10 ways to live green at home and in the workplace

Apr 19, 2018, 19:25 PM by Angela McDowell, UTMB sustainability coordinator

ConservationConservation is the preservation, protection or restoration of the natural environment, natural ecosystems, vegetation and wildlife. Sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the current generation without compromising the well-being of future generations. Conservation and sustainability work hand-in-hand to ensure a great future for ourselves and the planet. Here are 10 easy ways to conserve natural resources and promote sustainability at home and at work:

  1. Ditch the bottled water. Making bottles to meet America’s demand for bottled water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually— enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for the year. Use a refillable water bottle!
  2. Invest in reusable bags. A plastic shopping bag can take anywhere from 20 to 1,000 years to decompose. In a compressed landfill, without exposure to air to help them break down, paper bags aren’t much better. Given that the U.S. alone uses approximately 100 billion new plastic bags per year—and the average person goes through between 350 and 500—it’s easy to see how a simple change like using canvas shopping bags can make a positive environmental impact.
  3. Stop using plastic wrap. As convenient as it may be, plastic wrap is terrible for the environment. Every year, Americans make enough to shrinkwrap the entire state of Texas! Keep your food in glass jars or other reusable containers instead.
  4. Grow your own. Keeping an organic fruit and vegetable garden is an excellent way to reduce environmental impact. Even if you don’t have a garden, potted herbs on your kitchen window and a couple of containers on the balcony are great alternatives.
  5. Cut food waste. The USDA estimates that over 30 percent of groceries in the U.S. get thrown away every year—that’s a depressing $162 billion worth of food! By creating and sticking to a weekly meal plan, freezing or reusing leftovers, and composting skins and other food waste, you’ll not only save water and energy used to produce food that is just dumped—you’ll also save more of your own money.
  6. Borrow or buy second hand. Second hand doesn’t mean second best! You can get some amazing finds in thrift stores, libraries, used book stores and used car lots. Producing new items leads to a lot of pollution and wastage. It takes an incredible 5,000 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to produce one shirt, and manufacturing a new mid-sized car emits 30,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
  7. Start a compost bin. By composting all your food waste, you can save the atmosphere from 440 pounds of damaging carbon dioxide per year! Compost is also ‘garden gold’ for feeding your home-grown produce. 
  8. Conserve energy at home and at work. Get into the habit of turning off lights when you leave a room and unplug electric devices when not in use.
  9. “Opt out” of paper mail. Junk mail isn’t good for anyone and it’s especially bad for the environment. Its carbon footprint is equivalent to the emissions generated by heating nearly 13 million homes for the winter. Search ways to ‘opt out’ of receiving junk mail. While you’re at it, change your bank statements to electronic versions.
  10. Spread the word. Share this article and let others know that small changes can make a big difference. For more information about sustainability efforts at UTMB, visit www.utmb.edu/bof/utilities/sustainability/.