Pick 5 for the Environment – 2013 Results

Pick 5 for the Environment LogoLast February I wrote a post about the EPA Pick 5 for the Environment initiative and documented my own Pick 5. In this last post of 2013, I’ll share my results for the year.

The U.S. EPA and State Department introduced Pick 5 for the Environment in 2009 to engage the public and encourage people to learn about environmental issues and take action.

My Pick 5 for the Environment – 2013 Goals

I selected the following five actions (in bold) from the Pick 5 for the Environment website to accomplish in 2013.

  1. Green Cleaning: “Help keep water clean by using biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaning products.” I’ve wanted to learn more about eco-cleaning products. No time like the present.
  2. Native Plants: “Learn about the native species and the negative effects of non native plants and animals in the environment.” We live in a Monterey Pine forest with limited water. We don’t irrigate our yard so I’d like to learn about native plants that require no irrigation and invasive plants to keep an eye out for.
  3. Renewable Energy: “Go renewable! Create your own power from wind, the sun, water, or biofuels.” Late last year, we decided to put solar panels on the roof of our house. They are being installed next month so I think it’s fair to count this action for 2013.
  4. Electronic Waste: “E-cycle.” Although our farmer’s market provides a monthly e-cycling program, we have yet to take our collection of old electronic equipment. This is the year.
  5. Social Media: “Share your commitment on social networking sites.” I started on this one by signing up for a Twitter account and started tweeting @unlikelyenviro.

My Pick 5 for the Environment –  2013 Results

Green Cleaning

When I surveyed our cleaning supplies at the beginning of the year, I found we had quite a stockpile. It didn’t make environmental or economic sense to toss unused cleaners in the trash or pour them down the drain so we decided to use up our stash and buy greener alternatives as needed.

Now when we run out of an item we ask ourselves “Do we need this product?”. If the answer is “Yes”, we seek an environmentally friendly alternative. For instance, when the last plastic bottle of kitchen sink scrub was used up, I found a solution in our laundry room; hydrogen peroxide (Oxiclean) works well as a non-chlorine bleach.

At this rate it’ll take several years to migrate to green cleaning products but at least we’ve made a start.

Native Plants

Months ago, I created a list of books on native and adaptive plants that are available through our local library system. To date I’ve read one.

2013 has been an exceedingly dry year in our area so planting was not on our to do list. Learning about native plants became a low priority.

Renewable Energy

Author's Rooftop Solar PanelsIn March, we began generating our own electricity via 16 solar panels installed on our roof. Our system is tied to the local electric utility. During the day we “sell” our excess electricity to the utility and we “buy” back electricity at night. Our electric bill is about $4.50 a month for transmission and fees.

After our initial investment is paid back in several years, the next 15 to 20 years of electricity generation will be virtually free. We may add electricity storage to our system at some point and get off the grid entirely.

Electronic Waste

We had amassed quite a collection of electronics over the years, some working and some not. In May, we decided to tackle our e-waste.

Sean Spradley and Daughter Abby - Coast Union High School Electronics Donation DriveI saw a notice in the local newspaper that the high school was seeking donations of working equipment for the computer lab and broken items the kids could use to practice repair. We donated part of our stash to the school.

We took our remaining equipment to the electronic recycling program run by a local church group once a month at the farmer’s market. Equipment is refurbished and repaired and given to people in need. Anything left over is sold to a recycler.

After years of procrastination, it was easy to get rid our electronic waste and the best part was that some of the equipment found a second life with new users.

Social Media

Social media is a tool for connecting with people you know as well as those you would not normally meet, obtaining information on anything, and amplifying your own message and that of people and groups you like and support. Each platform has its own audience, language, and protocol.

I participated in several social media channels this year.

  • Twitter: I like Twitter because I can quickly scan breaking news and find people and organizations all over the world with similar interests. The challenge is to say something interesting or intriguing in 140 characters or less.
  • Facebook: Although I’m not much of a Facebook user, I add links to my blog posts on my home page and make them public.
  • LinkedIn: I present my more businesslike persona on LinkedIn by posting links to green business related articles as well as links to my blog posts.
  • Reddit: My most recent social media adventure is on Reddit where commenting and providing links to other people’s content is considered proper etiquette, self promotion is not. Subreddits are online communities for users with like interests.

The Bottom Line

Overall my Pick 5 results were good for 2013. We accomplished our renewable energy and electronic waste objectives and made progress on green cleaning. My social media ventures were fun, interesting, and informative. I made little progress on the native plant goal, but in light of where I live I should have selected a different goal. Perhaps I’ll reread my New Year’s Resolution – Make it SMARTER post before establishing goals for 2014.

Have a Happy New Year and a Green 2014.

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information, spark conversation, and convince people to take action to keep earth habitable for all. She believes our individual actions do matter—it all adds up.

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