Little by Little Adds Up to a Lot
On this page we provide lots of ideas for how you might get started, and suggestions for planning larger improvements in the future. Understanding your own carbon footprint is the single most important early step you can take. Once you know how you are generating CO2 emissions, you can then start with what seems easy as you make more sustainable choices as you invest in your home, transportation, habits and lifestyle. As you make investments know that it will be necessary to ELECTRIFY EVERYTHING - we even need to phase out natural gas for home heating and cooking by 2045 or 2050.
Calculate your own carbon footprint as a great first step: Calculate your own carbon footprint. Cool Climate, Cool Congregations are two options,. To be truly sustainable, we need to stop taxing the world's resources at the current level: to understand your total impact on the Earth's resources, try Footprint Calculator.
Ideas to get started on a clean-energy, efficient, sustainable path
Suggestions for planning larger improvements
One step at a time: Every shift you make matters and they will add up over time! Start with what seems easy as you make more sustainable choices as you invest in your home, transportation, habits and lifestyle.
Disclaimer: We do not intend to endorse or recommend specific companies or products. We only name examples from our own personal experiences or research, to help show you the scope of what's available.
Quick Wins to Get Started
Are you eager to take some initial steps that immediately reduce your carbon footprint? Here are our top easy-to-do action items, (with more details later on this page):
You can make your highest immediate impact by purchasing your electricity from a clean, renewable energy provider. It takes only a few minutes and does not have to cost you more than "dirty" energy. (It is a short term solution, though, as over the long term we need clean energy to be produced locally.) See the Convert to Clean Renewable Energy & Electrify Everything section on this page.
Change the way you eat, one step at a time. This may be, longer term, the single most effective change you can make, and making a start is easy. See the Sustainable Eating section on this page.
Buy locally produced food and other items whenever possible. See the Sustainable Buying Habits section on this page.
Learn about Electrify Everything: as we stop using fossil fuels, we will power all our energy use with clean electricity. More resources: video #electrify everything basics join the Electrify Everything Facebook Group and follow the Energy Gang Podcast
Say "no thanks" to plastic, plastic bags and styrofoam, especially in single-use forms. Switch to reusable bags for fruits, vegetables, groceries and other purchases. See the Sustainable Buying Habits and What to Do with Waste sections on this page.
Stop buying bottled water. Buy metal water bottles and if you want, filter your water at home. Here's a link to The 8 Best Water Bottles. See the Sustainable Buying Habits and What to Do with Waste sections below.
Understand your personal impact on the earth based on your lifestyle and living arrangements:
Energy Efficiency & Conservation are the First Steps
The Sierra Club's Ready for 100% Clean Energy program estimates that in order to get to net zero emissions, we will need to reduce our energy consumption by about 40% by 2050. This is feasible, and it's easier than you think to just use less. Improved energy efficiency in existing as well as new homes will need to be a part of the equation.
How can you start? Reduce your usage.
October 6, 2021 is Energy Efficiency Day
There's a national movement to educate and take action to help Americans transition to much more energy efficient life. Check out Energy Efficientcy Day to learn more.
Get an Energy Audit
Get an in-depth energy audit from a third party which is much more comprehensive and informative than the PECO audit. The energy auditor will do a room-by-room examination of the residence, as well as a thorough examination of past utility bills. Many professional energy assessments will include a blower door test. Most will also include a thermographic scan. (Yes, it will take more time and cost more, perhaps several hundred dollars.) For resources on full energy audits, see Energy.gov Audits Page.
Heating and Cooling
Set a goal to reduce your PECO bill energy usage and track it month by month and year over year. Make a game of it with your family. Become the most energy efficient neighbor!
Install a programmable thermostat if you don't already have one. Use it!
Replace your HVAC filters regularly.
Appliances and Lighting
Learn how much energy your appliances actually use at this Department of Energy site
Dryers use the most energy of all appliances. Here are 16 steps to save energy doing laundry.
Replace your incandescent bulbs with LED lights, starting with the ones in use the most. This has a big, nearly painless benefit.
Turn lights off when not in use. Not sure if it's worth it? Here's a guide.
Ever heard of Energy Vampires? Any appliance which has a light on when not in use, such as a TV or computer, draws power all the time. Use power strips with timers, smart switches and/or just unplug them.
Turn your TV off if you are not watching it - or put it on a power strip timer.
Choose Energy Star appliances when replacing refrigerators, driers, and other big appliances.
Long-term we know we need to Electrify Everything. So, don't lock yourself into appliances that burn fossil fuels. When replacing your gas-powered dryer, AC unit, water heater, furnace or other major mechanical, take the opportunity to choose an all-electric new appliance. (See more in the "Green Choices for House Mechanicals" section further down this page.)
Turn down your water heater a little.
Learn more about the best and most impactful ways to conserve energy at this energy.gov web page.
Join with a group of neighbors and work together to reduce your own personal energy consumption. See Carbon Action Now.
Testimonial of Lower Merion residents who have reduced their usage far below that of their neighbors, with no adverse impact on their lifestyle or comfort:
"Our house is around 100 years old. We got an energy audit in 2004 which gave us a road map and priorities for large and small home projects to conserve energy. Over time, as we have renovated we have added insulation, upgraded windows, and replaced mechanicals, we have made lots of changes that in aggregate have made a huge reduction in our energy usage. We now love getting our PECO bill and seeing we use nearly 60% less energy than what PECO says areour "average neighbor" and 30% less energy than our "most efficient neighbors" - and that does not count the additional impact of our new rooftop solar system. We charge our electric car at home too." - John and Nancy in Merion
Convert to Clean Renewable Energy and Electrify Everything
By 2050 all of our energy will need to be electric, sourced from clean generation sources like the sun, wind, low-impact hydro, and geothermal. Natural gas and nuclear may serve only as bridge energy sources, if we are wise, until energy conservation and clean energy sources can fully take over. All our powered systems, including heating, cooling, hot water, cooking, transportation, clothes drying, and more, need to be switched over. EVERYTHING. This will take some time and planning, and we can start now.
Understand better how electricity is produced. See EPA Information.
Purchase renewable electricity now for your home. It doesn't take long, you'll have multiple choices, and PECO will still be your provider. It's just that PECO will now provide that electricity from green sources. See Make Ben Proud, PA Power Switch and Power Setter. Filter for 100% renewable, compare rates, check contract length, and whether or not there's a cancellation fee. Making this switch is a good--but interim--step because your power will likely be coming from the southern or midwestern states. Ultimately, we need green power generated within our PJM system.
Learn about Electrify Everything: as we stop using fossil fuels, we will power all our energy use with clean electricity. More resources: video #electrify everything basics join the Electrify Everything Facebook Group and follow the Energy Gang Podcast
If you have need of a backup generator, consider using one that is battery operated, and can be charged either from the grid, or by alternate clean sources. See Tesla's Powerwall, or Goal Zero for easily portable options.
Investigate putting solar panels on your home. For free, you can get local recommendations and group buying savings, through the Sierra Club's Solarize Southeast PA and view a video here to learn about a residential bulk buying program.
See some short video testimonials by local residents showcasing their solar systems on the CALM YouTube channel.
Investigate air source and ground source heat pump options for long term savings on your heating and cooling. The new generation of air source heat pumps are frequently more cost-effective than ground source.
Learn more below, and on our Resources page.
Upgrade Your Home Insulation
Since the greenest energy is the energy you avoid using in the first place, one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to save energy is by improving your home's insulation and air-tightness. It will make your home more comfortable besides.
We recommend a Home Energy Audit to guide you in making improvements. Some of the local companies that provide audits are listed below.
Attic & Roof Insulation: Heat rises, and the most effective way to keep it in the house is to improve the attic or roof insulation. See here for a design of a super insulating roof. Note: when you add insulation you should consider the potential for condensation where warm humid air meets a cold surface, since this can cause wood rot. See the discussion here.
Wall Insulation: Many older houses have little or no wall insulation. Insulation can be blown into wall cavities.
Air Sealing: A surprising amount of energy is lost through cracks between door and window frames, outlet and switch boxes, and other gaps and penetrations in the building envelope. An energy audit with a blower door test is relatively inexpensive, and will identify the improvements you can make.
Links to a few local energy audit providers:
PECO - this is a limited audit and may not be adequate to address insulation issues but its inexpensive
Want to know more? Learn about Net Zero Energy use.
Green Choices for House Mechanicals and Large Appliances
Building codes in Pennsylvania have not been updated to require renovations and new construction to meet green building standards. Builders and suppliers often default to the old, high energy consuming and fossil fuel powered options. Demand green choices from your builders, contractors and suppliers! It's the best investment. Often the upfront cost of green mechanical systems are a bit more. But due to their high efficiency, operating costs are lower. Over time, you'll have spent less money.
It's important to electrify everything. The gas industry has advertised gas as "clean"; and yes, it is cleaner than burning coal. But it still impacts health (see Health & Justice page, Health section), and releases greenhouse gases. Learn more at Electrify Everything.
Green, high efficiency, clean energy ready water heaters, heating and cooling
High efficiency Hot water solutions
Air-source heat pumps are the most efficient, cutting edge option for heating and air conditioning, but are still in development for homes heated with hot water
Here are some other air conditioning recommendations from Home Advisor.
For the Kitchen there are a number of green stove and cooking options. Did you know that induction cooking uses less energy than other options? Some models are as sensitive as gas for those of you serious cooks who can't imagine ever giving up gas ranges. For more details about going green in the kitchen, see Green Building Advisor, How Stuff Works, and Tree Hugger.
Support compact development. Density is not the enemy. Well planned, compact communities make it easier to walk, bike and take public transit, and thus reduce the need to use a car. Ideally the land not wasted on large lots can be left as open space and planted with native plants to sustain wildlife.
The electric car revolution is coming. Learn about electric cars and plan now to buy or lease one for your next car. They are fast, reliable, require less maintenance, are cheaper to operate, and much easier to charge than rumored. There are Federal tax credits and PA tax credits available too which reduce the purchase price! See Edmonds EV Reviews and Sierra Club EV Guide.
Testimonial of Lower Merion resident with an EV:
"I bought a totally electric car in 2019. I love it. It is the perfect commuter or errand vehicle. I am glad to know it is not emitting any harmful gases, either when moving or when stopped in traffic. So many fewer things can go wrong, and there are many fewer moving parts, so operating it is less expensive than operating a gas-powered car. If you decide to purchase one, do pay attention to all the rebates available, including one for installing a charger at home.
When I charge from home, I make it a habit to do so on Sundays when demand is lower, and PECO rates are cheaper! A friend told me that especially during the pandemic, he's also glad not to have to to a public station to charge his EV. If you can combine solar panels with an electric car, as I have done, then charging on sunny days makes the most sense. I have not noticed any increase in my electric bill since I got the electric vehicle. There are public charging stations around, though. You can get various apps which will show you where they are. If you are planning a long trip, know that some hotels and resorts have their own chargers on site. I like to give them my business. Also some supermarket chains have them, and sometimes they don't even charge you for the electricity!" - Phyllis in Bala Cynwyd
Walk, or ride a bike. Especially on short trips. You will get some great exercise while helping to save the planet! And you will have fun. Looking to get more comfortable on a bike:
Check out the Narberth Cycling Club on Facebook.
Also see Bicycle Coalition.
Consider an E-bike. E-bikes, or electric assist bicycles, are huge in Europe and rapidly growing in the US. They offer the fun and convenience of a bike, and the electric assist allows you to glide up hills and arrive at your destination fresh. They also have a far smaller carbon footprint than even an electric car. See Bicycling Magazine's E-bike Guide.
Carpool when possible. Plan your errands together, or commute with a neighbor, friend or co-worker. (This may need to wait, of course, due to the pandemic.)
Combine your errands, rather than making several separate trips. This is much easier than you might think!
Advocate Locally for Sustainable Transportation. Here are some of the groups of neighbors you can join:
LMSD Safe Routes to School, advocating for safe walking and biking routes for kids to get to school.
Bala Walks, advocating for pedestrian and bicycle safe streets in Lower Merion.
Lower Merion Safe Cycling, advocating for safe bicycling in Lower Merion.
Philly Transit Riders Union, advocating for mass transit and social justice in SEPTA service territory.
Shifting toward more sustainable eating may be, longer term, the single most effective change you as an individual can make to reduce your carbon footprint. This can feel truly hard for many of us. Consider a small change toward a more flexitarian diet for now, perhaps replacing meat or dairy with something else one meal a week. Later you can take a second step.
Reducing Red Meat and Dairy Consumption
The raising and processing of red meat for mass consumption is responsible for an astonishingly large amount of greenhouse gas emissions, approximately 9% from the beef industry alone. See a articles by Barclay's Investment Bank, the EPA, the Sierra Club, the University of Michigan's Center for Sustainable Systems, or Project Drawdown's study how much impact we can make with a plant-rich diet. See how you can increase your plant-based diet at Default Veg. Learn how to transition to a vegan diet by checking out the resources at the Peace Advocacy Network's Vegan Pledge.
Food Production and Waste
But red meat and dairy are only a part of the greenhouse gas problem, as a third of all the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork. Producing uneaten food squanders a whole host of resources—seeds, water, energy, land, fertilizer, labor and financial capital—while generating greenhouse gases at every stage, including methane when organic matter lands in the global rubbish bin. The food we waste is responsible for roughly 8% of global emissions.
Losing food to one waste heap or another is an issue in both regardless of a region's income. In places where income is low, wastage is generally unintentional and occurs earlier in the supply chain—food rots on farms or spoils during storage or distribution. In regions of higher income, willful food waste dominates later along the supply chain. Retailers and consumers reject food based on bumps, bruises, and coloring, or they simply order, buy, and serve too much.
There are numerous and varied ways to address key waste points. In lower-income regions, improving infrastructure for storage, processing, and transportation is essential. In higher-income regions, major interventions are needed at the retail and consumer levels. National food-waste targets and policies can encourage widespread change. These efforts can also help to meet future food demand, in addition to reducing waste and emissions.
Summarized from Project Drawdown: Reduce Food Waste.
Grow Some of Your Own Food
Grow some of your own veggies. Some, such as salad greens and carrots, are very easy to grow and can be grown in barrels on a porch, if you lack yard space.
You can grow herbs inside all winter.
Lower Merion allows a family to keep a very small number of chickens, which can give you very fresh eggs most of the year.
Purchasing Food and Composting Remains
See the Sustainable Buying section of this page for more about buying food more sustainably.
See the What to Do with Waste section to learn about how you can compost, even if you personally cannot do it at your home!
Integrate the concepts of a ‘circular economy’ into your buying habits. A ‘circular economy,’ (aka ‘circularity’), is a far less wasteful approach to human consumption of the earth’s resources. This regenerative approach aims at eliminating waste and the continuous use of new resources in favor of a closed-loop system, and is in contrast to the more familiar, ‘linear economy’ model which has a "take, make, dispose" approach to production and use.
Think about how you can help keep products, equipment and infrastructure in use for much longer, thus improving the productivity of these resources while reducing GHG emissions, destruction, and pollutants. The ideal is to substantially reduce the amount of waste generated, to reuse or repurpose what waste is still generated, then recycle or compost what can’t be reused, and finally, to dispose of only what is left over. See the section What to Do with Waste for much more on this.
Buy only what you need, and with the long term in mind. When shopping, pause and ask yourself: "Do I really need this? Was it manufactured in a sustainable manner? Is it well built or will it break and be thrown away after a short period?
In the case of food, buy only what you will consume prior to its spoilage, or the expiration date? See more in the What to Do with Waste section on this page.
Consider using the clothes you buy for more than just a season or two! And when you do part with something, do it in a way which will extend its useful life. See What to Do with Waste.
Buy locally produced goods and services whenever possible. Extensive amounts of polluting, greenhouse gas-producing energy is used just to transport whatever it is to wherever we are.
Buying locally, rather than online from farther away, reduces long-distance shipping, packaging and local traffic due to the deliveries of single items.
Buying in local stores supports the work force in our community or region.
Buying locally grown food supports local farms, while we get fresher, less-packaged food. Consider buying from local farmers' markets such as Bryn Mawr Farmer's Market. ·Or invest year by year in a CSA (community sustainable agriculture), in which you support the farmers up front, and share a bit of their risk, but from which you'll regularly receive your share of freshly harvested food. Even if a year is not so good due to weather, you will have helped those farmers stay in business for the next year. And if it's a good year? You'll receive more than you expected for no additional cost!
Consider the origin of all the foods you buy as you make these shifts toward the goal of buying as locally as possible. Some stores share the information up front on their labelling. If not, ask! Where were your vegetables and fruits grown? Was your fish caught in the Pacific ocean, or the much closer Atlantic? Is that shrimp coming all the way from Asia?
A huge amount of packaging can be eliminated when you purchase locally. See more in the What to Do with Waste section on this page.
Buy sustainably made products, and sustainably packaged ones, too. Here are just a few ideas:
Mom's Market in Bryn Mawr offers many sustainably made products which are also sustainably packaged, enabling you to reduce plastic and other waste in your daily life. Browse around sometime!
Try shampoo in a bar wrapped only in a little paper. See Mom's Market or find a variety online.
Buy laundry sheets which require much less packaging, such as those from Tru Earth. Or fill your own storage container endlessly by buying laundry powder from a company such as Meliora, which packages in paper only. Meliora sells spot remover in unwrapped bar form also. Or try concentrated dish and hand soap in beeswax from Etee. Some local stores may now
Use wool clothes dryer balls. They last for several years, help dry clothes faster, and are non-toxic. Carried at Mom's Market, and all over the internet.
Refuse plastic shopping and produce bags, 'disposable' containers at food bars, and 'disposable' container for bulk dispensers. etc. Bring your own reusable cloth bags or other containers with you. (Ask a store employee to weigh them empty first, if needed.)
Bring your own reusable straw.
Bring your own containers to the fish market, or to the restaurant for the leftovers you might take home.
Purchase personal care, kitchen, cleaning and health/beauty products in reusable containers, that are zero waste and ecologically safe. Take a look at Zero Waste, Tree Bird Eco, Etee, and Marley's Monsters. TerraCycle's Loop Store, is partnering with product manufacturers to offer health/beauty and food/beverage products using a circular system of packaging and containment. So far, they are partnering with Walmart and Kroger. This article in Business Insider reviews six brands, mostly selling hair and beauty products, which use sustainable packaging.
TerraCycle / Nordstrom offers good reusable replacements for a variety of household products. See more about TerraCycle in the What to Do with Waste section on this page.
Consider shopping at thrift and consignment shops. Some wonderful things, in wonderful shape, can be found, for less money. This may be particularly useful when you need something for a particular event and may only use it once or twice anyway. A real bonus is that you can also avoid taking home any packaging materials.
What to Do with Waste
Waste disposal is a drain on the earth's resources and landfills emit dangerous methane gases. To think about your own waste management consider this hierarchy: reduce the amount of waste generated, after that reuse or repurpose whenever possible, after that recycle or compost as appropriate. Finally, only dispose of what can't be managed otherwise.
Current Residential Waste Management Practices in Lower Merion
To read our townships current instructions online, go to Lower Merion Refuse & Recycling. Here are some excepts:
Trash or garbage: Beginning in 2021, Lower Merion is modifying it's once weekly waste disposal subscription options to three: Mini Can for $225, "standard" two cans $375 and "Enhanced" four cans for $575. Residential Municipal Solid Waste collected by Lower Merion is burned at the Covanta waste-to-energy plant in Plymouth Meeting.
Recycling: Residents are also provided a yellow recycling container in which they may place glass and recyclable plastic. Yellow recycling containers may be obtained for free at the Transfer station. Paper is to be separated from the garbage, recyclable containers and compostable materials. Cardboard is to be separated, broken down to be less than 4’x4’x12” and tied in a bundle and kept separate. Residential separated paper and cardboard is sent to Newman Paperboard which pays the Township a modest price. Separated residential cans and bottles are sent to a J.P. Mascaro recycling facility in Berks County for which the Township is paid nothing. Given the limited markets for plastic and glass, it is not clear if the materials are all recycled or reused, some materials separated and collected for recycling may ultimately be used as landfill cover material.
Yard Waste: Residents should separate yard waste from their garbage and placed out by the street. Leaf waste and small twigs go into paper leaf bags. Branches are to be no longer than 4ft and tied in bundles. Please avoid collection of grass clippings. It is best to let the clippings decay and feed your lawns. Yard waste is composted by the Township at a facility located at the Koegel facility (Transfer Station), 1300 N. Woodbine Avenue. Residents may collect, free of charge, mulch and compost from this Transfer Station during normal open hours (see website above).
CALM recognizes that the Township's recent decision to limit cans to a maximum of four (from 8) is an improvement, but we would like the Township to continue to evaluate its system of pricing for garbage and other incentives in order to further discourage waste generation.
Apartment or Condominium complexes are likely using private haulers rather than Lower Merion's services for trash and recycling. You'll need to research their rules and practices.
Better Strategies for Waste Reduction and Management
As described in the Sustainable Buying Habits section on this page, a circular economy aims at keeping products, equipment and infrastructure in use for longer, thus improving the productivity of these resources.
CALM supports changing residential consumption habits in order to reduce waste generation in the first place. The ideal is to follow this hierarchy: substantially reduce the amount of waste generated, after that reuse or repurpose when possible, after that recycle or compost as appropriate. Finally, only dispose of what can't be managed otherwise.
Reduce: See the Sustainable Buying Habits section on this page.
Reuse whatever packaging you can't avoid. The plastic bag which held your new shirt, for example, can be used again as a small trash can liner, or for pet waste. Think outside the box!
Reuse glass and some metal containers. They can be used for additional food or other storage.
Mend your clothing, repair your appliances, get shoes repaired.
Donate to others what you no longer can or want to use. Consider local thrift stores stores such as Lankenau, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Pennywise, Second Mile, Green Drop and Habitat for Humanity. Or make available to your neighbors through https://philadelphia.craigslist.org/, https://nextdoor.com/news_feed/. Or use a FaceBook/BuyNothing group and place a notice to give items away. Search these sites to find things that you might need, too, and avoid buying.
Don't dump furniture you no longer want! It can be donated to the Philadelphia Furniture Bank, which distributes to people in need, or to various thrift stores. (Call first, as some will pick up from your home.)
Learn about TerraCycle, how it works and what it can do for you. TerraCycle is described as a social enterprise, dedicated to Eliminating the Idea of Waste®. They collect a large variety of non-recyclable items through national, first-of-their-kind recycling platforms. They work with schools, product manufacturers and retail stores to collect and "upcycle" commonly used products and packaging. They also have a new Loop platform which aims to change the way the world shops, with favorite brands in refillable packaging, offered with convenience and style. They are currently recycling Burt’s Bee’s products (request a postage paid label), and partnering with Nordstrom’s to recycle ANY brand of skin care and cosmetics. You just drop them off at Nordstrom’s beauty department. Schools and non-profits, in addition to receiving postage paid labels, can actually receive money from TerraCycle for some items.
DwellSmart is the official online retailer for TerraCycle, described above. There's a large variety of products offered, from flooring to cleaning products to plumbing fixtures, and more.
Recycling is only a small part of the solution. CALM is concerned that a substantial amount of recyclable material is incorrectly prepared, sorted or placed in plastic bags, any of which renders it trash. (See links list at the start of this section for specific details.)
But even when separated properly, recycling is not the answer to reducing the adverse impact of waste generation on the planet.
Plastics are toxic to the environment, and us, and can last thousands of years. On average, less than 10% of plastic actually gets recycled anywhere, according to the recent documentary Plastic Wars, which you can watch on Youtube. We know that plastic recycling and the codes on containers have been a 30 year hoax by the petroleum industry. Even before China, Vietnam, and Indonesia halted their acceptance of North American waste, only 9% of plastic ever made its way back into feedstock for manufacturing. There have been many articles revealing how little plastic is actually recycled, such as this one from NPR in September2020.
Less than 40% of aluminum is recycled, even though it's 100% recyclable, and glass is rarely recycled at all, even though it is 100% recyclable. J.P. Mascaro facility in Birdsboro has stated that glass has no market, so they crush it and use it to cover landfills. That is 0% recycling!
Still, do what you can, and prepare recyclable items correctly.
Make use of special recycling events that are sponsored by the Township, county, or various organizations.
Staples recycles electronics, computers, and other devices. (Call first.)
A variety of items can be dropped off at American Family Market (610) 664-1648) in Narberth, or Mom's Market in Bryn Mawr. (Due to Covid, some of this is more limited now.) Mom's Market hosts annual drives to collect worn out denim which will be turned into home insulation, and Christmas tree lights. Used batteries, cell phones, and shoes can be dropped off any time, as can other items.
Food waste is best used to replenish the soil, and you'll minimize your need for chemical fertilizers at the same time! Yard waste can be composted too. See below in the 'Sustainable Gardening" section. We can avoid sending it to be incinerated, or buried in plastic bags within landfills!
To review what our township has to say about composting visit: Lower Merion Compost.
To perform personal composting, purchase a recycling bin or build one from instructions available at many sites. Do not put any meat in your personal compost system.
If you put food waste into the garbage disposal within our township or Philadelphia, know that the sewage is processed by Philadelphia and becomes compost for personal use. The methane released in the process is captured and sold for energy. This is one of our country's best systems. Learn about how sewage is used to produce clean water, biosolids (aka fertilizer) and energy.
Don't have a place to compost plant based food waste? Mom's Market in Bryn Mawr will take it. If you have more than will fit into their small bin, ask an employee how they can take a larger amount. They will work with you. If you’d prefer, you can hire a company to take your food waste away and compost it. Some of them are Mother Compost, Bennett Compost, and Circle Compost.
Here are tips for making your outdoor space much more sustainable.
See wonderful online resources at the end of this section.
A Conservation Landscape:
Is designed to benefit the environment and to function efficiently and aesthetically for human use and well-being.
Uses locally native plants which are appropriate to the site conditions.
Institutes a management plan for the removal of existing invasive plants, as well as the prevention of future non-native plant invasions.
Provides habitat for native wildlife.
Promotes healthy air quality and minimizes air pollution.
Conserves and cleans water.
Promotes healthy soils.
Is managed so as to conserve energy, reduce waste, and eliminate or minimize the use of pesticides and fertilizers.
Use native species (ideally 70% or more) and avoid planting invasive species.
Keep plants that are healthy instead of starting from scratch.
Pick plants that are suitable for the site conditions or need minimal soil amendment.
Replace invasive species with natives of non-invasive exotics.
Pick plants that will need minimal maintenance, make maintenance plan at time of design.
Space trees and shrubs from buildings, power lines, walkways etc. and from each other to reduce overcrowding and need for pruning.
Space perennials closely (1-2 ft apart) to fill in space quickly (green or living mulch).
Reuse materials on site.
Design to capture storm water on site with rain gardens, rain barrels etc.
Reduce impervious surfaces and lawn. Expand planting areas.
Design plant communities instead of “plant collections”.
Buy locally sourced plants if possible.
Protect the soil, minimize soil disturbance and compaction. Avoid work on wet soil.
Use protective fencing around trees during construction. Do not change grade, pile material on the bases of trees, or compact soil in their root zones.
Remove wire basket and make sure tree root flare is exposed and level with soil when planting.
Loosen root ball, remove some of the potting mix and water after planting for fastest establishment.
Mow your lawn every other week and cut at 3” or higher to minimize watering need.
Reduce pesticide use. Let nature take care of pests whenever possible.
Use mosquito dunks instead of yard sprays that kill all insects.
Worried about spotted lanternfly and mosquitos: Check out this terrific resource: Mosquitos, Ticks, Lanternflies.
Use fertilizers only when necessary. Add compost or shredded leaves instead as needed.
Plant “green mulch” instead of using wood mulch for lower cost, better wildlife value and reduced pollution.
Leave Leaves Alone. Keep your leaves when and where possible, for example in the shade garden, under trees or in shrub beds. Mulch leaves on the lawn. Leave pine needles in place or use them in beds as mulch.
Compost yard waste, except for invasive plants or weeds that have already gone to seed. See more on composting in the section above, 'What to Do with Waste'.
Cut back your perennials in March in areas where they are acceptable. Use the chopped-up cuttings as mulch around the plants.
Design with perennials instead of annuals for lower environmental impact.
Create log piles, leave dead trees (snags) where it is safe to do so.
Make sure tree’s root flare is visible. Expose root flare and cut circling roots to improve tree health. Have your trees inspected regularly (similar to well-child visits) and have corrective pruning done early to avoid problems later on. Cut English ivy and other vines off tree trunks.
Some Recommended Online Resources:
Healthy Yards provides ways to change your yard and garden to a healthy one with sustainable practices
Audubon's zipcode database helps you select native plants for birds in our region.
Responsible Gardening Facebook group to connect with local residents focused on sustainable gardening.
Tree People to learn the many benefits of trees.
Virginia Cooperative Extension for how to avoid killing trees in a residential setting.
DC Urban Forestry Administration for guidelines on how to protect trees during construction.
Invest Your Retirement Assets Responsibly and Sustainably
Support a Climate Agenda
Donate your time and/or money to environmental organizations.
Get connected with local environmental groups so that you can better know what's happening at any current time.
Contact policy makers at every level (school board, township commissioners, state officials, federal officials) and let them know that this is important to you. See Get Involved! page for some of this information.
Go to public meetings and voice your support for environmentally responsible public policy and investment.
Join or support a political campaign which supports climate change mitigation.
Vote! PA Voter Services.
Invite friends and neighbors to brainstorm ideas. Join established groups in Lower Merion, or work together on your own micro projects. See the Get Involved! page.
Recognize that efforts to work against racism and other injustice, promote health care, treat migrants with respect, and to heal our economy, all dovetail with our need to mitigate the Climate Crisis. Support actions which advance those causes. See Health & Justice page.
Reduce Use of Dangerous Chemicals
Avoid the use of poisions and toxins in your home and garden.
The Environmental Working Group provides a wealth of information about how to reduce toxic chemicals in your home environment. They have a terrific free app you can use when in the store to select the least toxic product.
Want to save money and make your own home cleaning products? Its simple.