August is a time for new beginnings. Parents shop with kids for fresh loose leaf paper, a crisp new backpack and sparkling school shoes. The whole family prepares for new and improved habits to make the most of the coming academic year. It’s a refreshing rite of passage. Yet, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we as a community could put that sort of enthusiasm for new beginnings into going green?
In both our local communities and across the nation, municipalities are starting programs and systems to help their citizens go green with ease, with recycling being among the first and most obvious steps. But environmental experts say recycling is where we should end our efforts, not begin. Before we get to recycling, the “reduce and reuse” part of the equation should be considered. We toss out dozens of plastic cups just to keep from washing a few glass ones. We purchase and waste more than we need of many household items. How many paper towels were used to clean up that mess? Would an old cloth rag have worked instead?
Did you know that every single piece of plastic that was ever made — EVER — is still in existence today? Some are possibly being put to good use right now, but others are tumbling around a landfill somewhere, or floating past the Great Barrier Reef, or breaking down into little bits that will, unfortunately, never disappear. Once you begin to take stock of it all, it’s overwhelming. What can we possibly do to make a difference?
The answers are small and simple, little things that each of us as individuals or as a family can tackle. Kids are the best ones to get the green going! Building excitement about making a difference is contagious, and every resident of Mobile and Baldwin counties can participate. Keeping our waterways, marshes, forests and neighborhoods clean and healthy for generations to come can and should be a top priority. It’s time to go green, Mobile Bay, and make the surrounding states green with envy at our successes.
It Starts Now
Skip the straw!
Did you know Americans use enough straws each day to wrap around the Earth two-and-a-half times? Mobile Baykeeper says straws are the third most frequently found trash item in the ocean. Because they are lightweight and easily picked up by wind, straws often become litter and end up in waterways, where they can harm marine life. You can decline a straw when eating out or purchase a reusable alternative, such as an aluminum or glass one. Restaurants can follow the Grand Hotel’s lead and implement a straw-upon-request policy, which the hotel is doing as part of Marriott’s serve360 policy to reduce its landfill waste.
Small Changes that Make a Difference
1. Order ice cream in a cone, not a cup, to reduce plastic waste.
2. Make your own treats for birthday goodie bags instead of buying plastic toys.
3. Pack lunch in reusable containers instead of disposable sandwich bags.
4. Switch to reusable water bottles and ditch the plastic ones. Try a thermos instead of a paper coffee cup. While you’re at it, let the kids each pick out a fun reusable straw.
5. Substitute reusable grocery bags for plastic ones.
6. Buy local. Check out farmers markets or Victory Teaching Farm in Midtown.
7. Designate a recycling bin at home, and get the kids involved in the effort.
8. Buy in bulk to reduce the packaging your household throws away.
9. Replace plastic in the bathroom by buying bar soap or shampoo.
Mobile city recycling picked up 5,298 pounds of recycling and 7,602 pounds of litter during and after Mardi Gras parades this year. Krispy Kreme will trade 12 pounds of leftover beads for a dozen doughnuts to benefit Augusta Evans School.
Join a cleanup!
Keep Mobile Beautiful and Goodwill Easterseals are hosting a cleanup day for the Mobile County Recycling Center on Aug. 18. Additionally, Coastal Cleanup is on Sept. 15.
Use Solar Power
Consider installing solar panels if you have a spot that is in full sunlight from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. According to Alabama Power, a solar water heating system (panels, storage system and pumps) provides the biggest return on investment. Water heating is normally about 14 to 25 percent of the average household’s utility costs. For a family of four, a solar energy system costs about $6,000 to $8,000. Call Alabama Power’s Energy Line at 1-800-990-2726 to learn more.
Join the Green Coast Council
A forum for local business leaders who practice and promote environmental sustainability principles, these meetings and conferences are put on by the Alabama Coastal Foundation in the hopes of providing positive environmental leadership across the area.
Stop-by Green Drinks
An informal gathering of environmentally minded folks is held at Fairhope Brewing the second Tuesday of the month and at Alchemy Tavern in Mobile the third Wednesday of the month. Attendees network and discuss local and global environmental issues, all while enjoying a good cocktail or beer. greendrinks.org
Buy an electric vehicle
Mobile now has numerous charging stations to make cleaner driving easier than ever. Visit pluginamerica.org to find nearby stations.
Did You Know?
Balloons harm marine life. The ribbons can entangle animals, and some mistake deflated balloons for food and eat them, causing starvation when the balloons block their intestines. Instead of releasing balloons, consider planting a native tree or flower in remembrance, blowing bubbles, passing out ribbon dancers, kites or garden spinners or releasing floating (native) flowers.
In May of 2018, a plastic bag was found in the Mariana Trench, the deepest known point in the ocean.
What is Single-Stream Recycling?
Also known as single-sort recycling, this easy-to- use system allows residents to put all their recyclables into one bin at designated drop-off locations. The city of Mobile launched single-stream recycling in 2017, ending the need for residents to separate plastics, cardboard, aluminum and glass in different bins. Items are sorted at the recycling facility. The pros:
- It’s easier for residents, and therefore more people participate.
- It ensures that items are properly sorted.
- It expands the kinds of paper and plastics that can easily be recycled.
Recycling Near You
- Mobilians can download the Recycle Coach app for up-to-date information on drop-off locations. Don’t want the hassle? Earth Resources provides private curbside pickup for just $18 a month.
- Daphne offers both weekly curbside recycling and drop-off at the Public Works office.
- Spanish Fort offers drop off at the Prodisee Pantry offices.
- Fairhope residents enjoy weekly curbside pickup.