Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Look Back to 1989

I recently found a book from 1989 titled 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save the Earth (The Earth Works Group). I thought it would be interesting to see how we're doing twenty years later. Rather than rate the world though, I'm just rating myself. Green means I'm doing it, yellow means I'm partway there, and red means I probably have never even considered it, but might now.

Today's list includes the first 28 suggestions - the ones the book calls "Simple Things." I'll save the recommendations from "It Takes an Effort" and "For the Committed" for a later post.

  1. Stop Junk Mail - The good news is this is easier today. Check out my previous post on reducing junk mail.

  2. Snip Six-pack Rings - Apparently, this book was one of the initial sources that pointed out the harm the beverage six-pack rings could cause to marine life. Today, it seems there are less six-pack rings (because we're buying 12-packs now...) and there is some recognition that there are far more harmful things in the ocean (that giant pile of floating garbage in the Pacific), but I still snip.
  3. Use a Clean Detergent - This is easier to do today with all the choices on the market. I like Seventh Generation products.
  4. Aerate Your Faucet - I think my water is fairly low-flow already so I haven't done this one.

  5. New Ingredients - The pitch was to use reusable products in the kitchen - recycled paper towels, reusable containers, etc. Check.
  6. Tanks, But No Tanks - The book recommended lowering your water tank temperature. I went one step further and purhcased a tankless heater when ours was due for a replacement.
  7. Make a Phone Call - in other words, familiarize yourself with your local utilities and services. Hopefully, this blog helps with that!
  8. Brush Up on Paint - Use latex instead of oil, don't dump it outside, etc. Check.
  9. Time to Re-Tire? New laws require this and make it simple for the consumer. Want to see what we used to do with them? Here are the mistakes of the past from a few cities near me. An endless fire and a recent cleanup.
  10. Home on the Range - Ah... the appliances. Get energy efficient appliances. Out of necessity, I've replaced virtually all my appliances in the past five years so I'm good here. The one downfall in my house is the A/C. Definitely more of a luxury than a necessity in the Pacific Northwest (although 2009 was the hottest summer on record.)
  11. Don't Go with the Flow - Turn the water off when you brush your teeth, do dishes, etc. Check.
  12. Gas Station Ecology - Use unleaded gas. Does leaded gas even still exist??
  13. The Twilight Ozone - NASA has a cool video that calls ozone "sunscreen for our Earth." The production of CFCs (in thousands of tons) went from 1120 in 1989 to 70 in 2004. Despite this dramatic reduction, NASA estimates it will take until 2070 to get the ozone hole back to the size it was in 1980. It's a work in progress...
  14. Your Gas Is as Good as Mine - Buy the most fuel-efficient car you can. I don't think my SUV makes the grade here. I vow my next car will be better.

  15. Recharge Your Batteries - I have some sitting in a bag in the garage. I'll pull them out today!
  16. Attention Shoppers! Amazingly, even 20 years ago this book recommended bringing your own bag. We're finally listening.
  17. Find the Hidden Toxics - From the book, "There are more chemicals in the home today than there were in the average chemical laboratory 100 years ago." While I am aware of this, I don't think it everytime I buy a permanent marker or set of sheets as the book suggests.
  18. Leave It a Lawn - I think the 2009 version of this is "get rid of the lawn." I still have one, but I don't use pesticides and the grass does get composted through my local yard waste pickup.
  19. Stamp Out Styrofoam - I have a styrofoam phobia (the noise give me chills) so I excel at this one. My kids learned, at a very young age, that Christmas presents that come in boxes with styrofoam must be opened where I can't hear it. I would NEVER buy styrofoam peanuts! Recycled newspaper is always a good alternative.
  20. It's a Beach - The book recommends taking a trash bag to the beach. I do live near one and could easily do this next time.
  21. Buyer Beware - Specifically beware of buying products that come from endangered species (e.g. ivory from elephants). Earth Island Institute recommended boycotting all canned tuna because of the harm it causes to dolphins. Today, 90% of worldwide tuna companies follow their standards.
  22. Pests and Pets - Don't let your dog wear a toxic flea collar. I don't even know if those collars still exist. Vets offer much better alternatives today.
  23. Make It A Royal Flush - I've heard of this, but never tried it. Save 1-2 gallons of water per flush by using a displacement device in the tank. They recommend a full plastic bottle of water (label off, cap on, filled with a few small stones for weight) instead of the traditional brick. Worth a try...

  24. Air-Power Your Shower - It seems like we already covered this in #4. Here the book gives shower-specific advice. Hold a bucket under your showerhead and see how long it takes to get to the 1 gallon line. If it is less than 20 seconds, you are a candidate for a low-flow showerhead. Ok, I'll try it.

  25. Recycle Motor Oil - Given that I don't change my own oil, this one is easy for me.

  26. Tune Up the Heat - Tune up your furnace every year (oil furnaces) or two (gas furnaces). I'm on a regular schedule for this. The added bonus is that it keeps the home more allergen-free.
  27. Light Right - Buy CFC lightbulbs. Wow! I didn't even know they existed in 1989.
  28. Don't Let Go - Don't release balloons into the air. This is primarily aimed at the wedding-planners of the world. The concern is that they eventually end up in the ocean and there have been cases of whales dying as a result of swallowing balloons. Other than the occasional lost balloon at the local parade and a tearful child, I'm good here.

The good news is that twenty years later that some of these recommendations really are simple. I do still have five reds and three yellows though. How did you do?

No comments:

Post a Comment