Is environmental sustainability a foreign topic to you? Have you put any thought into how your daily actions affect the environment?
There are plenty of environmental sustainability policies and programs around the country and even in our state, such as the recent plastic bag ban, the Green Acres Program to preserve New Jersey’s conservation and recreational areas, and Sustainable Jersey, a certification and incentive program for New Jersey cities that want to go green. There are also several environmental laws and executive orders in place to help safeguard the environment and the health of humans.
While the NJ Department of Environment Protection’s (DEP) goal is to support and educate New Jersey communities on sustainable practices to promote healthy environments for generations to come, some individuals are unaware of the efforts that they and their families can take within their own home to do their part. Here are a few environmental sustainability tips that Trenton Journal compiled that will not only save money, but will also promote responsible interaction with the planet.
Limit air conditioning usage
The summer season has officially started, and as the temperature rises, our initial reaction is to turn up the air conditioning. While this seems like a harmless action, many of us are unaware of the negative impacts that air conditioners have on our environment. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than 100 million homes in America have air conditioning equipment. Many do not know that cooling your home with air conditioning contributes to the climate crisis. Air conditioning equipment uses a lot of electricity, much of which is derived from fossil fuels, causing the emission of harmful greenhouse gases. Opening windows, using fans to cool rooms, and using cooler appliances—such as a crockpot instead of the oven—will help minimize the warm air in your home while minimizing the need for air conditioning. Also, look for ENERGY STAR appliances, which are an efficient way to use less energy. Once air conditioning usage is limited, money is saved on electric bills, and the planet is one step closer to a cleaner future.
Recycling and reusing
It’s a known fact that reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills is an eco-friendly habit. Reduce the waste you generate by composting food scraps, buying only what you need, donating to shelters, reusing/repurposing old clothes, and purchasing products made from recycled materials. The benefits of performing these practices include preventing pollution by decreasing the need to create new materials, and thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The emissions and air pollutants from gasoline-powered automobiles heavily affect our planet. These pollutants are known to cause asthma and cancer, as well as other long-term health issues. One way to lessen your carbon footprint is to invest in electric and hybrid vehicles. Drive Green New Jersey is a program working to grow the state’s electric vehicle community by offering incentives to help clean up New Jersey’s air. Purchasing a less-polluting vehicle, walking, biking, and carpooling are all ways to do your part to reduce pollution.
Unplug to reduce energy
In addition to limiting the use of air conditioning at home, unplugging appliances and other items consuming electricity is a great way to be energy efficient. When items are not in use, they are still soaking up electricity on a smaller scale, using what is known as standby power. The simple act of unplugging your appliances at home can save you approximately $100 per year, according to Energy.gov.
What’s your carbon footprint?
Knowing how your daily activities affect the environment is the initial step to reducing your carbon footprint. The United States Environmental Protection Agency offers a household carbon footprint calculator, which helps individuals measure their impression on the environment based on their habits, personal decisions, and location, considering home energy use, transportation choices, and waste. Understanding where you stand will help to plan for a better future.
This story was co-produced in collaboration with CivicStory (http://www.civicstory.org) and the NJ Sustainability Reporting project (SRhub.org).