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A look at what residents are doing to green-up south Orange County
It’s hard to argue against the sound philosophy behind the three R’s of conservation: recycle, reduce and reuse. It’s all about making good choices to help our communities and the entire planet. By now, many have made a habit of the three R’s by doing things like separating recyclables for disposal, carpooling and turning off lights when leaving a room. Beyond that, what else can we do?
According to environmentally-focused organizations such as the National Forest Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency, most people want to do more to help the environment but don’t either due to financial restrictions—from large and expensive projects like converting a home to solar power—or the belief that minor changes by an individual can’t have much of an impact.—Andrea Swayne
On the Street: What do you do?
There is a balance between the earth being here for human use and enjoyment—and humans being caretakers of the earth—for future generations. I am very conscious about turning lights off. As long as it’s daylight, no lights are on. And we only wash clothes and run the dishwasher before 11 a.m. and after 6 p.m., because of the pull on the grid. So, unless it is an emergency, that is a rule in our house. —John Saffold, Dana Point
It all started around 1991. It just didn’t make any sense; we mowed the lawn, leaves fell off the trees and we had vegetable scraps from the kitchen, and I knew from reading that by having even a passive compost pile, you could—instead of buying compost—put all of these things back into your garden and keep more waste out of landfills and the water system. More than 20 years later, we still have it. We aren’t running food waste down the garbage disposal and are recycling the grass clippings. Plus, it has such a great benefit—rich soil with red worms. I put it into my rose beds. —Sharon Stewart, Dana Point
We are very careful about how much waste we make in the first place. We don’t throw away as much as other people. A lot of times, we won’t even need to take our trash barrel to the street every week. We’ll just throw it in with our neighbors’. We’re also trying to be very careful with water, since we have big front and back yards. –Ernie Koch, San Clemente
We go through a ton of water bottles, and we’re always sure to take them in for recycling. We also recycle and reuse everything we can. We also do our best to try and conserve water and energy, even if it’s just turning off all of the lights when we leave. —Elizabeth French, San Clemente
I’ve been gardening since I was a child and am currently operating three separate gardens—one at my house, one at my friend’s house and one at Saddleback College. My main garden has over 19 different fruits and vegetables. I also like to shop at used clothing stores and will occasionally make my own clothes in order to recycle and stray away from consumerism. —Kara Fuentes, San Clemente
I take out all the bottles, cans and recyclable objects before throwing out my trash. I also have my family on board with recycling. Another way I try to lessen my carbon footprint is to use reusable grocery bags. –Maggie Kiner, San Juan Capistrano
My freshmen year (at the University of San Francisco), I joined USF Recycles—kind of like a recycling club. From there I got a job in the recycling department and handled all the recycled material on campus. Through that experience I got a really interesting take on waste—what people throw away and what’s considered trash. I was actually able to decorate my apartment in San Francisco with stuff that I found. I think that’s really stuck with me down here. I’d prefer, if I can, to buy second hand—something that’s done for someone else—and just give it a second life. –Scott LeFever, San Juan Capistrano
We have a garden in our backyard, so we get our produce right from there. We just moved here. We lived in Alisa Viejo before, but now we have a yard. We used to have a patio and we just did it in pots. Right now, we just planted watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, squash, basil, oregano, strawberries and cucumbers. I’ve never done the watermelon and I guess they can get up to 25 pounds, so I’m really looking forward to that. —Jennah Shmuckler, San Juan Capistrano
Eight ways to take better care of the earth
Below is a checklist of inexpensive and easy ways to renew our efforts in honor of Earth Day 2013 and take more steps toward living a greener life. Most involve only minor changes in the way we do things like shop, eat, work and discard unwanted items. So check off a few—or all eight—and make a commitment to incorporate more environmentally sound practices into everyday life.
- Prevent chemicals found in unwanted medicines—both prescription and over-the-counter—from entering the waste stream. Instead of flushing unused or expired medications or throwing them in the garbage, dispose of them safely, anonymously and free of charge at the medication drop box at Dana Point Police Services, City Hall, 33282 Golden Lantern. No appointment necessary. San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano also periodically hold drug take-back days.
- Visit the San Diego Gas & Electric website at www.sdge.com and search “Your Energy Costs: A Room-by-room Guide” to find out how much everyday electrical appliances use. When you add up the 18 to 36 cents per hour it takes to power a hair dryer, saving money on electricity is as easy as choosing to air dry every once in a while.
- Keep your reusable shopping bags in the trunk of your car, that way you’ll always have them at the grocery or other store—even on those impromptu stops to grab just a few items on the way home.
- Upcycle. Instead of sending unwanted items off to the landfill or to be recycled, why not get creative and think of clever ways to repurpose things. Not only is it good for the environment, it’s trendy too. For instance, an old filing cabinet turned on its side with the drawers removed, becomes an organizer for gardening tools or sporting goods in the garage. Half of an old suitcase fitted with a cushion can become a fun and funky pet bed. Be creative. Upcycled items can be both functional and decorative. A simple Google search of the word “upcycle” yields thousands of great ideas.
- Grow at least a portion of your own food. A big yard is not necessary. Many vegetables and fruits thrive in small containers.
- When making purchases, consider the packaging. Choose products that keep packaging to a minimum and use recycled materials.
- Switch at least five incandescent bulbs in your home to energy star-labeled bulbs. According to the EPA, if every U.S. family did this, it would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to that produced by 10 million cars.
- Say “bye bye” to bottled water. Invest in a filtering pitcher and a selection of reusable water bottles. With so many fun, sporty and artistic designs to choose from, your water bottle will not only let people know that you care for the environment but can also reflect your personal style.—AS