DEM: Seemingly insignificant actions can have a big environmental impact

Environment

PROVIDENCE, R.I (WPRI) — The R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is encouraging small ways to live more sustainably, not only on Earth Day, but every day.

When simple things, such as shutting off unused lights, turning off the water when brushing your teeth and recycling, are taken together, the DEM said it can lead to big results.

“Taking stock of our individual actions and making concrete changes in our own behavior during Earth Week and throughout the year are meaningful ways to reduce emissions and preserve our environment,” DEM Director Janet Coit said.

Earlier this month, Gov. Dan McKee signed the Act on Climate bill which aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

“I am proud of Rhode Island’s advocates and leaders who stepped up to enact a strong bill to combat climate change earlier this month. As the Ocean State, we see the direct impacts of climate change, from more intense storms to hotter summers,” Coit added.

Coit said the state of Narragansett Bay is much cleaner than anytime it has been in the past century, but there’s still more work to be done.

“The bay, the upper bay and the rivers area much cleaner with heathier wildlife and recreation returning to these areas,” she said.

Coit and her team visited several businesses on Earth Day to commend them for their efforts to protect the state’s environment.

“Your willingness to take bold actions to clean up the environment and support local jobs is having a profound impact on people’s lives,” Coit said. “There’s work going on in every community. It’s not something that can be solved with one big infrastructure project.”

The most important work that still needs to be done in Rhode Island includes addressing storm run off, which comes from roads, parking lots and continues to pollute the state’s water, according to Coit.

“That is why we close certain areas to shell fishing and we ask people not to recreate in urban rivers because pollution runs off into the bay,” she said.

Coit said the Narragansett Bay Commission is working on a huge project which targets the combined sewage overflow problem that happens after rain.

“That project is going forward and will really really improve making the bay safer for public health in particular,” she said.

So what else can you do to help? Coit said there are plenty of ways Rhode Islanders can contribute.

“It’s as basic as picking up your pet’s waste,” she said. “Making sure that litter doesn’t blow out of your recycling barrel. There is a lot of individual actions that are small, but cumulatively, they make a big impact.”

The DEM has provided 12 steps that Rhode Islanders can follow to lead a more sustainable life:

  1. Eat local ─ Rhode Island has a vibrant food community with lots of great options for locally sourced ingredients.  DEM strongly supports local farmsfishing industries, and shell fishing. Visit Relish Rhody for more information and patronize restaurants that use local ingredients. 
  2. Drive less and be mindful of your driving style ─ Carpool, walk or bike to lower emissions and relieve road congestion. Planning trips to conduct errands in a common area can reduce miles traveled as well. When driving, observe the speed limit and avoid unnecessary acceleration. You’ll reduce emissions and save money on gas at the same time. If you are buying a new vehicle, explore an electric or hybrid option.
  3. Conserve energy in your home ─ As old bulbs and appliances reach the end of their useful life, replace incandescent bulbs with LEDs and replace old appliances with energy-efficient appliances. Also, avoid “energy vampires” by unplugging devices when they’re not being used or use power strips with on/off switches. Program your thermostat so that your heating and cooling systems use less energy when you’re not home. Remember to responsibly recycle your old bulbs (e.g. fluorescents) or thermostats which may contain mercury.
  4. Think about your water usage ─ Modern high-efficiency washing machines and laundry detergents are formulated to be just as effective when using cold water as hot water. Using cold water can lead to significant energy savings every month. Also, you can lower the hot water temperature on your water heater for additional savings.
  5. Dry your clothes on a clothesline ─ Line-drying your clothes saves energy and wear-and-tear on your dryer. Bonus: sunshine is a natural disinfectant for wet clothes. If you can’t line-dry your clothes, consider using a lower heat setting or shorter drying cycles on your dryer to conserve energy.
  6. Reusable plastics ─ Eliminating single-use plastics saves energy, reduces unsightly litter, and protects marine life. Next time you go to the farmer’s market, bring reusable bags with you; with your next beverage, skip the single-use straw, and use a refillable water bottle. Be sure to bring your cloth shopping bags along on your next trip to the grocery store.
  7. Don’t let trash fly ─ Always bag trash. Use covers on your trash bins and close the doors and lids on dumpsters.  Be sure trash is properly contained in open areas on trucks, boats, and other moving vehicles.
  8. Pick up litter ─ Next time you’re outdoors, take a few minutes to pick up any litter that may have accumulated on your property and along the roadway. With everyone’s help, miles and miles of streets could easily become litter-free.
  9. Join a community cleanup ─ Help beautify local neighborhoods and recreation areas by getting involved in a community cleanup project. Earth Week events are occurring across Rhode Island, and DEM has compiled a calendar of events  to help you find one in your community.
  10. Purchase renewable energy ─ In RI, you have the option to purchase your energy from a renewable/non-fossil fuel source. Choose a supplier that exceeds state renewable energy standards from the list provided by the RI Public Utilities Commission.
  11. Raise your environmental IQ ─ Explore easy ways you can contribute to a healthier planet: conserve water and energy, reduce waste, and support local farms and conservation efforts.
  12. Get outside Enjoy our environment and natural resources by visiting a nearby state park or management area or a local preserve. Rhode Island is home to more than 400 miles of hiking trails and abundant fresh- and saltwater paddling opportunities. Get your heart rate going and enjoy spring’s bloom on the Blackstone River Bikeway and East Bay Bike Path. For more information including detailed maps, visit RIDOT’s website. For freshwater anglers, DEM is stocking many popular waterways across Rhode Island with brook, brown and rainbow trout. The physical, mental and emotional benefits of time outside are well documented.

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