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Going Green

In celebration of Earth Day on April 22, many communities sponsor activities to heighten awareness of the environment and the role each of us play in preserving it. (Visit www.earthday.

org to learn more.) Each Spring, my family and I participate in a town-wide clean-up effort. We don heavy gardening gloves and set out with buckets and trash bags to clean up a nearby portion of state forest that borders a busy street. This quarter mile stretch seems to be a magnet for bottles, cans, cigarette butts and fast food wrappings.

We are always amazed by how much we accumulate in a short time. We sort the trash into rubbish, which we throw away, and recyclables, which we clean and bring to the recycling area of our public works department. (We collect far more than what would fit in our curbside recycling bins.

) Afterwards, it is so rewarding to admire the pristine woods. Unfortunately, it doesn't stay clean for long. Within a few days, I often spot several new cans and wrappers as I walk or jog by, and I'll come home with another handful of trash. This makes me realize that it's not enough to do an annual clean-up on Earth Day. To really make a difference, we need to think of every day as Earth Day. Here are some practices we can adopt to contribute to a greener planet: REDUCE If you've recently looked around on a trash collection day, I think you'll agree that we produce a staggering amount of garbage.

There's a disposable version of most consumer goods: contacts lenses, razors, grocery bags, paper plates, plastic utensils, juice boxes, and now even disposable cutting boards. Consider using cloth napkins, canvas bags for your groceries, reusable plastic containers for sandwiches, and refillable bottles for water and juice. Single serving packages may be convenient but they create more waste than buying in bulk. See how much you can cut back on what you throw away. REUSE Before you throw something out, think if there is someone else who could use the item. There are many organizations that welcome donations of clothes, shoes, furniture, household items, computers, books, toys, bikes, and even cars! One man's trash can be another's treasure.

RECYCLE Educate yourself about what's recyclable in your area and take full advantage of curbside and town recycling. Bottles, cans, plastic milk containers, paper-including newspaper, magazines and junk mail all belong in the recycling bin, not the trash. From my observations, many people don't realize that cardboard boxes, pizza boxes, egg cartons, and even cereal boxes can also be recycled.

You may have to take some items to designated recycling bins at a local dump or public works department. DETOX Pollutants are taking a toll on our air, water, soil, and health. There are environmentally friendly lawn and garden products that can be just as effective as pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Using compost as a mulch and leaving nitrogen-rich grass clippings on your lawn are just two natural landscaping strategies. Inside the home, you can choose non-toxic cleaning supplies.

On the Internet you can find many recipes using common pantry staples like vinegar, salt, and baking soda to replace many household cleaners. Also, learn what items, such as computer and TV's with their cathode ray tubes, oil-based paint, motor oil, mercury thermometers, and some batteries are considered hazardous waste, and find out how to properly dispose of them. COMPOST Ever noticed how quickly a banana peel turns brown? Compost happens! Purchase a compost bin or encircle a compost pile with chicken wire, and regularly toss in layers of: your non-meat and non-dairy food scraps--fruit and vegetable rinds, peels, eggshells, coffee filters and grounds, grass clippings, pulled weeds, leaves, pet hair and in a few months you will have what gardeners refer to as "black gold." You can speed up the process by turning the compost, keeping it as moist as a damp-sponge, and adding a few layers of finished compost and/or manure to the mix. PURCHASE WISELY With every dollar you spend on organic foods or items made of recycled material (fleece, which is made from recycled plastic, is my favorite) it's like casting a vote for the environment.

Look for the recycling symbol, the triangle of three arrows, and select items that can be recycled or are made from post-recycled materials. CONSERVE Given our abundant spring rains, they probably won't impose a water ban in our area this summer. Even so, it's important to conserve our limited natural resources.

Installing low flow shower heads, toilet dams, using a rain barrel, and not over watering lawns (anything over 1 inch per week is excessive) are some ways to save water. You can a substantial amount of electricity and money by replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs. You can also save gas by carpooling, using public transportation, consolidating errands, and buying buy fuel-efficient vehicles. CLEAN UP We all share this planet. If we all pick up after ourselves it will make a difference.

Go the extra mile and pick up after others, too. Bring a plastic bag with you on your next walk or hike, and collect some litter. Eventually, it may catch on. In the coming weeks, if you see someone bending down by the side of the road, don't panic, it's probably me or an inspired reader picking up trash. Wish us well, and if you are able, join us!.

Grace Durfee, PCC, is an ICF certified coach, trainer, speaker, and writer who helps busy professionals, small business owners and career changers achieve professional success while enjoying more balanced lives. You can read her blog and subscribe to her newsletter at

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