Everyone knows that people have a complicated relationship with the planet, but too many are apathetic about these sorts of issues. Sometimes, it seems most folks simply hope the government will do the job for them. That is happening, in some places, but it’s a slow process.
If you’re one of the many who are tired to watching things get worse, don’t despair! There are easy ways to help keep Austin clean and green. Taking direct action right here in Austin is the only way we can improve our environment, but it doesn’t have to be hard work or even costly. You’ll probably even make a few new friends along the way.
Just follow our simple guide…
10.) Take Public Transportation
Seriously, this is the easiest one on our list. Sure, your private transportation is much nicer and probably much faster, but if you’ve been paying attention you know that Austin’s got a traffic problem — and Earth has a climate problem. Do your part to help make both of these better by taking public transportation every now and then. Capital Metro’s trip planner makes things super easy, and it’s quite nice to get some variety in your routine. Do that enough and you might even find yourself enjoying all the money you save over buying gas, paying for insurance, that car note, etc.
9.) Recycle Your Old Electronics
So that old computer monitor from 1998 that’s sitting in the back of your closet? It’s gotta go. So do your last three broken cellphones, and that drawer full of dead batteries. Thankfully, disposing of that stuff safely is a lot easier than most people realize. Many computer maker have recycling programs, notably Dell, which sponsors free e-waste recycling at every Goodwill location. So, now you know! However, if you’re thinking about getting rid of a still-working device, why not donate it to The World Computer Exchange? That three-year-old iPhone in your sock drawer could be some lucky kid’s ticket to higher education.
8.) Give Away Your ‘Non-Disposable’ Bags
The City of Austin’s well-meaning plastic bag ban has been pretty well tolerated by the ecology-minded people of central Texas, and it definitely helped eliminate a LOT of waste, but not all of us remember to keep a stockade of these “non-disposable” bags in our vehicles. That’s led to most Austinites having a large collection of said bags that just seems to get larger and larger until, well, they’re disposed of. Stop throwing them away and instead give ’em out to people walking into your neighborhood grocery store! After all, the slogan IS “reduce, reuse, recycle.” A great replacement are foldable, reusable shopping bags that easily fit in a pocket or purse, like this one. Or better yet, add some style with one of the adorable berry bags pictured above, currently available at Randalls.
7.) Get A Home Composter
Home composting is a great way to get rid of your organic waste: Things like coffee grounds, fruit peels, leftover food, yard trimmings, leaves, etc. Home composters come in many different sizes, but anyone can use their food scraps to create nutrient-rich compost that plants love. And who’s to say that you don’t turn around and start a garden? Because, you could. Bonus: The City of Austin offers rebates on purchases of home composting system, but you need to attend a composting class or watch the city’s how-to video online first.
6.) Make Sure To Recycle
The City of Austin is known for it’s wonderful single-stream recycling program, but that only extends to homes. There are lots of apartment-dwelling Austinites who do not recycle their waste, and businesses too, so this item is for them. Get a second trash bin and start using it for plastics, aluminum, and paper waste. When you’ve got too much to keep around, make the trek to Austin Ecology Action, a 24/7 recycling center on E. 9th Street. And once you get tired of doing that (nobody can blame you), start bugging your landlord to sign up for private recycling takeaway. There are companies out there ready and willing to do it, but most apartment complexes have not subscribed to those services. If you’re a business owner, check out the City of Austin’s rebate program for starting or improving your company’s recycling efforts.
5.) Go Veggie At Least One Day A Week
It sounds crazy, but the farming of animals for meat actually causes a massive amount of planet-warming emissions, and going veggie just one day a week can make a MASSIVE dent in your contribution to climate change. It helps that you’re in Austin, a city that well-known vegan and former Beatle Paul McCartney tipped his hat to for our numerous healthy eating options. So if you’re going to do this veggie thing, do it right. We recommend The Vegan Nom, an all-veggie taco trailer that’ll blow your mind; Mr. Natural, which has a wide enough selection of veggie foods to please any taste; and Casa De Luz, a wellness community that offers an exquisite, all-organic dining experience. Or, if you’d rather eat in, just pick up some of P. Terry’s famous veggie burgers, now available at Austin locations of Whole Foods Market. They’re so good, you won’t care that it’s not meat.
4.) Join Austin B-Cycle
Austin’s bicycle-sharing program is super popular, particularly during festival season, and it’s easy to see why. With parking at such a premium downtown, it’s just easier to park for free (or cheap) on the outskirts of where you’re headed and pedal the rest of the way. Austin B-Cycle locations are all over downtown, conveniently located near public transportation, so if you’re trying to be extra green you could combined the two. Captain Planet would be proud.
3.) Volunteer For Park Cleanup
If you want to get involved with like-minded folks who are out there regularly doing good and keeping Austin green, there’s no better resource than the local nonprofit Keep Austin Beautiful. Their website offers year-round volunteer opportunities, including a bi-monthly cleanup of Lady Bird Lake, and they regularly throw “volunteer appreciation parties.” It’s a perfect way to make new friends and get outdoors! There’s also “It’s My Park Day” every March, put on by the Austin Parks Foundation.
2.) Get A Solar Consultation
If you’re a home or business owner in Austin, there’s never been a better time to consider a rooftop solar array. There’s numerous companies in town that are eager to give you solar consultations, and the City of Austin’s recent decision to make the sun a “default” power generation source is helping make 100 percent renewable energy more popular than ever. Even old buildings like the victorian home pictured above can be retrofitted with solar panels. Three of the best-known providers are Lighthouse Solar, Greenbelt Solar, and SolarTex. Better yet, Austin Energy customers can take advantage of a rebate on their solar panel installations. There’s even financing options available through Velocity Credit Union that can be used to make numerous efficiency upgrades to homes and businesses.
1.) Switch To 100 Percent Renewable Energy
This is the big one. Austin Energy customers have the option of choosing to purchase 100 percent renewable power from wind, solar, and hydroelectric sources. It costs more, but if you’re serious about helping Austin achieve its goal of 55 percent renewable energy by 2025, this is the best way you can help. Switching to 100 percent renewable power massively reduces your carbon footprint and saves vast quantities of water that would otherwise be used for oil and gas extraction. Plus, by choosing to pay a little more, you’re telling the business world that there is a real demand for clean energy, even if it comes at a premium. Combine your renewable power with rooftop solar panels and an electric car and you won’t just be the envy of every ecomaniac in town — you just might eliminate your gas and power bills entirely.
Photo: Flickr user Daniel X. ONeil, creative commons licensed.