As a college student majoring in environmental science, I get a lot of jokes thrown my way when I tell people about my studies, such as, “Will you chase me down if I don’t recycle this?” “Will you report me if I let the water run?” “Are you going to yell at me because I don’t drive an electric car?”
In reality, studying in this field has taught me not to completely isolate the uses of natural resources, but instead, use the planet’s resource responsibly and reasonably. It is inevitable that we will use water, electricity or fuel, but the key is to conduct these actions in a more conservative way. Here are some tips on how to make the not-so-environmentally-friendly processes of your life a little friendlier:
Not so friendly: pre-washing dirty dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.
A common belief is that you must rinse a dirty dish with water in the sink before sticking it into the dishwasher, but that is proven to be a myth. You waste 6,000 gallons per year if you insist on pre-rinsing, Consumer Reports says.
A little friendlier: Instead, scrape extra food off with your hand or a napkin into the garbage and simply stick the dish into the dishwasher without rinsing. The makers of the dish detergent Cascade even discourage customers from pre-washing or rinsing dishes because it actually inhibits the cleaner from working. “Enzymes in Cascade detergent are designed to attach themselves to food particles,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Without food, the enzymes have nothing to latch onto, says P&G.”
Not so friendly: letting the sink run while hand washing dishes in the sink.
Those who do not have the luxury of owning a dishwasher are not let off the hook either. Most tend to let the sink run while washing dishes, or they consistently turn the sink on and off between each dish. The average faucet uses two gallons a minute according to Collin Dunn from treehugger.com, and that includes a good amount of unnecessary water used.
A little friendlier: Instead, fill a tub with warm water and soap. Dip your dishes into the tub and scrub with a sponge, then set the dishes aside. When you’re finished with scrubbing all your dirty dishes, pour out the dirty water and refill it with fresh, soap-free water. Now, dip your soapy, scrubbed dishes into the tub of water and set them aside to dry later. By not having the sink run, numerous gallons of water can be conserved.
Not-so-friendly: Washing clothes with hot water.
Believe it or not, the worst part about your washing machine isn’t the 15 gallons of water being used to clean your clothes; it’s actually the hot temperature you’re setting the water at. About 90 percent of the energy used to do laundry in a washing machine is from heating up water, says realsimple.com.
A little friendlier: Set your washing machine to wash with cold water instead of hot water. The quality of your wash will be just as good, and possibly even better thanks to some bonus points: Lower temperatures protect the dyes in clothes and help maintain the colors, as well as preserve the fit of the clothes by preventing shrinkage.
Not-so-friendly: using chemical fertilizers for gardening or lawn care.
Chemical fertilizers do work faster than alternative fertilizers, but there are consequences. Since chemical fertilizers are synthetically produced plant nutrients from inorganic materials, many contain highly concentrated acids that can run off as water pollution after a heavy rain or flood.
A little friendlier: use organic fertilizers.
Unlike chemical fertilizers, organic fertilizers contain nutrients derived from the remains or by-product of another organism, such as cottonseed meal, blood meal, fish emulsion, manure, and sewage sludge. Organic fertilizers work slower than chemical fertilizers because nutrients are released into soil and plants at their natural pace, instead of being forced by the additions of other unnatural chemicals to speed up the process.
Sometimes, being more eco-friendly takes some creativity, so think as “green” as you can with all aspects of your lifestyle. Maybe you can figure out some friendlier techniques to pass on.