10 Ways You Can Help the Planet

"Why not save energy by using a clothesline at least for your large items?" –Kristin Bramell

The approach of Earth Day offers a terrific opportunity to consider changes you can make to help foster a healthier planet. For advice, we turned to our staff members in Maryland/DC and Virginia.

From the folks who spend their days working for conservation, we present our favorite 10 tips for keeping it green at home. (They are not, however, responsible for the puns.)

Inspect Your Gadgets

Lyle Solla-Yates, who manages our technology systems, suggests responsible recycling and purchasing of electronics: “Goodwill has partnered with Dell to recycle computer equipment, making them a good place to bring old equipment and to pick up used equipment that still works for a great price. When you do buy, choose greener electronics or consider a smaller device. You can do a lot more now with less machine, which can save money, hassle, and the environment.”

Soil, It's Green

Brian van Eerden directs the Southern Rivers Program and is an avid composter: “Composting helps the environment by reducing solid waste and the greenhouse gas emissions such as methane it produces in landfills. Compost is also a great, low-cost source of organic fertilizer for your garden.” Find creative ideas to turn your trash into treasure

Support Your Local Shares!

Jennifer Donovan, our donor relations manager, grows her own vegetables and buys from local farmers: “My family pays a fixed price per month to obtain a CSA share of organic vegetables, beef, chicken and fish. My supplier even gives me free recipes that I enjoy experimenting with. By purchasing food directly from local farmers, you are putting all the proceeds from the sale directly in their pockets. The food I buy locally also tastes much better. We really are what we eat, so eat healthy, local and fresh!”

Mr. Bean

Allegheny Highlands director Marek Smith chooses coffee from shade-grown beans: “Growing coffee under the shade of trees in the Central and South American rainforests not only produces a richer flavor, but also helps protect critical wintering habitat for neotropical migratory songbirds such as scarlet tanagers and cerulean warblers. These same bird species nest here in the broadleaf forests of our Central Appalachians, including Warm Springs Mountain Preserve.

The Thrifters

Philanthropy Coordinator Karen Schuyler shops for clothes at thrift stores: “It’s very green since the clothing is being used again, thus saving the energy costs in growing and harvesting plant-based fibers, as well as saving energy in the production and transport of new factory-made garments. Most exciting of all, it’s like a treasure hunt and you never know what you’ll find.”

Hang 'Em Dry

Fundraiser (and new mother) Kristin Bramell prefers to air-dry her laundry: “Hanging up every sock can be a pain, but why not save energy by using a clothesline at least for your large items? I put up a clothesline in my backyard and love to hang my towels, sheets and t-shirts outside. It takes just five minutes, and there’s nothing better than that fresh, natural smell. Now that the weather’s nice, I’ll probably start hanging up my cloth diapers too!”

Energy at the Gates

By following recommendations from a comprehensive home energy audit, preserve steward Tim Sanjule reduced his energy use. “Energy usage of any kind has an impact on our environment. Heating and cooling a house that is not well-insulated or well-sealed will waste your money and precious resources. Learn about ways to use less energy at home.”

Thank You for Not Smoking

Marine ecologist Jay Odell says, if you want healthy nature and to be healthy yourself, don’t smoke: “Nearly 600 million trees are destroyed each year to provide fuel to dry tobacco; that’s one tree destroyed for every 300 cigarettes. Globally, curing tobacco requires 11.4 million tons of solid wood annually. Tobacco also is the second leading cause of death (about 5 million deaths each year). If current trends continue, smoking will cause some 10 million deaths per year by 2020. Half the people who smoke today — about 650 million people — will eventually be killed by tobacco. Learn more about the impacts."

Man on a Hedge

Clinch Valley ecologist Braven Beaty says, “If you have a creek on your property, don’t mow right up to the bank. Leaving a strip of taller plants and shrubs can help stabilize the bank and provide wildlife habitat. The root systems help keep banks from eroding during high water, and the shade and structure provide shelter and food for fish, birds, salamanders, and other wildlife that need cool, moist areas to live. Try it and see if you don’t notice more critters.”

Lawn & Order

For a lawn that’s green in more than color, use less water and fertilizer, says Virginia Executive Director Michael Lipford: “A significant amount of nitrogen is put back in the soil if you leave your clippings on the grass. Don’t water every day, and don’t fret if the grass goes dormant when the heat of summer comes. Using less fertilizer is good for the Chesapeake Bay. Nutrients are the main problem in the bay, and a significant portion comes from residential fertilizers. Use low-nitrogen and low-phosphate fertilizers, fertilize less, and wisely — not before a heavy rain. Many stores now supply low-nitrogen organic fertilizers that can also reduce your carbon footprint.“

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