How to Make Every Day Earth Day
Technology and its devices have created big problems for the environment, but with some rethinking about what we buy and how we use our gadgets, we can cut waste and progress to a more sustainable lifestyle. If this is something you’ve wanted to do, here are some ways to start.
Cut back on new devices -- try apps
The desire to be connected to the Internet at all times can bring pressure to use more devices at home, at work and in the car.
Every family wants to connect with each other, with friends and with people who share common interests whom they may not even know. The Internet has made these connections possible and more frequent. But connecting requires a device, and as families grow, their demand for devices multiplies.
Look for ways to cut back on the total number of electronic devices your family needs.
Internet connected phones with 4-inch screens and an app or two can replace many of the functions provided by laptops, digital cameras, camcorders and e-readers.
For instance, Microsoft this week launched Photosynth for iPhone and iPad, a free app that lets users take panoramic pictures with their devices and explore the automatically stitched image with a swipe. Images can be shared directly to Facebook and to Bing Maps, upping the connectivity quotient. Who needs a separate camera?
Recycle before you buy
If there's no avoiding a new purchase, make it a rule to recycle before you replace. There are more options than ever to responsibly dispose of unwanted electronics.
Consider a "re-commerce" alternative like Gazelle. The company buys back used electronics from people and then refurbishes and resells the devices. Currently, Gazelle offers cash for more than 250,000 electronics products.
Most wireless stores will accept old phones and accessories and recycle them responsibly, meaning nothing ends up in a landfill. Turn to your local Goodwill store for old-style CRT TVs and computer monitors that other companies can't accept.
If your device is relatively new and in good condition, find an organization in your community that could benefit from its use. Shelters and resource centers are good places to start.
Paper makes up more than 40 percent of our waste stream in America. Recycling is good -- recycling old paper products uses 60 percent less energy than manufacturing it from new materials -- but paperless alternatives are better.
The Internet provides paperless alternatives to bill paying, recordkeeping and correspondence. Until the U.S. Post Office offers an all-digital service, consider a company such as Zumbox that converts mail into digital replicas and delivers the items you want to your virtual mailbox for free. Zumbox and similar services also offer free digital document storage.
Shop online and request to be removed from catalog mailing lists. Do your part to eliminate junk mail. Register with the Direct Marketing Association to have your address removed from bulk mailing lists.
Old habits can be hard to break, such as printing articles from your computer to read later. Use bookmarks to save a page in your browser or take a screenshot of a Web page and save it as a file with the goal of eliminating paper from your workspace.
Unplug once a week
With our overwhelming need to be in constant contact with the world, it's even more important to take a break and recharge.
Last month, the Sabbath Manifesto sponsored its second National Day of Unplugging and encouraged people everywhere to go “screen-free” for 24 hours and follow up with one tech-free day per week.
For those who find it difficult to turn off their gadgets, the group offers an unplugging app that will send weekly reminders to unplug and send out-of-office-type messages to friends who try to contact you during your tech hiatus.
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