Tips to help boost your eco-friendly tool kit

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Lauren Wright
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Not everyone has the time, money or resources to purchase eco-friendly products or plant a tree. It takes time to research what green alternatives are out there, and even more time (and probably some expertise) to determine if the product lives up to its "green" label.
Fortunately, there are a few things servicemembers can do at home and in the office to reduce their footprint on the world. Replacing light bulbs, recycling ink cartridges and printing double-sided are common suggestions. 

Here are more: 

Shop with companies that have environmentally-friendly habits.
If someone has a specific product in mind, and that product is not environmentally-friendly, they can consider purchasing it from a retailer with good eco-friendly practices. Maybe the store encourages reusable bags or uses energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. Maybe it is certified according to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, meaning the company has a structure meeting specific criteria -- regarding a variety of topics including water and energy consumption to building with recycled materials. 

Many companies make efforts, some larger than others, to promote healthy living. If you do some research, you'll probably be surprised at how some popular retailers are reducing their footprint, and trying to pass the lessons along to their consumers. 

For instance, a popular clothing store put incorporated environmental procurement guidelines into the request for proposal process for all non-merchandise suppliers, according to its Web site. A general-purpose store is using resins made from renewable resources to make some of its gift cards. 

"In 2007, select designs will be printed on polyhydroxyalkanoate, a resin made from corn and other sugar-producing plants," says the company's Web site. "This material is 100 percent biodegradable and compostable. PHA is also carbon neutral, so it will not compound the world's ever-increasing buildup of greenhouse gases." 

Integrate the environment into daily life.
This can be as simple as remembering to return wire hangars to the cleaner, donating clothes or furniture, or as complex as building your own energy-efficient home. Often times, if I keep the environment in the front of my mind, I can come up with a solution that minimizes impact to the world. 

When I leave my workspace I look to make sure my monitor is turned off, although my computer is on. I've reused countless blue folders; shipping and printer paper boxes also have several lives in our office. To welcome new members from another base, we reuse a wicker basket and fill it with goodies to make their first days at Ellsworth a little more comfortable. I also try to share my positive environmental-related experiences with co-workers, so they see the personal satisfaction I get from making small, but hopefully, influential changes. 

Think before you throw it away.
There is probably someone who can use what you can't. Non-profit organizations will sometimes accept items such as electronics, books and clothes and repurpose them for people in need. 

The mall here, for example, recently held a recycling drive for prom dresses. Lions Club, among other groups, recycle eye glasses. For bulkier items, like carpet, ask the manufacturer if they have a recycling program. Again, many companies are integrating green thinking into their work and helping others join the process. Some companies offer this service if you pay the shipping -- as my boss says, "You pay them to throw out your garbage." 

Other businesses recycle electronics and give you a discount on future purchases. After hearing from one retailer, "No one in Rapid City recycles computers," I made a phone call and ended up recycling an old desktop and received a $5 coupon from the retailer, which I used toward a shredder. Cha-Ching! 

Consume less and reuse more.
A lot of attention is focused on what to buy, from who and where, but part of being environmentally friendly is simply consuming less and making creative use of what you do have. I read a magazine online that gives me tips every month -- and yes, the printed version uses recycled paper. It suggests using ice trays as cookie cutters or reusing a tissue box to handle plastic bags, which many people reuse for garbage liners, transport aids or picking up after pets. My current couch is comfortable, but does not match anything else in my apartment, so I'm looking into upholstery options. If I determine that doesn't match my budget, the couch and love-seat will swiftly make their way to the Bone Yard for reuse. 

Sounds like a win-win to me.