From shopping at secondhand stores to downloading music instead of buying CDs, teens can incorporate green living into their daily lives with minimal difficulty and maximum impact on the environment. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans recycled about 34 percent of the 250 million tons of trash generated in 2010. That means each person recycled and composted about 1.51 lbs. of individual waste generation per day.
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Shop secondhand. Buying used clothing, furniture or household appliances not only saves you money, it also recycles someone's old items, lets you find new, creative uses for them and keeps products out of landfills. Good places to shop include rummage sales, garage sales, eBay and thrift shops. Goodwill alone diverts more than 2 billion lbs. of clothing and household goods from landfills every year. Plus, it creates job-training opportunities for people in your community who need work.
Bring a reusable beverage cup and leftover bag to the coffee shop and restaurant, and carry your lunches to school in a reusable container. Take a reusable bag with you when you shop, and bring purchases home in it instead of in a single-use plastic bag, which can smother coral reefs and seriously injure marine birds, sea turtles and whales that mistake plastic bags for food.
Walk or ride your bike instead of driving a car. This is healthier for you and the environment. Fewer car trips means that fewer greenhouse gasses and pollutants are released into the air we breathe. If you need to travel a greater distance than you can walk or ride, carpool with friends or take public transportation.
Download music instead of buying new CDs. This cuts back on materials needed to make CDs and plastic CD cases, and reduces costs and pollution associated with the shipping and fuel needed to ship CDs to music stores or to your house if you buy CDs online.
Plant an organic, pesticide-free garden or buy locally grown organic foods. Industrial farming relies heavily on fossil fuels to transport food, fuel machinery and produce chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Growing your own food or buying produce at your local farmer's market, for example, helps protect the soil, air and water quality while it reduces energy consumption.
Replace old light bulbs with energy-efficient ones to conserve energy and save money on bills. According to the Green Youth Movement founded by youth environmental activist Ally Maize, energy-efficient lighting uses approximately 75 percent less energy than standard lighting, producing 75 percent less heat, and lasts up to 10 times longer.
- U.S. EPA: Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in the United States: Facts and Figures
- Goodwill Industries: Environmental Impact
- US EPA: Marine Debris Impacts
- US EPA: Estimating Emission Reductions from Travel Efficiency Strategies
- Urban Table: Food, Sustainability & the Environment: Eat Local
- Green Youth Movement: Learn Green
Jessica Lyons is an award-winning journalist based in Santa Cruz, Calif., who has been writing and editing since 1998. She covers environmental issues and green technologies, travel, fashion, food and wine for a variety of local and national publications including "American Spa Magazine," "Solar Novus Today," "Wine Country This Week" and "Monterey County Weekly."
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