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Celebrate Earth Week by Making Some Changes


AI art; woman's face blended in to a coral reef, depiction of mother nature; made with MidJourny by Adrienne Schoenau

Building a sustainable lifestyle is easy to get started with. While the idea of going zero-waste or carbon-free is a bit much for the average household, taking the first few steps is little effort and very rewarding. Also, by taking the first steps, the ones that follow are much more manageable. "Hacks," "Tips," or "Top 10" lists for having a green lifestyle are plentiful and very useful. Where you live can also make a big difference in what those lists have. For instance, if you live in a cold climate, insulation will be huge on your electric bill, but here in Hawaii, ventilation would be better. I've browsed the internet, rounded up some of the best and most approachable, added some of my own, from standard recommendations to some that are a little more off the beaten path, and sorted them by those related to water and electricity, and lifestyle. Hope you find a few of them helpful, and feel free to share away for Earth Week!


Printable posters are available at the bottom of this post.



Sustainable Lifestyle Tips

Saving the planet is no easy task, but also no one is expected to do it single handedly, its our collective actions, big and small that add up. Do as many good things as you can, but also don’t get burned out. Try adding one thing to your daily routine, once it’s a habit, add the next, each one after will be easier.

  • Eliminate one time use paper. Buy a set of cloth “unpaper” towels, and roll them up on a tube to replace your paper towels. Use cloth napkins. And get a bidet and towels to cut way back on toilet paper. All these use a tremendous amount of water to manufacture, plus energy to ship it all the way to Hawaii.

  • Eliminate one time use plastic on the go Start by carrying a re usable bag, then gradually add a straw, a cup, and some cutlery. If you forget, be sure and take the plastic home for proper recycling or compost. If you regularly have leftovers from dining out, try to bring a Tupperware with you (or keep one in the car)

  • Eat Local It’s never been easier to get fresh local produce and more for a great price, delivered to your door from FarmLinkHawaii.com. Eating local cuts down on the carbon from transporting it, and it tastes better and stays fresh longer! Or try your hand at farming yourself with a hydroponic system such as an iHarvest

  • What’s it wrapped in? No wrapping is of course best, but choose brands of things from salad dressing to skin care in glass bottles or compostable packaging.

  • Try composting Composting is one of the most rewarding ways to reduce your waste, turning yesterday’s food scraps into tomorrow’s tomatoes. If you don’t have space for a worm bin, try a composting machine like Lomi from Pela, suitable for even a small apartment with a lanai or car port.

  • Reuse, reuse, reuse! Thrift and buy recycled If you're looking to refresh your wardrobe, try Savers, Plato’s Closet, Facebook Market, or your local Buy Nothing group (such as Buy Nothing O’ahu 2.0). If you want something that isn’t pre owned, do a search for ones made from recycled plastic such as Rothy’s shoes & bags or Waterlust bathing suites. Super comfy and durable and super easy to keep clean! Also, don’t forget to donate or post what your done using rather then toss it in the trash.

  • Get plastic out of your kitchen routine Start saving glass jars or get non toxic containers made of glass or silicone. Instead of cling wrap, put it in a container with a lid or use a beeswax wrap (locally made available from farmlinkhawaii.com). Plastic is not only bad for the planet but also can leech toxins into your food, especially when reheating. Remember, “Microwave safe” plastic means it's safe for the container, not the one eating out of it. Also swap that synthetic sponge for a cotton washcloth or try doing your dishes with one of the cellulose sponges made from natural fibers.

  • Stop buying water And not just bottled water (which is often more polluted than tap), but anything you buy that is heavy is mostly water. Liquid detergents can be replaced with laundry strips, conditioner and shampoo with bars, make your own foaming hand soap by diluting regular hand soap 3 parts water to 1 part soap. Try your hand at DIY cleaning products from lemon, vinegar and baking soda from Pinterest or get a system to make spray such as Force of Nature.

  • Consider getting a nano plastics filter for your washing machine. All of our synthetic clothing sheds particles that are winding up in our oceans and consumed by small organisms, allowing them to enter the food chain. Order one from Planet Care, and send back the full filters for recycling.

  • Recycle correctly Unfortunately, on Oahu only #1 and #2 plastics can be recycled, and only if you rinse them out. Always check your local recycling center for what they can accept. Please don’t “wish-cycle” and keep things that can’t be recycled locally out of the blue bins. If you have electronics to recycle, bring them to Best Buy.

  • Shave with razors that have replaceable blades, not whole disposable ones. Or consider using a safety razor that you can simply sharpen.


Water Saving Tips

While water conservation has been important for a long time, this year here on Oahu it is more important than ever. With less rain, and a contamination crisis at Red Hill we will all have to cut back our use, for both the planet, our friends and neighbors, and for our own wallets as fines and rations are expected this summer.

  • Water your lawn only when it needs it Step on some grass. If it springs back up when you move your foot, it doesn't need water. When you do water it, give it a good long soak so it reaches the roots and do so during the cool part of the day such as dawn or dusk.

  • Watch your sink use Now that we’re all trained to wash our hands for 30 seconds, turn off the water while you lather up. Same with brushing your teeth or shaving. To rinse a razor while shaving, plug the sink and add a litter water to keep reusing it rather than rinsing from the tap.

  • Use the water you’ve got! If possible, consider setting up a rain barrel at the end of your gutters. There are plenty of techniques for this and to keep away the mosquitos. Alternatively, place it at the end of your AC drains from mini-split systems, they give off a surprising amount of water. Use it to water plants.

  • Wash cold and full Your automatic washer uses 30 to 35 gallons per cycle. The permanent press cycle on most washing machines uses an extra five gallons of water for the additional rinse. If possible, buy a front load washing machine, they use half the water of a top loader. Launder everything in cold water. 90% of energy used by washing machines goes towards heating the water. Plus, cold water is proven to clean just as effectively and will help your clothes last longer.

  • Let the machines do the dirty work It may feel more virtuous to wash by hand, but it’s actually more wasteful: You use up to 27 gallons of water per load by hand versus as little as 3 gallons with an ENERGY STAR-rated dishwasher. Many dishwashers do not require pre-rinsing of dishes – a good scrape should suffice.

Same with the car, automated car wash can save unto 100 gallons
  • Pick a glass! Designate one glass or water bottle to drink water out of so you don’t have to continue washing new cups throughout the day. And if you accidentally drop ice, don’t throw it in the sink – put it in a house plant. (Just don't put ice on your orchids!)

  • Test your toilet Undetected internal leaks from tank to bowl could waste up to 100 gallons a day. Put a dye tablet or food coloring in the top tank yearly to see if the color of the water in the bowl changes color. If it does, your toilet needs a replacement rubber flapper or fill mechanism.

While your testing your toilet tank put a plastic bottle in it Put an inch or two of sand or pebbles in the bottom of a one liter bottle to weigh it down. Fill the rest of the bottle with water and put it in your toilet tank, safely away from the operating mechanism. In an average home, the bottle may save five gallons or more of water every day without harming the efficiency of the toilet. If your tank is big enough, you may even be able to put in two bottles.
Also, don’t use your toilet as a wastebasket, every flush is about 7 gallons
  • Keep garbage disposal use to a minimum Scrape food scraps into your compost bin, or the garbage, and run your garbage disposal as infrequently as possible.

  • Reuse pasta water When you drain the noodles, collect the water in another pot or bowel. Once it cools, water the houseplants, they’ll benefit from the extra nutrients.

Reverse Osmosis Recent contamination aside, there have been reports of chemicals that were used 100 years ago on the plantations making their way to our aquifer, including atrazine, which causes birth defects. New discoveries and connections between toxins and health issues are always being discovered. Consider making the investment in a good reverse osmosis system, either under your kitchen sink for drinking water or a whole house system. Make sure it also has a remineralization stage, since “dead water” can also have health impacts. Locally, Vivio Sustainable Solutions has an excellent one


Energy Saving Tips

While energy conservation has been important for a long time, during summer in the tropics it is even more necessary. The best thing is to generate your own clean energy with a solar PV system, but here are some smaller things you can do to reduce your demand.

  • Stream consciously Don’t use game consoles to stream your TV shows. They can use up to 15x more energy than digital media players such as Roku and Apple TV. Also check all computers, consoles, and TVs to make sure sleep and standby are in eco mode.

  • Stop Energy Vampires Plug electronics—TVs, computers, game consoles, phone chargers —into a power strip and switch it off when not in use. 3/4 of electricity used by home electronics happens while they’re turned off. Leave them plugged in when not in use and these “energy vampires” will cost you an extra $100 per year.

  • How you cook matters Use your slow cooker & instant pot more often, it’s more efficient than a conventional oven. Get creative with small appliances, like slow and pressure cookers, toaster ovens, or even the microwave. These use significantly less energy than a stove/oven, and often cook your meals a lot faster! Warming your oven up from scratch to your desired temperature takes the most energy. Prepare all your meals for the week at one time, and save a decent amount of energy too.

No Peeking - Don’t peek in the oven unless it’s necessary. Every time you peek, the temperature drops 25°F and the oven uses twice the energy to reheat. - Limit opening the fridge. Every time you open the fridge, it has to work harder to cool things back down.
  • Fill Up Your Fridge Zero in on your refrigerator’s efficiency; it uses more energy than all of your kitchen appliances put together. Clean the coils twice per year to improve efficiency by up to 50 percent. Keep the thermostat between 35 and 38 degrees, and keep it filled to boost efficiency. No need for that much food? Use pitchers of water in the fridge or bags of ice in the freezer to take up room.

  • Wash laundry cold Detergent makers have done decades of research on making sure your clothes are just as clean in cold water than hot, so put all that effort to use! 90% of the energy for a load of washing is heating the water. And cold water helps your clothes last longer. *Also switch to laundry strips or other non- liquid forms to reduce plastic waste

  • Be dryer conscious If you can count on the sun, hang dry your laundry. The UV light sanitizes your clothing. Or if you're in a small apartment use a fold up rack. If you do need to use the dryer place a dry towel into your dryer for the first 15 minutes of the cycle to absorb moisture and help clothes dry 10 percent faster.

  • Water heater Set your water heater to 120°F. Any hotter is a waste of energy.

  • Get some sunlight, and some LEDs Especially during the day, it’s easy to forget to turn off lights in rooms not in use. Open drapes or blinds wherever you're working, even if it doesn't get direct sunlight. If using a laptop, move to where the natural light is strongest. Natural light is known to boost mood and productivity. At night, switch to LED lights. They are 5x more efficient and last 25x longer than incandescent bulbs.

Hot! As a general rule, be it lightbulbs, chargers, or electronics, if it's hot to the touch it’s burning extra power. Switch hot light bulbs to LEDs, keep usage of gaming consoles that run hot to a minimum, and unplug chargers when not in use.
  • Know your local energy demands Here in Hawaii, most of our clean energy sources (solar and wind) are more readily available during the day, especially mid day. If possible, use that time to do your most energy intensive tasks like using the oven or charging your EV. At night we are still most dependent on petroleum powered plants, which are going to be more expensive as the price of oil increases, and are bad for the planet.

  • Know your local resources If you are considering renovating or upgrading appliances, Hawaii Energy has collection programs and rebates on everything from ACs to light bulbs to appliances.





Happy earth week everyone! And best of luck on your new sustainable habits. Please reach out if you have any questions about these tips or want a more in-depth discussion about how to change your home or lifestyle.


If you found these tips helpful and want to share them in person, printable 14x11 inch posters are available here


Earthday_Other Ideas
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Download PDF • 975KB

Earthday_water
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Download PDF • 719KB

Earthday_electric2
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Download PDF • 806KB

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