Resources and Tips
1. Change your light bulbs.
Replacing your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) or light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs is good for the environment and can save you money. Most of us are familiar with incandescent bulbs and know that they cost less than CFLs and LEDs, but incandescent bulbs use more energy. Replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs or LEDs will begin to lower your electric bill immediately. Replacing all of the bulbs in your house will typically pay for itself in one to two years.
When considering whether to purchase LEDs or CFLs, consider price, light quality, and disposal. LEDs can last longer than 20 years and also give off a warmer light than CFLs, but they are more expensive. You might be concerned about the mercury contained in the CFL bulbs, but remember that the relatively small amount of mercury contained in CFLs is tiny compared to the tons of mercury generated by burning coal. As long as CFLs are handled with care and disposed of properly, they are a better option than traditional incandescent bulbs.
Did you know? The Academy periodically updates lighting to be more energy efficient, replacing T12s with T8s or T5s and replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs or LEDs.
2. Get on the bus!
Using the bus, train, pedicab, or bike—or even carpooling—will reduce your household’s carbon footprint by cutting the amount of greenhouse gases released into the air when you drive. Greenhouse gases contribute to erratic climate patterns, and high levels of these gases in the atmosphere have a negative impact on the health of people and ecological systems. Just one driver in a household switching to bus transportation to get to work can reduce the household’s carbon footprint by 10 percent!
Walking or biking can help to improve your physical health. Used alone or with public transportation, these methods can save money, be more reliable and predictable, and allow you to be productive during hours when you otherwise would be driving.
Did you know? The Academy has bike racks outside the building and also offers TransitChek to employees to facilitate the use of public transportation. It’s also easy to visit the Academy by taking public transportation—click here for directions!
3. Scrub it Green!
Industrial strength or traditional household cleaners sometimes contain chemicals that can contribute to respiratory, dermatological, and other long-term health problems. If small children live with you or frequently visit, using healthier cleaning products is especially important. Children under the age of six are more susceptible to toxic chemicals. They breathe faster than adults and therefore take in much more air per pound of body mass than adults do. Their neurological systems are still developing, and their cells are still rapidly dividing. Protecting their cellular development at this early phase can also protect long-term health over a lifetime! The toxic chemicals in some cleaning products can also have negative impacts on aquatic systems. Using cleaners that are friendly to the environment and to humans can reduce the chemical burden on all of us.
Making your own cleaning products using ingredients that you have around the house, such as vinegar and baking soda, can work just as well and cost you less than environmentally friendly cleaning products you buy at the store. There are lots of resources on the web for making household cleaning products.
Did you know? Part of the Academy’s commitment to sustainability includes using environmentally friendly cleaning products and methods throughout our entire building.
4. Educate friends and neighbors
Every day we are barraged with messages about the deterioration of our natural environment and its threat to human health and prosperity. Helping to educate your friends and neighbors is one of the most effective, informative, and engaging ways you can contribute to the health of our environment, community, and future. By becoming an informed citizen who helps others to find resources and to understand sustainability-related concepts (such as “carbon footprint”), you can directly contribute to the well-being of our region.
Did you know? The Academy has been hosting sustainability programs for adults since 2005 and is working hard to incorporate sustainability-related information into programs for all ages. Many Academy programs feature networking and community-building receptions that help connect people with shared interests in the environment. You can also learn more about the Academy’s sustainability research by clicking here.
5. Message in a Bottle
Learning the life story of a water bottle can help you understand the benefits of using your own refillable bottle. Traditional water bottles are made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a material from the polyester family. In a given year, millions of barrels of oil are used to manufacture plastic bottles. With the energy costs of pumping the oil, transporting it, and then refrigerating it, the process requires enough energy to power 3 million cars for a year.
Bottled water is often shipped to America from other countries, and transportation methods can produce even more carbon dioxide. Theoretically, you could fill about a quarter of your water bottle with oil to represent the energy used to create and ship it.
Most people think that their water bottles contain purified drinking water, but that’s not quite right. Bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, while your tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires the EPA to test water quality, report any violations, and make this information available to the public. The FDA cannot require certified testing and therefore cannot cite violations.
Empty water bottles are often littered onto highways or thrown into waterways, threatening the well-being of wildlife. If thrown into landfills, they begin a 1,000-year breakdown process that can emit harmful toxins and chemicals. If bottles are recycled, they’re often used to make “soft plastics” such as grocery shopping bags, “hard plastics,” which can be anything from car parts to furniture to more water bottles, and everything in between. Eventually, these plastics cannot be further recycled and end up in our landfills.
Using your own water bottle and refilling it will save you money and will benefit the environment!
Did you know? The Academy installed five 10-gallon bottled water coolers and seven bottle-less water coolers to reduce our employees’ use of individual plastic water bottles.
6. Contribute to renewable energy demand.
Converting our country’s energy systems over to cleaner, renewable sources of power is an enormous infrastructure project. By purchasing renewable energy certificates (RECs), individuals and businesses have the ability to support and speed up this process.
RECs are sometimes also referred to as renewable energy credits, green certificates, green tags, or tradable renewable certificates. Each REC represents one kilowatt hour of renewable energy. When renewable energy is generated, it goes directly to the grid, a network used to distribute electrical power.
There, the renewable energy is mixed with and becomes indistinguishable from energy generated from nonrenewable sources and together these will power homes and businesses. When you buy a REC, you buy the right to say that the energy you are using is the renewable energy.
RECs can sometimes be purchased through your current electric company or from a third party. You can think about the purchase of RECs like any major infrastructure project—before you build your community center, church, or a new deck you need to contribute money to make it possible.
Did you know? The Academy purchases Green-e certified RECs from Community Energy, an Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Partner, in amounts equal to the Academy’s power needs.