Editor's Note: A Few Tips on How to be Greener
I generally try to follow this well-known admonition of my era: Think globally, act locally.
However, I also must agree with another famous slogan — more from my son’s era, actually — by that astute amphibian Kermit: It’s not easy being green.
I do make an attempt. I’m diligent about recycling the stacks of newspapers and magazines that seem to magically gather at my house. Bottles and cans, not so much. I try to remember to turn off lights when I leave a room, and I keep my home thermostat set at slightly above the point where I can see my breath in the winter, and slightly below the point where I break into a sweat in the summer. My wife and I have one four-cylinder car that gets good mileage but one SUV that could be better. Pretty basic stuff, actually. I know I should do much more.
The university where this magazine is based is environmentally conscious, with a “green roof” on one residence building and frequent suggestions for a more sustainable work and study environment, such as green purchasing recommendations. As for Illinois Issues, we do use soy-based ink, and our covers are printed on recycled paper but not the inside pages — we simply can’t afford it at this point. And that’s a problem that overrides a lot of sustainability concerns in a down economy: Often, being green takes more greenbacks.
Still, there are some small, less costly things we all can do locally to perhaps better preserve the globe for succeeding generations. I’ve culled the following personal list from various sources. Some I was aware of; others are new to me. In no particular order:
- Install light dimmers. I have done that in many rooms in my house and found that it not only saves energy and makes conventional light bulbs last longer but allows me to establish different lighting atmospheres for different rooms. But I still have several rooms without dimmers, so I’ll buy energy-saving compact fluorescent lights for them. You can’t use the regular CFLs with dimmers, but you can find specially made ones that you can, and I’ll look into that, as well.
- Unplug the cell phone charger when not in use. Mine is normally plugged in at the office because the outlet is behind a desk, and I have to lie on my back and reach up behind to disconnect it. I promise to get a power strip that will make it easier for me to follow that recommendation.
- Take shorter showers to conserve water, or at least use low-flow shower heads. I do have a low-flow shower, but I confess to sometimes lingering longer than I need for cleanliness. I’ll try to find another, more environmentally friendly wake-up routine.
- Don’t rinse plates before putting them into the dishwasher. That makes sense. Why use twice as much water?
- Avoid antibacterial hand soap, which not only kills the bad bacteria but also the good ones. It’s necessary in the medical field, I discover, but washing with plain old soap and water for 15 seconds will do the trick most of the time. I certainly can cut back.
- Use durable products instead of disposable. My wife does take reusable bags to the grocery store, and I do have my own coffee cup and plastic water bottle at work. I can, however, try to rely less on paper plates and plastic sandwich bags for my lunch.
- Write with refillable ink pens and mechanical pencils. Hmmm. Never thought about that. I do have both in my briefcase, but I usually use the throwaway kind for normal business chores.
- Use solar calculators that don’t have disposable batteries. I earn a check mark on that, but I do it more for convenience than sustainability. I’ll look around the office to see what everybody else has.
- Buy rechargeable batteries. I do have some, but I can use more. I’m constantly replacing batteries in remote controls, flashlights, digital voice recorders, my handheld GPS, smoke detectors. … I think I can probably save some money as well as help the environment.
- Wrap presents creatively with newspapers, paper bags, old maps, etc. Another suggestion I never thought about. Perhaps I can find multiple uses for other disposable items, as well.
That’s my personal list of 10 relatively easy and inexpensive things I can do to live a greener life. Many other tips can be easily found through an Internet search. Perhaps all of us can make our own simple lists and do a little more to safeguard the environment.
It’s only fitting that Beverley Scobell chose to retire from her 19-year career at Illinois Issues with this month’s environmental edition. She has added a scientific and environmental dimension to the magazine for many years with feature articles and Briefly items about such subjects as white-nosed syndrome in bats, conservation and clean air and water issues, among many others. Her latest feature is this month’s piece on how trees and plants can renew contaminated soil. (See page 29.)
Beverley began at the magazine in 1985, while still an undergraduate at then-Sangamon State University, and she has worn many hats during her stint here. As our projects editor, she helped edit several books. She has worked behind the scenes for many years as our chief copy editor and as supervisor to our graduate research assistant in fact-checking our articles. She also oversaw the production of our annual Roster of State Government Officials. Along with her articles on science and the environment, she has written extensively about education, culture and politics.
We will all miss her expertise and her enthusiastic and gentle demeanor. As another old-school grammar geek, I will particularly miss our fervent discussions about such arcane issues as reflexive pronouns and subjunctive mood. Luckily for me, she’ll only be a phone call away if I have a question in those areas that I can’t answer.
Beverley intends to spend her time in the immediate future tending to her garden and a daughter’s upcoming wedding. We wish her the best and hope she can still find the time to occasionally lend her talents to Illinois Issues.
Illinois Issues, July/August 2010