10 Ways To Be More Eco-Friendly

10 Ways To Be More Eco-Friendly

New Year's resolutions are overrated-- how about an Earth Day resolution? Better yet, how about 10 of them? Not only will they likely be easier to stick to, but our beautiful planet and all those who inhabit it (and especially those who are yet to inhabit it) will thank you.

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1. Get a reusable water bottle.

Photo from Larry Meisner

Though one of the most obvious ways to cut down on unnecessary plastic consumption, it's still absolutely worth mentioning. It blows my mind to see how many plastic bottles have been spared each time I fill my Nalgene at water fountains across campus. It really makes you wonder just how much pollution would be circumvented if everyone had a reusable water bottle. The classic Nalgene is a fan favorite and it's certainly light years ahead of single-use plastics as far as sustainability goes, but if you really want to make an environmental statement, grab a Hydro Flask! Not only are you avoiding plastic altogether, but it's insulated, too; it is truly a win-win.

2. Buy from environmentally proactive companies.

Photo from Larry Meisner

With environmental concerns being more prominent now than ever before, it only makes sense that there's been a shift in the practice of some clothing brands to reflect the need for more sustainable apparel. Some of the more outdoor-oriented brands such as Patagonia and REI have been manufacturing clothing and gear with the environment in mind for decades, but more recently, even bigger brands like Adidas, the second largest activewear brand in the world, have placed emphasis on the importance of sustainability in all that they do. For example, each pair of Adidas Ultraboost trainers are made entirely out of recycled materials! Brands like these make you feel good about getting dressed every day.

3. Turn it off!

Photo from Niklas Morberg on Flickr

This is probably the simplest yet somehow lesser practiced methods of promoting energy sustainability. When you leave your room, house, whatever the case may be, turn your lights off! Even if you're just running a quick errand, shut the TV down and flick that light switch on your way out--energy conservation is one of the easiest ways to minimize your carbon footprint, something that's moved to the forefront of environmentalists' agendas as of late. It may seem insignificant, and on an individual scale it just might be; but, just imagine how much energy would be saved if everyone in the world took those 20 extra seconds to turn their electronics off on their way out the door. Every individual is part of the big picture.

4. Be plastic bag-conscious.

Photo from Kate Ter Haar on Flickr

There has actually been a great deal of research showing that use of what has long been thought of as more eco-friendly shopping bag alternatives, such as cotton totes, may or may not be better for the environment than the single-use plastic grocery bags-- some of them would have to be used more than a thousand of times before they were rendered better for the environment than the grocery bags found in stores today. With that being said, it's important to remain conscious of your use, and whether or not you actually need one; if you do need one, make sure to keep it for reuse when you're done carrying your groceries. Particularly at gas stations but in grocery stores too, clerks often end up bagging only a handful of small items. Next time you make a small purchase, politely tell the clerk no, you don't need a bag. If every time someone bought a couple of pieces of candy, or a toiletry, or a pack of drinks, they carried them out rather than having them bagged, there's no telling how much plastic pollution would be avoided.

5. Dry responsibly.

Photo from Larry Meisner

I'll illustrate for you a situation I see every single day in the bathrooms here at school. Some guy walks out of the stall and proceeds to wash his hands. Following the cleansing, he walks past the air dryer and heads over to the paper towel dispenser; not only does he circumvent the most eco-friendly option, but then adds insult to injury by grabbing four or five paper towels before even using a single one. He then bunches them up, dries his hands, and throws away a handful of lightly used paper towels, less than half of which are saturated. I'll admit, sometimes you're in a rush, and taking thirty seconds to get your hands halfway dry via air dryer seems suboptimal. If you're going to use paper towels, though, grab one at a time! One or two paper towels will do the job just fine. Forests all over the planet are being decimated by this type of reckless environmental irreverence, and it's too simple a fix to not do your small part.

6. Go on a hike, and take a trash bag with you!

Photo from Jack Froistad

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than by traversing some of it's most beautiful landscapes on foot? (Don't know where to go? Check out my article 6 Best Hiking Destinations in the Southeast) Unfortunately, most (if not all) of the trails you may hit this Earth Day see far too much ignorant, or perhaps simply disrespectful, foot traffic who leave their trash along the way. As much as we may want to, there's no way to track down the culprits and reprimand them for their negligence; however, there is certainly a way to offset their damage. Be the change you want to see in the world-- if you want a cleaner natural environment, make it happen!

7. Compost, compost, compost!

Photo from David Silver on Flickr

The beautiful thing about composting is that you're killing several birds with one stone, and doing so quite easily (don't know where to begin? Click here for the basics). For one, you're keeping tons of waste out of landfills where they'd release greenhouse gases, and actually putting them towards something good-- you're quite literally recycling the earth. Secondly, your compost pile will benefit the soil in which it's present (or that you put it in, if you don't have anywhere for an outdoor compost pile). In addition, many of the micronutrients in compost act as pesticides, thus decreasing the need for actual pesticides, most of which possess harmful chemicals. It doesn't hurt that it costs little to nothing, as opposed to some other more costly methods of "going green". No matter how you look at it, you really can't go wrong with composting.

8. Scale back on meats.

Photo from USDA NRCS Montana on Flickr

This is one I find myself struggling with quite frequently-- I do love me a good cheeseburger. With that being said, eating less meat has a positive effect on the environment in more ways than one. For starters, the obvious: less meat consumption means fewer animal deaths, which is likely a plus for anyone who has a heart. But, beyond that, if even half of the population were to really be conscious of their meat consumption, we wouldn't see some of the Earth's largest and most august forests, such as the Amazon, destroyed for the sake of raising cattle and the like. How are the world's forests supposed to compete with massive increases in cattle grazing and people who use five paper towels to dry their hands?

9. Thrift!

Photo from Mike Mozart on Flickr

This goes both ways--by donating your old clothes and buying those of others, you're reducing consumerism across the board. For everything you donate or purchase secondhand you're playing a small part in minimizing manufacturing pollution, gas consumption, and every other not-so-eco-friendly element of the process of getting raw materials into factories and then into the stores from which you buy clothes. Goodwill, yard sale, whatever it takes; old clothes are the way to go.

10. Donate your wands to wildlife.

Photo from Sydney Shatz

Ladies, this one's for you. When you think of the word "recycle", what comes to mind? Throwing paper and plastic waste in the recycling bin? Collecting old plastic bags to use later? Maybe taking a bunch of water bottles to your local recycling plant? While all good things, none of them are quite as cool as what the Appalachian Wildlife Refuge is doing-- using recycled mascara wands to help clean wild animals! The way the wands are designed allows them to be quite effective at removing fly eggs and larva from the animals' fur and thus allowing them to live healthier, happier lives (Want to learn more about Wands for Wildlife? Click Here). If that doesn't make you want to recycle, I don't know what will.

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10 Things You Need To Stop Saying To Girls With Tattoos

Mind your own business and life will be gravy.
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What is it about other people that make them feel entitled to tell you how to live your life or what to put on your body. If it's parents or another close family member and you aren't in a state to make the rational decisions for yourself, that is one thing... But if you are perfectly capable to think and act on your own, who are they to stop you?

I have four tattoos right now, do I want more? Yes. Will I get more in the future? More than likely. Should you tell me that I shouldn't? No.

1. But you're so pretty...

Is this a roundabout way to insult me? Because I wouldn't look the same with or without the tattoos? Because having tattoos somehow makes women less pretty? Whatever you're getting at, please stop.

2. I don't understand the meaning of your tattoo.

That's okay because it isn't for you to understand. That is why it is on my body. I understand the meaning, and the ones I care enough about to explain it to also understand the meaning, therefore, you don't need to.

3. Aren't you worried about them sagging or running together or becoming unrecognizable when you are older?

No, no I am not. They do and always will hold a special meaning in my heart, whether you can tell what it is or not. I will always know. It is no secret that the older you get the more the skin sags. If you care that much, then I'll just show you pictures of what they used to look like, and it will give me a good way to reminisce about my younger days.

4. Do you only date guys with tattoos?

No, I don't. But, it just so happens that my boyfriend has one, and we have been together since before either one of us got tattoos. He did actually get a little hotter after the fact, but that is beside the point.

5. Did it hurt?

No, I just had a needle being rapidly punctured into my skin at who knows how many times per second.

YES, it hurts.

But, not for long, and to me, that might even be the appeal of getting tattoos because it is nice to feel pain every once in a while to remind ourselves we are all human and we all bleed red.

Yes, depending on the spot and your body type sometimes you bleed. I got my first tattoo on my rib cage, and I got my second tattoo a short few months later, not to say they didn't hurt but for me, the end result outweighs the pain in that moment.

Pain is temporary, but tattoos are forever.

6. What do your parents think?

Whatever they want to think, honestly. Luckily, I'm fortunate enough to have parents who love me for who I am regardless of my tattoos.

With that being said, they all have tattoos themselves.

They can give me their opinion on the design I choose, but at the end of the day, I am an adult and they aren't going to love me any less if I were to get a tattoo that is not appealing to them.

7. You're going to have such a hard time finding a job.

Actually, I have a job, I know plenty of people in their "adult" jobs that have tattoos and mine are all easily covered if the problem ever arises. Also, you don't know me or my career goals so once again, who are you to tell me about my life?

8. I'm thinking of getting [insert tattoo here], what do you think?

You do you, boo boo. If you like it, GREAT. If it has or doesn't have meaning to you, also GREAT. I don't want you telling me or judging me on the tattoos I decide to put on my body, so I'm sure as hell not going to do it to you.

I may not think it would be good to put on my body, but once again, I am not the one getting it, you are... So have at it!

9. Why would you waste your money on those things?

Idk Sarah, why do you waste money on that expensive ass bottle of liquor knowing it's going to be gone in a few hours, and you will feel like crap the next day? At least mine is permanent and makes me feel empowered ALL THE TIME, unlike your alcohol, that is temporary.

10. When are you going to stop?

When are you?

They all have a very special meaning to me. I won't get a tattoo that doesn't have meaning to me but I WILL NOT judge you for doing it. Because who am I to tell you what to do with your own body. So stop saying these things to women.

Mind ya own business and life will be gravy.

Cover Image Credit: Kayce Davis

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This One’s For Africa

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Read through to the end for an amazing Toto reference.

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It's now been a week since I stepped foot on the African continent for the first time in my life. I first visited Johannesburg, where my dad and I spent a day on an 'apartheid tour.'

This tour consisted of visiting Shanty Town, one of the poorest communities in South Africa. The living conditions were indeed different. They had to steal electricity through homemade wires connected to the telephone poles. They had only a few porta potties for ten families to share. They had several spickets to obtain fresh water from. There was no heating in the houses, which were made from pieces of painted aluminum.

Such inconvenient circumstances have come from years of oppression towards black people in South Africa. It was incredibly sad to know that these problems still exist and that apartheid only ended so recently.

On the other hand, the people showed very little anger. Despite their living situations, the people of Shanty Town were so kind and welcoming. Everyone we passed smiled and waved, often even saying hello or asking about our wellbeing.

It brought some serious warmth to our hearts to see their sense of community. Everyone was in it together, and no man was left behind. They created jobs and opportunities for one another. They supported each other.

The next part of the day included a tour of Nelson Mandela's old house. We then made a trip to the Apartheid Museum.

Overall, Johannesburg did not disappoint. The city contains a rich history that human beings as a whole can learn a lot from. Johannesburg is a melting pot that still contains a multitude of issues concerning racism and oppression of certain cultures.

After two days in Johannesburg, my family made our way to Madikwe game reserve, where we stayed at Jaci's Lodge.

The safari experience was absolutely incredible. Quite cold (it's winter in Africa right now), but amazing enough to make up for the shivering. We saw all my favorite animals: giraffes galore, elephants, zebras, impalas, lions, hyenas, wildebeests, rhinos, you name it. While my favorite animal will always be the giraffe, I don't think any sighting could beat when two different herds of elephants passed through a watering hole to fuel up on a drink.

Finally on June 1st, I flew to George to start my program with Africa Media in Mossel Bay. On Sunday, we went on an 'elephant walk.'

The safari was certainly cool, but that makes the elephant walk ice cold. We got to walk alongside two male elephants - one was 25, the other 18. They were so cute!! We got to stroke their skin, trunk, and tusks. They had their own little personalities and were so excited to receive treats (fruits and vegetables) at the end of the journey.

My heart couldn't be more full. Africa, you have become my favorite continent. And it sure is going to take a lot to drag me away from you.

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