By Lyn Halliday, Licensed Environmental Professional

How sustainable is your lifestyle? Are you environmentally conscious and eco-literate?  Are you aware of the contributions you can make toward a cleaner sustainable community? 

Sustainable Living – Everyday Practices 101

It might not be practical to ask everyone to go out this very moment and rebuild their homes to green standards, purchase hybrid vehicles, or stop flying on airplanes.  But what if you could make a few small changes, ease your way into some behavior modification, be part of larger effort to make a difference for future generations?  Would you do it?  What if doing so saved you money, and improved your health and that of your family?

1. The Power of Energy - Start Small, Save Big

If you think “KWH” is a new radio station…

Then, it might be time to to take out your electric bill and give it a good review.  How many KWH (kilowatt hours) do you use per month?
How has your usage varied in the past year?

Some appliances, like your refrigerator and hot water heater, are on all the time.  Replacing an old refrigerator with a newer energy efficient model can decrease it’s electric usage by half, saving you enough money to pay back your investment in a relatively short period of time.   Lowering the settings on your hot water heater, or using an on-demand hot water heater can also save signficantly. What if you could save 20% of your energy bill by replacing an older inefficient heating system with a newer energy efficient one?

2. See the Light

If you think of football when you see the term “CFL” …

Then, it might be time to look into changing your lightbulbs to CFLs (compact fluorescent).   Changing one conventional (incandescent) lightbulb to a CFL saves about $69/year (source: EnergyStar™).  Start with the lights in your home that you use most frequently. 

3. Common Cents

If you are not sure what sustainable practices make sense for you....

Then, perhaps you should focus on practices that save dollars.  Not all sustainable practices require you to spend money, in fact, many are behavioral and cost nothing but save a lot.  Some are just plain common sense.

Reduce energy use in your home

-Turn out the lights when not in use

-Turn down thermostats when not at home or use a programmable thermostat

-Close blinds at night to keep heat in (check out the newest insulated window treatments)

-Only do full loads when using dishwasher and clothes washer.  Hang laundry on the line.

-Turn computers and electronics off when not in use

-Seal drafts around windows and doors

-Turn your hot water heater setting down

-Clean air filters and ducts regularly 








4. Reduce, Recycle, Reuse

If you think “co-mingling” refers to your last date…

Then, it might be time to learn more about recycling.  Could it get any easier?  Place two trash bins in your kitchen, a small one for non-recyclables, and a larger one for co-mingled trash.  Here is what you can recycle in the co-mingled bin in our region today: aluminum (it takes 95% more energy to make an aluminum can from raw materials than from recycled aluminum) and tin cans, plastics 1 & 2 including plastic bottles minus the caps, glass jars and bottles, newspaper, pizza boxes, cardboard, paperboard – yes that means cereal boxes, kleenex boxes! – magazines and junk mail, most paper.  Have a family meeting to discuss recycling.  You may find your kids know more about it than you!

In some areas, you can place your recycling at curbside (check with your garbage hauler).  Look for the Green Machine throughout Routt county to drop off recyclables closest to you.  The recycling center on Downhill Drive is also open Monday through Friday.  If you are skeptical on where it all goes, ask Waste Management to take their Materials Recycling Facility tour.

Many other household items can be recyled or donated including toys, clothes, tires, batteries, household hazardous waste, ink cartridges, and fluorescent bulbs.  Electronics, such as computers, cell phones, old TVs are especially important to recycle since they can contain toxic materials.

You can further reduce your waste with smart choices – for example, buy in bulk, purchase items that can be reused such as containers for food, puchase products that use less packaging, select biodegradable items.  You can also compost if you have the space and can be bear safe.  In-home compost units are now available.

New products are becoming available every day to help make sustainable choices easier and more affordable, even fun.  For example, check out plastic cups made of corn or sugar cane that are 100% compostable.  Does your favorite local restaurant use take-out containers made of 100% biodegradable material instead of styrofoam or plastic?  If not, maybe you should ask them to.

5. Light on the Land and Air

If you think “CO2” belongs in a text message about Colorado…


            -If you think “Greenhouse gasses” are……………well, anyway….

Then, it might be time to calculate your carbon footprint and consider these practices to reduce emissions in your lifestyle:

-Walk, bike, carpool or take the bus – feel better too!
-Consider clean, renewable energy sources

-Use eco-friendly cleaners, they work well and reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals

-Use a hepa filter on vacuum cleaners for cleaner, healthier air


6. Make a Difference by Making Smart Choices

If you think it’s too difficult for one person to make a difference…

Then, start with a few choices that have a low impact on your lifestyle:

-Choose products that are reusable, last longer, and can be recycled

-Purchase items made from 100% post consumer recycled products

-Buy products that are grown or made locally

-Buy organic

-Choose biodegradable products and those with less packaging (plastic bags can take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose!)

-Install low flow devices on faucets and showerheads

-Fix leaks immediately, a leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons per day

-Instead of buying plastic bottles of water, filter your own water, use reusable mugs, cups, water bottles
-Shorten your shower time

-Use eco-friendly pooper scoopers, cat litter

7. Advanced Sustainability 201

Maybe you are a super star and already do all of the above.  Great!  Here are some advanced steps:

            -Make educated choices on building, remodeling, or buying a home.  Look for energy efficiency, use of recycled materials, good site design, indoor air quality enhancement features

            -Use Energy Star-rated appliances and equipment in your home and office

-Use paints and adhesives that have zero VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) that result in off-gasing and can be harmful to humans

-Purchase a vehicle that uses clean renewable fuel or is more fuel efficient

-Consolidate trips

            -On the road – choose eco-friendly hotels

            -Select restaurant menu items that are sustainable (for example, certain fish are abundant, well managed and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways)

            -You can promote sustainability through purchasing products from companies that support sustainable practices – cast your vote through educated choices!  Look for local businesses that have worked to ahieve their Sustainable Business Certification from the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association on

            -Choose investments that support sustainability

-Lease office space built to green building standards

-When buying a home request a certified EcoBroker® as your realtor

-Get active in your community – support local non-profits

-Learn about ethical consumerism.

8. A Word on Water and Sustainability

Few things are more precious than clean water, and sustaining clean water supplies can be translated to many daily lifestyle choices. 

Using less toxic materials in the household means less harmful materials entering the environment.  In Routt County, household hazardous waste can be recycled for a small fee by calling the hotline at 1.800.449.7587. 

You may not know that storm drains on streets and in parking lots drain directly to the river without any treatment.  All the more reason not to litter, never dump anything down the drains, and sweep walkways, driveways and parking lots to remove debris instead of hosing down surfaces to storm drains.  

Landscape with drought tolerant plants to minimize the need for watering – set conventional irrigation with timers and/or sensors to reduce water usage and maximize efficiency (early morning).  Minimize the use of herbicides, pestcides and fertilizers.

9. Sifting Through the “green” Claims

Unfortunately, not every business that claims to be “green” is acting in a verifiably environmentally conscious manner.   Scrutinize products and services carefully, read labels and find out what they mean.  Ask questions.


If you still think that you can’t make a difference, that your contribution doesn’t count, think of it this way…..if every person reduced their carbon footprint by 25%, multiplied by 303 million people in the U. S.,…..  well, you do the math.  Or think of it simply as how a sustainable lifestyle can also save you money. 

10. Here to Help

If you are interested in setting up a mini-seminar on sustainable lifestyles for your neighborhood, business, or group, contact Lyn Halliday, Environmental Solutions Unltd, LLC @ 970.879.6323.

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