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When you’re in a room

By Liz Neroni, Naturalist 

As some people know, lately I have been trying hard to live sustainably. Reducing my waste has been my main focus. I have strived to purchase items that aren’t going to end up as trash after their use.

Am I perfect? Absolutely not. Is it frustrating? Definitely! Especially when you make the effort to go into a coffee shop with a reusable mug (that I actually forgot at home and turned around to get), instead of using the drive-thru to order my drink, only to find out the staff person used a plastic cup to make the coffee, dumped it into my mug, and then threw the cup out anyway.

This journey has really taught me something. Even though I’m trying to be more eco-friendly, not everyone has the same mindset. I have struggled and made the conscience effort, but other people aren’t even aware that there is an issue. The staff person at the coffee shop probably had no idea that my main goal was to enjoy a cup of coffee without producing waste.

So instead of getting mad or defeated, which I was tempted, I am learning to focus on what, as an individual, I can do to be more sustainable and not worry about what others are doing or not doing. It has made me look more broadly.

I started to examine many aspects of my life and how I could make a difference in, well, different ways. This led me to my utilities. Growing up my dad always said, “When you’re in a room, you turn on a light- when you are out of a room, you turn off a light”. Seems like an easy concept, right? I never really thought much about it until recently. Now, in all honesty, being a budget guy, my Dad’s main concern was the bill. However, it’s so easy to flick on a light and not see consequences of that action, beyond owing more money. The amount of resources used to generate that electricity does have an impact on our environment.

Does that mean I’m going to just start burning candles? No. However, the little adjustment to make sure everything is off when not being used, when you aren’t in the room, does help nature. Especially outside at night during peak migration periods (spring/fall). Light pollution is responsible for MILLIONS of birds colliding into buildings. That’s millions per year!

So, turning off unnecessary lights can do a lot of good for wildlife, and yes, your pocket.

Another thing that I didn’t really pay attention to, was my water usage. It’s so easy to turn on a hose and not worry about a leak or leave the water running in the sink, because I always have water available to me. However, with all the water in the world, about 3% is fresh water and less than 1% is drinkable! With such a small amount, you must ask yourself-how long will this last? That’s scary to think about. I never realized how such a precious resource was being discarded. Literally, in our plastic water bottles that end up buried in landfills or even just down the drains.

So, I make sure to do the following:


  • Use a filtered water system in my fridge so I reduce the amount of water bottles I purchase in the first place.
  • Empty all bottles before recycling them.
  • Brush my teeth without leaving the water running.
  • Make sure the dishwasher is completely full before running.
  • Turning off and checking the hose to make sure no water is being wasted.

There are many ways to save water. Evaluate where you use it and challenge yourself to change.

Another thing I plan on doing is installing a rain barrel to water my gardens. Every time it rains, Central Avenue (in Delaware) becomes a stream. That’s just one spot where there are too many impervious surfaces and water has nowhere to go except down the road, collecting oil, chemicals, salt, and cigarette butts, along the way. All of this eventually ends up flowing right into the Olentangy River. Reusing the rain, rather than it becoming runoff, is a great “green” alternative.

Want a chance to win a Rain Barrel? The City of Delaware Public Utilities Department, Stormwater Program has donated one to Preservation Parks to be raffled off this summer. Come to the Deer Haven Park Visitor Center during open hours (11am – 6pm daily) and sign up free at the front desk for a chance to win!

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