Last week, one of my Coworkers excitedly told me about a compost pile that she started in her backyard, which is totally understandable–composting is fun and great for the environment!
As she talked about how easy it is to add coffee grounds and grass clippings to her compost, I could tell that she really enjoys turning things that would normally go in the trash into something useful. So why don’t more people regularly compost? Well, if you’ve never tried it before, composting might seem a little daunting. So here are some common composting myths–busted!
I can’t compost because I live in a city.
Even if you don’t have a yard, you can still compost! You can buy a fairly inexpensive compost bin to keep in your kitchen, or make one by drilling a few holes into the lid of a garbage can.
Compost smells bad and will attract pesky animals to my yard.
I’ll admit, the concept of decomposing waste isn’t exactly appealing. But if your compost pile is mixed correctly and allows air to circulate, it shouldn’t smell like much of anything. To keep animals away, avoid putting meat, dairy products, or pet waste in your compost.
I need to maintain a specific ratio of nitrogen to carbon materials.
While you need to have a good balance of nitrogen-rich “green” materials (grass clippings, food waste, and coffee grounds) and carbon-rich “brown” materials (dead leaves, branches, and twigs), there really isn’t a magic ratio to maintain. Just try to have an even amount of each, and make sure your pile doesn’t become too wet or too dry.
Composting at home is too much work.
The great thing about compost is that Mother Nature takes care of almost everything. Just combine your nitrogen and carbon materials, add some water, and mix it occasionally. And remember, compost produces nutrient-rich soil that can replace lawn fertilizer–saving you money and a trip to the store!
Do you compost at home? Let us know by commenting below. DING! You are now free to be green!
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Every time I open my mailbox, it’s sitting there. Annoying—and screaming for attention: “Limited time only! HUGE SALE THIS WEEKEND! Isn’t it about time you signed up for a new credit card? Wouldn’t you like an extra-large pizza for only $9.99??”
While that all sounds great, I have a hard time getting excited about junk mail. Every once in a while, there might be a coupon I’ll actually use, but for the most part it’s a nuisance that goes straight into the trash. But that’s a big problem—more than 100 million trees are cut down to generate more than 62 billion pieces of junk mail every year, and more than half of it ends up in landfills!
Thankfully, there are several ways to save yourself and the environment from the flood of junk mail inundating your mailbox:
You can set up a free account with Catalog Choice to opt out of receiving unwanted mailings like coupons, credit card offers, and circulars.
DMAchoice, a service actually run by direct-mail companies, also allows you to manage the kinds of mailings you receive.
Finally, you can pay a one-time membership fee to Stop the Junk Mail and reduce the amount of junk mail you receive by up to 90 percent! They’ll even plant a tree for every new member through American Forests.
And remember, it might take a few weeks for you to notice a drop-off in the amount of junk mail you receive, so be patient.
While you’re at it, think about ditching your phone book delivery service, too. I can’t even remember the last time I opened up the yellow pages since it’s so easy to look up phone numbers and addresses online. Visit yellowpagesoptout.com to take your name off the list, and be sure to recycle the phonebooks you already have lying around at home.
Have you successfully cancelled junk mail or phonebook deliveries? Let us know by commenting below, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. DING! You are now free to be green!
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When I was accepted into Southwest’s NoLimits Internship program, I couldn’t wait to participate in service projects with other Employees during the summer. As an Intern in the Community Outreach Department, I have the unique opportunity to witness just how much Southwest Employees give from the heart to their communities. Although I’ve been a member of the Team for a short time, I have already participated in a long-standing Southwest tradition: serving residents of the Ronald McDonald House in Dallas. Since the 1980s, Southwest Airlines has supported Ronald McDonald Houses across the country. This month, my department teamed up with Technical Operations Employees to cook dinner for families staying at Dallas’ Ronald McDonald House. Located in the Hospital District, the Ronald McDonald House provides a place for families to stay at little or no cost while their children are undergoing treatment for serious illnesses or injuries. I had never visited the House before, and my first experience there was fun, meaningful, and so rewarding. One of the perks of being an Intern is having the opportunity to dress up as Southwest’s popular mascot, Spirit Jr. While our Team served dinner to the families, Fellow Intern Lexi and I suited up to interact with the kids and pose for photos with the families. The children were adorable–their infectious smiles lit up the room as we talked to them and showered them with LUV in our airplane attire. As we served the families dinner and dessert (the brownie sundaes were a big hit!), the residents enjoyed musical entertainment by two Technical Operations Employees. It was wonderful to see so many Coworkers volunteering their time and talents for a worthy cause. The fact that Southwest Airlines encourages all Employees to make a difference is a testament to the countless ways that this Company positively impacts communities across the country. Serving a meal may not seem like it would have a very big impact, but I think our efforts made a difference for those families–even if it just made their lives a little easier for an hour or two.
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Shopping at thrift stores can totally pay off, even if you’ve only got $20 in your pocket. Especially if you’re looking to save a little money (and who isn’t?), shopping at second-hand stores like Goodwill, Buffalo Exchange, or Plato’s Closet can be a worthwhile and fun experience. And buying secondhand clothes and other items is definitely a green way to stock your wardrobe and support your local economy. These tips will make your next “thrifting” adventure a sustainable success! Be creative. Keep an eye out for clothing that would make great Halloween costumes, quirky gifts, or dress-up clothes for your kids. If you don’t have a knack for predicting future fashion trends, pick up classic accessories or basic pieces that will go with a variety of outfits. Look for hidden gems. My younger sister has a fantastic talent for buying seemingly ugly sweaters at thrift stores and making them look like they came off a runway. But oftentimes these are high-quality, name brand items on the racks—you just might have to dig a little to find them. I’ve come across pieces from Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor, and a great blazer from Jones New York. Stay on budget. The whole point of thrift shopping is to save money and buy items that you’ll actually use. Bring a set amount of cash or decide ahead of time how much money you’re willing to spend. When you hit your limit, step away from the rack! But it was 99 cents! Don’t buy a piece of clothing that you don’t need or that doesn’t fit well just because it’s inexpensive—seriously! It’ll just clutter your closet. Be open-minded. Thrift shopping is often a hit or miss experience. If you don’t find what you’re looking for the first time, check back in a few weeks or visit another store—inventory is always changing. Have FUN! You never know what you’ll find at a thrift store. Wait, is that your grandma’s coat? Have any good tips for being a thrifty shopper? Let us know by commenting below, or by e-mailing email@example.com. DING! You are now free to be green!
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Camouflage isn’t the only green thing associated with the military. Did you know that you can give gently used items a second life by donating them to organizations that support our nation’s military families? Below are few ways to help our brave servicemen and women while also “going green”: Books Finished your summer reading list? Donate books that you’ve already enjoyed to Operation Paperback, an organization that sends books to American troops overseas and military families at home. Wedding Dresses Your beautiful wedding dress doesn’t have to be worn only once. Brides Across America accepts gently used wedding dresses and gives them away to military brides facing financial obstacles. Cell Phones If you’re going to be eligible for an upgrade soon, donate your used cell phone to Cell Phones for Soldiers. Dedicated to providing cost-free communication to members of the military, this nonprofit has recycled more than 10.8 million cell phones! Computers Like cell phones, computers often end up in landfills when they could be repurposed or donated. The organization Computers with Causes provides computers to Americans in need all over the country, and has a donation program specifically for disabled Veterans and their families. Have you recycled similar items? What organizations do you like to donate to? Let us know by commenting below, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. DING! You are now free to be green!
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It may be just a stereotype that women spend more time getting ready in the bathroom than men. But stereotype or not, I’m definitely my family’s bathroom hog. I can’t tell you how many times my mom has banged on my bathroom door, annoyed and exasperated, to comment on my longer-than-average bathroom routine. I’m also embarrassed to admit that numerous cold showers have been endured by other members of my family because of my bad habits (other people besides me spend 20 minutes in the shower … right??). But it’s time to come clean. I can’t really claim to be living a sustainable lifestyle if I consistently waste water, and something has to be done to appease my family while I’m living at home this summer. So here are some ideas I’ve come up with to save water and time in the bathroom: Take a five-minute shower. Crazy? Maybe. Effective? You bet! If everyone in the U.S. used one less gallon of water per shower, we could save around 85 billion gallons of water per year. So try to shave a few minutes off your shower time. Turn off the tap. Don’t let the water idly run while you’re brushing your teeth, washing your face, or shaving. Just turning the tap off while brushing your teeth can save 25 gallons of water a month! Check the pressure! Although showerheads made in the U.S. are now required to release no more than 2.5 gallon of water per minute, you should double check to make sure yours is up to par. You can even buy a low-flow showerhead that releases as little as 1.25 gallons of water per minute! Shower like a Midshipman. It’s not surprising that sailors in the Navy have to be aware of their water use since there isn’t an infinite supply of fresh water on ships. So showering “The Navy Way” basically means that you get wet, turn off the water, soap up, and turn the water on again briefly to rinse off. The first step to fixing a water hogging problem is admitting you have one, right? I hope you’ll join me in doing your part to save water at home! Let us know how you conserve water at home by commenting below, or by e-mailing email@example.com. DING! You are now free to be green!
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Whew … it’s really starting to get hot outside, but don’t let that turn you into a water gobbler. If you have a lawn, you’re looking at your biggest water gobbler. In fact, for most households, about half of your water use happens outdoors. Next to the air we breathe, water is precious. So, do your part and find ways to reuse and cut back on the amount of water you use outdoors. Here’s how you can do it and save money on your water bill too! Rise and shine! Only water your lawn in the early morning between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. or in the evening after the sun goes down, so you give your yard the chance to soak in the water before it evaporates in the heat. If you wash your car at home, don’t let the hose run. Instead, wet the car, turn off the hose, clean the car with soapy water from a bucket, then do a final rinse. Recycle the soapy (not detergent) water by giving your flower beds or lawn a drink. While it’s way more fun to spray your sidewalks and driveway to remove debris, sweep instead. It’ll save you about 25 gallons of water! Try watering your plants and trees deeply, but less frequently to build up their tolerance to drought conditions. Plant native and drought-resistant plants that can withstand the heat and don’t need as much water to survive. Find out what kind of grass covers your lawn. Some species like Buffalograss and Bermudagrass have a high tolerance for drought, and can actually go dormant in the summer and come back alive in cooler weather. This means more sleeping in and less waking up at 4:00 a.m. to water! If everyone in the U.S. could manage to use one less gallon of water per day, we could save 85 billion gallons of water per year. Discover more way to save at http://wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve/. Let us know how you conserve water by commenting below, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. DING! You are now free to be green!
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These days, it seems like everyone owns a smartphone … and a laptop … and an iPod … and a Kindle, iPad, or tablet! In fact, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) estimates that the average American household owns 24 different electronic devices. But what do you do with these electronics when they break or become outdated? How can you ensure that they don’t end up in a landfill? Two of the most helpful resources I’ve found for recycling electronics are Best Buy and www.1800recycling.com. Many Best Buy stores will accept old electronic devices for recycling, including cameras, computers, video games, and cellphones. Best Buy will even come to your house and pick up your old television or appliance for free when you order a replacement product. If stores like Best Buy don’t accept your device for recycling, input your zip code or city into www.1800recycling.com and you will find the closest recycling center to drop off your electronics. And if you’re like me, you probably own several Apple products. The next time you decide to upgrade to a new iPhone or iPod, check out Apple’s recycling program. Bring your old personal desktop computer or other devices to an Apple retail store, and you could be eligible for a free gift card—just for recycling! Plus, if you recycle your old iPod through Apple, you could receive ten percent off a brand new one. That definitely sounds like an idea worthy of the Genius Bar. Do you have creative suggestions for how to recycle electronics? Tell us by commenting below or by e-mailing email@example.com. DING! You are now free to be green!
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Summer is here, and the coast is calling! Even though you are likely to see lots of white-capped blue water, it doesn't mean you should stop "thinking green" at the seashore. This weekend, some friends and I will be hitting my favorite beach (can you tell how much I LUV it?!) just outside of Annapolis, Maryland (Southwest Internship flight privileges for the win!). While this beach on the Chesapeake Bay may pale in comparison to the beaches of Florida or California, it is a beautiful spot. For the last two years, I spent my spring break camping on this beach to participate in environmental restoration projects. Before we left at the end of the week, we took some time to walk along the beach and pick up trash. Like many of our nation’s waterways, the Chesapeake Bay has a reputation for being polluted, and it’s important to minimize the impact that our outdoor activities have on coastal environments. If you plan to soak up some sun at the beach this summer, remember these Earth-friendly suggestions: Pick up trash that doesn’t necessarily belong to you. Even though you may be doing your part by recycling and throwing away your trash, other beachgoers sadly may not be doing the same. If you see pieces of trash near you on the beach, add them to your trash bag. Mother Nature will give you a big thumb’s up! Smoke in designated areas only. Volunteers with the Ocean Conservancy picked up a whopping 2,117,931 cigarette butts along beaches during the 2012 International Coastal Cleanup. Be sure to smoke only in designated areas with outdoor ashtrays. Consider using biodegradable sunscreen. When sunscreen washes off our bodies in the water, the chemicals can harm coral reefs and contribute to coral bleaching (when a reef turns white and eventually dies). Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreens to determine the best biodegradable options. Ditch the plastic and bring reusable bottles and bags. Plastic packaging can also be a huge hazard to animals and marine life. Every year, millions of birds and marine mammals die from ingesting plastic bags. Better leave these items at home, folks. Take only pictures and leave only footprints. This one is pretty self-explanatory: take pictures of the beautiful surroundings, but leave nothing else behind but your impermanent footprints. Leave little ocean critters and shells in their natural habitat, clean up trash, and take all of your belongings with you. Well, I’m off to find some biodegradable sunscreen before this weekend! I don’t want to sport a painful sunburn at work on Monday. Are you planning to visit any beaches this summer? Let us know in the comments below, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. DING! You are now free to be green!
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Did you know that water is not the only thing that flows into storm drains after a heavy rain? Chemicals from fertilizers and pesticides, oil residue from cars, soil rich with nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, and trash can be swept off our lawns and streets and flow straight into our drainage systems. Since some of these drains empty into rivers and streams, runoff pollution causes a lot of problems and damage to watersheds across the county. But your lawn doesn’t have to be part of the problem. Smart (and beautiful!) landscaping can be part of the solution. I’m talking about planting rain gardens! Besides being a pretty addition to your property, rain gardens are super effective when it comes to filtering rainwater. If constructed properly and filled with native plants that thrive in wet conditions, a rain garden can improve water quality while soaking up runoff. Additionally, rain gardens will attract butterflies, birds, and even small animals to your lawn, promoting biodiversity. You can construct your very own rain garden by following these six steps: Find a Location Ideally, the rain garden should be located at least a few feet away from your house to prevent excess water from accidentally flooding your home. The garden should be located in an area of your lawn where water naturally drains, so consider planting the garden close to where the water from your rain gutter flows onto your lawn. Positioning the garden at the bottom of a slope or small incline would also work. Design the Space Plan the size and shape of your garden. Be creative, and figure out what size works best for your space. Prepare the Ground After you have determined the location and size of the garden, rip out any grass or other plants covering the space. Dig into the ground to make a bowl-shaped hole that covers the entire area of the garden. The middle of the garden should be deeper than the sides, so that the water will have space to soak into the ground. Try to make three tiers or levels of depth in the ground, with the edges of the garden sloping down toward the center. Plant Native Species Be sure to select native species to plant in your garden. These plants will be more accustomed to the climate and more likely to flourish. You should also select plants that can withstand both wet and dry conditions. Plant them about one foot apart from each other, and fill the space around them with soil. Add Compost Add a few inches of compost to the garden after the plants are in the ground. Use the layer of compost to level out the ground. Water and Weed Over time, your rain garden will become fairly low maintenance. At first, however, be sure to water your new plants regularly and keep the garden free of weeds. Do you have a rain garden? Tell us what you’ve planted by commenting below. DING! You are now free to be green!
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Sometimes, finding the green space in a city can be a real adventure. But it’s worth it; not only is being in nature fun, it also can have huge benefits for our physical and mental health.
Studies have shown that having access to green spaces can lower our blood pressure and heart rate, reduce stress, and make us happier, more creative people. Plus, spending time in an outdoor space usually involves some kind of physical activity like walking or hiking or even volunteering with local conservation groups, which helps us keep our bodies healthy and fit. Make your own adventure and spend some time in your local park or forested area. And if you’re vacationing in a Southwest city this summer, consider visiting these popular urban parks. Portland: Washington Park Located just outside of downtown Portland, Washington Park contains 400 acres of trees, gardens, trails, and attractions like the Oregon Zoo and the Portland Japanese Garden.
New York City: Central Park An iconic landmark in Manhattan, Central Park offers dozens of fun activities for the whole family. Take a ride on the carousel, play a game of baseball, or hike through the park’s 80 acres of woodlands. If you’re seeking to escape the city’s noisy environment, visit the park’s eight designated “Quiet Zones.” San Diego: Balboa Park Home to the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park contains almost 20 gardens and plenty of museums and recreation centers to enjoy. Rated as one of the best parks in the world by the Project for Public Spaces in 2003, you won’t want to miss Balboa Park the next time you visit San Diego. Chicago: Lincoln Park This park’s location on Lake Michigan provides a perfect place for boating or hanging out on a public beach. Chicago’s largest public park, Lincoln Park, also includes numerous recreational facilities and the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Washington, D.C.: Rock Creek Park Next time you visit our nation’s capital, take some time to hike in Rock Creek Park. You can have a picnic or go on a bike ride before visiting the Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium. What are some of your favorite parks? How do you enjoy urban green spaces? Tell us by commenting below or by e-mailing email@example.com. DING! You are now free to be green!
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