Cleaner, greener communities every day

2013-04-21T00:00:00Z Cleaner, greener communities every dayMichelle Krueger Times Homes Columnist
April 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When Keep America Beautiful first aired the well-known TV commercial with a Native American shedding a single tear at the sight of litter being dropped on the road, I was eight years old. To this day, whenever I see someone litter I think about the “crying Indian” ad and its message, “People Start Pollution, People Can Stop It.”

Years later, I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring which helped create a new environmental consciousness by drawing attention to the overuse of pesticides and their lethal effects on wildlife and the environment. Now, when I see bald eagles soar during my family’s annual Northwoods getaway, I have a deep sense of appreciation for her inspiring work. Many people credit Carson for bringing attention to pollution and ecology, galvanizing progress on a number of environmental fronts, including cleaner air and water, over the last five decades.

Here in Northwest Indiana, our location on the sandy southern shore of Lake Michigan provides an unparalleled landscape, ecological diversity and a broad spectrum of recreational opportunities. Along with preserved parcels, wetlands and parks managed independently throughout Northwest Indiana’s 41 cities and towns, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore claims 15,000 acres including 15 miles of beach access for preservation while the Indiana Dunes State Park holds another 2,182 acres with 3 miles of shoreline beaches.

However, as people and industry continue to make their mark on the region, development affects the natural environment. For the 856,302 people who call the Region home (2010 population data for Northwest Indiana Region 1 including Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton, Jasper, Starke and Pulaski counties) the sustainability of natural resources – air, water and land – must always be a priority.

Earth Day is a great way to highlight the many ways good environmental citizenship can easily be a year-round practice of eco-friendly living. By promoting environmental citizenship as a path to achieving sustainability, Earth Day encourages people to act according to the public environmental good.

Each year, more than one billion people participate in Earth Day-related activities, making it the largest civic observance in the world. On and around April 22, communities across approximately 192 countries voice their concerns for the planet and take action to protect it.

Providing an opportunity to reconnect with your community, Earth Day-themed events such as nature walks, tree plantings or neighborhood cleanups are a great way to escape overscheduled, rushed routines and get outdoors. You can also commit to making a few simple changes everyday. Here are some examples that take little effort, save some money and help the environment at the same time.

Conserve energy - According to the US Department of Energy, 86 percent of the nation's power comes from fossil fuels - coal, oil and natural gas which are finite resources that produce approximately 90% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Try a few of these. Turn off lights in rooms that aren’t in use and take advantage of natural light whenever possible. Switch to energy-efficient bulbs that use about 20% of the energy and last up to 12 times longer than traditional bulbs. If your appliances are more than 10 years old, consider upgrading to newer, more energy efficient models as needed. Keep the refrigerator closed until you know what you are looking for and thaw frozen items in the fridge to help keep the inside air cool. Pre-rinse dishes in cold water and only wash full dishwasher loads. Skip the dry cycle, open the door and let your dishes air dry. Same goes for washing clothes. Cold water, full loads and line dry whenever possible. Unplug chargers when not in use and reduce “phantom load” with power strips that can be turned off when electronics are not in use.

Conserve water – All living things depend on an abundance of clean water for survival, and nearly all the water we get from the tap undergoes a lengthy, energy and resource consuming process to make it safe for consumption.

To get started, find and fix any leaks, choose water-efficient appliances, insulate hot water pipes (you’ll use less water waiting for the tap to warm up) and mulch (trees, shrubs and plants retain 60% more water when they are properly mulched).

Avoid disposables – When we buy, use, throw away and repurchase items for our homes and personal use, we waste money and resources.

Reusable water bottles can be refilled, washed and reused for years. Just say no to paper or plastic and bring your own reusable bags when shopping.

Other changes to consider include supporting locally-owned businesses, eating locally-grown foods and paying all your bills online.

Try committing to one new habit at time. No matter how small it seems, every change matters, and over time they will add up to make a big difference. Dealing with today’s environmental issues requires a united effort and fresh perspectives. Just as the image of the “crying Indian” and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring spurred change years ago, we can all join the fight for sustainability, determined to preserve our unique environment for future generations.

Pillars of the Community: In honor of Earth Day (April 22) and Arbor Day (April 26), Alsip Home & Nursery will be joining the Town of St. John in conjunction with the Parks and Recreation Department for a tree dedication at the pavilion in Prairie West located at 9359 West Oakridge Drive on Saturday, April 27th at 9am. Then, the celebration continues back at Alsip Home & Nursery with FREE evergreen saplings for the first 50 kids (ages 12 & under, limit one per family) and a special Tree Care Q & A session with Scott Polster, Certified Arborist with Forever Green from 10am-12noon.

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