Easy ways for teens and others to make the necessary changes for our earth.
There is a mentality in America that something is good when it is convenient. However, the convenience of an action should not stand as an excuse for committing a wrong action. Something may very well be convenient because you are taking the easy way out. For example, when you have finished scraping the last remnants of food from your paper plate and you throw it away instead of composting it, that is taking the easy way out. When you throw your empty coke can into the trash because there were no recycling bins around, that is taking the easy way out. Disregard the popular Staples slogan and start placing items in their designated bins whether they be trash-able, recyclable, or compostable. In the future, saying “that was environmentally sustainable” will be much more necessary than saying “that was easy.”
At my school, the environmental club sets up trash, recycle, and compost bins throughout the cafeteria during lunchtime. Representative “bin monitors” from the environmental club help assist those finished with their lunch in placing the remaining items in their designated bins. After almost an entire year, the student population at ICS has learned which things go in what bin. So, if high school kids can do it, everybody else should be able to as well. Thus, please refer to the lists below if you ever find yourself questioning where to dispose of a food item, can, or plastic bag.
Recycle: clean aluminum foil, cans, bottles and cartons (without the lids), newspaper, glass, cardboard, shopping bags, shredded paper
Compost: all foods, weeds, grass, garden clippings, “food-soiled” paper, napkins, paper plates
Trash: styrofoam, bottle/carton caps, plastic bags
Vivian Weber is a Kirkland resident and environmental activist who serves as a model for others wanting to live a modern yet sustainable life. In the notes and information provided by her in this post, Vivian gives insight into the benefits of urban water efficiency. Enjoy!
How Urbanized Areas Affect Water Quality
Stormwater is rainwater and melted snow that runs off streets, lawns, farms, and industrial sites. In developed areas, impervious surfaces, such as paved streets, parking lots and building rooftops, prevent precipitation from naturally soaking into the ground. This runoff accumulates debris, chemicals, sediment, bacteria, and other pollutants that contaminate watersheds and adversely impact water quality.
Environmental Benefits of Water Efficiency
Fewer sewage system failures caused from water overwhelming the system.
Healthier natural pollution filters such as downstream wetlands.
Reduced water contamination caused by polluted runoff from over-irrigating yards and agricultural lands.
Reduced need to construct additional dams and reservoirs or otherwise regulate the natural flow of streams, thus preserving their free flow and retaining the value of stream and river systems as wildlife habitats and recreational areas.
Reduced need to construct additional water and wastewater treatment facilities.
Reduced surface water withdrawals that degrade habitat both in streams and on land close to streams and lakes.
Efficient water use can also reduce the amount of energy needed to treat wastewater, resulting in less energy demand and, therefore, fewer harmful byproducts from power plants.
Most people realize that hot water uses up energy, but supplying and treating cold water requires a significant amount of energy too. American public water supply and treatment facilities consume about 56 billion kilowatt-hours per year—enough electricity to power more than 5 million homes for an entire year.
If just 1 percent of American homes replaced an older toilet with a new WaterSense labeled toilet, the country would save more than 38 million kilowatt-hours of electricity—enough electricity to supply more than 43,000 households for one month.
Letting your faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 14 hours.
The importance of achieving stormwater volume reduction and water quality improvement is reflected in both federal and local policies enacted in October 2009.
Federal level In October 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 which expanded the energy reduction and environmental requirements of EO 13423 by making greenhouse gas management a priority for the Federal government. As the largest consumer of energy in the U.S. economy, all federal government agencies are required to measure, manage, and reduce GHG to agency-defined targets. The water use related targets are:
2% annual reduction in potable water intensity (gallons/square feet) by FY 2020, or 26% total reduction.
2% annual reduction in industrial, landscaping, and agricultural water consumption by FY 2020, or 20% total reduction.
WA State level
At the same time in WA, the Department of Ecology issued an interpretive policy statement clarifying that WA residents can collect and store rooftop or guzzler collected rainwater for on-site use without having to go through the permit (water right) process of RCW 90.03. Until then, the State of WA was the owner of any rainwater (1913 law). In February 2009, the WA State Pollution Control Hearings Board affirmed that Puget Sound citizens need to take more aggressive steps in reducing stormwater runoff, including mandatory use of ‘low impact development’ (LID) development techniques.
Based on the analysis of climate change trends in the State Washington, meteorologists are predicting increased rain and decreased snow in Western Washington, which leads to reduced water supply from snowmelt. Shifts in both the timing and the volume of snowmelt have recently resulted in water shortages in the dry summer months.
Some water facts:
Americans use the most water per person of anyone on Earth—nearly 60 gallons/person/day.
We flush our toilets, irrigate our lawns, fill our swimming pools with clean, potable water. Just flushing toilets accounts for 30% of the water used in an American household.
We spend billions of dollars on moving water around in pipes—instead of conserving and responsibly using the water we have at hand.
The Puget Sound area receives less rainfall during July and August than Tucson, Arizona.
When you water outdoors during the heat of the day, about 48% of the water evaporates.
86% of irrigation water in the Seattle area is used for residential landscapes, not for commercial watering.
Our solution was to include a rainwater harvesting system and use rainwater to flush our toilets (accounts for 30% of U.S. household water use). Because it is illegal to mix rainwater with city water, we built a separate plumbing system that conveys rainwater for storage in two above-ground cisterns. This collected rainwater is used for four indoor toilets and outdoor garden irrigation including three outdoor and two indoor hose bibbs.
Designing a Rainwater Harvesting System
You need the following information before you can size your system:
How much rainwater you expect to collect.
How much water you expect to use.
Rainwater Collection System Components
Two 1500-gallon above-ground cisterns (3000 gallons total).
Cistern dimensions: 7 feet diameter X 5½ feet height.
Water used for 4 indoor toilets and outdoor garden irrigation including 3 outdoor and 2 indoor hose bibbs.
With summer just around the corner, the same can be said for pollutant emissions as well. Though heating and electrical emissions may go down, there is an expected increase in criteria pollutants that will be launched into the stratosphere. The six defined criteria pollutants are tropospheric ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and lead. These air pollutants are common and are currently monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency. Criteria pollutants are not only harmful to the environment, but can be detrimental to human health, exacerbating cardiovascular disease, asthma, repertory failure, lung disease, and bronchitis.
So why are we going to be seeing these pollutants in the summer? With newfound extra time sunny weather, families will be doing a lot more driving, a lot more boating on Lake Washington, and a lot more barbecuing. The only problem is, five out of the six criteria pollutants are primarily produced from combustion reactions in motor vehicles and other machinery. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and in fact, there are measures we can take to reduce our particulate and gaseous emissions. For those lackadaisical environmentalists like me, it means taking the bike out for a spin instead of the car, and choosing the right grill.
The ultimate question boils down to this: which is better, charcoal or propane? Supporters of charcoal might say “who can deny the smoky taste of the classic American barbecue?” The answer is easy; you can – if you think about the environment before your taste buds. For protecting the environment, propane (gas) grills are the way to go. Even though the gas is derived from non renewable resources, they emit fewer emissions and have a smaller carbon footprint. So why is charcoal the wrong choice? Charcoal grills emit higher levels of carbon monoxide and particulate matter. Also, most charcoal used in charcoal grills charcoal briquettes. Charcoal briquettes are composed of sawdust and wood waste and are often treated with harmful chemicals. The burning of this material results in the production of great amounts of carbon monoxide and VOCs like benzene. While lump (real) charcoal isn’t manufactured with harmful additives and doesn’t’ emit as many harmful pollutants as charcoal briquettes, it is less common and more expensive.
I asked my first period environmental science class whether or not they used propane or charcoal grills and out of about thirty kids, about 60% affirmed that their family used propane grills. So join the movement! The answer is clear. Propane is less harmful for the environment and for human health. So now you know the responsibility you need to take come summer. Make the environment last, go for gas.
Hello everyone and welcome to Green Teen. I first had the idea to start this blog when it came to my attention that I was living an inconsiderate life; one without any thought of the environment. Consistently, I would take extremely long showers, always forget to turn off the lights, and leave the TV on even when I left the house. In my AP Environmental Science class, we calculated our ecological footprints at the starting of the year, and I only made the realization about how unsustainable I was being after I had calculated that it if the whole world lived like me, we would need three and a half earths. Three and a half earths! The truth utterly shocked me for I had always thought I was in the group of people who positively contributed to the environment – I always recycled and I was in Environmental Club. However, as surprising as that realization was, it certainly gave me the will to get my act together and reduce my impact on the planet. Having done my research, I wanted to start Green Teen because I thought it beneficial to share some easy sustainable tips that I have learned. This blog won’t be asking you to make drastic lifestyle changes for the good of the environment. We all have things going on, and sometimes going the extra mile for the good of environment is an afterthought. So, instead, for people who are lackadaisical like me, I will be providing you with easy ways to live a more sustainable life and counter the negative emissions you spew out.
Contrary to commonly held beliefs, vampires really do exist. I’m not referring to the ones that stalk you when you walk home alone at night because as far as I know those only exist in Forks, Washington. What I am referring to are the vampires (appliances) you leave plugged in when not in use. Vampire appliances are electrical appliances that continue to suck electricity even when they are turned off. This process, in turn, multiplied by the amount of vampires you have scattered throughout your house, sucks unnecessary money out of your wallet. If you want to be a vampire slayer like me and conserve energy and money, all you really need to do is unplug your household appliances when they aren’t in use. This is easier said than done. After you unplug certain appliances like computers, the television set, and DVD players, you may need to reset the settings on them, and that can be a hassle. It is understandable if you want to forgo touching certain appliances like those, but other appliances are relatively easy like coffee machines, toasters, blow-dryers, phone chargers, and even printers. In Envi-Sci, we conducted a personal energy audit of our house in order to see our monthly energy in KWH. We were then asked to enact a plan to conserve energy and reduce our next PSE bill. My family and I came up with a very simple game plan: Operation TOLA (Operation Turn Off Lights and Appliances). For the entire month of January, my family implemented and abided by this plan, turning off lights when we left rooms and unplugging appliances. When the PSE bill came, it was no surprise that it reflected the economical changes we made as we owed sixty dollars less to PSE than we did in December. Breaking old habits is easy and requires little effort on our part. Little things like unplugging toasters can really make a difference and reduce our impact on the environment.