UN report that found that the meat industry was responsible for more emissions than every form of transportation combined.

    Anyway, two other smart things to do is to buy a more efficient shower head and hang dry your clothing instead of using a dryer. Dryers in particular are extremely inefficient.

    Robos A Go Go on
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    FlayFlay Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Doc wrote: »
    That graph of food consumption in developing countries is kind of deceptive, even if it wasn't intentional. It makes it look like people in developing countries are eating more meat than they are eating roots, tubers, and cereal.

    I mean, what does the graph tell us? Maybe it went from people eating 1/3lb of meat a month to 1lb a month.

    I pretty much ignored the stuff on the left. The more important part is the comparison of carbon emissions on the right.

    Flay on
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    ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Stop shaving with aersolized goo/cream and those ridiculously expensive disposable blades.

    Improvolone on
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    DocDoc Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited December 2009
    Stop shaving with aersolized goo/cream and those ridiculously expensive disposable blades.

    With the exception of a straight razor, aren't all blades meant to be disposable? Even some straight razors use a disposable blade.

    I've switched over to using regular soap lather and I've found it to be superior to most other shaving creams and gels I've used, so that's good advice on two fronts.

    Doc on
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    Robos A Go GoRobos A Go Go Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Stop shaving with aersolized goo/cream and those ridiculously expensive disposable blades.

    What should you use instead?

    Robos A Go Go on
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    ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    I use disposable safety blades, but they arguably cause a smaller impact on the environment.
    But yea, going whole hog requires a straight.

    Improvolone on
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    ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Stop shaving with aersolized goo/cream and those ridiculously expensive disposable blades.

    What should you use instead?

    Brush+soap/cream+straight/safety razor
    For brushes, your options are synthetic, boar, or badger. Badger is best, synthetics can be pretty good if you're vegan/vege, and boar is meh but cheap.

    Improvolone on
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    DocDoc Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited December 2009
    Man I'd be using more in tissues and styptic pencils than I'd save in razor blades.

    Doc on
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    bsjezzbsjezz Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Doc wrote: »
    Flay wrote: »
    Doc wrote: »
    Take public transit if you aren't already. One fewer car on the road is probably the biggest difference you can make in your personal life.

    Yeah, I walk pretty much everywhere I can't get to by train.

    Also, when in the shower and it's not freezing cold, I only turn the taps on when I need to rinse off. The taps are on for around 30 seconds total.

    Don't worry too much about conserving water at the tap unless advised to do so during a drought or something. The amount of water consumed to produce things like the food you eat daily utterly dwarfs any amount of water that you use in your home.

    it's actually always a big deal here to conserve water - the continent of australia is pretty much in a perpetual state of drought, and the water we have is streched very finely. and people can get very heated over the issue.

    i'd say continue to save as much water as you can. considering that the more water we use the more expensive, power-hungry water recycling and desalination plants will need to be built, it really is the thoughtful thing to do both for our local water supply problems and the international climate goals. also, you won't get murdered

    flay - i'm in sydney, too - do you cook with a lot of veggies? every week my partner and i order a fruit and veg box from sydneyfresh.com.au. it's basically local, seasonal produce from a big sydney fresh food market delivered for free. i'm sure a lot of the stuff in there wouldn't adhere to the 100-mile diet (which is a great idea), but it's a good way to force yourself to use what's local and bountiful as opposed to the aseasonal, imported and waxy-looking 'perfect' stuff of a big coles or woolies

    bsjezz on
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    AegisAegis Fear My Dance Overshot Toronto, Landed in OttawaRegistered User regular
    edited December 2009
    DeathPrawn wrote: »
    Most of the environmental impact of our food comes from transportation, so when push comes to shove local is more important than organic..

    This isn't true at all. Transportation accounts for a relatively tiny fraction of the environmental impact involved in the production of food, with most of those emissions occurring in the last stage of transportation (that is, trucking it from the port to your grocery store). Given that most food transported is being transported on ships, this means that the environmental damage is minimal due to the quantity of stuff being transported at once.

    Most of the emissions involved in food production occurs in the actual producing of the food itself, the growing bit.

    Aegis on
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    QuidQuid Definitely not a banana Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Stop shaving with aersolized goo/cream and those ridiculously expensive disposable blades.

    What should you use instead?

    Brush+soap/cream+straight/safety razor
    For brushes, your options are synthetic, boar, or badger. Badger is best, synthetics can be pretty good if you're vegan/vege, and boar is meh but cheap.

    Or instead of that go to Lush and get one of their shaving creams. Shave The Planet is wonderful for my face.

    Lush is actually a great place to go to help cut out the impact of personal hygiene. Mostly sustainable products that avoid using endangered animals/plants. Expensive though.

    Quid on
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    ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Doc wrote: »
    Man I'd be using more in tissues and styptic pencils than I'd save in razor blades.

    Do you have Parkinsons? Look, if people hundreds of years ago could shave with a straight, why can't you? You can use a computer and drive a freaking car!

    Improvolone on
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    LemmingLemming Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    If you want to help the environment, buying a new hybrid isn't really a great idea. Buying an older, used, fuel efficient car is much better. The amount of shit that goes into the environment to produce that hybrid is huge, and then disposing/recycling the batteries once its life is up is pretty bad for the environment.

    Lemming on
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    NerdgasmicNerdgasmic __BANNED USERS regular
    edited December 2009
    With regards to mercury content, aren't CFLs a lot more durable than regular bulbs?

    Nerdgasmic on
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    WezoinWezoin Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Reznik wrote: »
    For the Christmas season I've taken the small step of using newspapers instead of going out and buying new wrapping paper for presents.

    There are the obvious ones like walking, biking and taking the bus as much as possible, recycling as much as you can, composting, buying a hybrid car if you can't walk/bike/bus, buy energy efficient lightbulbs instead of incandescent, turn off all the lights in rooms nobody is using, wrap up in blankets instead of using a heater, turn your computer off instead of leaving it on standby (same for consoles)... a lot of little things, but they'll all add up

    On the Hybrid car note - not so much. There was a study a while ago that showed that because of the nickel mining and the way hybrid car batteries are produced (being shipped all over the world several times to different factories that do different processes) that Hybrid cars can be worse for the environment than driving a big SUV (the article specifically said than a Hummer.) A lot of people ignore the environmental cost of creating a product initially, and focus solely on its energy consumption, which is admittedly a large part of its total environmental cost, but not all of it. Diesel cars can often be more fuel efficient and less environmentally damaging to produce, although I do believe diesel is fairly dirty to burn, but from what I understand its much cleaner burning nowadays.

    Supposedly Apple computers are built in environmentally friendly ways, use recyclable materials, and are low in terms of power consumption, so if you are buying a new computer it may be in your best interest to buy a Mac.

    Also another thing to keep in mind is that there are many ways to recycle. If you are buying something new, stick the old one on craigslist. You might make some money, the person gets a good deal, and nothing new needs to be produced to satisfy their need. It is also more environmentally friendly than traditional recycling because it doesn't require any processing.

    Wezoin on
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    bombardierbombardier Moderator mod
    edited December 2009
    Biggest way to lower your environmental impact: don't have kids, or don't have TONS of kids. There are way too many people already to begin with.

    bombardier on
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    The CatThe Cat Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited December 2009
    Doc wrote: »
    Flay wrote: »
    Doc wrote: »
    Take public transit if you aren't already. One fewer car on the road is probably the biggest difference you can make in your personal life.

    Yeah, I walk pretty much everywhere I can't get to by train.

    Also, when in the shower and it's not freezing cold, I only turn the taps on when I need to rinse off. The taps are on for around 30 seconds total.

    Don't worry too much about conserving water at the tap unless advised to do so during a drought or something. The amount of water consumed to produce things like the food you eat daily utterly dwarfs any amount of water that you use in your home.

    That said, its surprisingly easy to get down to around 150L a day. Average consumption here was well over twice that before we had a supply problem and water restrictions, but the restrictions actually encouraged behaviour changes that stuck even after they were ramped back. Little things like not watering the concrete when watering the lawn, watering less often and at more appropriate times, and doing laundry and dishes in larger batches all add up. Put a brick in your toilet cistern if it doesn't have that half-flush function, stuff like that.

    Residential water demand may not be huge compared to industry even on aggregate, but as it grows it requires a metric shitload of construction to add supply and storage infrastructure, and concrete manufacture produces a lot of C.

    And yeah, seconding turning off standby machines. That'll save you money, and the same infrastructure concerns apply to power supply. Turn the AC heating closer to external ambient, and only run it when you actually need to.

    The Cat on
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