Going Green - Tips For Lazy Environmentalism

I love the Earth. I really do. I want to help it in a way that doesn't require me to change much about my comfortable lifestyle, though. And I know that our lifestyles are destroying her. Polar ice caps are melting and polar bears are losing their homes, rendering them unable to drink delicious coca-cola during the holiday season. Plants are emitting a weird toxin that compels people to kill themselves, Mark Wahlberg to talk to plants and Zooey Deschanel to attempt feigning emotion. I want to help, but some of these environmentalists are just asking too much. I want to help the environment without having to do much. I'm sure you do too. So here's some ways we can do our part, and still be lazy, like good Americans.

1. Use Your Car Engine Or Dishwasher To Cook

This isn't exactly a "lazy" exercise, except what's lazier than combining cooking and driving? Maybe not lazy, but efficient. Regardless, it is one that intrigued me. My friend Erika, who is way more environmentally friendly than I am (and I totally commend her for it) told me about an email she received from one of the list serves she was on about cooking in your dishwasher. Yes, that's right. You simply wrap the salmon in foil, place it next to the dirty caked on left over macaroni and cheese pan, and that plate with leftover grilled cheese, or is that lasagna, wait didn't I make that last week, why is that plate just now getting cleaned? And then you run your dishwasher, and you have clean dishes and a delicious salmon dinner. Apparently you can also make Lasagna Florentine.

2. Use Your Local Library

The library is amazing. Have you been to your local library lately? There are tons of books and CDs and movies and weird smells and questionable people... and guess what? It's all free. For a limited time. The books and movies and CDs, you have to return those. The weird smells will always be there. How does this help the environment? Well it's the whole concept of recycling and reusing books. How often do you re-read books? Not that often probably. And you can make this an "extreme green" experience by riding your bike or walking to the library, picking up some books on helping the environment and carrying those books back to your compound in your cloth "I Heart Mother Earth" bag. And you can stop and buy some locally grown corn and soy beans on the way home.

3. Get and Use a Dish Washer

When I figured this one out, I was ecstatic. I hate doing dishes. Well, I like the feeling of the hot water and letting my arms sit in the warm water, and watching the bubbles form. But the the disgusting pieces of food start to float in the water and that smell mixed with the water and really I have to pick up those pieces of egg now floating in the water are enough to make me throw up in my mouth. And I also hate when I rinse off the dishes before I put them in soaking water, forget about the dishes cause I got distracted catching up on Lost and have to pull all the dishes out of the cold water with the floating rice all around. And when I had roommates and they would put their plates or bowls with food still in them (food that should have been put into a Tupperware container and saved, or thrown out) just right into the soaking water.

Dishwashers use endrgy. True. But the amount of water you waste waiting for the sink to fill up and the water running while you rinse off every dish, is far more than the amount of energy the dishwasher uses. So load it up, go watch some TV or read a book (that you got from the library) and then don't put the dishes away and just use them straight out of the dishwasher.

4. Take Shorter Showers

You really don't need to be that clean. If you want to really be hardcore you'll use Dr. Bonner's all in one soap and use that to wash your hair and body and then clean the tub afterward. And if you've ever spent time around hippies, you know we should all take our hygiene tips from them. But seriously just taking 5 to 10 minute showers saves a lot of water. Really you could aim for less.

5. Don't Run The Water While Brushing Your Teeth

This is a pet peeve of mine. Others include the sounds people make when they're eating. Also incessant throat clearing is equivalent to nails on a chalkboard. Anyways, this one, bothers me because it's so unnecessary. And I'm by no means an environmental extremist. Fine, you don't recycle cause it's not available in your neighborhood or you hate the earth or think global warming is a conspiracy theory. Whatever. You drive everywhere, even to the store that is 2 blocks from your house. Okay I'll let it slide. But when your brushing your teeth, put that toothpaste on the toothbrush, put a splash of water on there. Turn the faucet off. Brush your teeth. For 2 to 5 minutes (yes, that's the ADA recommendation) then spit. Turn faucet back on and rinse your toothbrush off. Done. If the water's running while you are brushing your teeth, it's such a waste because it serves no purpose. At least the water used in rinsing dishes off is doing something, this is just pointless.

6. Keep Your Thermostat Down Or At Least Under Control

Here's how this works. In the winter, you keep your apartment/house a little bit colder, and in the summer a little bit warmer. So you'll want to turn the thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer. The hardest time to do this is right when winter first starts, because that's when it feels the coldest. That first 35 degree day. You will want to set your thermostat to 80. Don't. Just remind yourself that when it gets down to 10 degrees, you'll be longing for the day it's 35. If you are cold, there are novel things you can use to provide warmth to yourself, blankets, sweaters, scarves. All of these are readily available in most major cities. Also, practice mental temperature. As I'm writing this I'm realizing this website is based in Los Angeles, and that you don't have to deal with this. So for those of you in warmer climates, the reverse is true. Your air conditioning can be set at 70 or 68. Or higher. If you think it's hot in your apartment, go walk outside and then come back in. In fact, go walk to the farmer's marker with your cloth bag and pick up some locally grown produce and then go back to your home and feel the difference. Also, this saves money. So you can do it for that reason, too.

7. Consume Less Animal Product

This helps the environment, helps your health, helps world hunger, it's an all around good goal to have. And I'm not at all urging you to go vegan, or even vegetarian or exist on a diet of tofu, beans and sprouts. Just one day a week, don't eat meat. You probably already do it without thinking but maybe now you'll be conscious of it. And that no meat, while I would urge you to choose healthy options (I do have a Masters of Public Health, I'm supposed to encourage healthy behaviors) could be a cheese pizza. Or macaroni and cheese. Those are fine. Let's just start with one day a week not eating meat. Hmm... what's a good alliteration for trying this new goal out. Oh good, someone else already thought of one Meatless Mondays: http://www.meatlessmonday.com/join-the-movement/. If Monday doesn't work for you, you could do Tofu-Friendly Tuesdays or Thursdays, Free from Meat Fridays, Sucks Cause I Can't Eat Meat Saturdays...

8. Use Recyclable (Cloth) Bags

They're cute, they have tongue in cheek, somewhat ironic in your face comments on them that would please any hipster. Or they're from several public health conferences you've attended. Whatever the case, they are pretty easy to find. Sometimes you have to pay for them, but you can find them for free. And here's the tricky part (and where I mess up), um, you need to remember you have them and use them when you go grocery shopping. My problem is with working full time, and having 2 part time jobs on the outside, I a) waste a lot of gas and b) often go grocery shopping when I think of it, and then get to the store and they say "Paper or Plastic?" and I say "crap". But I'm going to try and use cloth bags more and then also, only buy what fits in the bags, rather than way more groceries than I could possibly eat before their expiration date, cause then I end up throwing it out, and I think Mother Earth hates that as well.

9. Walk Or Run... Or Don't, And Do Less Laundry

I was researching for this list and saw "Walk, Run, or Jog" as an option to help the environment. And I thought, okay, that makes sense, exercise is good for you, and you can walk to the store (or wherever) and help the environment and get your exercise in. And then I thought about how often I work out, and how often I do laundry because I work out so much, and my advice is maybe don't run or jog. And do less laundry, cause you won't have to. Or really, once you let your clothes air dry they don't smell that bad and you can wear them again. Or try not to sweat as much. I don't know, to me this seemed like a weird pro-environment tip. Pro health and fitness and disease prevention? Yes, and I am all for that.

10.Use Cold Water To Wash Your Clothes

When I lived in D.C., my friend watched me throw all my clothes in the washer at once. "You don't separate?" she asked, almost like she was judging me. "Nope", I replied "I wash everything in cold water, so I don't have to separate, it's better for the environment." The truth is, I'm lazy and I don't want to take the time to separate colors so they don't bleed, and wash some stuff in hot and some stuff in cold. It all gets clean, and I've never shrunk anything or had anything bleed. And yeah, I'm using less hot water. There you go. And 90% of the energy used from washing clothes comes from heating water. (and yes I wash sheets and towels and some of my whites in hot)

Here's another tip: You probably don't need to use laundry detergent every time. Here's why: when you pour it into the washer a lot if stays in the washing machine, so if you just load your clothes and run the washer, there's probably still enough in there to get your clothes clean. Plus the fact that every one pours way too much into washing machines. Another option is to use Borax to clean your clothes. It uses less chemicals and is better for the environment. Your clothes won't smell like lilacs or teddy bears on top of blankets, or sunshine, but they will smell clean.

11. Reuse Plastic Bottles For Months At A Time

True environmentalists will shake their heads at this one. Also, people concerned about BPA will probably not be impressed that I've been using the same old (really old) Spring Mountain plastic bottle of water for the last 3 maybe 4 months now for when I work out. But hey, I didn't throw it away, so you know what I met you halfway. Also, I just checked and it looks like plastic bottles with recycling codes 1 and 2 are safe, so I think my bottle is a-okay. Except I'm pretty sure it's still not the healthiest thing. You can also re-use plastic bottles to catch the fruitflies in your house that will accumulate from your organic locally grown fruit you keep around, or to catch mice in your apartment, as per the video to your left. You can also purchase a Nalgene or Sigg reusable water bottle.


Erin Triplett is a regular contributor, political list maker, and blogger at Ranker.com. Ranker.com is a community built around the idea of people making their own funny, useful and informative lists then sharing them with the world. Erin often writes lists about women's issues and politics.

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