Simple Ways for Seniors to Help the Planet

go green

For some, “going green” is a lifestyle. For others, it’s just a catchphrase that reminds us to toss plastic into the recycling bin now and then. It goes by many terms: eco-friendly, environmentally responsible, sustainable, no waste, energy-efficient, and so much more. But no matter what you call it, going green has become a hot-button political issue.

With the multitude of fact and fiction surrounding being eco-friendly, there is one thing that everyone can agree on: the world is changing. Drinkable water is dropping to unprecedented levels[1]. The power grid the entire country relies on is almost taxed to its limit[2]. Many once-robust species are heading toward extinction at a rapid clip[3]. Natural disasters are much worse than they were decades ago, both in terms of monetary losses and the loss of human life[4].

We might disagree on all the reasons why, but the fact remains that our planet is changing drastically over what feels like a very short period of time.

The good news? We might be able to slow or even reverse some of the trends that threaten our planet and our way of life. And it’s easier than you might think.

Some Facts About Conservation

There are so many facts out there about going green that it’s tough to know where to start. But it’s important to see the statistics, as seeing the numbers in black and white can help drive home the impact of what’s really happening around us. Here are some of those all-important facts:

·         Even as ocean levels are rising, we’re seeing a loss of freshwater for drinking. Why? The Environmental Protection Agency points out that over the last 100 years, the global temperature has risen by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit. A 2-degree temperature rise leads to a 10% reduction in stream flows in rivers, leading to severe water shortages and up to 15% lower crop yields. Though we still have enough food to eat and water to drink, getting it begins to cost more. But eventually, that water will run too low for everyone to enjoy it. The National Resources Defense Council predicts that by 2050, one-third of the counties in the contiguous 48 states will see significant drops in water levels, thanks to the 12.3% increase in domestic water demand.

·         As natural disasters get worse, wildfires are becoming an increasing concern. In the United States, fire seasons are now lasting at least a month longer than they did even in the 1980s[5]. That endangers wildlife and people, destroys structures, puts enormous strain on firefighters and monetary resources, and dumps countless tons of smoke into the atmosphere.

·         We’re losing species at a terrifying clip. Animals and plants become extinct all the time, at a rate of up to five species each year; however, right now dozens of species are going extinct every day. At that astounding rate, up to half of all species on the planet will be gone by 2050, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.  

·         Something as simple as a plastic bag can wreak havoc on the world’s ecosystems. According to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, over 160,000 plastic bags are used across the world every second. Many of those bags wind up in the ocean, where they eventually become among the top 10 most cleaned-up items on beaches. We only use a plastic bag for an average of 12 minutes, but it takes 1,000 years for that bag to decompose. And that’s just bags – we’re not talking about the other plastics out there!

·         The very air we breathe is becoming unsustainable. And that all goes back to the rainforests. Today, rainforests are being cut down at a rate of about 100 acres every minute. Keep in mind that about 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon rainforest, which is being heavily impacted by logging and other forms of deforestation. Besides creating the oxygen we need to survive, those rainforests also protect about 50% of all living creatures on the planet – despite the fact that they cover less than 7% of the earth’s landmass[6].

Just as you choose a medical alert system with fall detection to keep you safe, it’s time to turn that same sort of attention to the planet at large. Though the numbers listed here might seem insurmountable, they are certainly not – as long as we’re all doing our part. It begins with small habits and changes that you can incorporate into everyday life.


Easy Ways to Change Your Daily Habits

Habits can be tough to break and just as tough to create. According to Healthline, doing something consistently for at least 18 days creates a habit, and it takes an average of 66 days for that habit to become automatic, where you don’t have to really think about the action anymore – you are simply incorporating it into your day-to-day life without conscious effort.

Those who use a medical alert pendant can usually testify to this. When you first get the medical alert device, you might find that you leave it on the bedside table at night or take it off before you get a shower, the same way you would have removed a necklace, bracelet, or watch in the past. It takes some time to get accustomed to wearing your emergency response solution at all times, to ensure you are always safe and protected.

Here are some easy ways seniors can change their habits and start going green for the planet.

·         Turn off the tap. According to Point Park University, when you run tap water for two minutes, you are using up anywhere from three to five gallons of water. A five-minute shower takes 20-35 gallons of water, while taking a bath uses about 60 gallons. Cut down on this usage by keeping the tap open only when you really need it. For example, in the shower, turn on the water to get wet, turn it off while you soap up and get clean, then turn it on again to rinse. Choosing efficient fixtures like low-flow shower heads can cut your water use by up to 30%.

·         Opt for energy-efficient appliances. Did you know a modern washer can save more water in one year than one person will drink during their entire lifetime? Or that some eco-friendly refrigerators use less power than a single lightbulb[7]? These appliances might cost a bit more up-front but offer incredible savings on utility bills over time. (Here’s an additional tip: Georgetown University tells us that 90% of the energy used to run a washer goes to heating the water, so use the cold cycle when you can to save a great deal of power and money.)

·         Get rid of the “vampire draw.” Also known as standby power, this “draw” is the small bit of power your appliances use when the appliance is actually turned off[8]. For instance, a computer might be powered down but if it’s still plugged in, it’s slowly drawing power. The same is true for televisions, stereos, microwaves, video game consoles, and more. To prevent this problem, plug electronic items into a power strip that can be shut down with one touch, or unplug them altogether when you aren’t using them.

·         Switch your light bulbs. We all know that good lighting is integral to preventing falls. But good lighting is more than what it illuminates. For instance, switching to LEDs will help alleviate the problems of incandescent bulbs, which use only 10% of the electricity to create light while the other 90% turns into wasted heat[9].

·         Turn off those lights! Try to remember to turn off the lights every time you leave a room. Eventually this will become a habit that will save you money and ease some strain on the power grid. Use natural light during the day by opening the curtains or blinds.

·         Turn down the thermostat. Though it might seem like a very small thing, the savings add up for the planet – and for you, since a drop of only one degree on your thermostat can cut your utility bill by 8%[10]. Most people can turn the thermostat down by one degree and still be quite comfortable. To go even further, opt for a programmable thermostat that will change the temperature during certain times of day to make your home more efficient and improve your comfort.

·         Recycle especially paper. In the U.S., more than 40% of the solid waste your municipality picks up on trash day is paper. That can include cardboard, cardstock, newspapers, mailers and envelopes, and so much more. Recycling paper instead will save landfill space, reduce air emissions, and save up to 7,000 gallons of water for every ton[11].

·         But reuse it all first. Before that paper hits the recycling bin, consider what else you can do with it. Cardboard boxes and paper mailers can always be used again, sometimes over and over. You can use the blank side of printed paper as a place to jot down your shopping list and other to-do items. You can also reuse other items, like plastic grocery bags and pill bottles or other containers.

·         Go digital. Why use paper at all if you can avoid it? You might be able to. Consider sending emails instead of handwritten letters – save those letters for special occasions. Save files on your computer rather than printing them. If you’re afraid of losing them, back them up to an external hard drive or send them to a dedicated email address as digital storage.  

·         Compost food scraps. Even if you aren’t a gardener, you can do this for a friend who is – and they will surely thank you! Simply collect food scraps from your kitchen and drop them into a bin or bucket. Earth 911 suggests you reuse something like a large yogurt tub with a well-fitting lid to keep the kitchen debris. You can use a composter for yourself or simply give the scraps to an avid gardener, as they will know just what to do with them.

·         Reconsider your transportation. Choose to carpool with a friend to save on gas, wear-and-tear on vehicles, and the carbon emissions that go into the atmosphere. Take public transportation if possible, or choose to walk or bike to your destination (always with an Alert1 Medical Alert right there at your fingertips). You’ll be saving the planet while being kinder to your wallet, especially during times when gas prices are soaring. And speaking of gas prices, the next time you purchase a vehicle, seriously consider an electric one.

·         Think about what you eat. It takes a great deal of energy to produce meat, so consider going with a “Meatless Monday” or even becoming a vegetarian. Studies have shown that agricultural emissions can be cut by 63% by simply adopting a vegetarian diet and by 70% by adopting a vegan one[12]. (Keep in mind, however, that seniors need good nutrition – don’t change your diet without speaking to your doctor first. And no matter your diet, keep your button alert with fall detection ready at all times, so you can be prepared for those moments when you might be lacking in nutrition and suffer the consequences of dizziness, weakness, or increased fall risk).

While going green might seem daunting, it’s actually just a series of small, conscious choices. When you go to the grocery store, take reusable bags with you instead of opting for the plastic or even paper options. When you leave a room, turn out the lights. When you get a shower, make it quick, and turn off the water when you’re not actually underneath it. If every citizen committed to even these small changes, it would add up to make a big difference! 

As always, Alert1 wishes you health and safety!