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From Apathy to Action: Eco Tips from Sandi Sturm

Melting sea ice, rising sea levels, warming temperatures, deforestation, habitat loss—climate change is touching nearly every corner of our planet. In the face of ever increasing climate change related disasters, loss of life, and refugees, it can feel difficult to feel optimistic for the future health of our planet. Guilt, shame, apathy, and numbness may follow, which unfortunately can bring society away from taking the steps needed, no matter how small, towards addressing climate change.

In Family Survival Guide for Our Changing Climate, author Sandi Sturm empowers readers to resign their feelings of helplessness by incorporating some, or all, of her 52 actions to take against climate change. These actions are logical, easy to adopt, economical, and take minimal time and effort to implement. Sturm claims that by following these eco tips loyally, families and individuals can reduce their carbon footprint by up to 50%. No one of us should take on the entire weight of the climate crisis, but each of us should be routinely evaluating our day to day activities so to limit our impact on the planet.

While Sturm’s guide offers a variety of actions to take, SLVEC has selected five of her suggestions that we challenge readers to adopt before the end of 2021. For the complete list of eco tips and to learn more, order Family Survival Guide for Our Changing Climate.

1) Participate in Zero Waste Dining

Sturm reminds us that while eating out may be convenient, it can also be extremely wasteful. She reports in her chapter “Food on the Go” that to-go boxes can rarely be recycled. Not to mention, carryout or leftover packaging often comes with disposable cutlery, napkins, and plastic bags. With statistics concluding that the average American eats out several times a week, this waste has a huge impact on our society’s carbon footprint.

Luckily, there is a super simple solution to this waste issue. Creating a “to-go kit” Sturm offers, is the perfect way to continue your dining adventures without generating unnecessary waste. Each time you visit a restaurant or café, make sure you come prepared with a bag that has your own reusable Tupperware container, utensils, and napkins. Even better, keep metal straws or coffee mugs in case you want to order a to-go drink. If you want to order take-out, order your food at the restaurant, and transfer the food from the plate to your containers. This will satisfy their Food Safety Regulations. The same can be done for leftovers. Keep this to-go kit in your car so you always have it with you!

2) Make Your Laundry Eco-Clean.

Large sums of water, electricity, and toxic ingredients are often used for the average load of laundry. For example, a typical washer may use up to 40 gallons of water per load and many brands of detergents and dryer sheets contain chemicals that pollute our environment and bodies. Some of Sturm’s suggestions for making laundry a more eco-minded chore include: buying biodegradable, plant -based detergents that do not contain harmful chemicals, exchanging dryer sheets for wool dryer balls, drying clothes on a rack or clothesline, only washing when you have a full load of laundry, ringing out clothes before putting them in the dryer to reduce drying time, washing multiple loads of laundry in the same day, using low washing temperatures when possible, and investing in an energy efficient washer and dryer.

3) Stop Idling Your Car

Convenience again often comes with unnecessary waste. Sturm reports that idling cars waste around 3 billion gallons of fuel each year. She cites the US Department of Energy with a shocking statement: “eliminating the idling of car engines would be equivalent of taking 5 million vehicles off the roads.” Sturm urges readers to forego drive-through banks, restaurants, etc. and instead turn off your vehicle, and go inside for services. For those of you tracking your daily steps, this is a great way to get more exercise too!

4) Recycle Your Electronics

When electronics break or simply become too old and out of date for use, disposing of them can be tricky. Sadly, many of us do not take the time to properly dispose of our unwanted electronics, which produces hazardous e-waste. Sturm claims that of the nearly 42 million tons of e-waste that is produced, only about 10-40% is appropriately discarded. Sturm urges readers to always find a recycling center that accepts your electronics, opposed to throwing them away. She also suggests the purchase and use of more durable, long-lasting technologies, donating unwanted technology that still work to charities or groups in need, or buying refurbished/used electronics when possible. Visit SLVEC’s blog to see how/where to recycle e-waste in the San Luis Valley.

5) Unplug after Use

Many of us think that power usage stops upon turning off an appliance or device that requires electricity to function. However, even when an object is turned off but still plugged in, it is pulling some amount of power. Sturm shares that “About a quarter of all residential energy consumption is used on devices in idle power mode…” As a result, it could save us money and limit energy waste if we simply unplugged electronics, lights, appliances, etc. that are not in use. Exceptions of course apply to objects that are used frequently, such as refrigerators and ovens.

Throughout all of Sandi Sturm’s eco-tips a common theme is felt: Reduce consumption and reduce waste. Many of our daily behaviors can be gently modified to have a big impact on reducing our carbon footprint. Adopting sustainable practices can be affordable, fun, and even build community. Furthermore, these strategies can be empowering, bringing a much needed feeling of optimism and action forward as we all address climate change together.

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