Here are some key actions that you can take in order to make a positive difference for the environment. These actions require little or no lifestyle change, and they all have some type of positive impact for you as well as for the environment.
Make our homes and buildings more efficient and employ renewable energy when possible
- Have an energy audit performed on your home, and implement the recommendations that are feasible for you.
- Switch to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs).
- Install and use a programmable thermostat.
- Buy Energy Star when replacing appliances.
- Recycle all recyclable materials in the curbside recycling program
- Recycle your phone books - Click here for information
- Recycle all electronics in an electronic recycling program, such as the one the Town runs annually
- Donate all unwanted but usable items
- Use cloth shopping bags
- Find personal and creative ways to reduce and reuse
Limit what we put into the air, water, and land
- Use less chemical lawn treatment
- Dispose of all hazardous waste at the Town hazardous waste collection event
Make our transportation more efficient
- Reduce driving
- Drive the most efficient car possible
Reduce the environmental impact of the food we eat and the water we drink
- Buy local and/or organic food whenever possible
- Use tap water instead of bottled water
Home Energy Audits
Having an energy audit performed on your home can be done for little or no cost. If you actually make some of the recommended improvements on your home, you can save money. The payback period for the improvements can be surprisingly short, and with the financial incentives currently available from the state and local governments, the payback periods are even shorter. Having an energy audit done is really a no-lose proposition. Your home may become more comfortable by eliminating drafts and helping to reduce hot or cold areas of your house. It can become healthier by eliminating the conditions that promote mold growth, and it can become more structurally sound by eliminating the conditions that cause ice dams or water damage.
Check out these web sites for information on financial incentives:
- A list of federal incentives is provided by the Tax Incentives Assistance Project. NYSERDA also maintains a web page of tax incentives.
- State incentives are administered by NYSERDA. For additional information, the federal DOE (Department of Energy) administers the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.
The Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb Information
CFL light bulbs are an extremely easy, no-lose way to save energy and money. Although the bulbs are a bit more expensive than incandescent bulbs, the payback period from the energy saved can be as little as a few months.
At the end of their life, CFL bulbs should be recycled, both to recover the materials used to make them and to prevent the very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tube from leaking into the environment. They can be recycled at many local home improvement stores.
Check NYSERDA's website for more information about these bulbs and use their site to calculate the payback period from energy saved.
Programmable thermostats are yet another easy, no-lose way to save energy and money. They are easily programmed with a schedule so that your home is heated or cooled less when you are not home or when you do not need as much heating or cooling. If you are replacing an old manual-style thermostat, they are fairly easy to install yourself. Check out this web page from NYSERDA for more information on programmable thermostats and other information, such as how to select a model and how to install the thermostat. If you are replacing an old manual-style thermostat that contains a mercury switch, be sure to dispose of it properly (not in the regular trash). Check out the Monroe County hazardous waste collection web page for more information, and call 585-753-7600 to schedule an appointment.
Energy Star Appliances
When replacing appliances in your home, consider purchasing ones that have the ENERGY STAR label. These appliances use 10-50% less energy and water than standard models. See this ENERGY STAR web site for more information.
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
By reducing the amount of stuff we purchase, we save the natural resources and energy and reduce the pollution involved in its manufacture and transportation. We also reduce the amount of material going to the landfill in the future. Even if the item is recyclable, not purchasing it in the first place saves the energy and cost associated with recycling it.
If we cannot eliminate the need for something, then the next best action is to reuse. By reusing items, we are again saving resources and energy and reducing the volume of stuff going to the landfill.
Finally, if something must be discarded, then it should be recycled whenever possible. This protects resources, saves energy, and conserves landfill space. For more information on the Monroe County Residential Recycling program, visit their web site.
Another way to recycle is to compost. By composting we can eliminate much of this waste, make our lawns and gardens healthier, and reduce the use of harmful chemicals. Composting can simply involve a pile in the backyard, or you can use bins to contain the compost or worms to speed the decomposition. There are plenty of web sites that explain composting. One place to start is the EPA composting web page.
For additional information on donating, recycling, and reusing specific items click here.
Limit What We Put Into the Air, Water, and Land
In order to keep the air, water, and land that sustain us clean and healthy, we all need to be mindful of the substances that we release into the environment. While it may not seem that a substance that we dump on our yard is going to go anywhere, it can easily end up in our streams and rivers and eventually in Lake Ontario. Air pollution travels throughout the entire region and even around the world.
One of the biggest contributions from residences to water quality degradation is the chemicals that we use on our lawns. Excess fertilizer, especially fertilizer with high levels of phosphorous, contributes to algae problems in local waterways, and pesticides and herbicides kill fish, birds, and beneficial insects.
Here are some tips on lawn care. Some of the material is borrowed from Cornell Cooperative Extension. Check out their fact sheets for more lawn care recommendations and a calendar detailing a recommended fertilization program. The most important thing to remember is that by keeping your lawn healthy, you increase its natural resistance to weeds and pests:
- Mow your lawn to a height of three inches. Taller grass helps choke out weeds naturally.
- Don't overwater your lawn. Not only does this waste a valuable resource, it also washes more pollutants and nutrients from your yard into local waterways. Most grasses can go into dormancy during dry summer months and return to being green in the fall. So learn to appreciate brown grass - kick back and give the mower a rest! If you want to prevent dormancy, then water deeply in the spring and fall and more frequently and shallow in the summer.
- Leave grass clippings on the lawn. This is less work for you, reduces the need for fertilizer, and keeps material out of the landfill.
- Mow your lawn frequently enough so that you are not removing more than 1/3 of the leaf blade. More than this stresses the grass and leads to a less healthy lawn.
- Keep your mower blades sharp. Dull blades can damage the grass blades and make them more susceptible to disease.
- Sidewalk weeds can be controlled by dumping boiling water on them. Get in the habit of disposing of your boiling water used for cooking by dumping it on the front walk.
- Most lawns only need to be fertilized 1-3 times per year. Check out this fact sheet from Cornell Cooperative Extension for details on an appropriate fertilization program. Of particular importance is to use a slow-release fertilizer (unless you're fertilizing for a third time in November) with low phosphorous content.
- Test your soil every few years so that you know what fertilizer it actually needs. Also, before applying herbicides or pesticides, do some testing to make sure there's actually a problem. Remember, you don't need to eliminate every weed or pest; you just need to keep them under control.
Here's even more yard care information from the EPA.
Transportation consumes 28% of our energy, and 60% of that energy use is due to cars and light trucks (2008, EIA). So driving is a significant contributor to our greenhouse gas emissions. So the more we can get out of our cars and walk, bike, or take public transportation, the more we can help fight climate change and reduce bad stuff like air pollution, congestion, and traffic accidents. We'll also be healthier and more fit and enjoy our community more. And don't forget saving money.
We're lucky in Pittsford to have a wonderful village that affords plenty of walking opportunities. There are also lots of great places around to bike.
For information on area bus transportation, check out the RGRTA web site.
Local and Organic Food:
We are fortunate to live in a region that produces a wonderful bounty of food. From fruits and vegetables, to meat, wine, and maple syrup, we have plenty to choose from. Most of us have heard about the advantages of "eating locally." There are many advantages of eating food produced close to where we live:
- It often tastes better because it's fresher, it's in season, and because much of the produce that is shipped long distances has been cultivated to withstand the rigors of shipping, not necessarily to taste good.
- Local food supports local farmers, helping to keep our local economy strong, our food supply more secure, and our agricultural lands protected.
- Eliminating long distances to market can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing shipping. Packaging needs are also reduced.
- It's easier to find out information about our food, especially at markets and farm stands when you can talk directly to the farmer.
- Local food may be grown in a manner that's better for the environment. For example, our region has lower irrigation needs than some areas of the country.
- Many people feel a closer connection to the land, nature, and our community.
Pittsford is fortunate to have many locations to purchase local and/or organic food.
We are fortunate in this country to have a well-developed water infrastructure that makes potable water available from almost any tap. This region of the country in particular is blessed with abundant fresh water resources. One easy step we can all take to help the environment is to take advantage of this water and eliminate or greatly reduce the use of bottled water. Transporting bottled water requires a large amount of fuel, and the production and disposal of the plastic bottles is an unnecessary use of precious resources. Tap water is generally just as clean as or cleaner than bottled water. In fact, there are more regulations for tap water than there are for bottled water.
Get more information on our water quality from the Monroe County Water Authority.
Keep Our Natural Water Supply Clean
Many of our daily activities affect the water quality of our local fresh water bodies. Anything that enters the storm sewer system is discharged into the water bodies we use for swimming, fishing,and, drinking. Even some interior drains enter the storm sewer system. It will take all of us working together cooperatively with neighbors, in our communities to keep water clean.
For more information about what you can do visit www.monroecounty.gov/des-stormwater-coalition or www.h2ohero.org/