So, Wednesday is Earth Day. Though the holiday’s been around since 1970, it feels more relevant than ever given the environmental problems we face. Often, the solutions to these problems involve changing the way we think and act, and perhaps even giving something up. (In this way, Earth Day is sort of Hippie Lent.) And even though most people I know want to be environmentally conscious, they also don’t want to be told how they should live. The challenge, then, is getting people to care about change without making them feel harassed.
One way to do this is to put your advice in what is probably the most important literary device of our time: the list. A couple Google searches will show that dozens of How to Be Greener lists exist already. This makes sense, since the list is quick and efficient—two qualities we value in the Information Age. However, more recently, the list has evolved. We can learn a lot from how sites like—and this next thing may make some of you want to throw your computer in the dumpster, but bear with me—BuzzFeed. One way to make an argument for change without upsetting your audience is to distract that audience with funny pictures. And it just so happens that smartasses putting captions on pictures happen to be among the Internet’s greatest resources. So here’s my attempt at 10 Ways to Be Greener–Now with More Funny!:
1. Recycle prescription medication bottles
The little orange plastic bottles that prescription medications come in aren’t large, but they are numerous. Close to 4 billion prescriptions are filled each year in the United States. Over 18 million prescriptions are filled annually in the Granite state. Thousands of prescriptions are filled annually at the UNH Health Services Center Pharmacy. Rather than contributing to an orange plastic Mt. Washington in a landfill, recycle them! You may want to black your name out with a marker first. Also, it’s important not to flush or throw away excess medication. Most products offer disposal instructions on the label, or the FDA can help you out with safe disposal instructions.
Health Services wants to help you out too. They will take and confidentially recycle your empty medicine bottles. If you recycle on your own be sure to remove the label or use a marker to black out any personal information. Medicine bottles with 1 or 5 on the bottom can be recycled. And if you are on birth control, you can reuse the plastic case when you get a refill.
2. Shut off peripherals & turn off lights
Channel your inner grumpy dad. Turn off lights when you leave rooms, put your computer to sleep at night, and don’t leave the Xbox on. And in related news:
3. …don’t leave your cell phone charging over night
Plug it in before bed or in the morning while you’re getting ready instead.
4. Print double-sided
Seriously, it’s 2015. If you don’t print double-sided, time to start. If you print at one of UNH’s computer clusters, you can make sure 2-sided printing is on by checking the “layout” settings after you click “print.” If you don’t have a printer that prints double-sided, you can still do it with a little extra effort. Start by printing just the odd numbers, and then put the paper back in and print the even sides. (It may take you a couple tries to figure out how to load the paper so it doesn’t overprint, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.)
5. When you go to the Durham Marketplace, ask for paper or bring reusable
If I wanted to ruin your day, I’d list all the things that are bad about plastic bags. Reusable bags are one answer, but if you’re like me, you either left them at home, or you forgot them in the car and aren’t leaving your full cart to go back and get them. You can always ask for paper at the checkout counter.
6. Wash in cold water, hang dry.
Yep. Also, your pants won’t shrink. Look, I just saved you money on pants.
7. Report leaks
According to the EPA, household leaks account for 1 trillion gallons of water lost each year. How much is 1 trillion gallons of water? Well, if you were a superhero and your power was drinking water, you’d have to drink more than 30 million gallons every day and live to be over 80 to consume 1 trillion gallons of water during your life. And you’d still be a lame superhero. Anyway, leaks are bad, report leaks.
8. Try going meatless one day/week
There are a number of arguments for this. It’ll limit your risk for heart disease, stroke, and cancer. You’ll live longer. You’ll spend less money. But it’ll also help the environment. For example, it requires far more water (10x more, depending on farming practices) to produce a serving of steak than a serving of vegetables. Plus, it’s only one day. I hear bacon will be just as delicious tomorrow as it is today.
9. Mark your cups at parties
I know what Toby Keith says. Nevertheless, these are basically Styrofoam, and they take centuries to decompose. While it would be great to stop buying these entirely, a good compromise is to write your name on one so you don’t use multiple cups each time you go to a party. As a bonus, you can draw funny pictures of your friends on theirs when they’re not looking.
10. Go thrifting
You probably already do this. But now you’re imagining Morpheus karaokeing “Thrift Shop,” and your day is that much better.
These are just a few of the things you can do to conserve resources. That said, lists can only take us so far; ultimately, the goal is to change attitudes and philosophies about what it means to live in the world. An important step is to get educated. Check out the UNH Sustainability Institute, where you can learn about healthy campus life and sustainability organizations on campus. And when you tell your friends what you learned there, don’t forget to add funny!