Be a Good Citizen Every Day
Use this easy checklist to be a good citizen.
So you can celebrate Earth Day every day.
Some people feel reluctant to make changes. For them, even small changes seem scary.
So if you’re considering a change, take it easy.
Choose one idea and experiment with it. Or customize an idea to fit your lifestyle.
Once you complete that, then choose another.
This way you can make changes in ways that feel comfortable.
Why: Electricity costs money. And most electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels. So you can celebrate Earth Day by using electricity wisely.
[_] Light Bulbs
Replace all conventional light bulbs with LED lights or at least CFL lights.
Turn off unneeded lights. Make it a habit of turning off lights when you leave a room. Use daylight when practical.
Check if these devices are really turned off.
Many TV controllers leave the TV turned on, even when you turn off the TV. In that case, the TV controller sets the screen to black, while leaving the TV on. Unfortunately, this leaves a high wattage appliance turned on, wasting electricity.
Save electricity by either: 1) Unplugging the TV, or 2) Putting the TV and the control box on a circuit strip that you can turn them off.
[_] Video Games
Check if these devices are really turned off.
Video Game players also leave the TV or Video screen on after you turn it off. Fix this by either: 1) Unplugging the TV, or 2) Putting the TV or its control box on a circuit strip so you can turn them off.
Put transformers on a circuit strip so that you can turn them off after you’ve finished using the device they power. Otherwise, these transformers keep using electricity. Although each uses a small amount of electricity, many transformers can add up to using as much as a large appliance.
[_] Printers and Scanners
Turn on the printer (or scanner) only when you need it. Once you finish the job, turn off the printer.
This is especially important for printers and scanners that receive only occasional use. Sometimes, for example, my printer stays off for days at a time.
[_] Garage Door
Put the garage door opener on a circuit strip. Then turn off the power once you are home.
This: 1) Saves electricity, and 2) Prevents someone from opening the door while the power is turned off.
Another safety tip: Put a bolt in the track next to a wheel. This prevents someone from opening the door by disengaging the emergency lock.
[_] Solar Panels
Install solar panels. They produce electricity and that will reduce your electric bills. For example, during 2022 my electric bill was negative for ten months.
[_] Cancel the Gas Company
If you have an all-electric home (i.e., you are not using gas for anything), cancel your account with the gas company. I was surprised when I learned the gas company was charging me 16 cents per day, even if I used no gas. This adds up to an annual cost of $58.40. Of course, such charges may be different in your area.
Why: Save money and gas on transportation. Reduce the use of fossil fuels.
[_] Public Transportation
Use public transportation as often as possible.
For example, this includes commuting to work, going on vacations, and even (if practical) shopping.
Sometimes public transportation saves both money and time. For example, I will ride the train if I go to downtown Los Angeles. This takes half as long as driving plus costs a fourth as much as parking.
[_] Car Pool
Join a car pool for commuting to work or taking children to school. This saves gas and stress.
Form one-trip car pools with a friend for special events.
Walk to local merchants when it makes sense to do so.
For some people, a bicycle can serve as excellent transportation. Some people even commute to work on a bicycle.
Senior people may want to use an adult tricycle. These can have a large basket that will hold two bags of groceries.
Always combine errands and shopping trips. Plan them to minimize driving by traveling in a loop.
[_] Local Merchants
Shop from local merchants. Often the cost of driving to distant stores negates any savings from their special prices.
[_] Other Shopping
Buy things from Internet stores when it makes sense to do so. You can also use the web to browse for products in stores, so you know exactly where to go when you shop in your community. You might even phone to confirm that a product is in stock, which avoids wasting a trip.
[_] Use the Postal Service
Pay bills, send letters, and ship things by mail. This costs less and uses less time than driving.
[_] Your Car
Buy a fuel efficient car. Some people could save thousands on the cost of a car and then thousands more on the cost of gas every year.
[_] Starting Your Car
Start the engine when you are ready to drive. Most people start the engine, and then fasten their seat belt, turn on the radio, check their cell phone, comb their hair, adjust the radio, check their cell phone, etc. etc. etc. Note: 2 minutes of idling is equal to a mile of driving, except when you just start or when you run the AC. Then it’s almost equal.
[_] Turning off the Engine
Turn off the engine as soon as you park. And never leave the engine running when are taking a nap, eating a meal, shopping in a store, and so on.
Special Note: Reducing the use of fossil fuels is the most important action you can take as a Good Citizen.
Why: Earth friendly eating is good for you and good for the planet.
[_] Organic Foods
Buy organic foods, especially produce. Organic foods are better for you and better for the planet because they’ve been produced without pesticides and other chemicals.
[_] GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms)
Avoid GMO foods.
Chemical companies have spent huge amounts of money: 1) Preventing the public from knowing that GMO products are in their foods, and 2) Bullying farmers into buying GMO seeds.
[_] Fair Trade
Buy Fair Trade food products. This assures you that the people who produced these products were paid a fair wage for their work.
Plan meals that require less preparation and cooking. This saves time and energy.
Eat less meat (especially beef); and eat more fruits and vegetables.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is better for you. It’s also better for the planet. Meat production is the least efficient means of producing food.
Plan meals so that you either use leftovers or have no leftovers. Discarding food wastes money.
Be creative when using leftovers. For example, I’ll mix leftover vegetables with the sauce on a pizza.
[_] Fast Food
Avoid fast food and junk food.
Some fast food “meals” contain more than an entire day’s allotment of calories, fat, salt, and sugar. A diet based on fast food will cause you to gain weight. And it’s bad for your health.
Many fast foods (and other processed foods) contain flavor enhancers that cause you to eat more than you need. These “natural flavors” combined with the extra fat and sugar are a major cause of obesity.
Read the labels on food products before you buy them. Pay attention to the amount of sugar, salt, and fat in the product. Especially watch out for trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Both of these are bad for your health.
[_] Salt and Sugar
Minimize (or avoid) adding these to foods. There is already more than enough of these in the foods that you eat.
[_] Soft Drinks
Avoid soft drinks and other recreational beverages. They contain large amounts of sugar and chemicals that are bad for you. Some soft drinks contain as much as a quarter cup of sugar in one serving. Instead, drink water.
Drink tap water. Or if necessary, run the water through a filter.
Avoid buying bottled water. Most bottled water is the same as the water that comes out of a faucet in your home.
Buy a reusable water bottle and fill it as needed. This will save money because you buy the bottle only once, compared to buying bottles of water every time you shop. This also avoids filling your trash with plastic bottles.
If you drink tea, buy fair trade organic products. I especially like teas sold by Arbor Teas. They offer a wide variety of earth friendly teas that are delicious. And their service is fantastic (they are really nice people, too).
If you drink coffee, buy organic, fair trade, bird friendly, shade grown coffee.
Shade grown coffee is grown the natural way – in the shade, which is the way coffee prefers to grow. So buying shade grown coffee preserves the environment and gives you coffee that tastes better.
Why: Saving on paper saves trees and makes your life simpler.
Cancel your newspaper subscription, unless you must read a printed newspaper.
Instead, subscribe to an online edition. Or surf the net for the main news stories.
Subscribe to only those magazines that you read. Then, after reading a magazine, share it with others or donate it to a library (or other organization).
[_] Phone Books
Cancel delivery of all phone books. Call the phone number that’s provided on the cover to end your subscription.
If you’re reading this article, you must have access to the Internet. So use the Web to find phone numbers and addresses.
If you own (or run) a business, conduct a quick poll of your employees to determine who needs a phone book. Or, just tell your staff to find contact info on the Internet.
[_] Junk Mail
Stop junk mail. Ask merchants to stop sending catalogs because all product info is available on the company’s web site. Use postage-paid return envelopes to send a note asking the sender to remove your address from their list.
[_] Scratch Paper
Save any paper that can be reused, such as pages with printing on only one side. Use this to write drafts, prepare lists, and take notes.
[_] Household Products
Buy facial tissues, paper towels, and bathroom tissue made from recycled materials.
Why: Earth friendly investments support companies that work for a sustainable future. You will also support fund managers who will ask companies to act like good citizens.
[_] Your Savings
Invest in socially responsible companies and funds.
[_] Your Employee Retirement Plan
If possible, select investments that are socially responsible.
Why: Save money and protect your health.
Air dry laundry (when possible).
[_] Cleaning Products
Use Earth friendly cleaning products. These contain natural ingredients that have a minimal effect on the environment. Most Earth friendly cleaning products are made without dyes, fragrances, and other chemicals that can: 1) Irritate your skin, and 2) Pollute water systems.
[_] Natural Cleaning Products
Use vinegar and baking soda. Both of these do an excellent job. I keep a small spray bottle filled with vinegar on the sink for quick cleanups.
[_] Hand Soap
Use an Earth friendly hand soap.
I especially like the Goat’s Milk Soap made by Ginger’s Garden. It leaves my hands feeling clean and comfortable.
I always carry a small bar of this soap in a plastic box when traveling. I do this because the soaps in most restrooms hurt my skin.
[_] Heating and Air Conditioning
Use reasonable settings.
Some people have their seasonal settings backwards. They make their home hot in the winter and cold in the summer. I keep my home cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer.
[_] Pets (Especially Cats)
Keep your pets inside.
It’s estimated that outdoor cats kill over a billion birds each year. That’s a huge loss for the environment.
I keep my cat, Olivia Felini, inside. This protects her from cars, lawn chemicals, other cats, predators, and weird people. Olivia is healthy, happy, and free of fleas.
Some people leave their dog outside. This can be okay when the weather is comfortable. And it’s okay if the dog enjoys being outside.
It is not okay if the dog is barking. Dogs bark when they are in trouble. And a barking dog is a terrible nuisance for your neighbors. It’s also illegal in many cities.
[_] Lawn Chemicals
Avoid using fertilizers and pesticides. These poison pets, birds, and everything that comes in contact with them (including children). These chemicals also pollute water systems when rain washes them into the sewer system.
[_] Other Toxins
Avoid using poisons. They kill both the pest and the animals that feed on pests. They can also kill outdoor pets.
Many toxic chemicals (which includes poisons, pesticides, and herbicides) are especially dangerous because they accumulate in body tissue. Then years later these toxins cause cancer, liver damage, and nerve disorders. And by then, it’s too late.
Use your own bags when shopping. Some stores will give you a small discount when you bring your own bag. Or they won’t charge a bag fee.
This avoids wasting paper and avoids putting plastic trash in your area’s disposal system.
Why: Trash poisons the environment and costs money.
Save and recycle paper (if your area provides recycling as part of their trash collection).
Save and recycle bottles, jars, and other containers (if your area provides recycling as part of their trash collection).
Save and recycle batteries through e-waste disposal services. Many communities organize events where people can drop off batteries and other electronic trash.
Donate or sell unneeded goods.
[_] Organic Waste
If possible, compost lawn waste and kitchen waste.
Why: Each of these actions protect your future.
Adopt an earth-friendly lifestyle. That is, find ways to apply the ideas in this article.
Join or support organizations that work to preserve the environment.
Your membership will connect you with other members, provide news about what’s happening, and offer programs where you can make a difference.
Buy from companies that support Earth friendly practices.
Learn about what is happening.
Read books, articles, and newsletters. Attend conferences, seminars, and other events that feature programs on Earth friendly practices.
Write letters to anyone and everyone.
Write articles, blogs, and posts in social media (such as Facebook, Linkedin, twitter, and so on).
Make phone calls to express your opinions.
Set an example of the lifestyle you wish others would follow.
Your success becomes a powerful statement that demonstrates the importance of being a good citizen.
Weeds: Control without Poisons, by Charles Walters
The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control, by Fern Marshall Bradley, Barbara W. Ellis, Deborah L. Martin
Weeding Without Chemicals, by Bob Flowerdew