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Keep It Green! Tips for Sustainability

Keep It Green

Keep it Green! 

In keeping with CSW’s support for green policies, we introduced a new column to the monthly newsletter in October 2010. “Keep it Green!” will allow our readers to share environmental tips with the CSW community. Send us your tips and techniques!

TIP #1: One Bag for the Many!

submitted by Kathleen McHugh

I recently asked at the nontoxic dry cleaners that I frequent whether they would stop putting the clothes in individual clear plastic bags. Not only are these bags wasteful but they are very bad for clothes, causing them to yellow if they are not removed right away. The counter person agreed that the bags were bad for clothes and the environment, but she said they had to use them because otherwise the cleaned clothes might get dirty on the holding racks where they are held for pickup. She then told me that I could purchase for a small fee a sturdy clothing bag like the garment bags made for travel. Now I use the bag every time I bring clothes in. It works perfectly. And every time I go to the dry cleaners, I notice more and more blue bags and less and less plastic. Join us!

TIP #2: Carry a Cup!

submitted by Kathleen McHugh

Get in the habit of carrying a thermos cup or mug with a lid that can be sealed. Carry it everywhere you go. Then when you want a cup of coffee, a drink of water, tea, or any beverage, you will be able to drink up without using a plastic cup or styrofoam mug and without contributing to environmental monstrosities like the Pacific Ocean Trash Vortex, a mass of plastic bags, mugs, cups, bottles, and other non-biodegradable junk floating in the Pacific Ocean that is now more than twice the size of Texas. If you don’t believe me, look it up!

TIP #3: Use Virtual File Cabinets and File Folders!

submitted by Brenda Johnson-Grau

Instead of printing out emails and other documents, save PDF copies onto a flash drive. You'll have a backup if you need to consult it or print it out later. Use a virtual file cabinet (a network drive) to store documents for shared use.

Tip #4 Make Your Own Cleaning Products!

submitted by Lindsey McLean

According to the EPA, the air inside of a home is two to five times more polluted than the air outside, mainly because of household cleaners and pesticides. Many common cleaning products can be made from nontoxic ingredients that you already have in your home and work just as well. Making your own cleaning solutions will also help reduce the amount of plastic packaging you buy. Check out this site for ideas and recipes:

Tip #5 Eat Less Meat!

submitted by Lindsey McLean

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one-fifth of human-made greenhouse gas emissions comes from the meat industry, in addition to the large amounts of water and fossil fuels needed to produce meat products. Between 1,800 and 2,500 gallons of fresh water are required to produce one pound of beef and, on average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy are used to produce one calorie of beef. Cutting down on your meat consumption is a great way to reduce the demand for this resource-heavy product. For more information and recipe ideas, check out

Tip #6 Buy Green Power!

submitted by Lindsey McLean

If you can, try to buy green power from your utility company. If you can't, remember that consumer demand creates a market. The more people that request green power, the better. To see if you can buy green power in your state, go to

Tip #7 Read "Green Me Up JJ"!

submitted by Brenda Johnson-Grau

In January 2010, CSW Research Scholar Jenny Price started writing a column for LA Observed offering "Advice for Greenies in a Complicated World." She answers questions from all corners, including queries from J.N., about environmentally friendly guns and ammunition; Amanda, who wants to know about cleaning recyclable items; and Jared, who asks about building an energy-efficient house. Price answers these questions with a thoughtful humor that considers what's really being asked and how green practices fit into the larger questions about life on this planet. Find her column here.

Tip #8 Green Your Spring Break!

submitted by Julie Childers

The best way to green your spring break is to plan a staycation rather than travel. Especially for us in Los Angeles, there are amazing vacation opportunities that are just a few hours away. If you do plan to travel, think of ways to make your trip less wasteful. For example, make sure you unplug all of your electronics at home before you leave, use mass transit or alternative forms of transportation instead of renting a car, reuse hotel towels, bring your own toiletries instead of using the ones the hotel provides, and keep a close eye on the waste you produce—especially plastic water bottles. Check out the Green Hotel Association to find a hotel that makes the effort to reduce wastefulness.

Tip #9 Save Gas!

submitted by Lindsey McLean

With gas prices at $4 a gallon or more, now is a great time to cut down on your gas consumption. If you must drive, here are a few tips to make your car use gas more efficiently:

  • Keep up with car maintenance. Cars that are well maintained burn less gas. Change your air filter when it is dirty, get regular oil changes, and check tire pressure, since underinflated tires waste gas and wear down tires more quickly.
  • Clear out your car. The more weight you carry around, the more gas you will use.
  • Be a nice driver. Fast, aggressive driving and rapid acceleration and braking can increase fuel consumption by up to 40%. Maintaining constant speeds as much as possible helps your car maximize fuel efficiency.
  • Rethink your route. Some short trips can easily be made by public transportation, a bike, or walking. If you have to use a car, combine short trips instead of going back and forth.

Tip #10 Use Biodegradable Sunscreen!

submitted by Lindsey McLean

New reports indicate that the chemicals in the sunscreen we most commonly use are doing some serious damage to our oceans—especially coral reefs. It is estimated that around 10% of the world’s coral reefs are polluted by the chemicals in sunscreen. This pollution increases the number of viruses in the water around the reefs, which in turn affects the green algae that grows on them. This small change creates an imbalance in the marine food chain. Also, the chemicals Butylparaben and Benzophenone-3, commonly found in non-biodegradable sunscreen, have been found to increase risks of cancer, endocrine problems, and allergies in humans. So this summer, stay healthy and use biodegradable sunscreen!

Tip #11 Eat Local Food!

submitted by Lindsey McLean

It has been estimated that, on average, food travels 1,500 to 2,500 miles from farm to kitchen. These long trips are frequently unnecessary and contribute to increased emissions of greenhouse gases. Buying food from your local farmer’s market greatly reduces the miles your food travels and the energy needed to transport it. According to the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (HarperCollins, 2007), if everyone in the United States ate just one meal of local and organic food per week, we could cut the nation’s oil consumption by 1.1 million barrels a week! To search for farmer’s markets or Community Supported Agriculture near you, visit the Local Harvest website:

Tip #12 Banish Plastic Grocery Bags!

submitted by Lindsey McLean

Instead of bagging your groceries or other shopping items in the plastic bags that the stores provide, always bring your own reusable bags. Not only will using reusable bags will limit the amount of plastic waste in our oceans and landfills, but many stores now take a few cents off your bill for each bag you bring. Good for the planet and your wallet!

Tip #13 Give Your Time Instead of Presents!

submitted by Lindsey McLean

Instead of spending your savings and giving your friends and family presents from the mall, think about giving them your time instead. Are you good at developing websites? Help a friend by helping them with their website. Give away free babysitting to any parents you know. Teach your older relatives how to set up an email account or use the Internet. Not only will this reduce all of the bags, boxes, and paper that ultimately get thrown away, it will give you the opportunity to show your loved one’s how much you care. Remember, the holidays are about being thoughtful and there is no gift more thoughtful than your time.

Tip #14 Borrow Instead of Buy!

submitted by Lindsey McLean

If you have the option, borrow an item that you are probably only going to use once instead of buying it. Get the latest bestseller from the library instead of buying it from Amazon. Borrow a power tool or kitchen supply from a neighbor who has it if it is a specialty item. Buying less will save space in your home, not to mention the materials, shipping, and packaging of new products.

Tip # 15 Use Less Ink!

submitted by Lindsey McLean

Download ink-saving software, such as EcoFont, on to your home or office computer. Software like this can help your printer save up to 50% of your ink and toner every time you print. This way, whenever you have to print something out, you reduce the amount of ink you use! You can also use a smaller font size to get more text onto a single page.

Tip # 16 Recycle More Stuff!

submitted by Lindsey McLean

By now, I know that we are all doing our part to recycle the plastics and paper that comes into our homes. But what about those odd items that you can’t put in the blue bin? Almost anything can be recycled from computers, batteries, toothbrushes, old paint, even refrigerators! There are many websites that will direct you to the nearest recycling center for those hard, but not impossible, recyclable items. Two of our favorites are and At these sites you can enter in your location and what you need to recycle and they will generate a list of the nearest recycling centers that take your items. no need to send those odd recyclable materials to the landfill anymore!

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