By now we are pretty much all in agreement that climate change is happening and we should all be making an effort to lead greener lives, especially as the recent climate change summit has proven that we cannot trust politicians to lead the way on this one. But sometimes it can be difficult to pick through a minefield of different information and get into the habit of more environmentally friendly practices. The Green Revolt has come up with 25 tips for a greener life this year, proving the smallest thing can make a big difference if put into practice by everybody.
23 Tips for a Greener Life
1. Stop Using Plastic Bags
Ninety percent of all plastic bags end in landfills where they take decades to decompose. New laws are coming in to slowly filter out the use of plastic bags, but they will not come fully into effect for another couple of years. In the meantime we can all improve our habits by taking our shopping bags out with us and telling cashiers ‘no to plastic bag’.
2. Turn Off the Tap When Brushing Your Teeth
Leaving a tap running loses nine litres of water per minute, the equivalent of what three adults drink in a day. Simply turning the tap off whilst brushing your teeth makes a huge difference to water consumption.
3. Separate Rubbish
Rubbish separation exists in all major metropolis. To help them do their work, separate your rubbish. Hit the street, talk to your cartoneros and find out what time they pass so you can give them the recyclables directly. Even better, talk to your neighbours and see if you can systemise your rubbish by putting plastics, card and paper, and glass and metal in different coloured bags. Your neighbourhood will be cleaner as a result.
4. Don’t Leave Chargers Plugged in
Chargers use energy even when they are not working. By unplugging chargers, you save energy. This ‘commandment’ can also be used for turning things off – don’t leave appliances in ‘standby’ or ‘sleep’ mode as they still use 30% of the energy they consume when switched on. And if you are going away, unplug them at the mains.
The traffic in Buenos Aires is ever worse, but you can help improve it by cutting the number of cars on the roads – and therefore the amount of emissions – simply by car sharing. You will save at least 50% on fuel and tolls. And if you have to buy a new car, it is much better to choose a light coloured bodywork – it has been proven that dark colours add to global warming.
6. Stop Buying Water in Plastic Bottles
Bottled water produces 1.5m tonnes of plastic water, meaning 47m gallons of oil use per year. Eighty percent of these end up in landfills. Additionally, plastic bottles are bad for our bodies – small compositions of chemicals enter the liquid and are bad for us, even in small doses. The water in Buenos Aires may not taste the best, but it is perfectly drinkable. Leaving it in a jug or bottle for a couple of hours improves the taste enormously, or buy a filter for your tap.
7. Use a Bicycle
Buenos Aires city government is starting to create bicycle lanes on many of the avenues in the capital, making riding a bike much safer. And plans are underway for bicycle hire, special areas in parking lots, as well as group outings, such as Critical Mass. So it is time to start pedalling – this saves the 2,500kg of carbon dioxide a car emits and is much better for your health.
8. Remember the Three Rs
Think about the number of things that end in the rubbish each day and how many you could avoid. Perhaps follow in the footsteps of a movement in the US and carry your trash for a day to see how much of it you really needed to buy in the first place. The three pillars of reducing your consumption are: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. If something breaks, think if you can fix it instead of throwing it away – one thing Argentines are particularly proud of is how they can fix anything – so put them to the test!
9. Put a Plug in The Sink When Washing Up
Washing the dishes with a running tap uses a lot of water – nine litres a minute – and this could be avoided by simply putting a plug in the sink, or using a washing up bowl. A plug costs less than $5 and can be found in any hardware store.
10. Turn Off Lights
Switch off the lights when you are not in the same room – or at home! Switch them off when there is natural light. And if you have to have the lights turned on, buy energy-saving lightbulbs – yes they are much more expensive here, but last for around six years, so are a worthy investment.
11. Eat Less Meat
A hard thing to suggest when in the USA and the meat is soooo good! But the meat industry is also one of the USA’s biggest polluters. But it is proven that the single thing an individual person can do to help the environment is turn vegetarian. Now, let’s be realistic, this is not going to happen in the land of the freedom, but regulating your intake could make a big difference.
12. Try Not to Fly
Air traffic is responsible for 3% of all global carbon dioxide emissions. And such missions have a greater effect the higher they are produced, and at the height most planes fly, carbon dioxide could be around for 50 to 100 times longer, having two to four times a greater impact. Although it is easier and quicker to travel by plane, ground transport is a better choice where possible.
13. Don’t Litter in The Streets
Quite often, the drains don’t work properly in some major airports in the USA. You wouldn’t throw rubbish on the floor in the middle of your house, so why would you do it in the street? It is very common to see people throwing things on the ground as if we had no ownership of the public places in the city. If you see someone doing it, say politely ‘Sir/Madam, you just dropped something”, pointing to the thing they just threw down. It’s a way to politely point out that such actions are not acceptable, without being confrontational.
14. Turn the Air Conditioning Down
Yes, it’s hot in the USA, but the amount of air conditioning being used is not good for the environment. There is a way to live without the heat, but without causing too much damage – by putting your unit at 24 degrees. Try closing your shutters during the day will keep your rooms cooler, and when the air conditioning is on, keep doors closed to keep the cold air in. It is also a good idea to try to save the water that drips out of the unit and use it to water the plants or clean.
15. Flush The Toilet Less
With 30% of all water household usage, the toilet comes second to the shower in water consumption. An old toilet uses 16 litres of water per flush (sometimes more). Many new toilets are thought out to use less water consumption, but if you can’t invest in a new toilet you can reduce the water used in each flush by putting a two litre bottle full of water in the cistern. And then there is always the old mantra ‘if it’s yellow, leave it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down’…
16. Don’t Wash Your Car with a Hose
To begin with, try to only wash your car when it is necessary – once a month is more than sufficient. Using a hose wastes hundreds of litres of water which can be easily saved by using two buckets – one to clean, one to rinse. It is always better to use biodegradable cleaning products.
17. Buy Off Local, Organic Producers
Organic products are full of flavour and don’t contain chemical residues, better for your health and the environment, as well as the people working in the agricultural industry. As well as buying organic produce, it is important to try to buy seasonal and local goods off small producers to support the local economy and give a fair price to producers. The food industry, and its industrialization, is responsible for 40% of all emissions worldwide, as well as genetic modification killing biodiversity and ruining the soil.
18. Choose Returnable Bottles
A massive 30% of all things that end in landfill are packaging, and takes between 100 and 400 years to decompose. Whenever there is a ‘returnable’ option, take it – from beer to soft drinks to whatever. It may be a bit bothersome, but it is cheaper and generates much less waste than throw-away packaging. Most brands have a returnable option, so start to take it!
19. Plant Vegetables
On your balcony, patio, terrace, in your back garden – wherever – start to plant your own garden. By growing some of your own vegetables, or even just herbs, you are helping to green up the cityscape as well as providing yourself with a nutrional, organic alternative to buying something in a store.
20. Clean Up After Your Dog!
For all those dog aficionados out there – clean up after them! If the pavements are cleaner, porteros will have much less of a reason to hose them down with drinking water each morning.
21. Think About Where You Put Your Electro-Domestics
The refrigerator is the electro-domestic that uses the most energy, followed by the television and washing machine. Its efficiency depends on its location, and as a result it is important to keep it away from hot areas – out of direct sunlight and away from the oven.
22. Buy in Large Quantities
When you go shopping, always try to buy the largest packet of whatever you are after. It uses less packaging and will be a cheaper alternative in the long run. For example, instead of buying a 200ml shampoo, buy a 750ml one, buying one bottle instead of three overall and saving money. If you want to go ‘green extreme’, avoid buying offers, a they almost always have some extra packaging which is completely pointless and will end up in the bin.
23. Maximise Energy Use
From the simplest things we can all save energy. For example, if you are boiling water, don’t forget to put the lid on the saucepan. Recycle hot water, for example, if you recently made a mate there is still water in the thermos, use this water as a base for the water you are going to heat. And for your mate, try to always use a thermos rather than a kettle, as it keeps the water hot longer, saving reheating.