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Earth Friendly: Going green not as hard as you think

Jan. 25, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 26, 2011 at 7:27 p.m.

Meridith Byrd

By Meridith Byrd

Going green. it seems like a big step, maybe a lifestyle change. It does not have to be intimidating, though. If you like the sound of "Going Green," but are unsure where to start, try one of these first steps.

Switch from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs. The cost of these bulbs has dropped dramatically in the last few years, and they are much more affordable. Don't worry about changing all your bulbs at once; buy a pack of CFLs, and start incorporating them into your home as traditional bulbs burn out.

Also, to go green, start collecting reusable shopping bags. Many stores now offer reusable shopping bags for around $1. You can start small, buying only one or two bags when you shop until you have enough to carry all your groceries. Once you have bought the bags, make sure you remember to take them to the store with you. Write "bring bags" on your grocery list, or keep them in your car (not the trunk) until bringing the bags into the store becomes second nature.

Further, commit to recycling one thing. Maybe it's your daily newspaper, cat food cans, milk jugs or plastic bags. Set up a convenient place in your home to collect that item; putting a collection bin near your trash can, especially the kitchen trash can, is a great way to help you remember not to throw it away. Be creative - there is no need to spend money on a recycling bin. Through the years, I have used a cardboard box, a laundry basket, a plastic tub and a small garbage can as recycling bins. Mine have been placed in the pantry, the laundry room, and under the kitchen sink. Currently, I collect my recyclables in an upright plastic laundry hamper placed between the refrigerator and stove.

Make sure you know where to take your recyclables. H-E-B, Walmart and Target all accept plastic bags, so put them in your car the next time you do your shopping. Plastics (No. 1 and No. 2), aluminum, steel and tin cans, mixed paper, paperboard and cardboard can all be taken to the Huvar Street recycling drop-off facility, which is open Wednesdays through Saturdays.

If you can get in the habit of collecting one type of recyclable, you might find it easy to add another. I find it helpful to use the recycling bin in my kitchen as a "catch-all" bin and save the sorting for later. Individual bins for aluminum, steel/tin, mixed paper including paperboard and cardboard, plastic bags and No. 1/No. 2 plastic containers are located in my garage. Once the kitchen bin fills up, I take it into the garage and separate everything there. The process takes maybe five minutes, which is far less time than most people realize.

You don't have to make big, inconvenient lifestyle changes to become greener. Start small, and once you get into the habit, you might find yourself open to doing more. Before you know it, you'll be bringing your own grocery bags, collecting an array of recyclables and having a home full of energy-saving CFLs.

Meridith Byrd is a marine biologist and invites readers to contact her at meridith.byrd@gmail.com.

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