Susie Greenjeans,” is actually Susan Risner ’76. In her own words, this is why she is compelled to sustainability issues: My interest started as a child. Growing up in Scioto County, along the banks of the Ohio River, I felt encapsulated by major polluters such as: steel mills, oil refineries, chemical plants, coal shipping, & factories. By far, the most intimidating one was the mysterious Atomic Energy Plant. In somewhat vivid contrast was my personal life in the little Norman-Rockwell-esque village of Wheelersburg. Our lifestyles were much greener back then. But when spring rains flooded lower farmlands, all the debris from upstream industries & homes were left behind to contaminate the soil. This soil would produce food for people and animals – included my grandfather’s farm. And that made it personal. Fast forward to this retired single mom of one who has the time to learn about things that interest her: gardening, sciences, pollution, ecology, global warming, self-sustained lifestyles, independence from foreign oil . . . Meet Susie Greenjeans, the self taught green enthusiast who loves to share her knowledge with anyone who is interested! When they invited me to write on 10 ways to go green, my response was something like, “Do you want that in a simple list, or in volumes?” There may a thousand articles titled “Ten Ways to Go Green” on the internet. And they could all be accurate. I’ve composed my top ten easy, inexpensive ways to a greener lifestyle that most people should be able to do. All you need to do is put your carbon footprint on a diet, not fix it altogether. The collective effect of all of us doing our part adds up to highly successful results. Think of your contributions as molecules: invisible to the naked eye, yet, making up everything in the universe! If everyone does their small part, big changes happen.
1. SAY “NO” TO PLASTICS. Plastic releases Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into air, soil and water. Scientists are starting to believe that this material may NEVER BIODEGRADE but rather just keeps breaking down into tinier shards that cannot be separated from soil. Ask for paper bags, not plastic. Reuse the bags when returning to the store or use more durable bags sold for this purpose. For disposables, use paper plates, etc., not plastic or Styrofoam. Replace plastic dishes, cups, utensils and bakeware with glass and ceramics. Avoid polyester. Reuse containers and then recycle them.
2 REDUCE AND RECYCLE PAPER. Purchase papers with the SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY INITIATIVE logo and made with recycled materials. Routinely recycle paper materials. Use social media, texting and phone calls in lieu of mail. Set up online banking, direct deposits and automatic payments and billing. Borrow books and reading materials from the library or friends instead of buying them. Buy used books; donate unwanted ones. Stop catalog mailings. (Go to catalogchoice.org to set up online catalogs). Get off junk mail lists at 41pounds.org. (The name came from the EPA estimate that 41 million pounds of junk mail is generated annually.) Reuse old folders; those frayed edges are beautiful in the green world.
3. JUST ADD PLANTS. Plants remove carbon dioxide from the air and add oxygen, INDOORS AND OUT. They’re like nature’s air fresheners. Thus, whether you plant a garden, do some landscaping, plant a tree or decorate your home with houseplants, you’re lowering the carbon footprint. When planting outdoors, use plants indigenous to the area; they require less special care. GRASS IS NOT GREEN. Its carbon footprint is a disaster! Grass improves the air very little compared to most plants. Plus, it has to be manually installed, nurtured, watered, chemically treated, fed, de-thatched, aerated and constantly mowed.
4. CONSERVE HOME ENERGY. Get an energy audit. Buy electronics and heating/air conditioning units with Energy Star logos. Turn off electric items not in use — even for a short time; unplug those you can. Use the microwave instead of the oven. Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Seal windows and doors. Insulate light switches and outlets adjacent to the outside. Use insulated curtains. Sufficiently insulate attic space and outside walls. Replace TVs and monitors having cathoderay tubes. In winter, redirect dryer heat into the house by installing an inexpensive junction (available at Lowe’s) and a dryer hose. Set the thermostat at one temperature unless you’ll be gone 10 or more hours. Set heat at 68 degrees and cool to 75. Install a programmable thermostat.
5. BUY USED. Shop at such places as thrift stores, yard sales, auctions, E-bay, Craig’s List and Freecycle.com. Try pet shelters and petfinder.com. That’s right, get a used pet! You can get nearly any breed from shelters, online and rescue groups. Most of these animals adjust well to a loving home. Hold exchange parties with friends and neighbors. My favorite is a plant exchange. What you don’t want, sell it, give it away or donate it — practically anything. A common practice is to set it by the curb with a “free” sign on it; someone will take your treasure 99 percent of the time.
6. FIX IT, SPRUCE IT, REPURPOSE IT. Don’t be so quick to toss out things that don’t look new any more. Use a little creativity first. Will paint or a replaced part do the trick? Camouflage the ugly parts; stain the scratches; tighten the loose hinges; oil the rust. Cover damaged fabrics with an appliqué, embroidery, pockets. Dye a bleached spot with a Sharpie. When all else fails, repurpose it by finding another use: craft projects, garage rags, pet beds, etc. Ask the staff at the hardware store for advice. Google your problem and see what pops up.
7. REDUCE GASOLINE AND TRANSPORTATION. Buy vehicles with higher gas mileage; ideally, more than 35 mpg. Increase local activities in lieu of driving farther. Shop locally. Vacation closer. Consider “staycations” by participating in local tourist attractions. Invest vacation funds in backyard amenities such as swimming pools and outdoor living spaces. Don’t drive more than 60 mph; avoid fast acceleration; keep your car in good repair. Carpool. Check out Rideshare.com. Google “hypermiling” if you want to get really geeky about better mileage. Ride your bike when possible; participate in “Ride Your Bike to Work Day.” Walk!
8. CONSERVE WATER. Take short showers, not baths. Don’t let the showers or faucets run when not in use. Use low-flow showerheads. Fix drips. Drink faucet water instead of bottled water. Use the dishwasher (with a full load). Don ’t water the lawn, let it go dormant. Water outdoor areas with rain barrel water and water pumped from your creek or pond. Use a clothesline. Don’t use the garbage disposal. Don’t flush those unused prescriptions. Slow down rainwater to help prevent flooding and soil erosion. You can do this with rain barrels, yard swales and rain gardens. For more information on rainwater management, contact your local county extension office or soil conservation office.
9. EAT SMART. Eat out less often, and closer to home. Occasionally substitute meat with rice, beans or tofu. (Meat generally has a higher carbon footprint.) Prefer labels with these words: organic, grain fed and cage free (NOT free range). Buy only what you’ll eat before it spoils. Compost produce. Do not use the garbage disposal. Buy locally; plant your own garden. Plant edible items in the landscape, such as cherry tomatoes, Korean kale and strawberries. Plant fruit trees and trees that feed or house wildlife. See localharvest.org for information on local produce, events, share crops, and more.
10. BE PROACTIVE. Share your enthusiasm with others who are interested, without being pushy. Write editorials or letters to politicians or businesses with ideas, opinions or requests. Join or organize a green group. Attend local green events and join clubs. Volunteer to provide information to schools, employers, churches and local businesses. Volunteer your skills, such as teaching green crafts. Use your imagination! Remember that you only need to put your carbon footprint on a diet. Do what you can, when you can. And then, sleep well knowing you’re making a difference! Think of your contributions as molecules: invisible to the naked eye, yet, making up everything in the universe! If everyone does their small part, big changes happen. Do you have a question for Susie Greenjeans? She welcomes your inquiries and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.