Green Living

It’s a new year, which means it’s the perfect time to make some 2019 resolutions. But while friends and family members may be vowing to exercise every day or to embrace a healthier diet, those aren’t the only kinds of goals you can set for yourself. If you really want to have an impact on our planet’s precarious position, you may want to devote yourself to leading a greener lifestyle over the next 12 months.

But it’s not only what you do at home that matters. The eco-friendly efforts you make at work can potentially have an even bigger impact, especially if you get the rest of your team on board. Best of all, it might not be as big of a pain as you might think to embrace sustainable practices at the office. Here are some great ideas for going green in the workplace.

Make a Commitment to Digital Documents

Estimates show that each individual American office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of paper every year. Going paperless is not a new concept, but it’s one that a lot of offices may not embrace consistently. While some documents may be shared digitally, others may still be printed and distributed in meetings. Sadly, most of these papers add to desk clutter or end up in the trash. Even if you make an effort to put those papers in the recycling bin, that still means you’ll be purchasing reams of paper (and be responsible for cutting down trees) that may not be totally necessary.

If your business is able to cut down on paper usage, make every effort to do so. Not only will you reduce your waste and your carbon footprint, but you’ll probably decrease the costs associated with other supplies (like printer ink) and maintenance, too. When you do need to use paper products, consider switching to recycled and sustainably sourced items. Be sure to reuse items like manilla envelopes, files, and binders whenever possible, as well. You may not be able to have a completely paperless facility, but every little bit helps.

Use Non-Toxic Cleaning Agents

When a spill occurs or the janitorial staff comes in to clean the bathrooms, do you know what kinds of products your office uses? You might not give it much thought, but the cleaning agents you rely on could be harmful to the earth — and to your staff. Many products used in offices contain toxins known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can release dangerous fumes and lead to both short-term and long-term health problems. According to the American Lung Association, these products may include air fresheners, chlorine bleach, rug and carpet cleaners, floor polish, dishwashing liquid, and more.

What’s worse, products that contain VOCs can contribute to reduced indoor air quality and increased outdoor air pollution. While using these products may seem convenient, they’re doing a number on your health and the health of our planet. That’s why many businesses have embraced product components with environmentally friendly powder coatings (which are free of solvents and VOCs). In the same vein, you should consider switching to greener cleaning products, which contain no harmful toxins and are just as effective at keeping your workplace properly sanitized.

Encourage Eco-Friendly Commuting

Millennials may be a main focus for employers, but the reality is that Gen Z represents the newest addition to the workforce. Those in these younger generations are eager to embrace non-traditional workplace arrangements, as is evidenced by the prevalence of freelancing and work-from-home positions. In fact, 38% of Gen Zers want to work from home — and they also believe that maintaining an eco-friendly workplace is essential.

If you want to appeal to 20- and 30-somethings, you might want to embrace greener ways of working. Telecommuting is a great option that allows full-time, part-time, or freelance employees to work from home (or from a nearby coffee shop) rather than making the daily trek to and from the office. Not only does this make employees happier and surprisingly more productive, but it also reduces the amount of carbon emissions. If they aren’t driving on a daily basis, they’ll be able to reduce their environmental impact.

Another popular option for motorists who want to cut their emissions is the electric vehicle. EVs are set to make up 54% of new car sales worldwide by 2040, thanks to their growing affordability and increased accessibility to charging options. While adding an EV charging station at work will certainly represent a financial investment, many businesses will benefit from tax incentives that can offset those costs. Offering services like these can also boost your branding and solidify your place as a green leader in your industry. By promoting options for non-gas-guzzling vehicles, you can make life a lot easier for EV-owning employees and even convince others to make the switch themselves.

Reduce Your Electricity and HVAC Use

If your coworkers are inclined to keep the lights and their technology plugged in 24/7, you’re probably using way more energy than you need to be. The same goes for a thermostat that overcompensates for the weather outside; if you’re constantly shivering in the summertime or sweating inside in the winter, your office HVAC is working overtime. Both of these issues can result in high operational costs and high energy use, which can affect your business’s bottom line and its ability to really be sustainable.

If you’re able to program your thermostat and the light sources in the office, this can save both money and energy overnight and on the weekends. In general, your thermostat should be set slightly lower in the winter and slightly higher than the summer than you might think. Even a single degree or two can save you up to 10% on your heating and cooling bills. You can also encourage employees to unplug appliances (like the microwave and coffee maker) when they leave for the day or use smart power strips with programmable timers to shut off electronics completely when everyone’s gone for the evening. You may also want to switch to LED lightbulbs and use as much natural light as possible to offset your electricity usage.

There are many other ways you can make a difference in the workplace and in the world by embracing sustainable practices. Filling the shared kitchen with locally sourced snacks, for example, can reduce transportation emissions, promote more eco-friendly packaging, and support small businesses and agriculture in your area. Adding office plants can make workers more productive and less stressed while improving the indoor air quality. And investing in second-hand furniture or donating items in good condition from your office can promote a less wasteful ethos. Don’t afraid to think outside the box and put ecological responsibility first this year. It may improve employee engagement and help your business stand out.

When the closet becomes so full that you can’t shift the coat hangers, you know it’s time to do a little purging. Cleaning out your closet is a great way to de-stress, re-organize, and spend less time deciding what to wear every morning.

However, as a culture, we tend to make clothing choices that aren’t so kind to the planet. The average American spends a whopping $1,800 on clothing every year, and worldwide, landfills pile hundreds of thousands of pounds of old clothing among the other rubbish.

With a little planning and effort, you can clean out your closet while minimally contributing to clothing and textile waste. For a clean closet and a clean conscious, try the following four eco-friendly ways for getting rid of old clothes:

1. Donate Gently-Used Items

Support the environment and your favorite local charity by donating your gently used items. Many thrift stores will accept almost any item of clothing. Alternatively, you can try donating items to crisis shelters or children’s organizations to more directly help those in need.

2. Host a Clothing Swap

If you have a few friends who wear similar sizes and also care about the environment, host a get-together to exchange old clothes! If your items are in good condition, your friends will love swapping gently used pieces to get a new (and free) wardrobe upgrade. For a more organized clothing swap, separate dresses, pants, shirts, and accessories. Donate whatever is left over after the party.

3. Head to A Textile Recycling Plant

Do some research to learn the location of your nearest textile recycling center. Though a bit less common than the typical recycling plant, these organizations break clothing down into textile fibers to be reused in new garments or carpet padding. This option is best for clothes past the point of return, such as heavily ripped, stained, or burned items.

4. Repair or Repurpose

If recycling isn’t an option, but your items are too damaged to donate, consider repairing or repurposing the garments at home. A fresh hem, re-stitched button, or new zipper can quickly and cheaply mend a “useless” article of clothing. Old shirts can also be torn into rags for cleaning, and old jeans make sturdy aprons when sewn together. When it comes to repurposing old clothes, the only limit is your imagination.

To help save money and the planet, try any of these methods to clean out your closet in a sustainable way. With a little effort and creativity, you can ensure your garments avoid the landfill for as long as humanly possible.

When people think about Las Vegas, they don’t often think of the beautiful green landscapes. They probably don’t think about those green landscapes at all, actually. But that is starting to change.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, an unknown forest with more than 117,000 trees is actually located in America’s driest desert.

The forest consists of approximately 75% hardwood trees, which take upwards of 20 years to reach maturity. Las Vegas is one of 100 U.S. metros that the U.S. Forest Service hopes to one day add the Vegas forest to its annual Forest Inventory and Analysis, which is an exhaustive nationwide tree tally and health assessment.

“For us, it’s about getting a better understanding of trees, be they in natural forests or landscaped ones,” said Michael Wilson, inventory and analysis program manager of the Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Approximately 80% of Americans live in metropolitan areas, urban forestry will likely be the only way people who live in cities like Vegas to experience green trees and nature. When most of us think of Las Vegas, we think of dingy motel rooms that require mold killers in the bathrooms, or the brightly lit strip full of casinos and gaudy hotels. Not exactly a nature lover’s paradise. But the forest project is helping to change that.

The U.S. Forest Service’s annual inventory collects the samples from 200 randomly selected areas in order to determine the type, size, and relative condition of the trees in a given area.

“Our whole purpose is to be able to track forest health over time,” added Mark Majewsky, supervisor forester at the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station.

Las Vegas urban forest, which is entirely man-made, is actually much larger than forests in other U.S. metros. Since 2013, the Nevada Division of Forestry released a detailed inventory cataloging more than 117,000 trees from 262 different species on the publicly owned property.

“In the East, urban forests were carved out of natural forests,” added Wilson. “Our in the West, we create an urban forest where there wasn’t a forest before.”

Here are some interesting facts about the Las Vegas hidden forest:

  • The most popular individual species is the Mondale pine (14% of the total population), the Fan-Tex ash (9%), the desert willow (5%).
  • Nearly 50% of Henderson’s trees were in the youngest tree age, with trunks of 3 inches in diameter or less.
  • 50% of the trees in Boulder City ranked as large or medium size, the highest such percentage in Clark County.
  • Approximately 25% of Mesquite’s public space trees were palm trees.

With winter well on its way, it’s time to start thinking about what kind of projects and activities you’re going to be doing. Winter can be a difficult time to get things done, especially with low temperatures and shorter days. This is why the winter months can be a great time to get stuff done around the house. So to help you stay busy this winter, we’ve compiled a short list of some eco-friendly home improvement projects you can tackle.

Replace Your Flooring

If your home’s flooring could use some attention, the winter is the perfect time to re-do it. A great option for sustainable flooring is actually carpet. While it may not seem like it, carpet can do more than keep your feet warm. Carpet is a great way to maintain temperature in your home. With carpeting in your home, you can use less heat in the colder months because the temperature will stay warmer on its own. Additionally, it can help stop heated air from escaping through the floor. And installing carpet on stairs can help reduce sound and make your stairways safer. With the American Journal of Medicine showing that more than one million Americans sustain injuries on stairs each year, it’s important to keep your family’s safety in mind too. So overall, installing carpet, particularly a non-toxic option, can be a great winter project.

Finish Your Basement

Basement remodeling is the perfect project for the winter months. Not only does Home Advisor show that a basement remodel can have up to a 70% ROI, it’s a great way to save energy. When your basement is left unfinished and isn’t insulated properly, you’re going to lose plenty of heat. Proper insulation is key to reducing your energy use at home. So by remodeling your basement, and choosing sustainable materials, you can save energy. Additionally, you’ll have tons of new usable space in your home. So instead of expanding your home with an addition and removing land and gardens which are important for the environment, you’re utilizing space you already have. Finishing the basement is a win-win situation because you can save energy and use sustainable materials while gaining additional space in your home. And you’ll finally have the perfect warm and cozy place to curl up in on cold winter nights.

Reconsider Your Water Use

More and more homebuyers are looking for homes with energy-efficient features, particularly younger generations. And with millennials and Gen Yers accounting for 34% of home buyers in 2017, there have been immense improvements in energy-efficient options. This is especially true when it comes to water use. Nowadays, there are several ways to save water at home. So if you’re looking for something to keep you busy this winter, consider replacing your faucets and appliances with ones that help conserve water. Tankless water heaters and flow faucet aerators are great investments for any home. You could also consider installing an irrigation system. While you won’t be doing much gardening this winter, planning an irrigation system and setting it up can help capture melted snow that can help take care of your garden come spring. There are plenty of ways you can save water around your house, so consider focusing on water use this winter.

It can be all too easy to catch the winter blues and not want to do anything around your house. But these simple projects can make a huge difference in how sustainable your home is and they can help keep you active and involved all winter long.

When the cold weather arrives, people tend to spend more time in the kitchen. From baking cookies to making yummy stews and soups, more energy tends to be used in the kitchen during the winter months. And while the delicious foods and treats that come out of it may seem worth it, it’s important to always keep energy use in mind. It’s important to save energy, especially if you’re one of the 9.26 million people who owned a second home in 2017. So if you’re looking for a few easy ways to reduce your energy use in the kitchen this winter, keep reading.

First off, it’s important to keep your fridge and freezer full when possible. And while this may seem like the exact opposite of what you would want to do, your fridge and freezer run more efficiently when they’re full. So stock up on food, which is a good idea for the winter months anyway. And with 949 million gallons of wine being consumed in 2016 alone, you’re bound to have a bottle or two laying around — so put them in the fridge! Keeping your fridge and freezer full will not only make it easier to throw together meals without having to run to the store, but it will also help use your appliances efficiently.

While most big meals cooked in the winter months need to be cooked in the oven, the oven uses more energy than other appliances in your kitchen. So whenever possible, consider using other appliances, like the microwave or a toaster oven. And if you are using the oven, you should consider turning the oven off a few minutes early. The oven will retain the heat and continue cooking the food while using less energy. Furthermore, make sure you’re not opening the oven every five minutes to check on your food — this causes the temperatures inside to drop and the oven has to use more energy to get back up to the set temperature. And no matter what you do, do not use the oven for additional heat. While it may be tempting to turn on the oven and stand in front of the nice, warm heat, this is extremely unsafe and a huge waste of energy.

And lastly, it’s important to be mindful of how much water you’re using in the kitchen. It can be easy to fill up pots and kettles to the top without even thinking about it. But if you use the minimum amount of water needed, you can drastically decrease energy and water use. Additionally, you should consider defrosting your frozen items by leaving them on the counter, when safe, instead of running them under hot water. And when it comes to using the dishwasher, make sure it’s full before you run it so you’re not wasting unnecessary water.

While it may seem impossible to reduce energy use in the kitchen, it’s easier than it seems. Something as simple as air conditioning efficiency improvements can reduce electricity costs by up to 35%. So by keeping these simple tips in mind and always thinking about how much energy you’re using, you can make your kitchen a little more eco-friendly this winter.

Solar energy strikes again! It seems Volvo Cars is putting its money where its exhaust is, committing wholeheartedly to its vision of having climate-neutral global manufacturing operations by 2025. After having transformed their Sweden-based engine plant in Skövde into the first climate-neutral facility in its global manufacturing network, they added 15,000 solar panels to their factory in Ghent, Belgium.

“Installing solar panels in Ghent ­adds to our broader efforts to minimize our environmental footprint,” said Javier Varela, head of manufacturing and logistics at Volvo Cars. “We have a constant focus across our supply chain on improving energy efficiency, aiming for the lowest possible carbon footprint across our operations, with the highest possible use of renewable sources.”

Volvo Cars is going above and beyond: their Ghent factory also uses wind power (it supplies around 11% of its power consumption), and had introduced a heating system in 2016 that reduced carbon emissions by an astounding 40% — saving 15,000 tons of CO2 per year. With car manufacturers being one of the heaviest contributors to pollution, their actions are truly admirable.

The sun is one of the most reliable forms of renewable energy on our planet; every day, around 120,000 terawatts of power flows through the earth, which equates to roughly 10,000 times more than the production of our entire industrial civilization. With such a limitless source of power, one wonders why solar-powered cars don’t (or can’t) exist. An article on Quartz.com explained it succinctly:

“It’s all about energy density: how much energy falls on a surface relative to how much is consumed.” Essentially, the reason we have solar powered bikes that can travel thousands of miles, or sailboat drones that cross oceans, is because they are all very light, slow, and consume only a trickle of electrons — solar panels generate just enough energy to keep them moving. Vehicles, on the other hand, weigh thousands of pounds, so the energy that would be required to keep them running is impossible to harness with the technology currently in existence.

Though the sun isn’t quite within reach for powering vehicles, car manufacturers looking to go green have electricity to turn to in its stead; electric car giant Tesla has even proven the trustworthiness of their battery-powered vehicles through their limousines — a car whose dependability is crucial to its success. Evoke, a limousine service based in Australia, has just celebrated a milestone with their fleet entirely comprised of Tesla limos: they have just clocked one million kilometers (about 25 times around the planet) traveled without a single dead battery or customer left stranded.

“Electric cars work well as limousines because they spend so much time waiting for passengers, either at the airport or in the city,” said Evoke’s founder, Pia Peterson. “There is a lot of downtimes so we use those gaps in the day to charge the vehicles using Tesla superchargers or [chargers] back at our base.”

There are over 130,000 limousines in service across the U.S. that could benefit greatly from making the switch to electric, especially considering the fact that they offer smoother and quieter rides.

Going green is often easier said than done. While many people want to make the switch to an eco-friendly lifestyle, a lot of factors can get in the way. This is especially true when it comes to one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas and carbon footprint: driving.

Cars are responsible for a large percentage of consumer contributions to greenhouse gasses and climate change. This is especially true in the United States, where the average American household owns 2.28 vehicles (with 35% of households owning three or more vehicles). Owning a car can often feel like a necessity; however, it’s certainly not the only option. Here are a few alternatives to cars that can allow you to stay eco-friendly while still getting where you need to go.

Public Transportation

Depending on where you live, public transportation may be the best way for you to reduce your environmental footprint. Trains, buses, and other forms of group transportation cut down on carbon emissions by using an equivalent amount of fuel to a car to transport dozens of people, making the impact per individual person far smaller. In fact, motorcoaches create the least carbon dioxide per passenger mile compared to other vehicles and are roughly six times more fuel-efficient than single occupancy automobiles.

Of course, the viability of this will depend on your location. If you’re in a rural area and depending on the quality of public transportation in your area, your options may be limited. However, if you’re in an urban area, you could be in luck; many, though not all, major American cities now have a number of available rail lines to make public transit more viable.

Human-Powered Alternatives

Even if public transportation isn’t available, you still have several options to consider to reduce your footprint. Biking tends to be a preferred method of transportation, both for those who wish to go green and those who simply can’t afford personal cars. There are roughly one billion bicycles in the world today, roughly twice as many as the number of motor vehicles.

Biking isn’t just more affordable than driving; it’s incredibly helpful in reducing your overall carbon emissions, even if it’s used as a temporary switch. Bicycling just one day reduces greenhouse gas emissions by twenty-four pounds. Of course, if biking isn’t an option, switching to walking for shorter trips also can help.

Any switch that you are able to make to help the environment is positive, even if it’s only temporary. Try taking the bus or walking next chance you get to see if it might be a change you’re willing to make on a daily basis.

In 2013, Americans created 254 million tons of trash, and that number has only increased in the past few years. Worldwide, consumption and creation of waste has never been higher, and with global warming and climate change becoming a serious threat, this practice needs to change. Some people, however, have already reduced their consumption and waste creation dramatically; many people nowadays are living a “zero-waste” lifestyle, where they aim to have as little of what they use end up in a landfill as possible. Here are a few tips from the zero-waste movement to reduce your household waste.

  • Reusable containers: Disposable containers are everywhere. From plastic food packaging to disposable water bottles, it’s easy to forget just how much trash we create by choosing pre-packaged items. Whenever possible, bring a reusable container that you can then wash and re-use. You’d be surprised how much less trash you create when you’re drinking out of a reusable water bottle and using reusable fabric bags at the grocery store.
  • Repair, don’t replace: With how cheap certain products have gotten nowadays, it’s often easier to replace items than repair them. Why sit around mending clothing when a new shirt is only a few dollars? However, every time you throw out that ripped pair of jeans or worn out shoes, they end up in a landfill. Try to repair what you use, rather than replacing, to help keep items that could still be usable out of landfills.
  • Simple swaps: Take some time to make a list of all the disposable items in your house; you’ll be surprised how much you buy just to throw it away. From disposable utensils to razors to shampoo bottles to dryer sheets, there are plenty of household products that have reusable alternatives. Try to keep track of exactly what it is you’re using, and you’ll be more mindful about your purchases in the future.

No matter how you choose to reduce your waste in your life, doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Even one of these tricks could help you cut down significantly on your waste creation, helping you save the environment.