What do you do to live a more sustainable life?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by imac/cheese, Mar 18, 2011.

  1. imac/cheese macrumors 6502a

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    #1
    As a sustainability professional, I am always interested in what people from around the world do to live a more sustainable life. I would love to hear what actions you take in your daily life to reduce your impact on the environment and if anyone would like me to help them quantify the impact of their efforts, I would be glad to do so.
     
  2. rdowns macrumors Penryn

    rdowns

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    #2
    I do the obvious, easy things. I recycle, use cloth bags at the grocery store, have some CFC bulbs, try to buy things with minimal packaging.
     
  3. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #3
    How does the environmental balance sheet work out between my kitchen vs. the cafe on the corner? Generally speaking, cooking from scratch, at what point do I become as efficient? How much do I have to make/how many to I have to feed to be comparable to food service?
     
  4. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #4
    Two years ago yesterday I quit smoking and sold my car. The reason for selling my car was that by riding my bicycle, I would burn off some of that excess energy. My car was getting a little old and needed some work so my "reward" for quitting would be a new car in the fall.

    Well, I really liked getting around on my bike, my neighbor has a truck in case I need to haul anything big and 2 years ago, ZipCar came to town. It's also pretty cheap to rent a car for the weekend or even a week if I want to go further afield.

    I also have a small veggie garden, shop at the local, year round farmer's market (much of the produce is less expensive than at the store) and recycle everything I can. Nor do I eat a lot of red meat, but that's been the case since I was very young so it's not really a matter of effort, more one of personal preference.

    I also try to encourage other people when it comes to sustainability. Every little bit helps.
     
  5. Lord Blackadder, Mar 18, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2011

    Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #5
    My biggest move towards "sustainability" was relocating within walking distance of work. Now I get 60 mins of walking in every day in additon to saving on fuel.

    The rest is small stuff: not using the diswasher in my apartment, re-usable cloth grocery bags, installing compact fluorescent lighting, turning lights off when not in use, etc. It's harder to be efficient in an apartment, where so much is out of the renter's control, but there are plenty of little things one can do.
     
  6. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    Mar 22, 2010
    #6
    This may not seem like a big deal, but the awareness of our use of plastics and reducing the need for them is no small matter. I've got a good supply of grocery bags and also reusable washable produce bags. And I take pains to not use that plastic bag, fork, or whatever for a few moments before discarding it to have it remain in our environment for ... ever.

    It starts with awareness, turns into practice and becomes a habit ... one which we should all take on.
     
  7. ender land macrumors 6502a

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    Oct 26, 2010
    #7
    I bought one of these:
    [​IMG]
    instead of one of these:

    [​IMG]

    I'm also debating buying a road bike for the summer to commute to work - it will be roughly 55 miles round trip but I am unsure if there are shower facilities or paths to there as of yet.

    I also recycle, use grocery bags as trash bags, and take the bus to work (or bike, roughly 2.5 miles).

    (sweet, you guys make me feel like I'm actually doing stuff :D)
     
  8. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #8
    True. It's also important to approach it sensibly. Some eco-crazies like to point out every little bit of wastage and impose Catholic levels of guilt over it. The fact is, we all still waste energy in one way or another. This isn't about becoming an environmentalist saint - it's about each individual learning how to be a little more efficient, and to make more sustainable consumer/lifestyle choices...the net effect is huge even if the individual contributions are modest.
     
  9. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #9
    Absolutely. Conservation (why isn't that a theme of the conservatives?) even when it's only a matter of small steps can have a huge impact.

    Not using energy is much less espensive than building new capacity.
     
  10. SuperCachetes macrumors 6502a

    SuperCachetes

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    #10
    Good for you! I quit smoking about 4 years ago. I cut back my drinking by 95% around the same time, and that was much harder mentally because it's so widely accepted.

    Word.

    In addition to CFLs, recycling, and the usual household conservation tactics, I commute on a motorcycle 10 months out of the year.

    I also use Green Mountain even though I'm not sure it is financially superior to the local coal/gas alternative anymore. I don't scrutinize the bills, so I really don't worry about the kWh rate.

    I've heard skeptics complain that the power I consume at home can't be offset on the grid with Green Mountain's renewable energy (hydro/wind) production 100%. That might be true, but it wouldn't concern me anyway. I'd rather be using 80% renewable energy than waiting for a perfect 100% solution.
     
  11. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    #11
    We can't live without using energy.

    But the all-american habit of wrapping that hamburger in a styrofoam container that lasts for a minute or two before being thrown in the trash needs to be completely rethought.

    I'm not looking for guilt. Guilt is a largely wasted emotion. I'm looking for wisdom.
     
  12. Big-TDI-Guy macrumors 68030

    Big-TDI-Guy

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    #12
    I do what I can - which is far more than most people in my area.

    I can't help but see the irony with this thread on a website that celebrates rampant buying of new technology. It makes me think of Futurama - Attack of the Killer App. ;)
     
  13. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    #13
    I don't see new technology in itself as being the problem. If everybody stuck with old technology and heated our homes with firewood or coal we'd be in a bigger mess than we are now.
     
  14. imac/cheese thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #14
    There are a lot of factors that go into this comparison.

    - Packaging: You will normally have a lot more packaging for the products you buy compared to the bulk products that are used at the cafe. If you are getting take-out, the packaging they use for your food would be a lot harder on the environment than using your dishes at home.
    - Solid Waste: Restaurants often throw their waste food into the garbage where it goes to a landfill. They also often do not recycling (depending on how difficult it is to do) so you can easily beat the cafe in this case if you compost your scraps and recycle your trash. Some cafes handle their waste a lot better than others.
    - Shipping: If you buy a lot of local food products and the cafe buys bulk shipments from far off, the enviromental impact of shipping your food purchases could be considerably less than that of the cafe.
    - Energy: This gets pretty complicated. If you eat at times when the cafe is pretty busy and they are already firing all of their ovens and cooking equipment, your additional meal doesn't really add additional energy usage. In that case you would probably not be able to compete with the cafe in terms of energy use no matter how many people you cook for. If you eat at a time when the cafe is not busy, and they have to start up one of the bigger ovens to cook your meal, it might have been more energy efficient to stay at home. The cafe also has a lot of energy overhead (lights, signage, A/C, etc) that would be added to each meal. Of course they are going to use that energy whether you eat there or not, but it is something to consider.

    Bottom line: If you walk to eat at a busy cafe that is environmentally conscience, you would have a difficult time be more efficient by cooking at home.

    What is your climate? I would love to ride my bike to work, but I have found that my co-workers don't want me to ride my bike at all during the summer time.

    That is huge for the environment, the pocketbook, and the body.

    Depending the the type and age of the dishwasher your apartment has, it might be energy and water efficient to use it on energy saver mode versus handwashing. Especially if you only use full loads. The news ones don't use much water and only use a small amount of energy to heat the water and pump it around. It also depends on your handwashing style. My dishwasher uses about half the water to wash a full load compared to what I would use to wash them all by hand, and since the water used for handwashing would have been heated using my water heater, it saves about 1/3 the energy as well.
     
  15. R.Perez macrumors 6502

    R.Perez

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    Feb 16, 2010
    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
    #15
    My carbon footprint is quite small, even with quite a bit of electronics in my house. I am vegan (have been going on 15 years now), and only drive 10 or so miles a day.

    You can actually calculate your carbon footprint here....

    http://www.nature.org/greenliving/carboncalculator/

    here is my result

    [​IMG]
     
  16. hulugu, Mar 18, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2011

    hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

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    the faraway towns
    #16
    1. I ride my bike to work and school
    2. I installed a rain-water harvesting system to water my yard.
    3. And the garden.
    4. I replaced the doors and windows of my home and sealed the duct-work, etc. to make the house more efficient.
    5. Although we drive a mid-size SUV, we drive it rarely enough that I have to do maintenence based on time rather than mileage.
    6. I helped dig trenches for the 'curb cuts' around my neighborhood, which will harvest rainwater from the street and direct it to trees we've planted. This will eventually create more greenery in the urban heat island, lowering the local temperature and in effect lowering cooling costs for the neighborhood.
    7. Recycle
    8. Installed CFC or LED bulbs throughout.
    9. Replaced dishwasher, heater/AC, stove, oven, toilets for more efficient units. It's an old house.
    10. Installed new thermostat that can be scheduled, so the temperature can shift throughout the day.
    11. Future plans include solar water-heater, solar array, and shades for the west-side of the house.

    EDIT: I just took the Nature Conservancy's carbon footprint calculator, my household's total emission is 31 tons of CO2—twice the world average, but less than half of the US average. Now, mine will fluctuate because of air-travel this year, but still that's amazing.
     
  17. 184550 Guest

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    May 8, 2008
    #17
    Eh, I recycle and use cloth grocery bags.

    That's about the extent of it.
     
  18. KingYaba macrumors 68040

    KingYaba

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    #18
    I like plastic grocery bags and I insist on receiving them. I use them to clean up after my two dogs, I use them as trash bags, and I use them to carry my lunch. :eek:
     
  19. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #19
    I live north of Sacramento, CA so the weather here is pretty mild and commuting distances are not long.

    Workplace showers are definitely a good thing.
     
  20. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

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    #20
    Plastic bags are good for these kinds of tasks, I agree. However, they don't degrade, so they're a nuisance in many cases.

    After a severe windstorm here, I went hiking in a canyon near the city. There were dozens of the bags caught in trees and cactus, so I grabbed the ones I could get at, hiking out with a full backpack of plastic shopping bags from Target, Walmart, and various groceries stores.

    With this in mind, it would be nice if companies shifted to the corn-based biodegradable bags. These would still serve your purposes, but I wouldn't have to worry about the local wildlife—coyotes and other animals eat them—choking on someone's trash.
     
  21. imac/cheese thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #21
    I have never heard that Green Energy sells more alternative energy than they purchase or produce. They have a pretty good reputation. Have the skeptics ever produced any evidence or are they simply repeating something someone else said?

    From what I understand, there are some price lock-ins available with Green Mountain Energy, but I think it does cost a penny or so more per kWh.

    I imagine that living in Honolulu, you don't use much energy to heat or cool your home. How long does it take you to drive 10 miles a day? I hear the traffic there can be quite horrible.

    Excellent list. I would love to hear about any pros and cons that you have discovered for any of those actions.
     
  22. R.Perez macrumors 6502

    R.Perez

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    Philadelphia, PA
    #22
    its true, but I live in town, so no traffic for me. My girlfriend and I share a car, and sometimes I use the bus. But when we do drive it goes like this....

    [​IMG]

    Add in the occasional stop at the grocery store, or at a local vegan place for dinner here and there.
     
  23. Rt&Dzine macrumors 6502a

    Rt&Dzine

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    #23
    Hopefully not in that order.
     
  24. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

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    #24
    Biking is mostly a benefit, but there are times where it just doesn't work because of time, distance, or I have to arrive somewhere in a presentable fashion. Also, my son is eight months and I'm not comfortable biking with him yet.
    I also use a lot of deodorant, especially in the summer.

    The improvements to the house, including replacing the bulbs, appliances, etc. were mostly done on an as-needed basis. We didn't toss the dishwasher until it broke, but when it did we spent more money on the high-efficiency model. We did the same thing with other appliances and our toilet, looking for deals and taking our tax benefits when available.

    For CFCs, the right temperature bulb is a longer-lasting, more efficient version of the old ones. I find myself replacing bulbs at a far lower rate than before and year-over-year I see a difference in energy usage.

    We did the same with the Heater/AC system, which is the lion's share of our energy usage. The cost difference was $2,000 or so, but we save about $25 per month versus another system, so it will take about six years to recoup our cost. We figure the system will last about 10 years.

    The rainwater harvesting system was more hobby than cost-benefit, water is cheap here, so to recoup construction costs we'd have to use it for 15 years, which sound unlikely.

    The other rainwater systems were paid with neighborhood improvement grant money, but I think it's a good beautification project for the neighborhood. We'll have mature mesquites and palo verde shading the street, fed by harvested rainwater. The benefit analysis is hard to do for these projects, but it's fun to do and construction is relatively easy—the city cuts the curbs, we provide the rock, gravel, and plants. And the muscle.

    Some of the items I've done have improved my personal life, some have saved money, but each has resulted in a cut in our usage. You don't have to live like a monk, you just have to think of this as a larger, long-term goal.
     
  25. Iscariot macrumors 68030

    Iscariot

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    Toronteazy
    #25
    1. I don't eat meat
    2. I compost
    3. I recycle
    4. I buy used often and sell or donate my goods
    5. Low energy bulbs
    6. Take public transit
    7. Unplug electronics when not in use and switch off vampire devices
    8. Use chemical free household cleaners whenever possible
    9. Use chemical free, organic or recycled toiletries often

    I'm sure there's more that I do, but I'm not comfortable with the idea of taking too much personal pride in the topic or carving out an identity based on my contributions. While I like to think I make an effort, I'm sure I could do more, and there are plenty of people who make far more (or perhaps far less) of an impact than I do.
     

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