Guide to Becoming a Tree Hugger
someone who cares for trees, animals, and the environment as a whole.
Below is a complete guide on how to be a stellar tree hugger by making greener choices every day including recycling properly, reducing water usage, cutting down on driving time, being a smarter consumer, and helping out in your community.
If you are looking to become a self-proclaimed tree hugger or if you just simply want to reduce your footprint on this planet, read below for some helpful tips.
Recycling is a simple act that can have a significant impact on our environment. Below is more information on why recycling is so important and how to do it properly.
Recycling Basics: What Can Be Recycled
- Cardboard boxes
- Juice containers
- Paper towels
- Phone books
- Pizza boxes
- Cardboard milk
- Coupon sheets
- Toilet paper and paper towel rolls
- Printing and notebook paper
- Shredded paper
Put shredded paper in a paper bag before recycling so that it does not slip out and contaminate another material.
- Milk jugs
- Plastic laundry detergent bottles
- Aluminum cans
- Clean aluminum foil
- Steel cans: soup cans, vegetable cans, coffee containers
- Clear, brown, and green glass
How to Recycle The Less-Common Items that Your Local Program May Not Accept
Certain materials require special recycling processes. They should not be poured down the drain or put out with the normal trash. Check your local calendar for special recycling events that pick up these types of materials or a listing of places that accept them.
Stores that sell hard-to-recycle products often accept them for recycling as well.
Plastic grocery and produce bags should not be placed in your recycling bins. They can stall an entire recycling plant. They should instead be taken to local grocery stores that collect old plastic bags. From there they are typically turned into plastic lumber.
Batteries used in common household items contain mercury and other toxins that should not be thrown away in the trash. Find out how your local community handles recycling batteries or purchase a battery recycling kit online.
Municipalities often have special pick up times or locations for paint and paint cans. They should not be thrown out in the trash.
Pesticides and other chemicals
Do not pour these things down the drain. Find out how your municipality disposes of these materials.
Automotive stores and repair shops often accept used car batteries. These batteries can be taken apart and recycled. The plastic can go toward creating new batteries. The sulfuric acid can be used in new batteries, converted to fertilizers and dyes, and can even be processed and purified into clean water.
Used motor oil can be used to produce new motor oil. Do not dump used motor oil down the drain as it can contaminate our water supply. Recycling it can also reduce the amount that is needed from foreign entities. Most auto service and supply stores accept motor oil for recycling.
Compact fluorescent bulbs contain mercury and should not be thrown in the normal trash or recycling. Contact your local waste program to determine how to safely dispose of these light bulbs.
Many auto repair shops, retailers, and community programs accept tires for recycling.
Other materials that require special programs for safe disposal:
Smoke and fire alarms
Decoding Which Plastics Can and Cannot be Recycled
Local recycling programs have their own set limits on what they do and do not accept in terms of plastics. There is a labeling system in place to help people identify what their community program accepts. There is a number, known as the resin number, inside of a triangle located somewhere on the item.
All of these numbers can be confusing if you don’t know what they mean. Here is a breakdown of the resin number identification system and what kinds of plastics can be thrown into your recycling bin and what kinds cannot.
This is the most common plastic used for consumer products including plastic beverage bottles. PET plastic can go into your recycling bin.
HDPE is a harder plastic that makes up things like milk jugs, detergent bottles, and some toys. This type of plastic is commonly recyclable.
V or PVC
(Vinyl or Polyvinyl Chloride)
PVC is a soft plastic that is used in many kid and pet toys, shower curtains, outdoor furniture, plastic pipes, plumbing parts, and teething rings. It is considered to contain many toxins and is not recyclable, but the plastic can be repurposed.
This type of plastic is used to make plastic wrap, some bottles, plastic bags, dry cleaning bags, bubble wrap, newspaper sleeves, bread bags, and produce bags. LDPE is not often recycled through normal systems, but that is changing, as more and more programs are being developed to recycle this material.
Polypropylene is a tougher plastic that is often used to make buckets, the inside of cereal boxes, plastic bottle lids, chip bags, and straws. Some municipalities accept this type of plastic through normal routes, but many still do not. Check in with your community’s offerings.
This is found in Styrofoam cups and containers, egg cartons, plastic utensils, foam chips, and packaging materials. It is not a widely accepted material for recycling programs. You may be able to find special services offering PS recycling, but it is unlikely that you can throw it into your community recycling bin.
These often include materials such as polycarbonates that are formed using BPA (Bisphenol A). Plastics in this category consist of baby bottles, sippy cups, thicker water bottles, and some food containers. These items are not for reuse or recycling, unless it is through special programs.
Benefits of Recycling
- Cuts down on the amount of waste that goes into landfills
- Saves energy by reducing the amount of materials going into incinerators and landfills
Glass can be recycled into asphalt to pave roads.
Plastic can be recovered and used in carpeting, benches, and even clothing.
Recycling a single aluminum can saves the amount of energy it takes to run a TV for
If every household in the U.S. replaced a single light bulb in their home with an Energy Star-approved bulb, the amount of saved energy would be able to light over two million homes for a year and prevent the amount of greenhouse gas release that is equal to taking about 800,000 cars off of the road.
Every year, cell phones make up about 65,000 tons of electronic waste. Recycling these phones would save an amount of energy equivalent to powering almost
homes for a year.
If one million cell phones are recycled, it prevents 1,368-cars worth of greenhouse gas emissions over a full year from being released into the atmosphere.
Recycling one ton of paper saves
By recycling a single glass bottle, you save enough energy to light one light bulb for
Things That Cannot be Recycled
Be mindful about what you put into your recycling bin. If you toss in something that you are unsure of in hopes that it will simply get sorted out in the process, you are wrong. This will cause contamination and actually reduce the value of the recyclables.
Here are some items that cannot be recycled:
Ceramic dishware and ovenware
The caps and lids that often come with glass containers
Glass that is covered in food or dirt (some recycling programs have exceptions for this)
Reducing Water Usage
Conserving water is a very important practice to engage in as water is a vital natural resource that we have a limited amount of and we must do all that we can to preserve it.
How to Conserve Water at Home:
- Designate one glass or refillable water bottle for your drinking water each day.
- Rinse fruits and vegetables in a pan instead of under them running water.
- Double check your faucets for drips. Even the smallest drips can add up to many gallons of water wasted each day. This is not only costly to the environment, but it also adds up on your water bill.
- Avoid flushing the toilet as much as possible. Do not toss cigarettes or tissues in there for disposal. Every flush uses five to eight gallons of water.
- Place a full, sealed water bottle or a brick into your toilet tank so that your toilet does not use as much water with each flush.
- Check your toilet for leaks by putting food coloring in the tank. If the colored water appears in the bowl without flushing then you have a leak.
- Purchase a water-saving toilet.
- Make sure the cycle type you select matches the size of your load of laundry. For example, if you have a small load, make sure you choose a smaller water level.
- Avoid utilizing the Permanent Press cycle. It adds an extra five gallons of water for extra rinsing.
- Reuse towels over multiple uses. This also goes for when you are staying at a hotel.
- Tighten any indoor or outdoor pipes that are leaking.
Drive Your Car Less
A typical vehicle releases 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. Below is how to cut back your time behind the wheel and how to save gas when you do drive.
Tips for Cutting Down Driving Time
- If you do not need to go far, plan ahead and walk or ride a bike there. Not only does this remove your car from the road and cut down on your gas usage, it also gets you some exercise in for the day.
- Use bike-share programs.
- Combine your errands into as few outings as possible. For example, do your grocery run on your way home from work or when you are nearby doing another errand.
- Avoid rush hour traffic by getting into work earlier and leaving earlier or leaving on the later side. This will cut down on the amount of time wasted sitting in traffic while your car is idling.
Use public transportation.
Work from home whenever possible.
- Select the carpool option when using rideshare services when you have a little extra time.
- Consider carpooling with a friend to work or to a group activity.
Tips for Reducing Emissions When Driving
- Do not constantly pound on the gas pedal and the brake. This lowers your gas mileage significantly. Try to drive as efficiently as possible.
- Turn off your car when parked or waiting in your car. If your car is off for one minute rather than idling during that time, you save fuel.
Bring your car in for regular check-ups.
Choose a More Fuel-Efficient Car
Purchasing a greener vehicle can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and save you money. Switching from a car that gets 25 miles per gallon to a car that gets 50 miles per gallon could save you over $1,000 each year and you will only have to fill up your car half as many times.
There are many types of fuel-efficient cars available today. Here are some greener alternatives to look out for:
Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV)
These vehicles use gasoline or E85, which is a mix of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.
Electric Vehicle (EV)
EVs are completely electric vehicles that you can charge at home or at one of the several thousand charging stations located across the U.S.
Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)
This type of green vehicle uses both electricity and gasoline. Typically, once you run out of charge the gasoline will kick in as a backup until you can get to another charging station.
Compressed Natural Gas Vehicle (CNG)
CNG vehicles are powered by natural gas, which can be pumped into a car at special leak-free connection pumps.
Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV)
These vehicles are powered by pressurized hydrogen, which powers a fuel cell that then generates electricity to keep the car moving.
Be a Thoughtful Consumer
Here are additional tips for living a more environmentally conscious, tree hugger lifestyle:
By purchasing locally grown products, you are supporting local farms rather than products that are shipped from far distances on big fuel-guzzling trucks.
Switch out vinyl shower curtains
Vinyl emits chemicals into the air. Instead opt for cloth or PVC-free varieties.
Replace nonstick pans with cast-iron
Nonstick pans are made with fluropolymers, a chemical that generates carcinogens when heated.
Buy energy efficient light bulbs
Purchase brands that use less packaging
Buy in bulk to reduce packaging
Bring reusable bags to the grocery store
Switch to soaps that are not antibacterial
Antibacterial or antimicrobial soaps contain triclosan and triclocarban , which do not make you any cleaner than regular soaps and they may contribute to allergies, reproductive issues, and muscle problems. Putting this into our water systems only spreads the problems they can cause.
Get a programmable thermostat
These devices can adjust temperatures when you’re not home to use less energy that would otherwise be wasted on an empty house. On average, programmable thermostats save households around $180 a year.
Eat less meat
About 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by humans comes from the meat industry.
Buy recycled or recyclable materials:
Buy wrapping paper that can be recycled (without the shiny coating on the paper), wrapping paper made from recycled materials, or wrap a gift in a pretty recyclable box that does not need wrapping paper.
Buy 100% recycled aluminum foil. The process to make this type of aluminum foil uses 5% less energy than normal aluminum foil.
Make a Difference in Your Community
Take what you’ve learned and try to create change in your local community. Here are a few ways you can make the space you live in a greener and more beautiful place:
Tossing trash on the ground hurts the environment as well as local wildlife. Pick up any litter that you spot even if it did not come from you.
Plant a Tree
Trees add so many benefits to the environment including adding oxygen, filtering out pollutants, and provide habitats for wildlife. Learn more here.