Going Green from A to Z
Avoid Fast Food.
Most fast food is overpackaged and most fast-food companies are responsible for producing mountains of trash. By avoiding fast food whenever possible, you'll help reduce this needless waste.
Boycott A Product.
Choose something that you feel is not good for the environment. Once you decide not to buy it, write a letter to the company's president (the address is often right on the package) and tell him or her why you have decided not to buy the product anymore. If lots of people did this, companies would start making more environmentally responsible products!
Buy Products Made Of Recycled Paper.
How can you tell if a package is recycled? Look right on the package. Many have specific claims, such as "made of 100 percent recycled material." However, some recycled packages don't advertise this fact, although there are ways you can find out for yourself. For example, when shopping for cereal, cookies, crackers, and other groceries packaged in cardboard boxes, make sure boxes are made from recycled paper. If the underside is gray or dark brown, the cardboard is made of recycled material. If it's white, it is made of unrecycled material.
Clean Up A Stream Or Park.
Get a group of people together and find a stream or park that needs some tender loving care. Arrange for everyone to meet at a specific time to pick up the trash, weed, perhaps even plant some flowers. Ask local business to donate money, tools, or other supplies you'll need for the task. You also should invite a newspaper reporter or TV news team to come along and report on the event. Make sure to check with the proper local authority in charge of the stream or park to get permission so you are sure not to break any laws.
Close The Refrigerator Door.
By leaving it open for just a few extra seconds, you waste a lot of energy. Decide what you want before you open the refrigerator door. Then get it and close the door right away.
Collect Aluminum Cans.
You might raise a lot of money in the process. The best thing is to combine this with your stream or park cleanup (see above). Sell the cans you collect to a local aluminum recycler and use the money for something fun! Or donate the money to a worthy environmental organization (see below).
Contribute To A Good Cause.
You don't have to contribute a lot of money. In fact, you don't have to contribute money at all. A local environmental group probably can use your and your friends' help in a variety of ways. By volunteering for just a few hours a week, you'll be making a worthwhile contribution to the environment. It will make you feel really good!
Create A Compost Pile.
It's easy to do. Find a corner of the yard that's out of the way. Carefully throw food wastes (leftovers, eggshells, coffee grounds, spoiled vegetables, etc.) into a pile and mix with dirt. Every week or so, turn the pile over with a shovel to give it more air. In a few weeks, it will turn into a rich, nutrition soil that will help plants grow. Just think: What used to be "garbage" is now a valuable substance!
Cut Down On Packaging.
We've already given you several ways to do this. Keep in mind that about half of what we throw away is packaging. By buying products that have as little packaging as possible, you can help to reduce those mountains of trash.
Don't Buy Aerosols.
There are environmentally better packages for most products. Aerosols can't be recycled--which means that they are guaranteed to end up in landfills--and some of their ingredients contribute to air pollution. Instead of aerosols, look for spray bottles, liquids, powders, and roll-ons.
Draw Up A Petition.
If you find something in your school or in your community you think needs to be changed, one way to convince the people in charge is to circulate a petition, getting as many people to sign it as possible. The petition might say something like: "We, the undersigned, believe that our junior high school should begin recycling all paper, glass, and aluminum immediately, and should place recycling containers throughout the school to make recycling easier. Make sure the signed petition reaches the people in charge; send it to the person at the very top. Send a copy of the signed petition to local newspapers and TV stations.
Elect "Green" Candidates.
During election campaigns, ask candidates about their position on the environment. Try to ask specific questions that relate to situations in your community--whether they support a mandatory recycling program, for example, or whether they plan to get tough on polluting companies.
Find Out How To Dispose of Hazardous Waste.
Nearly every household has some kind of hazardous waste: old paint cans, used motor oil, unused pesticides and weed killers. If you dump these things down the drain, you'll end up polluting the water supply. THey should be disposed of in a site specially designed for hazardous or toxic wastes. Some cities and counties have monthly or annual pickups. Other areas have special drop-off sites. Call your city or county government to find out the proper way to dispose of such trash in your area. Try organizing a hazardous-waste-collection day in your neighborhood or at your school, encouraging others to dispose of materials properly.
Grow A Garden.
A garden provides flowers, vegetables, and environmental benefits. It can help to reduce soil erosion and may help to reduce some kinds of air pollution. Try to grow your garden using as few pesticides and chemical fertilizers as possible.
Hold On To Balloons.
Helium balloons--they kind that float up into the sky--are lots of fun, but if you let them fly away, they may harm fish and animals. Helium balloons eventually fall back to earth and can be blown by strong winds miles away into the ocean. Some sea animals mistake the balloons for jellyfish. When an animal tries to eat a balloon, it can kill the animal. So if you have a helium balloon, hold on tight. If you know of others planning to use them for a celebration, warn them about the dangers of letting the balloons fly away.
Insulate Your Home.
You may find a lot of energy being wasted right in your own home. After you've finished your energy audit, make a list of the things you believe should be done. Your local hardware-store sales person can help you determine how much the improvements will cost, how much energy they will save, and how much money your family will save in reduced energy bills.
Invite A Speaker.
A good speaker can provide a lot of useful information and can answer your questions. Almost every environmental group has individuals who will speak to your school or organization, usually for free. Consider hosting a series of speakers, each on a different environmental topic. Even better, invite two people with opposing view points on a single subject. You may be in for an exciting debate!
Look At Labels.
Reading labels can tell you a lot of things. First, you can find out about a product's ingredients--whether it contains anything that might be hazardous to your health or the the environment. A label will also tell you how to contact the product's manufacturer with your questions and comments. Feel free to let them know what's on your mind. Do you think their product is good? Let them know! Could it be better? Let them know that, too. In particular, let them know if you've decided to buy--or not buy--their product for environmental reasons. Companies listen very carefully to what their customers have to say. It doesn't take very many letters and calls for a company to think seriously about making changes.
Organize Your Friends.
You've probably heard that "two heads are better than one." Well, ten heads can be even better! You and your friends can probably accomplish a lot if you set your minds to it. Think about the ways you and your friends (or family, classmates, scout troop, or whatever) can help out as a group. Then contact a local environmental group and volunteer your services. Think how much fun everyone can have helping to save the planet!
Protest Animal Cruelty.
Each year, millions of laboratory animals--rats, mice, dogs, monkeys, and others--suffer needlessly because companies use them to test new products, including most cosmetics and personal-care products. Many of these are extremely cruel. These animals are routinely burned and injected with poisonous substances, among other tests. The worst part is that many of the products for which they are being include ingredients that have already been proven safe! Some companies don't conduct these tests. They often label their products "cruelty free" because they do not cause harm to animals. If you had a choice between a product and a product that caused animals to be harmed and a similar one that didn't, which one would you choose?
Reuse A Bag.
Some people believe that bags made of trees--paper bags--are less harmful to the earth than bags made of chemicals--plastic bags. The fact is, making both types of bags creates a lot of pollution, and both paper and plastic bags use a lot of resources. So neither is much better than the other. The best solution is not to use any bag at all, or to bring your own bag. Some people carry a canvas or mesh bag they can use over and over. If you must use a paper or plastic bag, don't throw it away. Try to use the bag over and over--as many times as you can.
Stop A Leak.
Organize a Stop-the-Leak Day on which everyone in your family tightens, insulates, replaces, caulks, and does whatever else is necessary to make your home as "tight" as possible. Your local water, gas, or electric utility company may be able to provide help, or even instructions and supplies.
Support Green Companies.
In the past, most companies haven't paid much attention to the environment. But now, a growing number are changing the way they do business. Some are changing their products so that they are less wasteful or polluting. Others are encouraging their employees to carpool or to recycle. Still others are helping their local communities improve their environments. These companies deserve all of our support! Whenever you have a choice between supporting one of these green companies or a company that is less green, you should definitely support the greener one.
Talk To Your Parents/Children.
There's a good chance that you know more about the environment than they do. That's okay, there's still time for them to learn, and you can be the one to teach them. Don't be afraid to share with them the information you've learned through this site and at school. Help them learn about ways they can be Green Consumers and spend their money in ways that will help the environment. Although it doesn't always seem that way, grown-ups do listen to kids. If you share your concerns with them, they will become concerned, too. Together, you can help.
Turn Off The Lights.
This is such a simple thing to do, but sometimes it's so hard to remember! Ask your parents if you can put little stickers near the light switches you leave on the most often, reminding everyone to turn them off when they leave the room. Consider starting a Lights-Off Fund, to which each person must donate a nickel or dime every time he or she forgets to turn off the lights. As those nickels or dimes add up, you might donate them to an environmental organization.
Write a Letter.
You'd be surprised how much just one letter can do. Most companies don't get many letters from customers, and most politicians rarely hear voters, so when they do get letters, they read them very carefully. According to some experts, if a company or politician receives just twenty letters on the same subject within a few weeks, they consider the subject high priority. You and your classmate can write twenty letters in a few minutes! So, if a company is doing something that you don't like, or if a politician isn't taking actions that can help protect the environment, write a letter. And encourage your parents--and your friends and neighbors--to write letters, too.
© Melt Magazine 2008