by Mia Foster

Lightbulbs and batteries are such commonly used household items, they are considered essentials. By purchasing the correct light bulbs and batteries, we can decrease energy usage and the waste we send to landfills.

Light Bulbs

analysis blackboard board bubble
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A 60-watt incandescent light bulb is the traditional style but that does not mean it is the best; these bulbs are extremely inefficient and have a relatively short lifespan. The best option is an LED light, which uses 80% less energy and has a lifespan that is 25 times that of the incandescent bulb (Davis). While LEDs have a larger initial cost than incandescent bulbs, the savings in energy bills and the decreased need to continually replace bulbs make the swap more cost-effective over time. By switching your lights to LED, you can significantly decrease the environmental and monetary impact of your lighting. If you need more motivation, EnergyStar reports that: “If every American household replaced just one standard light bulb with a high-efficiency version, the United States would save about $600 million in annual energy costs and prevent 9 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions.” (Davis) The switch might feel small, but it makes a huge difference!

Batteries

close up photo of batteries
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Rechargeable batteries are a more complicated issue. Simply buying and using rechargeable batteries does not make them more sustainable; according to Yale Climate Connections, a battery must be recharged 50 times before its impact is significant (Grossman). This is due to different methods and metals used for production, the energy used to charge batteries, and the different processes of disposal. For this reason, it is suggested that we use rechargeable batteries for highly used items such as remotes, cameras, and electronic toys (Schildgen). These items need new batteries more often, meaning the batteries will be charged many times, making the switch environmentally beneficial. 

Conclusion

The appliances and products we purchase and use are fundamental to the sustainability of our lives. By making educated decisions about purchases we can decrease our individual economic impacts, therefore creating a larger cumulative decrease in energy use and product waste. Small items such as light bulbs and batteries are significant!

 

By Mia Foster

     There are many items that have become more ubiquitous, commonly used, or appreciated since the rise of COVID-19. These products are often the first to be swept off the shelves. In the mania of panic-shopping, which is another issue in and of itself, we often forget to think about the ecological impacts of these products and how to use them more sustainably. Good news for you, I’ve gathered some small tidbits on the products made infamous during quarantine and how to use and dispose of them properly!

Toilet Paper

     Hopefully we’ve all been using toilet paper our whole lives, but in the world of coronavirus, its value and cultural significance has skyrocketed.

     Recently, I realized that my family has a tendency to throw empty toilet paper tubes into the garbage. When I thought more about this, I asked myself; do we have to send these to the landfills? Are they recyclable or compostable? 

     According to Kathryn Kellogg, author of 101 Ways to go Zero Waste, toilet paper tubes (or cores or whatever you choose to call them) are recyclable, and some brands are even compostable. It is worth the extra effort to take the empty core to your recycling bin. If this is too much effort or you feel you will forget, you can put a small recycle bin in your bathroom. If you are feeling crafty, toilet paper tubes have also been the inspiration for many craft and organizing projects on Pinterest.

Masks

     During COVID-19 and after, masks are likely to become much more commonly worn than before. Instead of purchasing single-use masks, consider taking the time to make your own reusable cloth masks. To make this upgrade from single-use to reusable even more eco-friendly, consider making the masks out of old clothes that can’t be worn, curtains, or other sources of fabric that would otherwise be thrown away. The CDC has created guidelines for how to make your own masks, with both sewing and non-sewing options. Here is the link to their tutorials:

Soap

     Fun fact: liquid soaps have a 25% higher carbon footprint than bar soaps (Cleancult). A simple way to stay clean and sustainable is to opt for bar soap in your home. If you really want to stick to liquid soap, consider buying refillable soap. The companies will sell refill jugs and you can refill your own dispenser, lessening the amount of plastic packaging you consume and the cost of soap (buying bulk refills is often cheaper than buying the equivalent in individual dispensers). 

     

To conclude, while it might be easy to overlook sustainability during this global health crisis, it is incredibly important that we continue to do what we can to live more sustainable lifestyles. While these changes I’ve mentioned are small, many small changes add up. By being intentional about our consumption and disposal of products, we are personally taking steps towards a more sustainable world.