ECO-nomics

ECO-nomics

Next time, don’t wait for Earth Day!

By Stacey Ritz

Photo: The Sugarcreek Farmers’ Market offers a wide variety of local organic produce; photo: Sally Skelly

Earth Day was born from reaction to a massive oil spill in the waters near Santa Barbara, Calif. in 1969. April 22, 2014 will mark the 44th anniversary of Earth Day, which is now observed in nearly 200 countries around the world. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Earth Day is “a day intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s natural environment.” WorldOMeters Real Time World Statistics reports the current human population now hovers over 7,220,000,000. Despite that climbing number,  or perhaps because of it, what we do as individuals creates a significant impact on our environment and the world around us. “Going green” is a term meant to define the concept of renewable, sustainable and eco-friendly processes, products and energy. But did you know that going green can save you green?

 


Buy local, choose organic

Visit your local farmers’ market to find local organic produce. “The market is a great, public place to experience one-stop shopping,” Sally Skelly of Sugarcreek’s Farmers’ Market explained.  “When visiting our market, the availability of baked goods, honey, soaps, salsa, jellies, meat, eggs, cheese and vegetables are located within easy steps. The market offers a great sense of community.” It is important to find out which items at your local farmers market are GMO-free and certified organic. Many local grocers are now offering certified organic and GMO-free food options as well.

 

Save Money, Shop Local

Organic foods do tend to carry a higher price tag than their conventional counterparts. However, on his website Get Rich Slowly, author and self-described “accidental personal finance expert” J.D. Roth confirmed local produce stands and farmers’ markets deliver the best balance of nutrients and quality of cost.

“Another advantage of shopping exclusively at a produce stand or farmers’ market is there are fewer temptations that fall outside the realm of healthy eating,” Roth explained.

Robin O’Brien, author of “The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It,” shared the following in her Huffington Post blog: “We are quickly learning in this industrialized food era our food can be full of a lot of other things. It has become a delivery device for artificial colors, additives, preservatives, added growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, insecticides and so much more. The term ‘organic’ actually refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed and legally details the permitted use (or not) of certain ingredients in these foods.”

While organic food choices may be more costly up front, experts expect the long-term health savings provided by choosing this preventative measure are well-worth it. If nutritional value is an indication of worth, aren’t processed foods already overpriced?

 

Kurt Hoffmann, environmental sustainability manager for the Department of Facilities Management at the University of Dayton commented on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). “GMOs are plants which have been fundamentally altered to produce specific traits,” he said. “Humans have been genetically modifying plants since the beginning of agriculture by selectively breeding plants with desired characteristics. Today, scientists have the ability to go far beyond those traditional techniques and insert genes from non-plant species into plant DNA, creating entirely new organisms.”

Hoffmann stressed GMOs are much more common than most realize. “Most of the processed food in America contains at least one genetically modified ingredient – perhaps 70 percent or more of the processed food found in your grocery store. While we do not know the long-term effects of consuming GMOs, we do know we are now participating in one giant experiment and we are the subjects. If you would like to avoid GMOs, try to eat a diet of mostly unprocessed, organic foods.”


Recycle

Curbside recycling is available locally; if you have questions about what is or isn’t recyclable, contact the Montgomery County Solid Waste Department to inquire. “Beyond the usual cans, bottles and paper, there are other items you can recycle at local retailers,” Hoffman said. “Best Buy and Ikea both have recycling collection bins at local stores for CDs and DVDs, small electronics like iPods, batteries, cell phones and other recyclable items. Don’t put these in your regular household recycling bins.”

Local Kroger grocery stores offer a recycling bin in the cart area of most stores where you can turn in your used plastic grocery bags – another option is to purchase a reusable shopping bag and avoid using plastic bags altogether. Recycling simply allows a material to be reused in a purposeful way instead of letting it sit idle in a landfill.

“Modern landfills are designed so even most biological wastes don’t break down as we might think,” Hoffman said. “It is possible to dig into older landfills and find readable newspapers from decades ago. It is very important to keep as much as possible out of our landfills.”

By making recycling a daily habit, we can also reduce the need for raw materials. This preserves viable resources, like our rainforests, and curbs the habitat destruction and global warming caused by deforestation.

“We understand sustainability as more than just an environmental issue,” Hoffman said. “It includes the dignity of all people, access to basic resources, equal opportunity and diversity, freedom from oppression and other social and economic issues.”

Aside from having happy creatures, reducing deforestation and the need to make products from raw materials, recycling already manufactured goods diminishes the need to expend the huge amount of energy required to make products from scratch.

 

Recycle for Cash

Who wouldn’t like a few extra dollars to add to their wallet? There are several recyclable items you can turn into cash with a bit of effort.

Trash: TerraCycle works with non-profit organizations to collect bulk amounts of trash. Not only do they pay for shipping, TerraCycle will donate cash to the cause of your choice for every piece of trash you send their way.

Cooking Oil: Individuals, biodiesel firms and numerous recycling centers will actually pay you for used cooking oil – it’s true! Those who are willing to pay for the used cooking oil often use it to heat their homes. Prices tend to range from 33 to 66 cents per gallon.

Wine Corks: Yemm & Hart Green Materials is the leading recycler of wine corks. The company requires a minimum of 10 pounds of “pure” corks, and they will pay you for them! The rate of pay is determined by the market value of cork at the time of donation.

Scrap Metal: Copper, steel, aluminum, brass, iron and wires can all be recycled for extra cash. Earth911.com provides additional details on where to recycle each type of metal. The price paid for scrap metal varies; contact your local scrap yard/recycling center for current price points. Next time you’re doing a project around the house, before you toss unneeded items into the trash, check to see if you can take them to the local scrap yard.

Rumpke Buy-Back Center: Rumpke provides a public buy-back center for recyclables at 1300 E. Monument Ave. “At the buy-back, people can use our convenient drive-thru to drop off recyclables,” Sara Cullin, senior corporate communications coordinator
for Rumpke Waste & Recycling said. “The materials are weighed and the customer receives cash for the value.” Customers can also opt to donate the money to Dayton Children’s Hospital. For current prices and more information, please call 800.223.3960.

 

Composting offers another way to reduce the amount of materials entering our nation’s landfills. Kitchen scraps and yard waste quickly and easily turn into usable fertilizer and mulch with minimal input or labor. Along those same lines, purchasing or constructing a simple rain barrel or rainwater collection system can allow you to cut down on water usage during the hot summer months. Rain barrels can be purchased for as little as $70, or you can go online to learn how to build your own.

 

Lower your eco-footprint

Carpool

Only 0.6 percent of the American workforce rides a bicycle to work according, to the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau findings. Riding a bicycle, walking or driving to work with others can be viable green options of transportation. The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC) sponsors the local RIDESHARE Program which is available for free to anyone who lives, works or attends school in Montgomery, Greene, Miami, Preble, Darke and Clinton Counties. You can cut your commuting costs in half by utilizing the program.  If you’re ready to save money and go green at the same time, consider this:

 

Cost of gas ($3.50/gallon) x Average miles driven to work (60 miles round trip) x 5-day work week

If a vehicle gets 20 miles to the gallon, it is possible for you to save up to $210 each month by carpooling!

 

Unplug

When your appliances are not in use, unplug! You can reduce what you spend on your energy bill.

 

Change the thermostat

An estimated 42,747 housing units across the country are heated completely by solar energy according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau findings. Although many of us are not yet powered by solar energy, we can lower our thermostat a few degrees in the winter and raise it a few degrees higher in the summer. Energy Hub reports, “You can generally save 3 percent on your heating bill for each degree you turn your thermostat down during the winter.”

 

Change the way you do laundry

Save your hard-earned money and the environment by washing clothes in cold water whenever possible. In addition, using a drying rack or clothes line will keep money in your pocket and have your clothes smelling fresh and clean!

 

Invest in insulation

“If you’re up for more than changing light-bulbs, upgrading insulation is a fantastic investment,” Alex Melamed, design director for Green Generation Building Company (GGBC) in Yellow Springs explained. “Nobody has ever regretted putting too much insulation in their house. It’s the best way to save CO2 and it pays back in dollars and comfort for as long as the house is there. There are programs and tax credits for installing insulation, efficient equipment and solar PV systems – up to 30 percent.”

 

For additional information on some of the programs and ideas shared in this article, please visit: greengenerationbuilding.com, rideshareohio.com and takepart.com/foodinc.

 

Reach DCP freelance writer Stacey Ritz at StaceyRitz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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