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What is sustainable living?

Sustainable living and sustainability mean different things to different people. It may mean to you:

  • Living within Earth’s limits
  • Reducing our impact on the earth’s resources
  • Making lifestyle and consumer choices to limit our use of resources
  • Living more simply
  • Taking care of nature so nature can take care of us
  • Meeting our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs
  • Creating a balance between our natural systems, our economic system, and our social system

Regardless of how one defines sustainability, we can all do our part to live more sustainably. Living a more sustainable life is beneficial to the environment, your well-being, and even your wallet. Wondering what you can do to be more sustainable at home, work and everywhere? Here is a list of some small things you can do each day to be more sustainable.

At home:

  • Use less energy. Make your home as efficient as possible by reducing air leaks. It saves you money. Nearly every state has incentives for these improvements. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency at www.dsireusa.org to find them.
  • Use better energy. If you burn oil, consider switching to natural gas, biomass or even electric heat when it’s time to replace your heating system. Consider alternative energies like solar thermal, geothermal and solar photovoltaics. There are incentives available when you are ready to make these changes. Again check out www.dsireusa.org to find them.
  • If you’re washing dishes in the sink and letting the water run–you’re wasting tons of hot water. If you use a dishwasher, make sure you run only full loads.
  • Get off junk mail lists–now! A website called Catalog Choice enables you to decline catalogs you’d no longer like to receive. Simply register, select unwanted catalogs and click decline. If you’d like to reduce the amount of unsolicited advertising mail you receive, you can go to DMA Choice. You can also reduce credit card offers by “opting out.” Call the toll-free number: 888-5OPT OUT or 888-567-8688, and request that they take you off of their lists, or opt out online at Opt Out Prescreen.
  • When using the washing machine, it’s always best to use cold water and wash at non-peak hours. Usually between the hours of 6-8 a.m. and 8-10 p.m. Also, try to use a drying rack or clothes line whenever possible to dry your laundry.
  • Create your own natural cleaning products at home with this simple recipe. For an All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc.
  • When you flush the toilet you are wasting water. To conserve water you can place an upright glass jar (quart or pint) into the tank. The jar will remain filled with water when the tank is flushed, saving a pint or a quart of water each time you flush.
  • Stop energy from escaping your electronic devices (aka phantom energy). Most of the electronic devices in your home stay on even when they’re off. To reduce energy waste, simply unplug them when not in use or use a surge protector and flip the switch to the off position.

At work:

  • Ditch the car. Personal cars account for 35% of American transportation emissions and the average American spends 72 minutes a day in their car. Bike, carpool, bus or walk!
  • Use the stairs. People who use the stairs tend to lose weight over the average year. It’s a free gym!
  • Bring your own cup. Carry your reusable mug and/or water bottle. All those disposable bottles and cups add up. In roughly 2 weeks of daily use, your reusable mug or bottle is more energy and materials efficient than paper or plastic.

Everywhere:

  • Eat (even a little) less red meat! You are what you eat, and the planet feels it too. Red meat has a big net negative impact, in terms of carbon emissions production and environmental impact per calorie. In addition, it’s not great for your health, your waistline or your wallet! Eating just one vegetarian meal each week reduces your carbon emissions by the equivalent of 1,160 miles of driving.
  • Buy less stuff. Save your money for experiences, like checking out a local museum or a picnic dinner with a friend.  Reuse what you have and go retro, repurposing old stuff.
  • Create an urban eco-pack for yourself when you’re out and about. It should include a food container to pick-up “to-go” meals from your favorite restaurant. Also add to your eco-pack, utensils, a mug or a reusable water bottle. And most importantly, just say no to the plastic bag.
  • Drink tap water. Quit wasting money and resources on disposable bottles of water. Use a reusable water bottle and fill with tap water, filter the water if you need to.

 

Resources:

Want more? Check out these handy guides and resources for more info on reducing your impacts.

 

General:

Download the free app that helps you live more sustainably www.joulebug.com

Green Today Coach helps you calculate and reduce your impacts www.goinggreentoday.com

City Water Light and Power rebate programs http://www.cwlp.com/eso/rebates/rebates.html

Illinois Green Economy Network http://www.igencc.org/

WindSolarUSA, Inc. will help you switch to renewable energy www.windsolarusa.com

 

Transportation:

Ride the Springfield Mass Transit District’s environmentally friendly buses www.smtd.org

Get connected with other bicycle enthusiasts Springfield Bicycle Club www.spfldcycling.org

Illinois Department of Natural Resources – Illinois Bicycle Guide www.dnr.state.il.us/lands/Landmgt/programs/biking/BIKEGDE.htm

League of Illinois Bicyclists – Springfield Area Bicycle Map http://www.bikelib.org/maps-and-rides/maps/springfield

University of Illinois Springfield’s – Sustainability Bike Checkout Program www.uis.edu/diversitycenter/events/bikecheckout