The sun is out. The air is warm. And as Minnesota begins to resemble a habitable place once more, it is much easier to remember why protecting the Earth is actually a good idea. (Alright, I’m over exaggerating—but isn’t Spring nice?!?)
Earth Day is this week, and while we are bombarded with reasons why and how we should live sustainable lives, sometimes it just seems like so much extra effort. Like any good habit I’ve tried to employ, my green living game tends to be strong for a week or two before I really just want to grab a prepackaged meal of artificial flavors/textures instead of waking up early to make a sandwich. On top of the extra time, the sheer amount of information out there is overwhelming. Why can’t saving the Earth just be easy? Or better yet, fun?
I decided to take a Justice Office approach to the quest for sustainable living; which is why I will be posting opportunities for Education, Action, and Advocacy every Wednesday right here on the Justice Matters blog! Check these weekly updates, which will include my own experiences with different online tools, experiments to search for the best homemade cleaning solution, and legislation to watch out for. I’ll be continuing these updates for the foreseeable future, and it would be great if you could join in! Reply with your own tried-and-true experiments, tips, and tricks so we can share in the wisdom of this community. With these resources, we can use these warm weather months to make a real difference in and for creation!
Education & Action
How much energy do I use? How much do I waste? How much impact does one person—i.e., me—actually have?
To find out the answer, I went on the search for resources that aren’t just informative, but are also interactive. So without further ado, I present this week’s review:
Yousustain is a great catch-all resource. The website includes articles, actions that show their impact in tons of CO2 reduced and amount of money saved annually, and five different calculators for different aspects of your life. Whether you want to calculate your base carbon footprint, see how much your daily biking habits are making a difference, or simply want to see how much money you can save by switching to green living, this site has it all.
Pros: Yousustain is simple and accessible, and its many calculators are a definite plus. In addition, there are community challenges for simple, everyday actions, like using cloth napkins instead of paper for a week.
Cons: Yousustain’s last article was posted in 2012, leading me to doubt the continued veracity of some of its calculations, and the site itself isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as more recent/updated resources.
Now that you’ve calculated your carbon footprint or how much electricity your household uses, the next step is to reduce your impact. There are plenty of challenges on Yousustain to take advantage of, but perhaps you’re looking for some practical advice for long-term action. I’ve found the website eartheasy to be an invaluable resource. After hearing from Ann Bancroft, Liv Arnesen and the Access Water Expedition Team earlier this week, I thought I’d share part of an eartheasy article on water conservation.
25 Ways to Conserve Water in Home and Yard lives up to its name, offering options for people at the beginning of their conservationist journey to those who are already experts. Not only is it a great tool, it includes plenty of information, such as the following:
Water Conservation Summary
In 1990, 30 states in the US reported ‘water-stress’ conditions. In 2000, the number of states reporting water-stress rose to 40. In 2009, the number rose to 45. There is a worsening trend in water supply nationwide. Taking measures at home to conserve water not only saves you money, it also is of benefit to the greater community.
Saving water at home does not require any significant cost outlay. Although there are water-saving appliances and water conservation systems such as rain barrels, drip irrigation and on-demand water heaters which are more expensive, the bulk of water saving methods can be achieved at little cost. For example, 75% of water used indoors is in the bathroom, and 25% of this is for the toilet. The average toilet uses 4 gallons per flush (gpf). You can invest in a ULF (ultra-low flush) toilet which will use only 2 gpf. But you can also install a simple tank bank, costing about $2, which will save .8 gpf. This saves 40% of what you would save with the ULF toilet. Using simple methods like tank banks, low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators you can retrofit your home for under $50.
By using water-saving features you can reduce your in-home water use by 35%. This means the average household, which uses 130,000 gallons per year, could save 44,00 gallons of water per year. On a daily basis, the average household, using 350 gallons per day, could save 125 gallons of water per day. The average individual, currently using 70 gallons per day, could save 25 gallons of water per day.
When buying low-flow aerators, be sure to read the label for the actual ‘gpm’ (gallons per minute) rating. Often, the big box retailers promote “low-flow” which are rated at 2.5 gpm, which is at the top of the low-flow spectrum. This may be needed for the kitchen sink, but we find that a 1.5 gpm aerator works fine for the bathroom sink and most water outlets, delivering the same spray force in a comfortable, soft stream. Eartheasy’s online store carries a full range of low-flow aerators and showerheads.
Finally, it should be noted that installing low-flow aerators, showerheads, tank banks and other water-saving devices usually is a very simple operation which can be done by the homeowner and does not even require the use of tools. Water conservation at home is one of the easiest measures to put in place, and saving water should become part of everyday family practice.
You can find the whole article at: http://eartheasy.com/live_water_saving.htm
Eartheasy includes an online store, and many of their articles will direct you to different products available onsite. As with anything, take this information as you will. If you are looking to patronize local businesses that are as concerned with sustainability, check out the Do it Green! Directory.
If you’re looking for some environmental legislation to get behind this session, there are two bills you should definitely be following.
First, I suggest checking out this article from the House Public Information office for a good overview of some Urban Agriculture bills in both House and Senate, and their potential impact on racism, poverty, and, of course, the Earth.
There are several bills on Urban Ag, several of which are included in the linked article.
HF0153 is another Urban Ag bill to look out for, and its information can be found here. It is currently in the Ag Finance committee. That, and bill HF3300 (the Pollinator bill) were suggested to me by Jennifer Tacheney of Celeste’s Dream – so be sure to check them out!
I’ll be posting updates on where the bills are at next week, but if you want to find out more right now, contact the House Agriculture Finance committee. Ask if they have any information on the Urban Ag bill’s progress by calling Committee Legislative Assistant: Nick Lunneborg 651-296-5998
The Pollinator bill – HF3300 – was last heard by the House Agriculture Policy committee. You can get in touch with them through Committee Legislative Assistant Tyler Webster: 651-296-7881
If you’re interested in contacting the House in regards to the status of these or any other bills, the House Index office is responsible for recording all official House action on legislation, and can give you an update on where bills are in the legislative process of the House. Contact them at: 651-296-2314
Whether you read this whole article (congrats) or simply skimmed through it, thank you for taking the time to learn a little bit more about what you can do to help the Earth! I’ll be back next week with another (shorter) update!
Written by Elea Ingman, SJW
Justice Office Program Assistant