Am I GREEN? – What is “being green”?

I grew up in Germany, where “being green” wasn’t really an option. I remember helping my mom as a 6 year old, bundling up newspapers, carrying them to the cellar and storing them, until twice a year a truck came by and picked them all up. Back then there wasn’t really much paper trash, except the daily newspaper. Then we started collecting glass and driving it to recycling containers once a month or so.  Then came the “Green dot” or “Yellow sac”. We had to seperate plastic from envelopes, aluminum johgurt container lids from the plastic containers and we had to pull paper labels of tuna cans. Everything needed to be washed out, as we had to collect everything for 2 weeks until it was picked up. Because we lived in a small appartment, we had to make sure to clean every single item (including cans of cat food) to prevent nasty smells and infestation with flies, especially during summer (without Air conditioner). The yellow bags had to be kept inside until the day they were picked up on the curve. Each households then had a trash can and a stack of yellow bags. Then every household received a compost ‘trash’ can. The compost was picked up once or twice a month only – imagine the smell. BECAUSE trash service was expensive, everybody tried to have as little trash as possible. Compost pickup was free – so of course you make sure to compost as much as possible (and the county gets a good compost pile built up for their needs). When you go shopping to pay attention to the packaging the various products are packed in and start buying more and more products that use less packaging. When you buy bread at the bakery, they wrap it in a sheet of thin paper, not in 2 layers of plastic that makes it soggy anyway. (Do you know how much oil and water is needed to produce plastic bags? Oil we wouldn’t need to import if we’d all use reusable grocery bags – that are sturdier and better looking to begin with – you can even express opinions or your personality with these accessories). When you go shopping, you bring your ‘1 euro’ or plastic chip (the size of a quarter) and use it to ‘unlock’ your shopping cart; when you’re done, you bring back the shopping cart to the ‘station’ and get your chip (or euro) back (if you have been to Aldi, you saw the concept). It is a great way to prevent shopping carts from being abandoned in the parking lot and therefore eliminates the need for an employee that has to collect them and high insurance costs to cover damaged cars. When you buy beer, soda juice or sparkling water, you purchase it in cases (where you can mix varieties if you wish) and pay a deposit for each bottle and carrying case. You can then return it (at ANY) grocery or beverage store and get your deposit back. The bottles get washed and reused several times. If you have weeds in your garden, you pull them up by hand – it is good for the body and soul and doesn’t require the use of expensive chemicals that ruin our groundwater and end up in our drinking water, making us sick. I could go on and on – but I think you get the picture. If you live in Germany and don’t recycle, you pay a fine if they catch you. If you drive a vehicle that is not fuel efficient – you pay a lot more in taxes than others. If you don’t recycle – you’re frowned upon. So – it is a smart thing to do and you do your part as a responsible citizen.  I believe that is what qualifies for ‘being green” and I am very happy to see that more and more Americans realize, that we need to protect our resources, save money and live more responsibly by not leaving a huge footprint during our short time on this beautiful earth.

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The drought is officially over. We can go back to our old ways…

The drought is over. 

That’s the word from Georgia’s top environmental officials. After years of water restrictions and conservation programs, water levels across the state appear to be getting back to normal.

The state climatologist says Georgia experienced the wettest spring season on record in 115 years.  In fact, Governor Sonny Perdue says heavy rainfall in recent months helped the entire state emerge from the worst drought categories, prompting restrictions on outdoor water use to be lifted for the first time since 2006. 

So, should we still conserve water? Absolutely.

Why should we conserve water?

 There are many good reasons to conserve water.

Water conservation can help meet future needs.

Water is a precious resource – our lives depend on it. In Georgia, the average consumption (residential, commercial and industrial, not agricultural) is 168 gallons per day, 10% higher than the national average of 153 gallons a day. An adult needs less than a gallon per day for drinking purposes, but 101 gallons per day are used in residential applications.

(Source: http://www.p2ad.org/files_pdf/cwmbs.pdf

Georgia’s population growth is among the most rapid in the nation. In the last decade, the state’s population has increased by more than 1.7 million. If current trends continue, Georgia’s population will reach 11.9 million in 2025. A doubling of demand for water over the next twenty years is highly probable. Given that drought-prone Georgia already uses a relatively high share of its land for residential purposes, future population growth will have a meaningful impact upon the supply of fresh water. As more and more faucets drain the aquifers, or underground reservoirs, urban sprawl paves over the land and short-circuits its absorption properties. Georgia’s fast-growing cities face water shortages by 2020 unless local utilities find new supplies.

Saving water will save you money.

Conserving water saves you money! Not only will your water bill go down, but as you heat less water, your gas or energy bill will also decline. If your whole community conserves, you will also pay less fees for water-related services. Water conserving communities will not need to pay as much to develop new supplies and expand or upgrade water and wastewater infrastructure.

 The City of Atlanta has approved a 12.5% rate increase effective July 1, 2009 and another 12% increase in 2010.  

Approved Water and Sewer Rates City of Atlanta

Water conservation helps preserve the environment.

Quite simply, water is the essential component of all life. It comprises 70% of the Earth’s surface and 75% of the human body. Of that 70% of surface water, only 1% is actually drinkable. Water is needed to keep the ecosystem in balance. Clouds need water to make rain. Plants need water to grow. Animals depend on plants for the oxygen they produce and the food they provide. When one element of the chain is compromised, the entire system is thrown out of whack. Roughly 46% of America’s lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming or hosting aquatic life. 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are discharged into US waters annually.

 There are many obvious reasons for us to protect our water supply, but the most important point to remember is that water is absolutely essential to all living things. Educate yourself, dedicate yourself, and you can make a difference.

(Source: http://www.luminant.com/scholar/docs/EnvironmentWater.pdf)

A significant level of water conservation can be achieved without major changes in lifestyle. Simply watering landscapes properly and utilizing efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances in the home can reduce the per-capita water use by 25 percent.