Green Umbrella, the region’s environmental sustainability alliance, wants to unite as many businesses, nonprofits, local governments and universities as possible in a coordinated effort to help improve the quality of life and the environment in Greater Cincinnati. With seven different action teams on a number of key topics — including water, land, the outdoors, food, waste, transportation and energy — their goal is to make Greater Cincinnati one of the most sustainable metro areas in America by 2020. Green Umbrella has accomplished many large projects within the past year while partnering with more than 230 organizations. They have facilitated the planting of more than 40,000 trees through the Taking Root campaign (a partnership between the , created a master plan for outdoor recreational hiking/biking trail development led by their Regional Trails Alliance and partnered with Players for the Planet for a four-day “E-Waste Drive” that collected more than 150,000 pounds of electronics to recycle. “We also have events like Paddlefest, which is the largest paddling event in America right here in Cincinnati on the Ohio River,” says Brewster Rhoads, founding executive director of Green Umbrella. “Two-thousand people are on the same body of water at the same time.”All of Green Umbrella’s projects, from the recreational to the labor-intensive, are centered around creating a sustainable world, starting at home to combat climate change, pollution and energy crises. “It is very clear that the impact of global warming is being felt very drastically in other parts of the world and the U.S.,” Rhoads says. “Here, we are amazingly blessed with the uneven impact of global warming.” While we continue to have one of the world’s largest supplies of fresh water — the 981-mile Ohio River, which is the source of drinking water for more than 3 million people — Rhoads says we must remain conscious of ways to adapt to the environmental changes affecting us at different rates. Higher heat spells are becoming more frequent, and we must put more emphasis on being self-sufficient to preserve our region’s water resources and improve our food supply for the future.To accomplish all this, Rhoads offers some eco-friendly tips for greening your home and lifestyle, so you can help preserve the planet one step at a time.
- Reduce your consumption. Literally just stop using as much energy and fuel and reduce your waste by recycling, turning off lights, buying less and buying local and using public or bike transportation. By using fewer resources, you’ll not only save money, but also put less pressure on the environment. These actions will create a better place to live, work, play and retire if we have cleaner air, water, walkable neighborhoods and outdoor recreational amenities.
- Get outside. It’s hard to love what you don’t know. Get outside to connect to the natural world so you can come to know it better, love it more and feel more motivated to become a steward of it. The more effort you take to connect to the environment, even in your own backyard, the more open you’ll be to taking the next steps to preserving it.
- Switch from incandescent light bulbs to LED. They use 75 percent less energy, last 10 times longer and save about $83 a year.
- Unplug anything that glows. If you can see a light at night, it’s draining energy. You can save on average $200 a year if you turn off power strips at night, according to Rhoads.
- Recycle your electronics. Only about 20 percent of electronics end up getting recycled. Eighty percent end up in landfills, averaging about 5.5 billion pounds a year. Toxic substances in electronics, like lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic, can leech into soil and groundwater. Visit your county’s website to find when and where you can drop off electronics in your area. (The next Hamilton County E-recycling event is on April 26 at Goodwill donation locations; cincinantigoodwill.org/donate.)
- Fix leaks in your home. A drippy faucet can waste much more water per day than one would imagine. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Water Science School, one drip per minute adds up to 34 gallons of water per year down the drain. That’s a pretty slow leak — and likely an easy fix.
- Look for Energy Star appliances. Houses that have Energy Star refrigerators, stoves and water heaters use 30 percent less energy and can save more than $500 a year.
- Plant a tree. Commit to planting a tree this year with your friends and family to help reach the Taking Root Campaign’s goal of planting 2 million trees by 2020. It’s easy and inexpensive, and planting a tree is like a gateway activity for kids to develop environmental stewardship. One large tree can supply a day’s worth of oxygen for four people, remove 13 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere and cool the planet. Greater Cincinnati has one of the highest tree canopies, covering 39 percent of the city, which can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent. Not to mention, how cool will it be to see it 20 years from now?
- Give up bottled water. Only 20 percent of 30 billion water bottles in the U.S. get recycled every year. Despite the fact that the Ohio River was recently named one of the most polluted bodies of water for the seventh year in a row, Greater Cincinnati Water Works actively monitors chemical levels and has a special filtration system. In fact, Cincinnati has one of the best quality water systems in the country — buying bottled water is unnecessary. The city of Hamilton even received international recognition for the best tasting drinking water in the world.
- Get back on a bike. Riding a bike is the best way to reconnect with your own neighborhood and natural world with zero emissions, and there is more opportunity to ride a bike safely everyday within Cincinnati. Riding a bike — to work, around the neighborhood, to dinner — reduces greenhouse gasses. If you don’t own a bike, check out Red Bike, a bike-sharing program with 30 stations located in the Cincinnati area.
For more information on GREEN UMBRELLA or to sign up to receive the latest environmental news and events from around the region, visit greenumbrella.org.