Being more environmentally friendly or “going green” is an effort that has been around since the 1960s and has continued to become more popular in recent years. Typically, being environmentally friendly could mean recycling, using reusable bags, or limiting water use. We also hear on the news about oil spills, harmful pesticides, climate change, and other environmental issues. It is important to consider how we can adapt our actions to being more eco-friendly.
Older Adults and the Environment
The effects of climate change can affect our health and wellbeing (Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.). Older adults are at higher risk of heat-related illnesses, which may become more prevalent as average temperatures rise. Certain medications can make it harder to regulate body temperature and as we age, our bodies change in ways that make us more susceptible to dehydration (Cleveland Clinic, 2018). In addition to heat-related illness, pollution causes health issues such as asthma, stroke, and cardiovascular disease (Green Journal, 2019).
Often, caring about the environment can have benefits for both the planet and ourselves. For instance, buying locally and supporting sustainable farming practices reduce the amount of pesticides that can end up in our food. We can decrease pollution by using eco-friendly products, using alternative transportation, and recycling. Consumption of pesticides can lead to health issues such as immune suppression, cancer, and hormone disruption (Green Journal, 2019). Being environmentally conscious can also save money. Conserving water and energy can cut down up to 30%, or an average of $627, on electricity each year (Green Journal, 2019). There are countless ways we can be more environmentally friendly to make the world a better place for ourselves as well as our children and grandchildren.
The following are different ways to be eco-friendly:
- Donate unused or gently-used clothing to homeless shelters or other nonprofit organizations.
- At this time donation centers may not be open or accepting donations, so save them to donate when it is safe to do so.
- Have a yard sale to get rid of household items instead of throwing them away.
- Similar to donating items, have a yard sale when gathering with others is safe.
- You can consider using an online platform to sell your unwanted items.
- Learn how to recycle correctly. Some things to keep in mind are (FoodPrint, 2020):
- Not everything can be recycled.
- Recycling programs vary, so learn what is acceptable in your local area.
- Bottles and cans should be empty of any food or liquid.
- Learn your recycling numbers. There are different types of plastics, and some are more easily recycled than others. The number is located inside of the recycling symbol and an acronym (i.e. PETE, PVC, PP, etc.) is below the symbol.
- Stay away from “wishcycling” or putting something in the recycling that you aren’t sure is recyclable. This can hold up the recycling process and damage recycling machinery. Example of such products include:
- Tetra Paks – Shelf-stable boxes that store broth, soups, or milks.
- Styrofoam – Also known as polystyrene or Polystyrene #6 (see graphic below).
- Plastic grocery bags – Drop them off for recycling in a separate system (grocery stores will often take them).
- Think about the packaging different products are in and if you can reuse or recycle them once they are done.
- Dispose of your hazardous waste properly. Hazardous waste consists of household products that can catch fire, react, or explode in certain situations, or are corrosive or toxic (EPA, n.d.).
- Examples of hazardous waste include pesticides, paints, light bulbs, batteries, and nail polish.
- Check with your local recycling or hazardous waste facility for information on disposal for these items.
- You can also find a hazardous waste collection center near you to take these items.
- Use reusable bags when you go shopping.
- If your store does not allow reusable bags, be sure to properly dispose of the plastic or paper bags.
- Purchase a reusable water bottle.
- Get a water filter. Filter your tap water at home instead of buying plastic water bottles.
- Get a reusable metal straw instead of using disposable plastic straws.
- Instead of using Styrofoam or single use coffee cups, get a portable mug for your coffee or tea.
- Reuse scrap paper for notes or print on both sides of the page.
- Repurpose old towels and t-shirts to use as cleaning cloths or rags.
- Reuse glass jars or other containers for storage around the house.
- Choose rechargeable batteries instead of replacing batteries more often.
Conserve Water (Aging in Place, n.d.)
- Replace old faucets, shower heads, and toilets with low-flow fixtures.
- Fix leaky faucets.
- When replacing appliances, choose green appliances such as ENERGY STAR.
- Take shorter showers.
- Turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth.
- Water your garden or turn on the sprinklers before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
- Use energy-efficient light bulbs such as LEDs and save money.
- Turn off lights when you are not home.
- Open window blinds and curtains to use natural light in your home.
- Line-dry your laundry.
- Wash full loads of laundry instead of multiple half loads.
- Unplug unused chargers and other appliances.
- Before turning on the air conditioning, try opening a window or turning on a fan.
- Create a simple backyard garden to grow some of your own produce.
- Start composting to eliminate food waste sustainably instead of just throwing it in the trash.
- One method of composting is called Bokashi, which is an Okinawan-based method of composting that uses bacteria and microbes to decompose food waste without emitting foul-odors (EcoKarma, n.d.)
- Convert to a drought-friendly garden. Fewer grassy areas or planting native species require less maintenance and watering.
Go Green and Paperless
- Switch to online payments for utilities and other bills.
- Subscribe to online news outlets instead of getting the physical newspaper.
- Use “green” cleaning products, or products that do not use harsher chemicals that may harm the environment.
Use Eco-Friendly Apps
- Farmstand is an app that will help you find locally grown food from farmers markets. It provides information on markets near you, operating hours, and more.
- GoodGuide is an app that can help you find safe, green, and ethical products based on scientific research. The app will rate products on a scale based on environmental and social impact.
- Oroeco is an app where you can track your impact on the environment and make changes to reduce that impact. You can see how your daily activities such as eating, shopping, and transportation connect to climate change.
There are many ways we can be environmentally friendly. If it seems too overwhelming, start small. We can make changes that benefit ourselves directly, such as buying local, pesticide-free produce. We can also use less water and energy to save money while still helping the environment. We can learn about what is okay to recycle, use reusable shopping bags, and be conscious of the products we use. We can all do our parts by being mindful of what we are doing and how it impacts the environment. What we do now can make the planet a better place for ourselves, our children, and grandchildren. It may take some time to adjust, but being environmentally friendly is a lifestyle choice that has positive benefits for everyone.
Aging in Place. (n.d.). 5 Ways to Green-Sustainable Aging in Place. Retrieved on July 9, 2020 from https://aginginplace.com/5-ways-to-green-sustainable-aging-in-place/
Cleveland Clinic. (2018). Drink Up: Dehydration is an Often Overlooked Health Risk for Seniors. Retrieved on July 15, 2020 from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/drink-up-dehydration-is-an-often-overlooked-health-risk-for-seniors/
EcoKarma. (n.d.). Bokashi Composting: A Comprehensive Guide. Retrieved on July 15, 2020 from https://www.ecokarma.net/composting/bokashi-composting/#Bokashi_Composting_The_Japanese_Way
Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Climate Change and the Health of Older Adults. Retrieved on July 9, 2020 from https://www.cmu.edu/steinbrenner/EPA%20Factsheets/older-adults-health-climate-change.pdf
Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Frequent Questions on Recycling. Retrieved on July 9, 2020 from https://www.epa.gov/recycle/frequent-questions-recycling#hhwrecycling
FoodPring. (2020). Recycling 101: Figuring Out What to Recycle and How. Retrieved on July 9, 2020 from https://foodprint.org/blog/what-to-recycle-and-how/
Green Journal. The Importance of Green Living in Our Life and Environment. (2019). Retrieved on July 13, 2020 from https://www.greenjournal.co.uk/2019/12/the-importance-of-green-living-in-our-life-and-environment/