25 Ways to be Environmentally Friendly: At Home

Here are some ways you can be environmentally friendly at home:

  1. Consider opening all windows to allow natural ventilation, instead of turning on the air conditioner. Check out this site for more tips on improving natural ventilation at home.
  2. When taking a bath: If you can still tolerate the cold water, do so, instead of turning on the water heater.
  3. Turn off the hot and cold switches of the water dispenser when no one is going to use it for a while (e.g. between meals, sleep).
  4. If you feel hot, wear less, shorter, and thinner clothes. If you’re a guy, go topless; this way, you’re also reducing the washing machine load.
  5. Consider wearing the same clothes more than once, especially if you’ve only worn them for a short time. If it’s sunny outside, bathe them in UV to get rid of bacteria.
  6. Plan your visits to the refrigerator. Avoid opening it frequently and minimize the time of it being open. Also make sure that the door is closed tight.
  7. Regularly defrost your freezer to maintain efficiency. Check out this site for other ways to improve the efficiency of your freezer (and refrigerator).
  8. If you’re going to reheat food from the freezer, thaw it out first by exposing to room temperature, before using the microwave.
  9. Heat only the amount of food you are confident of finishing, to avoid refreezing.
  10. Make it a habit to turn off all lights and appliances when you leave your room or any area in the house with no one in it.
  11. Put your computer to sleep whenever you’ll be away from it for minutes. Shut it down if you’ll be away for hours.
  12. Set a timer (with alarm) when charging any device, to avoid overcharging which can shorten the battery’s lifespan.
  13. Don’t iron clothes you won’t wear outside. If you have the passion for the environment, consider not ironing any clothes at all.
  14. Eat fresh fruits when hungry, instead of packaged snack items. Fruits have the lowest carbon footprint among food.
  15. Eat less beef and lamb than before, because they have the highest carbon footprint. Check out this site for carbon footprint data of other food.
  16. If you have an extra plot of soil, plant crops that you usually eat. Throw the peelings on the soil, not on the trash can, to replenish its nutrient content.
  17. Cook at home as often as practical. Delivering or taking out food creates a lot of waste.
  18. Cook with less (or no) oil as possible. Use ceramic non-stick frying pans too.
  19. Check if the sunlight is bright enough to drop the need for turning the lights on.
  20. Let go of cosmetic products that you really don’t need. These include, but not limited to: hair gel/wax, facial cleanser, shaving foam, lotion, powder, and perfume.
  21. Switch to using LED lights. They may be a bit costly, but you’ll save lots of money (and energy) in the long run due to their low power consumption and durability.
  22. Run up and down the stairs (while carrying weights), instead of using the treadmill (if you have one). This site explains why it is the most efficient exercise. Exercise caution too!
  23. Have extra time at home? Why not share environmental material in the social media? Help in giving people a nudge to protect the environment and themselves.
  24. Practice proper waste segregation to promote recycling/reuse.
  25. Invest in renewable energy sources, like solar cells and wind turbines.

If you have more green ideas for practice at home, please share in the comments!

Image courtesy of theamericanenergynews.com.

25 Ways to be Environmentally Friendly: At the Mall

Here are some of the ways you can be environmentally friendly while you’re at the mall:

  1. Bring your own reusable (“eco”/”green”) bag. If you’re carrying a backpack, put items inside it and refuse when the cashier offers you a bag.
  2. Bring your own water container and refill at drinking fountains (usually available at food courts), instead of buying bottled water.
  3. Choose to eat at restaurants that produce the least non-biodegradable waste; avoid fast food in general.
  4. In restaurants (especially fast food): Don’t ask for too many tissues, or if you’re fine with just using your handkerchief, refuse offer of tissues.
  5. Still in restaurants: Order only the amount of food you can completely finish without leftovers, to avoid taking out excess food which will require packaging.
  6. Know what you really need to buy beforehand (have a list in your notes app) and don’t buy anything else.
  7. Also know the location of the store ahead of time. If you forgot, don’t hesitate to ask for directions!
  8. Choose to buy brands (appliances, clothing, etc.) that are known to be durable, to avoid discarding so soon; check the product reviews!
  9. Use the stairs instead of escalators and elevators. It’s good for your health.
  10. Refrain from buying snacks for a movie; schedule your movie such that it’s after a breakfast, a lunch, or a dinner.
  11. But if you really need to eat snacks, choose fresh fruits (from the grocer) over popcorn and the like. Fruits have the least carbon footprint.
  12. When the mall is having a sale, you are NOT required to buy anything; control the impulse. It’s a (consumerism) trap!
  13. Always buy in bulk, especially if you can afford it. Larger items (groceries in particular) uses less packaging material and cheaper in per mass or volume basis.
  14. Choose to buy food variant that uses the least amount of non-recyclable packaging material. For example, buy biscuits in cans rather than in plastics.
  15. Patronize local products over imported ones as much as you can; they generally have less carbon footprint due to proximity.
  16. Do multiple tasks in one trip. For example: watch a movie, buy groceries, and get a haircut in just one mall trip.
  17. Refrain from buying (or ordering) lamb or beef; these are the meats with the highest carbon footprint.
  18. Bring a cold/ice box (without ice!) if you intend to buy frozen food to slow down thawing and to not require energy to freeze it again. This is also applicable for cold beverages.
  19. Avoid window shopping. Don’t idle inside the mall to reduce the load in the air conditioning.
  20. Buy during off-peak days/hours to avoid long queues.
  21. In the comfort room: Use minimal tissue for wiping, after doing your business.
  22. Still in the comfort room: If the surface of your garments are not dirty, you can rub your wet (newly washed) hands on it to dry them, instead of using tissue or hand dryer. Your clothes will dry anyway in a dehumidified environment.
  23. Choose to buy in organic stores. Their products typically have less carbon footprint that their inorganic counterparts.
  24. Have a used plastic bag ready in case you come inside the mall with a wet umbrella, so you don’t have to take the provided plastic.
  25. Dispose trash properly and follow available segregation policy.

If you still have more ideas, feel free to share in the comments!

Featured image courtesy of greenliving.lovetoknow.com.

25 Ways to be Environmentally Friendly: At the Office

Below are the list of things you can do to help the environment in your own way while at the office working:

  1. Don’t use disposable (paper) cups when drinking hot beverages like coffee; use mugs or tumblers instead.
  2. If you’re a regular coffee drinker, consider buying coffee in glass containers (instead of several sachets).
  3. Print only as necessary. Modern technology already allows use to almost eliminate the need for printing.
  4. If printing is deemed necessary, consider printing on both sides (duplex) of the paper. Also enable the save toner feature.
  5. If you have documents printed on only one side and you don’t really use anymore, consider using the blank side as scratch paper.
  6. If you’re going to leave your desk for around 5 minutes or a bit more, consider turning off your monitor; this saves more energy than screen savers.
  7. If you’re going to leave your desk for around 15 minutes or a bit more, consider putting the computer to sleep (mode).
  8. If a lot longer (above 30 minutes), consider shutting it down, since resuming from sleep mode can be very slow.
  9. Decrease the brightness of your monitor to a level as low as comfortable.
  10. Have a washable set of plate, spoon, and fork ready in case someone would provide free food (e.g. during birthdays), instead of using disposables every time.
  11. Avoid purchasing and getting food delivered from outside (e.g. fast food).
  12. Avoid buying snacks that use a lot of packaging (especially non-biodegradable) material.
  13. Consider healthy snacks like fruits (low carbon footprint); be sure not to buy them with any packaging.
  14. Turn off all lights, appliances, and electronic devices for an area that is not used.
  15. Adjust the air conditioner thermostat such that it’s not too cold that more than half are already wearing jacket/sweater.
  16. Segregate properly as prescribed in the company’s (or local government’s) policy.
  17. In the comfort room: Use only the amount of tissue paper that you actually need.
  18. Still in the comfort room: Consider using a cold hand dryer with sanitizing technology.
  19. Consider taking the stairs especially when going down. It’s good exercise too.
  20. Have your own portable solar charger to charge your phone.
  21. Utilize the Sticky Notes program in your computer instead of writing on an actual.
  22. Be as efficient as you practically can to avoid overtime and consuming extra electricity.
  23. Avoid buying too much food that you’d have to place leftovers in the pantry’s refrigerator.
  24. Have a washable rag/cloth ready in case of spills, instead of using tissues.
  25. Consider placing indoor plants on your desk; they can help in cooling and purifying the air.

If you have more green ideas you want to share, feel free to comment!

Featured image courtesy of blog.postofficeshop.co.uk.

Dispenser-Refill System: An Idea To Eliminate Packaging (Almost)

Everyday globally, several tons of household wastes are either being dumped in the landfills or burned in the incinerators, both of which are harmful to the environment. Some are also disposed improperly and end up in the oceansMore than half of these wastes are inorganic in nature, a large part of which comes from packaging of various products.

Although a lot of developments have been made to make packaging materials (particularly plastics) biodegradable, they still proved not to be effective at most cases; certain conditions must be met to allow bio-degradation. Those that cannot biodegrade fully can end up in the waters to become microplastics, which can also wind up in our seafood diet. Efforts have also been made around the world to recycle more of these plastics, but are still yet to keep up with the ever-increasing population.

But what if I tell you that there actually is a way to nearly eliminate the need for packaging? I now present to you a somewhat original idea which I call Dispenser-Refill System (henceforth abbreviated to DRS).

As the name implies, DRS is a system where commodities are transferred from retailer to consumer via dispenser machines; consumers need to bring their own reusable containers for refill. To be able to imagine this, recall the beverage dispensers in fast food restaurants; those machines have buttons that correspond to the selected size of the beverage. On the other hand, imagine vending machines in which you insert money in certain denominations and select a specific product that you want. If you combine these two technologies into one, you would get what DRS basically is.

Application of DRS is not limited to beverages; it can be expanded to nearly all sorts of commodities ranging from dried snacks and cooking ingredients, to bathroom and laundry products. Each type of product has specific technologies as to how to maintain its quality and, of course, as to how to dispense the product.

Obviously, it’s not as simple as it may sound. Bringing your own refillable containers to the supermarket is not very convenient as opposed to simply buying the product with its packaging. But if everyone were to realize how much of a big help this is going to be for the environment, getting the consumers’ cooperation may not be too difficult.

Another downside for this system is that, it would require a larger space around two to three times a typical supermarket is; this is because we would expect queues to form behind dispenser machines, and to mitigate this, two or more machines should be provided for every product. Although, a queue management system would help ease this. Also, if contactless payment technology were to be integrated into the machines, waiting time will be further reduced.

Maybe the largest obstacle in implementing this system, is that it requires some investment and a major overhaul of the current system (that heavily utilizes packaging). Some products will require more delicate treatment while being stored; technologies for these will yet to be developed.

Despite the many difficulties in actualizing this, it also carries with it myriad of benefits not limited to the environment. One of which is that it eliminates the need for sorting the waste; if you have nothing to dispose, you also won’t have to do any tedious waste segregation like Japan does. And since you won’t have to throw anything, you wouldn’t require energy and facilities for recycling. Since you won’t need as much packaging as before, more of the crops used for making biodegradable plastics can be reallocated for food use.

Manufacturers will also enjoy the added income from not spending money for packaging materials and machines anymore. Consumers won’t have to buy in bulk, because commodity cost won’t include packaging anymore. Delivery of commodities would also be more efficient, since there would be more space available in the delivery trucks (Imagine delivered volume between many small bottles versus a very large container.), which translates to less traffic.

As far as my research goes, the DRS is not yet implemented anywhere in the globe. If you’re reading this and you think this idea is worth pursuing, don’t hesitate to build on this or share this to others.

Help make a difference. Let’s come up with great ideas and make the world a better place.

Chasing Ice: The Hard Evidence of Global Warming We’ve All Been Waiting For

It doesn’t take a scientist to tell that: If all ice on Earth are quickly melting, and the sea levels are constantly rising, the world must be getting warmer.

The visual evidence we’ve all been waiting for is already here (in fact, since three years ago). We can now stop arguing. Global warming has been here all this time, dancing right in front of us, only that many of us chose to ignore. It’s manifesting more and more. And we’ve already been feeling its impact—the stronger storms and heavier rains that cause severe flash floods which wreak havoc everywhere.

What’s causing these? As more Carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere, the more the greenhouse effect is intensified, melting more ice and releasing more water into the ocean. The surface area of water covering the Earth also increases, resulting to larger area exposed to Sun’s radiation, evaporating more water in the process. In addition, the waters act as heat sink, so the more heat they receive from the lands and the more re-emitted radiation they get from the greenhouse gases (GHGs), the more they increase in temperature and the higher vapor pressure they exert. Water vapor, also being a GHG, amplifies the intensified greenhouse effect triggered by increased CO2 concentration. Another overlooked GHG is Methane (CH4) which upon oxidation, also releases water in the stratosphere. There is so much more about greenhouse effect that is worth knowing, but we won’t delve into anymore in this article.

If it weren’t for the ice serving as a reflective barrier (and also as a temperature buffer), we would have experienced a more rapid increase in global temperature. Once all ice have melted, any additional CO2 will have a more drastic effect—and we cannot let that happen. When ambient temperatures go past 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), we will have a higher risk of death by hyperthermia. Going outside on a sunny day would be a big no-no. You might not even have a house to hide yourself into when the sea levels have risen so much. In the pace of things right now, with all the lack of action to counter global warming, humanity (along with many other species) will face near-extinction in the next century.

This is where we environmentalists get into the picture. We cannot anymore afford to still have people thinking global warming as a hoax; if only they’ll be doing that at their own risk, but unfortunately no. An individual’s ignorance won’t only affect himself, but also his surroundings.

Another disheartening fact is, there are still people who consider global warming as completely natural, i.e. not anthropogenic (caused by humans), maybe because it’s easier for them to not take any responsibility. There used to be a time when human population was so insignificant, that our impact to the environment was almost negligible. But today we’ve already reached 7.4 billion; in terms of biomass (total mass as species), we are among the top. We also have destroyed about 80% of the world’s natural forest. We have practically polluted the oceans with plastics. We have increased the radiation levels in the Pacific ocean (albeit unintentionally). We already have so much garbage in our landfills. Just what part of these is natural?

Before humans came into existence, there were no such things as plastic bags; no such things as Chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs; no such thing as burning fossil fuels for electricity; no such thing as cutting trees for lumber and paper; no such things as cars or airplanes; no such things as clothes, bags, and accessories; no such thing as electrical appliances and electronic devices; no such thing as hunting animals for their material worth besides as food. There are so much more, but the point is—the only species on Earth capable of destroying the environment in the global scale are humans.

But perhaps the more serious and fundamental problem we have, is that most people easily believe what they see or hear through the media. When media says something like Global warming is a hoax, they would readily accept it without even questioning its validity. They are not aware that the elite are capable of manipulating media to suit their wishes, particularly those which benefit the most from maintaining the status quo of utilizing fossil fuels as energy source.

So what can we do now? Being aware is just the first step. But in reality, we need a lot more than that to avert ourselves from the looming doom. Here are some of the things you can start doing to help alleviate global warming:

  • Hold back on your shopping. Be less materialistic. If you think you need something, think it over and over again;
  • Turn off all the lights and appliances you don’t use;
  • If your budget permits it, invest in renewable energy (solar, wind, etc.);
  • If you have a spare space at home, build your own fruit/vegetable garden. This eliminates transportation that relies on burning fuels;
  • Travel green. We all love to travel. But more often than not, traveling is harmful to the environment;
  • Bear less child. Population is simply the root of all environmental problems;
  • Print less—if possible—no more. Rely more on electronic forms of data;
  • Segregate properly for recycling.
  • Reuse something as much as you can. If something is still usable, don’t throw it yet;
  • Invest in more energy-efficient appliances, as your wallet allows it.
  • Read and research on environmental science. Knowledge makes a huge difference;
  • Last but most important: Voice your (and your future children’s) right  to survive. Spread the word.

Stop watching in silence as the ice melts away. Stop turning a blind eye to the inconvenient truth. Stop just sitting there and doing nothing about global warming. We need everyone’s cooperation. We need to move right NOW; not later today, much less tomorrow. Because what most of us don’t realize is—This great threat is not directed to the environment alone, but to the entirety of humanity as well.

Personally, I believe that I can still do better and become environment-friendlier than before. I don’t want to regret not giving it my all to save Earth. And I don’t want you to regret either.

Don’t underestimate the power in numbers. Let’s all fight together to protect humanity and this beautiful world.

Top 7 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Printing

Are you one of those whose habit is to print any document to use for reference or deliverable? If that is so, then this article is perfect for you. Read through this and discover how not printing will actually help you work more efficiently, benefiting your company and the environment at the same time.

1. Ctrl + F (Find) function is the most powerful searching tool not available in printed documents. I had a lot of personal experiences with this. One good example is when a colleague tried to search for a keyword in a yet unfamiliar, printed document. The difference in search time is astounding: When he nearly took a minute trying to search for that keyword, I begged him to refer to the soft copy instead and use Ctrl + F. And we got to it in just a few seconds. Can you now guess how some finish work faster than the others? Here’s a trivia: Do you know that only about 1 in 10 computer users know how to use the Ctrl + F function? Learn to use the Find function today onward and save yourself from eye fatigue!

2. Printing documents can result to an unergonomic, cluttered desk. I have another experience which serves as a good example: A co-employee approaches my seatmate to ask; when my seatmate recalled something, he rummaged through his printed documents on top of his desk, which resulted to an awkward 45-second silence between them before he finally found what he was looking for. If only he relied on soft copy, the search would’ve ended in just a few seconds (especially if he keeps notes of the document’s location). Also, his desk is so cluttered that he already takes around 10% of my personal desk area, which restricts both of our freedom of motion while using the mouse. While one might argue that it’s just a matter of organizing things properly, there’s a spatial limit to how much you could place on your desk.

3. Printing documents take time and can cause delay to everyone. I’ve had many encounters with this. One good example is when a colleague printed a 60-page document. At some point during the printing process, an error occurred in the printer, indicating the need to replace new paper in the tray. Replacing new paper took nearly 5 minutes, because the error wasn’t immediately discovered, and the storage area is far from the printer. This caused a long printing queue which stalled everyone trying to print in the same printer. Imagine if he just relied to the soft copy, he wouldn’t have caused such delay (And if others relied on soft copy too, they wouldn’t have been affected by the delay). Other errors that can cause delay are the need to replace toner and paper getting stuck while printing.

4. Working on printed documents can take more time than on soft copy. If your work involves doing markup on various documents, then you must be aware how tedious it is to do by hand. You have to be extra careful with your fingers so that you can write/draw markups properly, otherwise you have to erase and do it all over again. But why do so if you can do it on the comfort of your computer using a program like Adobe Reader? (Note: I’m not advertising here or anything). In such program, you wouldn’t have to be very dexterous to be able to draw straight lines or even cloud marks; not to mention, write intelligible comments. The Ctrl + C/V (Copy/Paste) function is another powerful tool in swiftly reproducing the same markups, that you obviously won’t be able to do if by hand. Also, if you already prepared the markup on soft copy, you wouldn’t have to scan it for email or as soft copy, thus saving time scanning (especially if you have to ask someone how to in case you don’t know).

5. Printing is costly. Paper may not be so expensive, but printer inks and toners are. A cartridge can reach up to $100 per unit or more. Of course, the printer/cartridge performance and use (or non-use) of toner saver mode are factors as well in determining the longevity. But just imagine how much a 1000-employee company consuming an average of three units of printer cartridge per month can save if everyone decides to go paperless.

6. Data storage on paper is less reliable than digital, and consumes more space. Paper is susceptible to deterioration. A coffee spill is all it takes to say goodbye to your precious documents. If not, it will simply degrade in time and burn in case of fire. On the other hand, digital storage brings the possibility of information loss to a minimum. As science advances with time, so does the reliability. There are already available technologies in the market which employ innovative backup techniques in case of hardware failure. Fire/EMP-proof cabinets will also help store the hardware safely. Furthermore, storing documents in digital form consumes much less space than in binders, which may allow a more spacious and ergonomic workplace.

7. Printing is just plain harmful to the environment. Producing printing paper requires virgin pulp sourced from natural forests and/or plantations, which processes cause water and air pollution. Paper that are not recycled and even the sludge coming from the recycling (de-inking) process end up in landfills. For the details, read what WWF and Wikipedia have to say on the environmental impact of (printing) paper.

And there you have it. I hope that with this article you would have a moment to reconsider if you really need to print or not (answer: you don’t). It’s not only for the sake of protecting the environment; it is also for the success of you and the company you work for.

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Paper bags are NOT the best alternative to Plastic bags!

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A common misconception with paper bags is that they are more environmentally friendly than plastic bags. But believe it or not–this is not always the case.

First of all, why do we use paper bags instead of plastic bags? It’s because when we throw away plastic bags, they do not biodegrade easily. So does paper bags, being more biodegradable, make it okay to throw them away? The answer is NO!

Remember that paper bags, although made up of recycled paper, don’t begin as recycled paper; all sorts of paper are originally made from the virgin pulp–a processed material that is directly derived from trees. If you throw away a paper bag, it’s the same as throwing away a virgin pulp paper, and the same with cutting down a tree and wasting it.

There are also other problems with using paper bags: First, producing recycled paper requires energy and other resources (chemicals). Second, paper is not a very durable material to be used as packaging, so you cannot reuse it many times. Third, there’s a limit as to how many times you can recycle paper, since its properties can degrade over each cycle. And lastly, not everyone who uses paper bags actually recycle them.

So if paper bags are no good after all, then what’s the better alternative? I personally use bags made of natural cloth. They are more durable than paper, and are also recyclable and biodegradable!

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To conclude, we should not throw away anything that can still be used as it is, or can still be recycled. Anything you throw away becomes waste, and it will take a while for nature to convert them to its useful state. And if you think you’re being environmentally friendly enough–think again. You may just actually making things worse, rather than making things better.