The environment is essential to our well-being. The water, land, and air contain the resources necessary for us to live, grow, and thrive. But, nothing is unlimited. This is why we must live sustainably- making the most of today while creating opportunities for tomorrow- and being conscious of our actions.
I’m Elliott, DEP’s new sustainability intern, and I have created the following easy tips to help you “Go Green”:
We use energy in each part of out daily lives, which means that we each have the potential to make an impact from our own homes. Did you know that chargers plugged into the wall, even when no device is attached, will continue to use energy? Whenever I tell my friends, they are very surprised. Once my phone finishes charging, I make sure to remove the charger from the outlet too. It is also important to turn off electronics when they are not being used. When you finish watching TV or using your computer, make sure to power the device down. Similarly, when you leave a room, it is always a great idea to turn off the lights.
When you drive a car, it emits large amounts of Carbon Dioxide, a gas that is a major contributor to climate change. We need to find a solution that gets everyone where they need to be without excessively polluting the air. When traveling around Washington D.C., try taking the metro into and around the city instead of taking a car. You will avoid a lot of traffic, likely save time, and limit your carbon footprint. When public transportation is not provided, look to create carpools with family or friends to reduce the number of cars on the road. When I am going to events for my youth organization, I frequently offer other members rides so they or their parents do not have to drive too.
When someone asks you “What is something you can’t survive without?,” the first answer that comes to mind is likely water. Although 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, only about 1% of it is in the form we need to use it, freshwater as a liquid. Hence, water is scarce across the US, not just along the West Coast. After washing my hands, I make sure to turn off the faucet fully to avoid continuous dripping. Also, when I see a water fountain that continues to flow when not being used, I will let someone know so they can fix it. This action may save gallons of water in a single day, and solves the problem moving forward.
The “Three R’s”- reduce, reuse, and recycle- are a good guideline to abide by. To reduce, cut back on how often you buy goods, or their packaging, that will end up in a landfill. To reuse, simply buy more products that can be used more than once. Rather than purchasing packs of dozens of plastic water bottles, my family chooses reusable ones instead. Try to purchase silverware and containers that do not have to be thrown away after being used, which will not help the environment and your wallet.
Recycling may seem like an extraneous task, but it is worth the extra few seconds. Check what number is on the bottom of your non-reusable plastics to see if it can be recycled. In Montgomery County, many types are recycled, including bottles (1-5, 7), containers (1-5, 7 except those labeled biodegradable or compostable), Tupperware™ or Rubbermaid™ containers and lids, flower cups (1-5, 7), and beverage cups. Plus, papers, metals, and other materials can often be recycled too. For convenience, my family has a paper recycling bag inside our house, so we only have to transfer the paper to the larger bin on recycling day. Plus, I keep plastic bags to give every few months to local grocery stores which recycle them.
Although I am not old enough to vote, I have been able to take part in environmental advocacy. I have added my email to many Environmental Non-Profit organizations’ distribution lists to receive frequent policy and initiative updates. I spend time each day reading and signing onto some of the organizations’ petitions that I believe in. I recommend that you find some eco-friendly groups that you support, and sign up to get updates from them. You’re never too early, or too late, to start learning about and advocating for the environment.
Being an environmental advocate is not easy. Convenience and cost-effectiveness are always in the back of our minds, and it may be hard to change the status quo. But, green solutions become easier and cheaper in the long run, and make the world a better place each step of the way. Make sure to spread the word, and together, let’s go green!
By Elliott Davis, Senior at Wootton High School in Rockville
Intern at the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection